Great chess games

Harikrishna, Pentala(2706) – Nakamura, Hikaru(2789) [B51]

An impressive postional achievement, which was crowned with a nice tactical blow at the end.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Harikrishna did not want to test himself in a sharp line of Nakamura, he rather goes for the recently popular Bb5 check, where White is aiming for a positional game with a small advantage.

3…Nd7 The most dynamic answer by Black. 3…Bd7 leads to much simpler positions.

4.O-O a6

5.Bd3 I have commented the Svidler-Papaioannau game several CEWNs ago, which had seen the same continuation. This ugly-looking move is actually very logical, White wants to occupy the center with c3, Bc2 and d4.

5…Ngf6 6.c3 b5 7.Bc2 Bb7 8.Re1 We have reached the critical position from the opening point of view, where it is still unclear how Black should play. The mentioned Svidler game continued with 8…e6. Nakamura’s reaction is the most common move.

8…e5 [A third option is 8…c4 to fight against d4 with the en passant, but the black pawns become slightly weakened after all… 9.a4! e5 10.axb5 axb5 11.Rxa8 Qxa8 12.Na3!

The most direct play against the b5 pawn. 12…Be7 (Black cannot hold the pawn for long with 12…Bc6 13.d4 or 13. d3 might be more forcing. 13…cxd3 14.Bxd3 Qb7 15.Qe2 and Black is in trouble.) 13.Nxb5O-O. Black decided to sacrifice his weakness for compensation. He has a target on e4 and the c1 bishop is locked, but White succeeded to consolidate. 14.Qe2 Rc8 15.d4 cxd3 16.Bxd3 White was better in Karjakin-Cheparinov, Rhodes 2013]

9.d4 Suddenly we have reached a Ruy Lopez structure from the Sicilian defense. The plans for both sides will already be familiar for us. Black might be a tempo up, but with the c5-d6-e5pawn structure the bishop on b7 is misplaced. White is going to close the center with d5 and then the bishop will be locked out from the actions and it will take Black some time to drive it back to d7.

9…Be7 10.Nbd2 White employs the Spanish maneuver of transferring the knight to g3. Opening the center with taking twice on d4 usually favors White, the knight might jump to f5.

10…O-O11.Nf1Re8 Typical Spanish moves. Black gets ready to release the tension in the center and also strengthens his e5 pawn to free his pieces.

12.Ng3 Bf8

13.d5! Harikrishna chooses the right moment to close the position. [After another useful move like 13.h3 Black already opensthegamewith13…cxd414.cxd4exd415.Nxd4(15.Qxd4 15…Rc8) 15…d5! This was not working before without the preparation of Re8 and Bf8 because of e5!]

13…g6 Black takes the f5 square under control. Otherwise White would have settled his knight on f5 and it is not easy to kick it out since g6 always runs into Nh6!

14.b3! The Ruy Lopez middlegames are extremely complex, one must study them very deeply to understand. The fight is usually going on on both sides. White sometimes tries to provoke weaknesses on the queenside with a4, Bd3, Qe2. If Black wants to keep the structure he must transfer his pieces to this side, but then a kingside attack with h3, Nh2 and f4 could be very effective. With his last move Harikrishna prevented Black’s typical counterplay of c4, Nc5, a5, Ba6, b4 and Nd3 and he also prepares himself for the queenside play. [14.a4 was bad in view of 14…c4 White loses control over the b3 square and he cannot put pressure on the b5 pawn, like it happened in the 8…c4 line. Black consolidates with Nc5 next move.]

14…Nb6! The knight stands well on b6 against the upcoming ideas on the queenside.

15.Rb1! A deep subtle move, which tries to make use of the misplacement of the b7 bishop with the x-ray. At the moment there are many pieces between them, but in the forthcoming moves both sides are intending to play such moves as c4 or a4, after which the opening of the b-file is already in the air. [15.a4!? is another known plan in such positions. Black has a couple of options here as well, but it is not easy to assess which one is the best. 15…bxa4(15…c4 transposes to the game after 16.bxc4 Nxc4 17.Rb1; 15…Bc8 is a logical move to keep the tension and strengthen the b5 pawn with Bd7.) 16.bxa4 a5!? is also interesting with the idea of c4, Ba6 and driving the b6 knight back to c5, from where it could jump to d3 and b3.]

15…c4 Nakamura tries to sharpen the position, but White is better prepared for the direct actions. [It was probably more advisable to leave the x-ray with 15…Bc8 although White has an easier game after 16.h3! followed by Nh2 and f4.]

