Red, White and Black Eyes: Nakamura Leads, Americans Trading Blows in St. Louis

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GM Hikaru Nakamura

 

GM Hikaru Nakamura has returned to the board with a bang, improving his status in the chess world in the process. 

The American speed specialist is out in front of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, standing as the only player left without defeat in the Grand Chess Tour’s first 2021 event on U.S. soil. Nakamura scored 6.0/9 with three wins through the tournament’s rapid portion, a performance that has bumped him up a spot to the world’s No. 2 rapid player, according to live rankings.  

With each rapid game worth double to the tournament format, Nakamura holds a full-point lead over the field of 10 super-GMs at the Rapid & Blitz halfway point, and now heads into the second act with nowhere else to go in those rankings – already the world’s No. 1 blitz player.  

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz continues through the weekend, with nine rounds of 5+2 blitz games on each Saturday and Sunday. 

 

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2021 Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz Standings
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Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz standings after nine rounds of rapid games. // courtesy Grand Chess Tour

 

With the top six US Chess players at play inside the Saint Louis Chess Club, the Rapid & Blitz event serves as a sneak preview of sorts to the upcoming 2021 US Chess Championship, and several red, white and black eyes have already been dealt. After five draws and one win through the tournament’s first two days, Nakamura delivered an American one-two punch on Friday, first defeating GM Lienier Dominguez in Round 7, then finishing the day with this clutch win in the Ruy Lopez over GM Fabiano Caruana, who had been the tournament's player-to-chase entering the final round. 

 

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GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Fabiano Caruana
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American GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana play in round 9 of the 2021 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.13"] [Round "9"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C78"] [WhiteElo "2736"] [BlackElo "2806"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2021.08.09"] [EventType "rapid"] {[%evp 12,85,1,7,1,7,7,7,14,15,14,15,15,14,8,-40,-40,-40,-36,-55,-60,-50,-55, -55,-22,-50,-11,-6,-9,-6,-13,-20,0,0,5,-6,-13,-16,29,30,33,29,60,58,68,60,71, 60,105,99,92,106,125,121,113,113,150,150,150,150,171,171,178,171,257,258,312, 308,308,316,316,316,332,333,333,333]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Bc5 6. c3 b5 7. Bc2 d5 {C78: Ruy Lopez: Archangelsk and Möller Defences. } 8. d4 {[#] Hoping for exd5.} dxe4 {[%cal Re5d4]} 9. dxe5 Qxd1 {The position is equal.} 10. Rxd1 exf3 11. exf6 gxf6 12. Be4 Bd7 13. Nd2 (13. a4 $11) 13... fxg2 $15 14. Nb3 Bb6 15. Nd4 Bxd4 16. cxd4 O-O-O $146 ({Predecessor:} 16... Rc8 17. Bf4 Ne7 18. Bb7 Rb8 19. Bxg2 Rc8 20. d5 Rg8 21. Bg3 Nf5 22. Rac1 Nxg3 23. fxg3 {1/2-1/2 (97) Hovhannisyan,R (2642)-Petrosyan,M (2628) Yerevan 2021}) 17. Bf4 Rhe8 18. Bxg2 Ne7 19. Rac1 c6 20. d5 $36 {[%mdl 2048] White fights for an advantage.} Kb7 $1 21. Rc5 cxd5 (21... h6 {looks sharper.} 22. d6 Be6 23. Bg3 Nd5 24. Rdc1 Rc8) 22. Bxd5+ Bc6 23. Bxc6+ Nxc6 24. Rxd8 $1 Nxd8 $11 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRB-KRN} (24... Rxd8 $142 25. Rf5 Nb4) 25. Rc7+ Kb6 26. Rd7 { [%mdl 1024] White has compensation.} b4 27. Kf1 {Black must now prevent Bc7+.} Kb5 28. Be3 Kc6 29. Ra7 Kd5 {[#]} (29... Kd6 $14 {feels stronger.}) 30. Ra8 $1 $16 {Threatens to win with Bb6.} Rf8 31. Bh6 Re8 32. Bd2 ({But not} 32. Rxa6 $6 Nc6 $11) 32... Kc5 33. Be3+ Kb5 34. Rb8+ Kc6 35. Rxb4 Ne6 36. Rb6+ Kd5 37. Rxa6 f5 (37... Rc8 $142 38. Ra7 Rc7 39. Rxc7 Nxc7) 38. Ra5+ $18 {White has a decisive advantage.} Ke4 39. Ke2 {[%csl Ge2][%cal Rf2f3]} Nf4+ 40. Bxf4 Kxf4+ 41. Kf1 Rc8 42. Ra4+ Ke5 43. Rb4  1-0 [/pgn]

