Nakamura Wins Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Running Away

GM Hikaru Nakamura
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GM Hikaru Nakamura won the 2021 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz without losing a game. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura won the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz with a commanding, undefeated performance, clinching the tournament’s top $37,500 prize with three games to spare. 

Nakamura had already led the field of 10 super-GMs at the tournament’s halfway point, scoring 6.0/9 through the first cycle of rapid games as the only player without a defeat. He only grew stronger through the blitz portion of the event, maintaining the lossless streak and progressively widening his lead through the weekend, winning both round-robin cycles with a 6.0/9 score on Saturday and 5.5/9 on Sunday

The tournament marked Nakamura’s official return to the board and his first appearance in the 2021 Grand Chess Tour, joining the final speed event of the international circuit as a single-event tour wildcard. Ironically, despite the impressive performance, Nakamura’s status as one of the world’s finest speed players took a small hit: while his rapid play moved him up a spot to the world’s No. 2 rapid player, going undefeated wasn’t enough to hold his rank as world No. 1 blitz player. Despite the plus-six score through the blitz portion, the 12 draws were too heavy for his lofty 2900 rating, dropping him 16 points and down to the blitz world No. 2 – an ironic slip that did not go unnoticed by the man who took over Nakamura’s spot. 


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Regardless of rankings, Nakamura earned his due respect by crushing an event that was ultimately forced to focus on the race for second place. His being out of reach was made clear early on Sunday, when he met his closest chaser in the second game of the day – GM Fabiano Caruana, who trailed Nakamura by two points at the time. 

[pgn] [Event "Saint Louis Blitz 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.15"] [Round "11.2"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B10"] [WhiteElo "2736"] [BlackElo "2806"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2021.08.14"] [EventType "blitz"] {[%evp 10,119,49,53,46,36,36,20,13,15,52,53,51,51,52,52,52,51,60,39,39,19,24,9, 22,-2,-4,-13,17,18,52,54,58,58,58,41,43,27,50,18,34,31,52,25,55,9,12,-6,0,-57, -14,-11,-11,-13,-11,-14,-11,-9,34,34,34,38,34,34,42,33,115,123,121,106,121,121, 120,120,127,102,157,158,158,158,157,145,269,183,183,177,186,186,183,183,222, 222,222,202,222,222,222,222,485,488,475,457,598,611,710,709,927,947,979,872, 871,879]} 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Qe2 Nxe4 6. Qxe4 Nd7 { B11: Caro-Kann: Two Knights Variation.} 7. d4 Nf6 8. Qf4 Nd5 {The position is equal.} 9. Qd2 Bf5 10. Bd3 $1 $146 {[%mdl 8] A top novelty.} ({Predecessor:} 10. Bc4 e6 11. O-O Bd6 12. Re1 O-O 13. Qe2 Qf6 14. Ne5 Qh4 15. c3 f6 16. Nf3 { 0-1 (55) Lagno,K (2558)-Gunina,V (2436) INT 2021}) 10... Bxd3 11. Qxd3 e6 12. O-O Bd6 13. c4 Ne7 14. b3 O-O 15. Bb2 Qa5 16. a3 (16. Rfe1 { feels hotter.} h5 17. Ne5 Nf5 18. Bc3 Qc7 19. Rad1) 16... Rfd8 17. Qe2 Qh5 18. Rfe1 Nf5 19. Rad1 Re8 20. d5 cxd5 21. cxd5 e5 {White must now prevent ...e4.} 22. Qe4 {Strongly threatening g4.} (22. Bxe5 $2 f6 $19) 22... Nh6 23. h3 ({ Worse is} 23. Bxe5 Bxe5 24. Qb4 (24. Nxe5 $2 f6 $19) 24... a5 $19) 23... f6 24. Qa4 Qf7 25. Nd2 a6 26. Ne4 Rad8 27. Qc4 (27. f4 $14) 27... Nf5 $11 28. Rd2 Bf8 29. Qd3 ({White should play} 29. Red1 $11) 29... Rd7 (29... Nd4 $1 $15 { deserves consideration.}) 30. Qf3 Nh4 31. Qg3 Ng6 32. Red1 Red8 {[%cal Rd7d5]} 33. d6 f5 (33... Nf4 $11 {is more appropriate.}) 34. Ng5 $14 Qf6 {[%cal Rd7d6]} 35. b4 $36 {[%mdl 2048] White is pushing.} Re8 $1 36. Qb3+ Kh8 37. Nf3 Rxd6 { White leaves nothing to chance now.} (37... h6 $14) 38. Rxd6 $16 Bxd6 39. Qd5 $1 {[%csl LRb7,LRd6][%mdl 64] [#] Double Attack} Bf8 40. Qxb7 h6 41. Re1 Kh7 42. g3 Qd6 (42... Qe6 $142) 43. Qf7 {[%mdl 64] [#] Double Attack} Qe6 44. Qxe6 Rxe6 45. Nxe5 a5 (45... Nxe5 $16 46. Rxe5 Rxe5 47. Bxe5 Kg8) 46. b5 a4 47. Kf1 {Nc4 is the strong threat.} Rb6 48. Nxg6 Kxg6 $18 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRB-KRB} 49. Re5 Rb7 50. Rd5 Be7 51. h4 h5 52. Ke2 Rb8 53. Kd3 Rc8 $2 (53... Bf8 { might work better.} 54. Be5 Rb7) 54. b6 {[%cal Bb5b6,Bb6b7][%mdl 32] White is clearly winning.} Rb8 55. Rb5 Kf7 56. b7 Ke6 57. Be5 Bd6 58. Bxd6 Kxd6 59. Kc4 Kc6 60. Kb4 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.12/Black=0.23} 1-0 [/pgn]

