Nakamura Reaches Semis in New in Chess Classic

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HIkaru Nakamura (photo Kellar)

 

American GM Hikaru Nakamura has advanced to the semifinals of the New In Chess Classic, the fifth leg of the $1.5M Meltwater Champions Chess Tour hosted by the World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his Play Magnus Group. 

Beginning Thursday, Nakamura will square off against Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a two-day semifinal match that plays as two sets of four games each, with a 10+15 rapid time control. Carlsen takes on GM Levon Aronian in the other semifinal, with the winners due to clash over the tournament’s top $30,000 prize in the bracket finals beginning Saturday. First moves on both days will be played at 1:00 p.m. eastern. 

 

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New in Chess knockout bracket, Meltwater Champions Chess Tour
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Knockout bracket for the New in Chess Classic, the fifth leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.

 

Nakamura has been a mainstay participant in the Champions Tour, having played in each of the five tour events since the kickoff Skilling Open last November. Each tour event shuffles its starting cast of 16 Grandmasters, though the top-eight players from each tournament are ensured an invitation to the next. Nakamura has placed in the top-eight in four out of the five tour events. 

He has never, however, played in a Champions event finals. The New in Chess Classic is his second appearance reaching the semis, the last being November’s Skilling, where he lost to compatriot GM Wesley So. He has bowed out in the quarterfinals in each of the other events.

 

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Hikaru Nakamura: "The 1st time I've won a quarterfinals match in 4 months!"

 

Nakamura has looked sharp this week, including the preliminary stage where the 16 GMs pair off through a round-robin of rapid games across the tournament’s first three days. The American played through the cycle undefeated to a plus-four, 9.5/15 score. The performance earned him the second seed in the 8-player knockout bracket that will finish the event, and Nakamura coasted through a quarterfinal against Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem. The American won the quarterfinal’s first set of games 2.5-1.5 on Tuesday, then opened with this comeback win as Black in Wednesday’s second set to help close the match. 

[pgn][Event "NIC Classic KO 2021"] [Site "chess24.com INT"] [Date "2021.04.28"] [Round "1.21"] [White "Le, Quang Liem"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2709"] [BlackElo "2736"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2021.04.27"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Bxf6 7. e3 O-O 8. Rc1 c6 9. h4 g6 10. h5 g5 11. Bd3 Nd7 12. Bb1 Bg7 13. cxd5 cxd5 14. Qd3 Re8 15. Nb5 Re7 16. Nxg5 hxg5 17. h6 Bf6 18. Qh7+ Kf8 19. Rh5 Qa5+ 20. Rc3 Qxb5 21. Rxg5 Re8 22. Bg6 Ke7 23. Qxf7+ Kd6 24. e4 Bxd4 25. e5+ Bxe5 26. Rxe5 Qxb2 27. Ree3 Re7 28. h7 Qa1+ 29. Ke2 Qb2+ 30. Kf1 Qa1+ 31. Re1 Qxc3 32. Qf4+ e5 33. Qh6 Rxh7 34. Bxh7+ Ke7 35. Qg7+ Kd8 36. Qg5+ Ke8 37. Rc1 Qb4 38. Bg6+ Kf8 39. Qd8+ Kg7 40. Bf5 Qf8 41. Qg5+ Kf7 42. Rc3 e4 43. Qg6+ Ke7 44. Qe6+ Kd8 45. Qxd5 Qg7 46. Qc4 Nb6 47. Qc5 Bxf5 48. Qd6+ Nd7 49. Rg3 Qa1+ 50. Ke2 Qxa2+ 51. Ke3 Rc8 0-1 [/pgn]

The New in Chess Classic also featured American GM Leinier Dominguez-Perez in his second Champions Tour appearance, though he narrowly missed the cut for the knockout bracket, scoring 8/15 through the preliminary stage and finishing in ninth place. 

And the reigning US Chess Champion So, who like Nakamura has appeared in all five tour events, shook off a rough opening day in the New in Chess preliminary to make his way back into the knockout bracket. So looked out of form and lost twice en route to a 2/5 score in that opening day, but rebalanced over the next two, tallying six wins and finishing with 9/15 as the fourth seed. 

So has advanced to the knockout bracket in all five tour events and won two of them, both the Skilling in November and the Opera Euro Rapid in February, defeating the World Champion Carlsen in both finals. He was provided an early exit this week in the New in Chess, however, kicking off his quarterfinal match against Aronian with a loss-by-mouse-slip and losing both sets, including this loss on Wednesday that closed the match. 

[pgn][Event "NIC Classic KO 2021"] [Site "chess24.com INT"] [Date "2021.04.28"] [Round "1.23"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D02"] [WhiteElo "2781"] [BlackElo "2770"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2021.04.27"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Bf4 c5 4. e3 e6 5. c3 Bd6 6. Bb5+ Nc6 7. Bxc6+ bxc6 8. Bxd6 Qxd6 9. Qa4 O-O 10. Qa3 Ne4 11. Nfd2 cxd4 12. Nxe4 Qxa3 13. Nxa3 dxe4 14. cxd4 Rb8 15. b3 c5 16. dxc5 Ba6 17. Rc1 Rfd8 18. Nc4 Rd5 19. Nd6 f5 20. f3 Bd3 21. Kf2 Kf8 22. g4 Ke7 23. Rhg1 g6 24. Rg3 exf3 25. Rxf3 Ba6 26. e4 Rd2+ 27. Kg1 Rxa2 28. exf5 gxf5 29. gxf5 exf5 30. Re1+ Kd7 31. Nxf5 Kc6 32. Rc1 Rd2 33. Ne7+ Kd7 34. Re3 Rf8 35. Ra1 Rff2 36. Rxa6 Rg2+ 37. Kf1 Rxh2 38. Rxa7+ Ke8 39. Nc6+ Kf8 40. Rf3+ Kg8 41. Ne7+ Kg7 42. Nd5+ Kg8 43. Nf6+ Kh8 44. Rxh7+ Rxh7 45. Nxh7 Kxh7 46. Rg3 1-0 [/pgn]

Entering the New in Chess, So was leading the Champions Tour in both prize money ($85,000) as well as overall tour points (140), which accumulate toward qualification to a $300,000 tour finale event scheduled for September this year. Nakamura is eighth with 40 points and $30,000. 

 

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Champions Chess Tour standings after four events
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Champions Chess Tour overall standings entering the New in Chess Classic. // courtesy Meltwater Champions Chess Tour

All New in Chess Classic information, including live play with commentary beginning each day at 1:00 p.m. eastern, may be viewed at the official Champions Chess Tour website

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