Weekly chess column

Hikaru Nakamura emerged from bad form in recent tournaments to win the Unive Crown Group, a four-player round robin, in the Netherlands. Nakamlura had a 4.5-1.5 score ahead of Sergei Tiviakov and Anish Giri, both of the Netherlands, and women’s world champion Hou Yifan of China, in that order.

 Nakamura is noted for his speed games and his frequent blazing combinations. But today’s game shows another side of his ability, a game of maneuver. Nakamura attacked Tiviakov’s French defense in unusual (and questionable) style, moving his queen’s pawn twice in five moves, thus exchanging a tempo for free tactical prospects and frustration of any opening preparation by his opponent. 

Nakamura eventually created a bulwark that boxed Tiviakov in. Nakamura fixed upon a weak queen’s pawn and with exasperating patience refused to win it.  When he finally did, an exhausted Tiviakov surrendered.


Erratum: In the game Fisher v. Gulamali published on Oct. 22, we stated that, in the Dutch defense, White has problems locating his king’s bishop. Alas, we meant instead his queen’s bishop, which was placed on b2.

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a) Black has little trouble after the more routine 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.O-O Nge7 etc. Although White loses a tempo, Black’s extra move …g7-g6 creates dark square weaknesses that White can exploit.

b) Not 6…Bg7? 7.Nb5! d5 8.exd5 exd5 9.Qxd5!, while 6…Nge7 7.Nb5 d5 8.exd5 (8.Bf4 e5) 8…Nxd5 is an interesting position to explore.

c) Now Black’s “extra tempo” is simply …a7-a6, which hardly helps him in this position.

d) It is crucial to note that if Black could somehow play …Nc6-d4, his troubles would evaporate. Hence, White’s play is designed explicitly to deny this by pressuring the d6 pawn and the e7 knight.


e) Regardless of whether Black allows h4-h5 or prevents it by playing …h7-h5, his kingside is weakened just a little bit more.

f) The pressure on d6 was finally too much to bear, but now Black’s game is positionally ruined.

g) White can afford to jostle around to find the best possible position for his pieces before capturing on d6. Black’s game is so bad he can barely do anything other than to wait to be killed.

h) Tiviakov never figured out how to play his position, but this should not detract from a beautiful positional performance by Nakamura!

Nakamura – Tiviakov

16th Unive Crown

French/Sicilian Defense

Nakamura Tiviakov

Nakamura Tiviakov

White Black

White Black

1. e4 e6

21. Qd2! Rb6

2. d3 c5

22. Bf4! Be5

3. Nf3 Nc6

23. Rd1 Kh7

4. g3 g6

24. Kh1 Ng8

5. d4!? (a) cxd4

25. Be3 Bg7

6. Nxd4 a6 (b)

26. Ne2 Rd8

7. Nxc6! bxc6

27. Bf4! e5 (f)

8. c4! (c) Bg7

28. Bg5 f6

9. Bg2 Ne7

29. Be3 Ne7

10. O-O d6

30. Nc3 Qc8

11. Nc3 O-O

31. Kh2 Rc6

12. Bg5! Qc7

32. f4 Qb7

13. Qd2 Rb8

33. fxe5! fxe5

14. Rfd1 Rd8

34. Bg5! Rd7

15. Rac1 c5

35. Bh3 Rdc7

16. b3 (d) Bb7

36. Rf1 (g) Bd7

17. h4! (e) h5

37. Bg2 Bg4

18. Qd3 Bc6

38. Rxd6 Rxd6

19. Qe2 Be8

39. Qxd6 (h) 1-0

20. Rd3! Rdc8