Nakamura paces Grand Tour

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro - The Philippine Star

American Hikaru Nakamura outplayed top-seeded Fabiano Caruana to move into the lead after the ninth round of the $150,000 Grand Chess Tour Rapid and Blitz in St. Louis (MO), USA.

Nakamura posted an impressive 12.0 points overall, one point better than compatriot Caruana and Hungarian Richard Rapport, and three points ahead of Russian Peter Svidler, and countrymen Wesley So and Samuel Shankland.

A win is scored two points and a draw. one point in the (25+10) rapid event.

Other scores read Azeri Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Jeffery Xiong (USA) at 8.0 apiece, American Leinier Dominguez Perez, 7.0- and Le Quang Liem (Vietnam), 6.0.

The double-round robin (5+2) blitz portion is underway as we go to press, and can be viewed live at various websites starting at 4 p.m. EST.

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Meanwhile, the $325,000 Sinquefield Cup, the final classical event of the Grand Chess Tour, will be held Aug. 17-27 in St. Louis (MO), USA.

Format calls for a 10-player over-the-board, single-round robin with time control of 90 minutes (40 moves) + 30 minutes + 30 seconds increment.

Games can be followed live with commentaries beginning at 3 p.m. CEST or 1 p.m. Pacific.

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Sound opening play and creative middle game tactics are black’s motifs for a brief clever game. A very fine performance by the world No. 33.

Grand Chess Tour

Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz 2021

Rapid Rd. 5

W) S. Mamedyarov (AZE)

B)  S. Shankland (USA)

Queen’s Gambit Declined

1. d4          Nf6; 2. c4          e6; 3. Nf3          d5; 4. Nc3        c6

Black’s last is the well-analyzed Semi-Slav Defense, an old line reachable by one transposition or another.

5. e3            ....

White essays a steady but modest alternative popularized by Russian world contender Mark Taimanov in the 80s. Much more usual today but not necessarily better is the sharp 5. Bg5, e.g., 5...dxc4 6. e4 b5 7, e5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5 Nbd7 11. exf6 Bb7 12. g3 c5 13. d5, the game hangs in the balance.

5....            Nbd7; 6. Qc2        ....

6. Bd3 is the standard continuation.

6....            Bd6; 7. b3        ....

The system of development chosen by white was seen in the game Taimanov vs.Chekhov, Moscow 1980.

7...              O-O; 8. Be2          b6; 9. O-O          Bb7; 10. Bb2        Qe7; 11. Rad1      Rad8; 12. e4          ....

Seems risky to say the least. A waiting attitude such as 12. h3 is better, according to the engine.

12....            dxe4; 13. Nxe4      Nxe4; 14. Qxe4      f5; 15. Qe3        c5; 16. Rfe1        ....

Closing the diagonal with 16. d5 seems safer. Now the position is fraught with tactical turns.

16....            cxd4; 17. Nxd4      e5; 18. Nb5        Bc5; 19. Qg3        f4; 20. Qh3        Nf6; 21. Nc3?        ....

A fatalistic reply which concedes black a decisive advantage. More to the point is 21. Qh4.

21....            Bxf2ch!

White’s position looks safe, but that impression quickly wanes after the text.

22. Kxf2        Bc8!

This beautiful intermezzo is the point of black’s sacrificial combination. Now 23. Qh4 loses to 23....Ne4ch!

23. Rxd8        Rxd8; 24. g4            Rd2!

Unmasling the power of the Black Rook on the open d file.

25. Rd1?        ....

This move arrives to a quick finish. 25. Kf1 prolongs the game, though black has a big advantage after 25....Rxb2.

25....            Bxg4!; 0-1.

After 26. Qf1 Rxb2, white will soon run out of reasonable moves.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to play and win.

White=Kg1, Qc4, Rc7, Bb2, Nb5, Pa2, Pe2, Pf4, Pg3, Ph2

Black=Kg7, Qd8, Re7, Nc8, Bf7, Pb7, Pf6, Pg6, Ph7

1. Bxf6ch!          Kxf6;2. Qc3ch          Kf5; 2....Ke6 3. Qe5 mate.; 3. Nd4ch            1-0

If 3....Ke4 4. Qf3ch Kxd4

5. Qd3 mate, or 3....Kg4 4. Qf3ch Kh3

6. g4ch Kh4 7. Qg3 mate, and finally

3....Kf6 4. Ne6ch Kf5 5. Qe5ch Kg4

6. Qg5ch Kh3 7. Qh4 mate.

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