GM Hikaru Nakamura
Image Caption
GM Hikaru Nakamura // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour


With Nakamura leaving dust on the field, Caruana spent the rest of Sunday flip-flopping with Hungarian GM Richard Rapport for second place in the standings. Caruana got there with a 50-percent score on both days of blitz, though scored an important win down the stretch over Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem. The new coach of Webster University was on an impressive surge in the blitz portion after placing dead last during the rapid cycle, though Caruana stopped him cold in this closed Ruy Lopez. 

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Blitz 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.15"] [Round "16.5"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Le, Quang Liem"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2806"] [BlackElo "2709"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2021.08.14"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 O-O 9. h3 Be6 10. Bxe6 fxe6 11. c3 d5 12. Qe2 Qd6 13. Nbd2 Nd7 14. b4 a5 15. Nb3 axb4 16. cxb4 Ra6 17. Bb2 d4 18. Rac1 Nb6 19. Nc5 Ra7 20. Rc2 Nb8 21. Rfc1 c6 22. g3 Rc8 23. h4 N6d7 24. Kg2 Nxc5 25. Rxc5 Nd7 26. Rxb5 Rf8 27. Ra5 Rxa5 28. bxa5 Bd8 29. a6 c5 30. a7 Qa6 31. Rb1 Be7 32. Bc1 Qxa7 33. Bg5 Re8 34. Nd2 Nb6 35. Qh5 g6 36. Qg4 Bxg5 37. Qxg5 Nd7 38. Nc4 Qc7 39. h5 Kg7 40. h6+ Kg8 41. a4 Kf7 42. Rb7 Qd8 43. Rxd7+ 1-0 [/pgn]

GM Le Quang Liem
Image Caption
GM Le Quang Liem // photo Bryan Adams, Grand Chess Tour


Not only surrendering his full point, Liem Le also helped Caruana lock in second place by defeating Rapport in the following round and knocking the Hungarian off pace. Caruana stayed on task with this important win as Black over GM Wesley So, who placed third in both cycles of blitz and fourth in the overall event. 

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Blitz 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.15"] [Round "17.1"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2772"] [BlackElo "2806"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2021.08.14"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. e3 c5 3. b3 Nc6 4. Bb5 Bd7 5. Bb2 e6 6. c4 Nge7 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. O-O a6 9. Be2 f6 10. d4 Be7 11. e4 Nf4 12. d5 Nd4 13. Nxd4 cxd4 14. dxe6 Bxe6 15. Bf3 Bc5 16. g3 Nh3+ 17. Kh1 O-O 18. Bg2 Qd7 19. f4 Bg4 20. Qd3 Qb5 21. Qd2 Bb4 22. Qxd4 Rfd8 23. Qc4+ Qxc4 24. bxc4 Rac8 25. Ba3 a5 26. Bxb4 axb4 27. a3 Ra8 28. e5 Rd3 29. Bxb7 Ra7 30. Be4 Re3 31. Bd5+ Kf8 32. a4 Re2 33. Bf3 Bxf3+ 34. Rxf3 Rd7 35. Rf1 Rd3 36. a5 Rb3 37. Nd2 Rxd2 38. Rab1 Ra3 39. Ra1 Rxa1 40. Rxa1 b3 41. a6 Ra2 42. Rb1 b2 43. a7 Nf2+ 44. Kg2 Nd3 0-1 [/pgn]

GM Richard Rapport
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GM Richard Rapport // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour


As a wildcard to this year’s Grand Chess Tour, Nakamura’s win in St. Louis has an interesting effect on the overall tour standings, taking points away from full-tour participants vying for the tour’s top prize. So, who won the Paris Rapid & Blitz event and took second in the Superbet Classic earlier in the summer, earned seven tour points in St. Louis and now leads the GCT heading into the Sinquefield Cup, which begins Tuesday. He will be chased by Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who will also appear in the Sinquefield Cup. 


GCT standings


For full standings and results of the 2021 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, visit the official website of the Grand Chess Tour. Check back on CLO for coverage of the Sinquefield Cup, the final event of the 2021 GCT, beginning Tuesday. 


Much appreciated ,,, Crackerjack snap crackle and pop honest spicy pro coverage of world class international play as it happens with ONCE AGAIN a very real entertaining effort by Mr. Brian Jerauld to get it right on the run....What in the world is going on here? Wonderful change I have waited for over 65 years to read on time good articles like this from US chess like clockwork , not want to quibble but double check incredible grandmaster shark staff of PROCHESS RUSSIA (easy dynamite english translation button feature for the whole world!) ,,,,,in recent fantastic Karjakin -Super Duper Sam Shankland WORLD CHESS CUP...Mr. Jerauld, obviously under the deadline gun, was fed totally incorrect analysis by one computer source. Plenty of terrific free computer and top notch human position evaluation checkers available to back up Mr. Jerauld 's see it now recaps .... indeed add to the curiosity and the fun. Add a postmortem every now and then. Chessplayers love to analyze and argue.
Way to go US Chess crew!
Jude Acers / New Orleans

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