Hikaru Nakamura Crowned Grand Chess Tour Champion

Hikaru Nakamura was crowned Grand Chess Tour Champion on December 17 in London after a tight match against the #2 rated blitz player in the World, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL even eclipsed Magnus Carlsen's blitz rating briefly during the event after beating Levon Aronian in the semifinals while Hikaru's road to victory included a semis match win over compatriot Fabiano Caruana. His match against MVL seemed destined for playoffs after seven draws (two in the classical, two in the rapid, and three in the blitz). And then Hikaru came through in a dramatic final blitz game, with an idea he came up with on break to break MVL's Grunfeld. If you haven't seen the full game yet, can you find the devastating final blow that Hikaru played in this position.
Play through the full game for the solution.

[Event "London Chess Classic"]
[Date "2018.12.17"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A34"]
[WhiteElo "2746"]
[BlackElo "2781"]
[PlyCount "57"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "France"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "FRA"]

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e3 Nxc3 6. bxc3 g6 7. Bb5+ Bd7 8.
Be2 Bg7 9. O-O O-O 10. d4 Bc6 11. Ba3 cxd4 12. cxd4 Re8 13. Rc1 Qa5 14. Qb3 Nd7
15. Bb4 Qf5 16. Bd3 Qh5 17. e4 e6 18. h3 Rad8 19. Rfe1 a5 20. Bd2 a4 21. Qb1
Rc8 22. Be2 Bf6 23. Rcd1 Red8 24. Ng5 Qh4 25. g3 Qh6 26. Nxf7 Qxh3 27. Bf1 Qh5
28. Be2 Qh3 29. Bg4 1-0

Nakamura picked up $120,000 for his win, raised his live blitz rating over 2900 and etched his place in Grand Chess Tour's young but promising history. He joins two-time champion Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So as GCT champs. How did Hikaru celebrate post victory? You guessed it! https://twitter.com/GMHikaru/status/1074755893592449025 During the final day broadcast, Grand Chess Tour spokesperson Michael Khodarkovsky announced some exciting changes to the 2019 tour. There will be additional stops in Croatia (classical chess) as well as India and Cote d'Ivoire (Blitz and Rapid events) as well as an increased minimum prize pool of 1.5 Million dollars. Find more details in the official press release. Fabiano Caruana won his own third place match against Levon Aronian, quieting critics who thought he was a massive underdog in blitz and rapid. The match was also very close, but in contrast to the Nakamura match, very bloody. Fabiano won his first rapid game, only to lost his first two blitz games. He then came back to win two in a row. Can you find the crushing blow in his penultimate blitz victory?

Show Solution

47...d4! and the c-pawn is breaking through. Levon resigned after 48. Bxd4 Nxd4 49.cxd4 c3 50.Nf3 Rb2+!

Congratulations to Team USA on a fine showing on the 2018 Grand Chess Tour. For more updates on the Grand Chess Tour, check out the official website. 

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