The loss was Caruana’s third in the rapid cycle, though he hangs in second place with 5.5/6 after playing all decisive games since a first-round draw with Russian GM Peter Svidler. Caruana’s first loss came Thursday to another compatriot GM Sam Shankland, who opened the event with a dismal 0.5/3 but lashed out against his teammate in this Nimzo-Indian in Round 4. 

 

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GM Sam Shankland
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GM Sam Shankland // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.12"] [Round "4"] [White "Shankland, S."] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E39"] [WhiteElo "2709"] [BlackElo "2806"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2021.08.09"] [EventType "rapid"] {[%evp 14,101,53,46,37,37,40,35,35,35,47,13,42,38,69,25,29,26,26,31,29,26,49, 11,10,0,0,0,22,6,10,-8,-4,-8,-7,-20,11,0,11,0,0,-17,-8,-25,16,17,17,17,11,11, 17,-11,18,12,39,26,44,35,39,33,67,62,76,73,89,86,84,76,86,58,99,100,84,91,84, 84,503,503,1096,343,391,400,378,391,1313,1508,1688,1617,29989,29991]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. dxc5 O-O 6. a3 Bxc5 7. Nf3 d5 8. Bg5 $1 Be7 { seems to push 8...d4 aside. E39: Nimzo-Indian: Classical: 4...c5 5 dxc5 0-0.} 9. e3 h6 10. Bh4 Nc6 {White is slightly better.} 11. Rd1 Qa5 12. Bd3 Bd7 $146 ( {Predecessor:} 12... dxc4 13. Bxc4 e5 14. O-O Bg4 15. Bxf6 Bxf6 16. Nd5 Rac8 17. Nxf6+ gxf6 18. Qg6+ {1-0 (18) Mieles Palau,D (2702)-Gadimbayli,A (2835) Chess.com INT 2019}) 13. O-O Rac8 14. cxd5 (14. Be2 $1 $14 {is superior.}) 14... Nxd5 $11 15. Nxd5 exd5 16. Bxe7 Nxe7 17. Qd2 Qb6 18. Nd4 Nc6 19. Bb5 Bg4 20. Be2 Bd7 21. Bf3 Be6 22. Qe2 Ne5 23. h3 Rc4 24. Bh5 Bd7 25. Qd2 Rfc8 26. Be2 {Strongly threatening f4.} R4c7 27. Qb4 Qg6 28. Kh2 Nc4 (28... b6 {might be stronger.}) 29. Bxc4 dxc4 30. Ne2 Bc6 {[%csl Gc6][%cal Rg6g2]} 31. f3 Qg5 32. Qc3 Re7 33. e4 b5 34. Nd4 Bd7 35. f4 Qc5 36. e5 Ree8 37. Rf3 Rcd8 38. Rg3 { Black must now prevent e6!} Bc8 39. e6 {Threatens to win with Nf5!} f6 40. f5 Bb7 41. Rg4 g5 (41... Qe5+ $14 {is more appropriate.} 42. Qg3 g5) 42. fxg6 $16 Qe5+ 43. Rg3 h5 {aiming for ...h4.} (43... Rxe6 44. Qc1 $1 $18) 44. h4 { And now Qd2 would win.} Be4 $2 {[%mdl 8192] This move loses the game for Black. } (44... Qe4 $16 {is tougher.}) 45. Qe3 $18 f5 {[#]} (45... Rb8 $142 46. Qh6 Rb7) 46. Qh6 $1 Qg7 47. Qxh5 Rd5 {[#]} 48. Rg5 $1 Re7 $2 (48... Qe5+ 49. Kh3 Qh8 50. Qxh8+ (50. g7 Qxh5 51. Rxh5 Kxg7 $11) 50... Kxh8) 49. Nxf5 {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} Qe5+ 50. Ng3 Qxb2 51. Nxe4  1-0 [/pgn]

Caruana bounced back from the Shankland loss with his own American one-two, winning back-to-back games on Thursday against Dominguez and GM Wesley So, winner of the GCT’s Paris Rapid & Blitz event earlier this summer. Treading at 50-percent through the rapid portion in St. Louis, So’s Giuoco Piano had barely gotten started before a rare tactical oversight at 24. Nh5? brought instant resignation. 

