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London 07: Nakamura Nf5s MVL's Najdorf

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 17/12/2016

Hikaru Nakamura blew Maxime Vachier Lagrave off the board with a thematic Nf5 sacrifice in the same line with which he had lost to Fabiano Caruana in the previous round. Vishy Anand had no issues whatsoever against Levon Aronian as the Armenian failed to create any pressure. All other games could only end in draws. Illustrated report.

Pictures by Lennart Ootes

London 07: Nakamura Nf5s MVL's Najdorf

Maxime Vachier Lagrave is well-known for his Sicilian Najdorf.

But Hikaru Nakamura's uncompromising style of play also fits well with the sharp opening. Both of them play it, never mind the colours. After the terrible loss to Fabiano in the previous round, Hikaru invited Maxime to play his pet defence and the latter obliged.

Hikaru chose to play the same line Fabiano had employed against him.

MVL was the first to deviate with 13...Bb7 and Nakamura uncorked a standard Najdorf sacrifice of the knight on f5.

[Event "London Chess Classic 2016"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "2016.12.16"]
[Round "7.4"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B96"]
[WhiteElo "2779"]
[BlackElo "2804"]
[PlyCount "73"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
[WhiteClock "0:23:56"]
[BlackClock "0:10:49"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 h6 8. Bh4
Qb6 9. a3 Be7 10. Bf2 Qc7 11. Qf3 Nbd7 12. O-O-O b5 13. g4 Bb7 14. Bg2 Rc8 15.
Kb1 g5 16. Qh3 Nc5 (16... Nh7 17. f5 e5 $14) 17. Rhe1 h5 18. Nf5 $1 Ncxe4 (
18... exf5 19. exf5 Nxg4 20. Bxc5 dxc5 21. Bxb7 Qxb7 $18) 19. Bxe4 Nxe4 20. Bd4
Rg8 21. Nxe7 Kxe7 22. gxh5 gxf4 23. Qh4+ Kf8 24. Ka1 {Crafty} (24. h6 {is even
better} e5 25. h7 Rh8 26. Qh6+ Ke7 27. Ka1 {is necessary. Otherwise, white
will have problems on c2.}) 24... b4 (24... e5 25. Nxe4 $18) (24... Qe7 25.
Qxf4 e5 26. Qh6+ $18) 25. Nxe4 Bxe4 26. Rxe4 Qxc2 27. Ree1 bxa3 28. Qxf4 axb2+
(28... e5 29. Qh6+ Ke7 (29... Rg7 30. Rc1 $18) 30. Bxe5 $18) 29. Bxb2 Rg5 30.
Qxd6+ (30. Qxg5 Qa4+ $11) 30... Kg8 31. Rg1 Qa4+ 32. Ba3 Rxg1 33. Rxg1+ Kh7 34.
Qd3+ Kh6 35. Rg6+ Kxh5 36. Rg1 f5 37. Qf3+ 1-0


Naka and MVL discuss the complications. If MVL had any chance, it lay in 16...Nh7.


Aronian-Anand was the first game to finish as the Indian ace held without too much difficulty.


[Event "London Chess Classic 2016"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "2016.12.16"]
[Round "7.3"]
[White "Aronian, Levon"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D37"]
[WhiteElo "2785"]
[BlackElo "2779"]
[PlyCount "60"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
[WhiteClock "1:02:42"]
[BlackClock "1:15:20"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Bd3
dxc4 9. Bxc4 Qxd1+ 10. Rxd1 Bb4 11. Rd3 Ne4 12. O-O Bxc3 13. bxc3 Nc6 14. Bb5
f6 15. Bd6 Rd8 16. Rfd1 Rxd6 17. Rxd6 Nxd6 18. Rxd6 Kf7 19. Bxc6 Ke7 20. Bxb7
Bxb7 21. Rd4 Rc8 22. Rb4 Bd5 23. Ra4 Rxc3 24. Rxa7+ Kf8 25. h3 Rc1+ 26. Kh2 Rc2
27. Kg3 Rxa2 28. Rxa2 Bxa2 29. Nd2 e5 30. f4 exf4+ 1/2-1/2

A not so inspiring tournament thus far for the Indian maestro.