16.bxc4! Nxc4

17.a4! The x-ray start s to work. It is suddenly not easy to deal with the b5 pawn. Nakamura decided to sacrifice it, but he does not get enough compensation. It is worth mentioning that if Black could play Bd7 now, he would be completely fine!

17…Qc7 [Nakamura was probably initially (before playing 15…c4) intending to play 17…Qa5 but White has the very strong 18.Nd2! Rec8 (18…Qxc3 drops a piece after 19.Ne2! Qa5 The only square for the queen. 20.Nxc4bxc421.Rxb7h) 19.Nxc4 Rxc4 20.Bd2! Bd3 is coming next and Black cannot avoid losing the b5 pawn. 20…Bc8 21.axb5 axb5 22.Bd3 Rc5 23.c4!c; 17…Qd7 is also too passive. The d7 square should be occupied by the bishop.

18.Bd3 Rec8

19.Qe2 The c4 knight looks nice, but actually it is a clear target. Black cannot remove it because the b5 pawn is always hanging and White is threatening to simply win a pawn with Rb4. 19…Rc7 20.Rb4 Rac8 White can further improve his position by bringing the e1 rook into the game. 21.Bg5! Be7 22.axb5 axb5 23.Ra1c Black is in trouble.]

18.axb5 axb519. Rxb5 Na3 Nakamura takes the bishop pair, but a pawn is still a pawn!

20.Rb3Nxc221.Qxc2Nd7This is the idea. Black would like to create a solid blockade on the c-file with Nc5, Ba6 and Rec8, Rab8. If he could achieve all this he could still be fine, but of course White also has his ideas…

22.Be3! After Nc5 the knight could be taken now as recapturing with the pawn is positionally not an option for Black. White would play c4 (to avoid c4-Bc5) and both bishops are bad. Black would have no compensation for the pawn.

22…Ba6 23.Ra3! Threatening to pin the bishop, which forces Black to simplify the position.

23…Bb524.Rea1Rxa325.Rxa3Whiteisreadytoinvadethe 7th rank. 25…Rb8 [25…Nc5 26.c4c is also bad.]

26.Ra7 [26.Nd2!? was also possible, but it is only good if White foresees the following brilliant idea. White wants to play c4, so Black should try to parry it: 26…Nb6 and here

27.c4!! Nxc428.Ngf1!! After this shocking move, Black cannot avoid losing a piece. The threat is Qc1!! and then Rc3! Black is simply unable to leave the pin on the c-file. It is important to play Qc1 first, because Rc3 could be met by the intermediate move Nxe3! (28.Rc328…Nxe3) 28…Rc8 is refuted by (28…Qc8 already runs into 29.Rc3! because the rook is hanging in the end: 29…Nxe3 30.Rxc8 Nxc2 31.Rxb8h) 29.Rc3 Nxe3 30.Rxc7 Nxc2 31.Rxc8h]

26…Qc8 Black did not want to leave the annoying rook on a7, but otherwise White could have played c4! [26…Rb7 27.Rxb7 Qxb7 28.c4 Ba6 29.Nd2c White slowly but surely converts his advantage.]

27.h3 Opening the backrank, just in case. A good prophylactic move.


28.Qc1! Another very subtle move! After Black has focused all his pieces on the queen side in order to fight against c4, the black king is a bit alone and Harikrishna exploits it with a very nice attack.

28…Nc429.Bh6 Suddenly all of White’s pieces are ready for a final blow!

29…Qc5 [29…Rb7 also leads to a lost position, but at least Black is not getting mated. 30.Rxb7 Qxb7 31.Bxf8 Kxf8

32.Qh6+ Kg8 33.Ng5 f6 34.Ne6c]

30.Nh5!! And suddenly the game is over! Black cannot avoid getting mated, which is actually not a big surprise. Only the f8 bishop is defending, while all white pieces are around the king…

30…Bg7 [30…gxh5 leads to forced mate after 31.Qg5+ Kh8 32.Qf6+ Kg8 33.Qxf7+ Kh8 34.Qxh7#; 30…Qxa7 is refuted by31.Nf6+Kh832.Bxf8Qh6 is coming next and the diagonal closing combination does not help either: 32…Ne3 (32…Rxf8

33.Qh6h) 33.Bxd6h Black collapses.]

31.Bxg7 Qxa7 32.Qh6 It is just too much to hold.

32…f5 [32…f6 does not change anything.                33.Nxf6+ Kf7

34.Ng5+ Ke7 35.Ne6h White will mate soon.]

33.Ng5 1-0