 

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GM Fabiano Caruana
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GM Fabiano Caruana // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.12"] [Round "6"] [White "So, W."] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2772"] [BlackElo "2806"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "48"] [EventDate "2021.08.09"] [EventType "rapid"] {[%evp 10,48,2,2,15,26,26,26,32,25,50,44,71,60,58,38,66,66,55,72,72,65,65,31, 23,36,58,38,42,38,54,-18,-16,-17,-14,-33,-34,-66,-50,-391,-398]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d3 h6 5. c3 Nf6 6. b4 Be7 {C54: Giuoco Piano: 4 c3 Nf6, main lines with 5 d4 and 5 d3.} 7. O-O O-O 8. Re1 d6 {White has an edge.} 9. a4 $146 ({Predecessor:} 9. Nbd2 Nh7 10. a4 Ng5 11. b5 Nb8 12. d4 Bg4 13. h3 Bh5 14. Be2 Nxf3+ 15. Bxf3 Bxf3 16. Nxf3 {1/2-1/2 (68) So,W (2770)-Carlsen,M (2847) chess24.com INT 2021}) 9... Nb8 {[%cal Bc6b8,Bb8d7,Bd7b6][%mdl 32]} 10. Bb3 c6 11. Nbd2 a5 12. b5 Nbd7 13. d4 cxb5 14. axb5 exd4 15. cxd4 Nb6 $1 16. Ba3 a4 17. Bc2 Be6 18. h3 d5 19. e5 Nh5 20. g3 (20. Qe2 $14) 20... Bxa3 $11 21. Rxa3 Qe7 22. Ree3 Rfc8 23. Nh4 g6 24. Nf5 $2 {[%mdl 8192] [#]} gxf5  0-1 [/pgn]

Not to be left out of the American slugfest, GM Jeffery Xiong pulled himself out of the basement by scoring 2/3 on Friday, including a Round 9 win over Shankland -- who had been hot since his win over Caruana. Shankland had recovered from his rough start with a 4.0/5 run entering the final round, but Xiong caught him with a smooth tactical cooler at the very end of this English.

 

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xiong-shankland
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GM Jeffery Xiong found a winning tactic after GM Sam Shankland stepped on the wrong-colored square with 50. ...Ka8