 Michael Adams won a pawn but landed in an opposite-coloured bishop ending—draw.  

Wesley So chose to play solidly against Vladimir Kramnik and a draw ensued.

 After the game, Kramnik was full praise for his young opponent.

Big Vlad commented that Wesley perhaps played the best chess in the world in 2016.

 Anish Giri would have looked forward to the battle against...

 ...the hapless Topalov.

10-year-old Aditya Mittal (2068) analyzes this game for you:

[Event "London Chess Classic 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.12.16"]
[Round "7.5"]
[White "Giri, Anish"]
[Black "Topalov, Veselin"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D37"]
[WhiteElo "2771"]
[BlackElo "2760"]
[PlyCount "133"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:22:34"]
[BlackClock "0:25:50"]
1. c4 {After 6 draws, Giri would have been confident he would win the next,
against the self destructive Topalov. Who knew that Topalov would choose today
for a solid draw....} Nf6 2. d4 {Transposing into the queen's pawn.} e6 3. Nf3
d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 {This line is becoming increasingly popular and one of
the main lines in the top level after Anand's win against Carlson in Sochi.
Earlier the main move was} (5. Bg5 {but here the tartakower variation is a
very hard nut to crack.}) 5... O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. c5 c6 8. h3 $5 {A cute little
trick used by Tomashevesky. However it is well known now.} (8. Bd3 {was the
move played by Anand against Carlsen.} b6 9. b4 a5 10. a3 Ba6 11. Bxa6 Rxa6 12.
b5 $5 {and he went on to win a beautiful game.}) 8... b6 9. b4 a5 10. a3 h6 (
10... Ba6 {now loses a tempo as} 11. Bxa6 Rxa6 12. b5 $1 {and White has simply
included the move h3!}) 11. Be2 Ba6 12. O-O (12. Bxa6 Rxa6 13. b5 $5 {was
interesting here too.} cxb5 14. c6 Qc8 15. c7 {and I think Giri would have won
this because Topalov is blundering in these type of positions.} b4 $1 {as
played by Magnus(without h3 and h6 included)} (15... Bxa3 $5 16. Nxb5 Bb4+ 17.
Ke2 $13) 16. Nb5 a4 {threatening to create a passer with b3} 17. Rc1 Ne4 18.
Nd2 (18. Ng5 $4 {of course the h6 pawn is here and this ain't possible now as
in Anand-Carlsen!} hxg5 $19) 18... e5 $1 {this was mentioned in the analysis
by Anand. He said that this is the reason he didn't go for this Nd2 be because
it is already equal.} 19. Nxe4 dxe4 20. Bxe5 Nxe5 21. dxe5 $14 {White has a
slight edge here and he can push.}) 12... Qc8 {He's definitely in a solid mood!
} 13. Rb1 Bxe2 14. Qxe2 axb4 15. axb4 Qb7 (15... Qa6 $2 16. Qxa6 Rxa6 17. Ra1
$1 $16 {is already a big advantage for White.}) 16. Rfc1 Rfc8 17. Ne1 Bd8 18.
Qd1 Bc7 19. Nd3 $10 {You can see that Topalov has totally neutralized Giri's
initiative. An achievement after 6 rounds of blunders by him.} b5 $6 {There was
no need to close it like this. Now Giri can play on the e-file!} (19... Bxf4 {
was the simplest.} 20. exf4 Ne4 21. Ne2 Ra2 $1 {and Black has sufficient
counterplay.}) 20. Ra1 $1 {Immediate action!} Ne4 21. Ne2 Bd8 {Topalov is
swinging back and forth with his bishop.} (21... Bxf4 22. Nexf4 $14 {now.}) 22.
f3 Nef6 {We won't see Topalov getting pushed like this everyday! Fast forward
