25 January 2013

Tata Steel Chess 2013, Round 11

Battle for Second Place

Nakamura,Hikaru (2769) - Aronian,Levon (2802) [D45]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee (11), 25.01.2013

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 a6 6.c5 Nbd7 7.Na4 b5 8.cxb6 Nxb6 9.Bd2 Nxa4 10.Qxa4 Bd7 11.Qc2 Qb6 12.Rc1 Rb8 13.Bd3 Qxb2 14.0–0 Bd6 15.Ne5 Qxc2 16.Rxc2 c5 17.Nxd7 Nxd7 18.Bxa6 c4 19.a4 Bb4 20.Bc1 Nf6 21.f3 0–0 22.e4 Ne8 23.Bb5 Rb6 24.Bf4 Nd6 25.Rb1 Ba5 26.Kf1 f6 27.Rcb2 Rfb8

White to move


There are plenty of interesting games to watch today, but I have chosen one that could have an impact on the final standings for second place. I like these two players. It is hard to choose who to favor. Aronian's style of play is closer to what I try to emulate, but patriotism and respect for the excitement that Nakamura brings to the game has me hoping for success. At the beginning of the tournament, when folks were making predictions, I had to balance objectivity (Carlsen is playing very strong) with hopes for my favorites. I picked those I want to win: Aronian, Anand, or Nakamura. My players all share second at the start of this round, and it is unlikely that Carlsen will lose the next three games.

28...c3 29.Re2

Racing through the other games after sleeping in this morning, I see that Hou Yifan appears to be playing aggressively against Anand's Sicilian. He has not had the opportunity to castle, but now the queens are off the board.

The other Chinese player, Wang Hou, has White against Magnus Carlsen, and that game, too, is a Sicilian. Wang has a nice position. Could a player one point out of last place take down the leader to give those trailing some faint hopes of catching him during the last two rounds?

Update 7:23 am PST; 16:23 CET

Returning to my game of the day, Nakamura has two connected passed pawns with which to contend. His own passed pawn appears to have no prospects of advancement.

29...e5 30.dxe5 Nxb5 31.axb5 d4

White to move

Lazy spectators, and those of us with minimal understanding of the complex positions the big boys and girls play, can watch engine evaluations of the position as the games unfold. These silicon monsters give us the illusion that we patzers can understand what is taking place before us. My default engine in ChessBase 11 these days is Stockfish 2.3 because it won the engine -- engine battles that I set up with my strongest commercial engines. The website is using an older version of Houdini, but newer than the one I have installed.

Stockfish thinks that Nakumura's position is critical, while Houdini believes that Fabiano Caruana is losing to Anish Giri. My eyes find Caruana's position complex. His pieces are passive on the back row, but at the moment he is ahead one pawn. No doubt, Houdini sees that he is losing material, and likely more than the exchange (White's bishop could take the rook on a8 now, but there is likely a move that creates more serious problems for Black).

Aronian's pawns are frightening.

Update 7:45 am PST

Nakamura eliminated the noxious pawns, but gave up a rook for a bishop in the process.

32.Rd1 Rxb5 33.Rc2 d3 34.Rxd3 Rb1+ 35.Bc1 R8b2 36.Rcxc3 Bxc3 37.Rxc3

Black to move

37...Rd2 38.Rc8+ Kf7 39.Rc7+ Ke6 40.exf6 gxf6

Caruana has conceded in that game; Carlsen drew Wang. He will remain at least one point ahead of Aronian and Anand with two rounds to play. Nakamura is struggling to salvage half a point.

Update 8:05 am PST

Of course the bishop could not survive, but Nakamura managed to get three pawns for the rook.

41.Kg1 Rd1+ 42.Kh2 Rbxc1 43.Rxh7 Rd7 44.Rh6 Rcc7

Three connected passed pawns can be equal to a rook, even superior if the rook's king is too far away. White does not have that imbalance here.

White to move

As I said earlier, I like both of these players. It hurts to see either one lose, although it hurts a lot more when I lose, especially when I give my opponent a clear advantage with the Black pieces before move ten, as I did last night. But, even seeing Nakamura defend a position that looks losing provides comfort because it means that Aronian could win, and thus gain half a point on Carlsen. I did not want to see a draw in Nakamura -- Aronian today.

Of course, it is not over yet. Watching Nakamura's face at the board, he seems to be trying to recall an endgame where three pawns could battle a rook. I can see his pain. Indeed, I can feel it.

Update 8:20 am PST; 17:20 CET

Nakamura kept his rook on the board at the cost of a pawn.

45.Rh8 Rh7 46.Re8+ Kf7 47.Ra8 Rxh4+ 48.Kg3 Rh1

White to move

Perhaps White is in less danger of zugzwang with a rook on the board.

Update 8:33 am PST

I watched the video interviews of Wang Hou and Magnus Carlsen after their draw, and came bacl to discover that Nakamura had resigned.


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