Champions Showdown: Now for the Blitz!

The Rapid portion of the Champions Showdown came to a close today at the Saint Louis Chess Club, marking the end of the first half of the event. Here are the standings after twelve games. (Note that wins are worth two points, draws one, and losses zero in the Rapid.) Three American players are leading in their matches. Fabiano Caruana, playing in his first event on American soil after the World Championship, has a commanding 18-6 lead over India’s Pentala Harikrishna. His match advantage is almost equaled by Wesley So, who is ahead by a score of 16-8 over the Czech Grandmaster (and crowd favorite) David Navara.

Hikaru Nakamura’s match with Poland’s Jan-Kryztsztof Duda has been hard-fought and immensely competitive. Nakamura leads 14-10 going into the Blitz, and one would think that Nakamura would be the favorite in that format, given his legendary blitz prowess and third-place finish in the recent World Blitz Championship. But Duda finished second in St. Petersburg, two points ahead of Nakamura and a half-point behind World Champion Magnus Carlsen.  One gets a sense of the battle these two gladiators have waged in their Round 11 encounter, which, despite being drawn, may be the game of the event thus far.
Duda-Nakamura (photo Crystal Fuller)
[pgn]

[Event "Champions Showdown Rapid"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.02.22"]
[White "Duda, Jan-Krzysztof"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A13"]
[WhiteElo "2731"]
[BlackElo "2749"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "149"]
[EventDate "2019.02.20"]
[EventType "rapid"]

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 d5
4. b3 d4 5. Bg2 c5 6. e3 Nc6 7. exd4 cxd4 8. O-O Be7 9. d3 Nd7 10. Na3 O-O 11.
Nc2 e5 12. Rb1 a5 13. a3 Nc5 14. b4 axb4 15. axb4 Na4 16. Bd2 f6 (16... Bf6 17.
b5 Ne7 18. Re1 Ng6 19. Nb4 $6 Nc5 20. h3 Bf5 {and Black has some initiative:
0-1 (47) Wei,Y (2739)-Karjakin,S (2760) Medias 2017}) (16... Nc3 17. Bxc3 dxc3
18. b5 Nd4 $11) 17. Nh4 g5 $5 {Things are getting very sharp!} 18. Nf3 Bf5 19.
b5 Nb8 $2 {[#]} (19... Bxd3 20. bxc6 Bxf1 21. c7 (21. Qxf1 bxc6 $16) 21... Qxc7
22. Qxf1 $16) 20. Nfxd4 $1 {[%cal Rg2a8]} exd4 21. Bxb7 Ra7 22. Bd5+ Kh8 23.
Nxd4 {The computer thinks that White has a sizeable advantage. Still, Black
has a piece for the pawns and will try to drum up activity.} Bh3 (23... Bxd3
24. Ne6 Qd7 25. Nxf8 Bxf8 26. Be3 $18) 24. Qh5 $6 Bxf1 25. Kxf1 Qe8 26. Qf3 (
26. Qh6 {(with the idea Be4)} Qg6 27. Qxg6 hxg6 28. Ne6) 26... Nb6 27. Be4 Bc5
28. Nb3 Ra2 29. Qf5 Qe7 30. Be1 Ba3 31. c5 Na4 32. c6 {The b- and c-pawns look
ominous!} Nc5 33. Bc3 $6 (33. Nxc5 $1 Bxc5 34. Rc1 {is resignable:} Ba3 (34...
Bd4 35. c7 {and the pawn can't be stopped}) 35. Rc4 Bd6 36. c7 Bxc7 37. Bb4 $18
) 33... Nxb3 (33... Nxe4 $1 34. dxe4 Rc2 35. Bd4 Nxc6 36. bxc6 Rxc6 {is
holdable... at least in slow time controls!}) 34. Rxb3 Bc5 35. d4 Bd6 36. b6 $4
{The slip Nakamura was waiting for!} (36. d5 {and the pawns continue to march.}
) 36... Nxc6 $1 37. Bxc6 Qe2+ 38. Kg2 Bf4 $1 39. Bb2 Rxb2 40. Rxb2 Qxb2 41. Be4
$1 {Down a rook for two pawns Duda tries to keep pressuring Nakamura.} Rf7 42.
Qe6 (42. b7 Bc7 43. Bd5 Rf8 44. Be4 Rf7 45. Bd5 Rf8 $11) 42... Qxd4 ({The
amazing} 42... Qe2 $1 {draws:} 43. Qxf7 (43. gxf4 Rg7 $1) 43... Qxe4+ 44. Kf1
Qh1+ 45. Ke2 Qe4+ {and White has to allow the perpetual with} 46. Kf1 ({as} 46.
Kd1 {leads to mate} Qd3+ 47. Ke1 Bd2+ 48. Kd1 Bb4+ 49. Kc1 Ba3#)) 43. gxf4 (43.
Qxf7 {is an immediate draw:} Qxe4+ 44. Kf1 Qh1+ 45. Ke2 Qe4+) 43... Qb4 $4 (
43... Rg7 $1 44. b7 (44. f5 Rg8 $11) 44... gxf4+ 45. Kh3 Qc3+ 46. Kh4 {and
Black shouldn't lose.}) 44. b7 $1 (44. Qxf7 Qxe4+ 45. f3) 44... Rf8 45. b8=Q
Qxb8 46. Qe7 $2 (46. Qd7 $1 f5 47. Qd4+ $1 Kg8 48. Bd5+ Rf7 49. Qf6 Qc7 50.
Bxf7+ Qxf7 51. Qxf7+ Kxf7 52. fxg5 $18) 46... f5 $1 {An amazing move by
Nakamura!} 47. Bd5 Qd8 (47... gxf4 $1 {followed by ... Qe8-g6 would give Black
decent chances to win.}) 48. Qe5+ Qf6 49. Qxf6+ Rxf6 50. fxg5 Rd6 {Objectively
equal, but anything can happen in a time scramble.} 51. Bf3 h6 52. gxh6 Kh7 53.
Kg3 Rd4 54. h4 Kxh6 55. Be2 Kg6 56. f4 Rb4 57. h5+ Kf6 58. Bd1 Rb1 59. Bf3 Rb3
60. Kf2 Rb8 61. Kg3 Rg8+ 62. Kf2 Ke7 63. Bd1 Rg7 64. Be2 Kf6 65. Bf3 Ra7 66.
Bd5 Ra3 67. Bf3 Ke7 68. Kg3 Kd7 69. h6 Ra6 70. Kh4 Rxh6+ 71. Kg5 Rh3 72. Bd5
Rd3 73. Bf7 Rd4 74. Kxf5 Rxf4+ 75. Kxf4 {What a game.} 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
Veselin Topalov entered Day Three tied in his match with Leiner Dominguez, but won three games and drew one today to extend his lead to 15-9. Topalov’s final round victory is particularly pleasing.
Topalov-Dominguez (photo Crystal Fuller)
[pgn]