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.13"] [Round "9"] [White "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Black "Shankland, S."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A15"] [WhiteElo "2710"] [BlackElo "2709"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2021.08.09"] [EventType "rapid"] {[%evp 10,101,3,5,18,11,30,18,33,13,24,5,5,2,3,-14,15,6,-3,-10,-8,-12,-3,-9,0, 8,42,27,40,1,14,13,41,24,14,34,14,0,0,0,99,75,122,157,122,121,120,121,157,123, 130,0,0,65,128,128,137,137,132,124,217,210,220,0,0,0,0,0,160,158,167,155,130,0, 0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1266,1291]} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. b3 d5 4. Bb2 Bd6 5. g3 O-O 6. Bg2 b6 {A13: English Opening: 1...e6.} 7. O-O Bb7 8. Nc3 { [%cal Bb1c3,Bc3e2,Be2f4][%mdl 32]} Nbd7 {The position is equal.} 9. Rc1 a6 10. cxd5 exd5 11. e3 Re8 12. Ne2 g6 $146 ({Predecessor:} 12... Rc8 13. Ned4 c5 14. Nf5 Bf8 15. N3h4 g6 16. Qf3 Ne4 17. Qf4 gxf5 18. d3 Ng5 19. Nxf5 {0-1 (35) Nihal,S (2620)-Alekseenko,K (2699) Biel 2021}) 13. Qc2 c5 14. d4 Rc8 {With the idea ...cxd4.} 15. dxc5 bxc5 16. Rfd1 Qe7 17. Nf4 Nb6 18. Qd3 d4 19. b4 { Threatening bxc5.} Na4 20. Ba1 Be4 21. Qd2 Bxf4 22. exf4 {aiming for bxc5.} Nc3 23. Rxc3 dxc3 24. Qxc3 Rc6 (24... Kg7 $11) 25. Ne5 $16 Rd6 (25... Bxg2 $142 26. Kxg2 Rd6) 26. Rxd6 Qxd6 {[#]} 27. Ng4 $1 {[%cal Rg4f6][%mdl 512]} Qd1+ 28. Bf1 Qxg4 29. Qxf6 {[%csl Ga1][%cal Rf6h8]} Kf8 30. Qd6+ (30. bxc5 $6 Qe6 $11) (30. Qg7+ $16 Ke7 31. Bf6+ (31. bxc5 Qe6 $14) (31. Qf6+ Kf8 $16) 31... Ke6 32. Be5 ( 32. bxc5 Qf5 $16)) 30... Kg8 $11 31. Qf6 $40 {[%mdl 128] White has some attack. } (31. Bc4 $11 Qf5 32. Qd2) 31... Kf8 $14 32. Qg7+ (32. bxc5 $6 Qe6 $11) 32... Ke7 33. Bf6+ $1 (33. bxc5 $6 Qf5 $11) (33. Qf6+ Kd7 $16) 33... Ke6 {( -> ... Qf3)} 34. Be5 {White wants to mate with Qf6+.} Kd7 (34... Qd1 $16 {was necessary.}) 35. Qxf7+ $18 Re7 {[#]} 36. Qc4 ({White must play} 36. Qf8 $1 $18 {Strongly threatening Bf6.} Qe6 37. Bf6 (37. bxc5 Re8 $18)) 36... Rxe5 $11 37. fxe5 Qf3 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 38. Bh3+ Kd8 $2 (38... Kc7 $1 $11 39. Qxc5+ Kb7 40. Qe7+ Kb8 41. Qd8+ Kb7 42. Qe7+ Kb8 43. Qd8+ Kb7 44. Qe7+) 39. Qg8+ $16 {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} Kc7 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 40. Qc8+ {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} ({But not} 40. Qxh7+ $2 Kb8 $19) 40... Kb6 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 41. Qxc5+ ({Only move:} 41. bxc5+ $16 Kb5 42. Bf1+ Kb4 43. Qb8+ Bb7 44. c6 Qxc6 45. Qd6+ Qxd6 46. exd6) 41... Kb7 $11 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 42. Qe7+ Kb8 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 43. Qd6+ Ka7 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 44. Qd7+ Kb8 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 45. Qc8+ Ka7 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 46. Qc5+ Ka8 { [%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 47. Qc8+ {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} Ka7 {[%csl Ge4] [%cal Rf3h1]} 48. Qd7+ {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} Kb8 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 49. Qd6+ Ka7 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Rf3h1]} 50. Qd4+ Ka8 $2 {[%mdl 8192] [#]} (50... Kb8 $11 51. Qb6+ Ka8 52. Qxa6+ Kb8 53. Qb5+ Kc7 54. Qd7+ Kb8 55. Qe8+ Kb7 56. Qe7+ Kb8 57. Qe8+ Kb7 58. Qe7+ Kb8 59. Qe8+) 51. Qxe4+ $3 {[%mdl 512] 1-0 [/pgn]

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GM Jeffery Xiong
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GM Jeffery Xiong // photo Bryan Adams, Grand Chess Tour

 

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz continues with its second half through the weekend, a double round-robin of blitz, with nine games on each Saturday and Sunday. Games begin both days at 3:00 p.m. St. Louis time. Live games may be viewed on the Grand Chess Tour website, as well as live commentary from GMs Yasser Seirawan, Alejandro Ramirez and Maurice Ashley on the Kasparov Chess Twitch Channel


Quick Links:

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Rapid Pairings and Results

Blitz Pairings and Results

 

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