some moves and we reach....} (22... g5 $2 23. fxe4 dxe4 24. Nf2 gxf4 25. Nxe4
$18 {is winning.}) 23. Nc3 Nf8 24. Rc2 Ng6 25. Rca2 Rxa2 26. Rxa2 Ra8 27. Qa1
Rxa2 28. Qxa2 Nxf4 29. exf4 $14 {...this position. The dust has settled and I
would now like to talk to you about this position in detail. The position we
have in front of us is all about small subtleties. White has a static
advantage, a long-term advantage which means that he can push on forever.
White has good control over e5. He can push his kingside pawns. So these were
White's advantages. Now you would think White has a clear advantage! Well, no,
not at all! Black has his own share of advantages: He has a bishop. He can use
the d4 pawn as a target. If he exchanges queens, the position is more or less
drawn. So it is the same- White has a safe and stable edge, and that's where
it ends!} Nd7 30. Ne2 Bc7 31. h4 $1 {A hood way increasing the space advantage.
} (31. Ne5 Nf8 32. g3 {was also an option, playing extremely slowly.}) 31...
Nb8 $1 {This is what I was talking about. Black wants to exchange queens.} (
31... h5 {was possible but it wasn't needed anyways.}) 32. h5 Qa6 33. Qb2 (33.
Qxa6 Nxa6 $10 {is a draw. Here is a sample line.} 34. Kf2 f6 35. Ke3 Kf7 36. g4
Nb8 37. Ng1 Nd7 38. Nh3 Ke7 39. f5 exf5 40. gxf5 Nf8) 33... f6 34. g4 $1 {
Giri is going ahead and sure he wants to win!} Nd7 35. Kf2 $1 {Now Giri starts
a maneuver no one would have thought of!} Qa8 36. Ke1 (36. Ke3 {looked like
the normal continuation.}) 36... Kf7 37. Kd2 Kg8 38. Kd1 Kf7 39. Kc2 Qa4+ 40.
Kc1 {This is known as patience. What a way to reach the 40th move!} Qa8 41. Kb1
Qa7 42. Qc1 Qa8 43. Kb2 $1 {And he finishes his long journey! What amazing
play by Anish!!! I never saw anything like this before.} Bd8 (43... e5 $5 {
is a very interesting line!} 44. fxe5 fxe5 45. g5 e4 $1 $13) 44. Qg1 $1 Be7 {
One thing is clear: Black has to be ready for a long, long game.} 45. Nec1 Bd8
46. Nb3 Qb7 $6 {Now it's a critical moment. Giri finally has a way to the
clear advantage he was looking for!} (46... Nf8 $1 {Topalpv should have
considered the upcoming storm.}) 47. Qe3 $6 {He misses his one and only
chance! After this Topalov gives him no chance and it becomes an easy draw.} (
47. g5 $3 Nf8 $1 (47... hxg5 48. fxg5 fxg5 49. f4 $1 $18 {is totally gone!}) (
47... fxg5 48. fxg5 Bxg5 49. f4 $1 {and ge is toast!}) 48. Qe3 {and now White
can claim a big advantage as if} fxg5 $2 49. Na5 Bxa5 (49... Qa6 50. Nxc6 $1 {
is a nice trick.}) 50. bxa5 $18) 47... Qa8 48. Qc1 Qa4 49. Qe1 Qa8 50. Qd2 Qa4
51. Nf2 Qa8 52. Nh3 Qc8 53. Qc2 Nf8 54. Nc1 Kg8 55. Nd3 Nh7 56. Qe2 Nf8 57. Qe3
Qd7 58. Ng1 Qe8 59. Ne2 Bc7 60. Nec1 Kf7 61. Nb3 Ke7 62. Qe1 Kd7 63. Nbc1 Kc8
64. Ne2 Nd7 65. Ng3 Qf7 66. Qe3 Kb7 67. Ne2 $14 {White still has a slight edge
but Giri saw no reason to continue. He must be kicking himself for the missed
chance. Elsewhere there were 3 solid draws with Nakamura blasting off MVL in
another razor sharp Najdorf!} 1/2-1/2


The title of the Grand Chess Tour Champion may have already been decided in Wesley's favour but two more rounds of interesting chess remain!

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