[Event "Champions Showdown Rapid"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2019.02.22"]
[White "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"]
[Black "Topalov, Veselin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteTitle "GM"]
[BlackTitle "GM"]
[WhiteElo "2739"]
[BlackElo "2740"]
[ECO "C65"]
[Opening "Ruy Lopez"]
[Variation "Berlin defence"]
[WhiteFideId "3503240"]
[BlackFideId "2900084"]
[EventDate "2019.02.20"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. O-O d6 6. c3 O-O 7. Nbd2 a6 8. Ba4
h6 9. h3 b5 10. Bc2 Re8 11. Re1 Bb6 12. Nf1 d5 13. exd5 Qxd5 14. Ng3 Bb7 15. Bd2
Rad8 16. Qe2 Qd7 17. Rad1 Bc5 18. b4 Bf8 19. a4 bxa4 20. Ne4 Nd5 21. Qf1 a3 22.
Ra1 Ncxb4 23. cxb4 Nxb4 24. Bxb4 Bxb4 25. Reb1 a5 26. Nc5 Bxc5 27. Rxb7 Bb4 28.
Qd1 Qc6 29. Rxb4 axb4 30. Ba4 Qd6 31. Bxe8 Rxe8 32. Qc2 c5 33. Kf1 Rd8 34. Ke2
e4 35. dxe4 Qa6+ 36. Ke3 c4 37. Nd4 b3 38. Qc3 b2 39. Rd1 Qb6 0-1

[/pgn]
After a rough first day, Sam Shankland has battled bravely against Richard Rapport, but remains behind in their match by a score of 18-6. It’s hard to see how Shankland can win the match at this point, but he will surely be looking to make up some ground in the Blitz, which begins Saturday.
Rapport-Shankland (photo Lennart Ootes)
There will be twenty four games played in the Blitz over two days, all at a time control of three minutes with a two second increment. Tune in at 12:50 CST to the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel to follow all the action.

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