Reports Feb 15, 2015 | 2:40 PMby chess24 staff

Zürich Round 1: Nakamura on the (counter)attack!

The three "winners" of the Blitz — those who managed to gain the advantage of three white games — all failed to win. Fabiano Caruana was trying hard, but eventually succumbed to a brutal counterattack. Aronian was so close but missed the final shot. While Anand vs. Kramnik was balanced from start to finish.

It couldn't be a better start for Nakamura! |Photo:

Caruana 0 - 1 Nakamura

Nakamura defeated Caruana in 2013 in a Najdorf and in round one in Zürich he did it again! The American continues his good run of results after winning in Gibraltar and managed to surprise Fabiano while the later tried to advance his extra pawn.

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. ♘xd4 ♘f6 5. ♘c3 a6 6. h3 The fashionable line against Najdorf which Caruana has preferred and has used three times already in 2015! Although the results have not been in his favor, the opening was not to blame in any of the games.

6... e5 7. ♘de2 h5 This idea, avoiding g4, is considered the best choice for Black.

8. g3 ♘bd7 Nakamura deviates from Caruana's recent outings in this line in 2015.

8... ♗e6 9. ♗g2 ♘bd7 10. a4 ♗e7 11. O-O ♖c8 12. ♗e3 ♘b6 13. b3 d5 14. ♗xb6 ♕xb6 15. ♘xd5 ♘xd5 16. exd5 and although Black has some compensation for the pawn, it does not seem sufficient. Caruana,F (2820)-Vachier Lagrave,M (2757) Wijk aan Zee 2015

8... ♗e7 9. ♗g2 b5 10. ♘d5 ♘bd7 11. ♘xe7 ♕xe7 12. ♗g5 ♗b7 13. ♘c3 ♕e6 14. a3 O-O 15. O-O and White's position is comfortable. Caruana,F (2820)-Hou,Y ( 2673) Wijk aan Zee 2015

9. ♗g5 Caruana responded quickly indicating he was not surprised by Nakamura's choice.

9... ♗e7 10. a4 ♘c5 11. ♗g2 ♗e6 Only here did Fabiano pause for a longer think, before opting for a typical plan.

12. a5 b5 13. axb6 ♕xb6 14. b3 O-O 15. O-O White's position, strategically, is very comfortable with possible pressure on d6, control of d5 and the half-open d-file. In exchange, however, the black pieces are well placed.

15... a5 If Black should exchange the pawn on b3, leaving White's queenside weak, he would have a favorable position. However the knight on c3 and the the rook controlling the a-file keep the pawn at bay.

16. ♕d2 ♖fc8 17. ♖fd1 Nakamura must now find a way to pursue the initiative on the queenside, making use of his well-placed pieces, but how? Besides, White's threat Bxf6 followed by Qxd6 deserves attention, doesn't it?

17... a4 Or not! Very direct, but also possible was

17... ♕b4! preparing a4. 18. ♖ab1 Avoiding the exchange? (18. ♗xf6 was nothing to fear 18... ♗xf6 19. ♕xd6 ♖d8 and the white lady is stranded, unable to escape. 20. ♕c7 ♖dc8 21. ♕d6 ♖d8 . with a draw.) 18... a4 No! 19. bxa4 ♕a5 The a4 pawn falls, but Black's initiative continues. One possible line might be 20. ♖b5 ♕d8 21. ♖b4 ♘a6 22. ♖bb1 ♘c5 23. ♖a1 ♖a6 Followed by Rca8.

18. bxa4 ♗c4 Nakamura's spirited play continues, accepting a pawn down position in exchange for active pieceplay, but after the game considered Caruana's position to be preferable.

18... ♕b4 would be similar to the variation above.

19. a5 Forcing events.

19... ♕d8 20. ♗xf6 ♗xf6 21. ♕xd6 ♕xd6 22. ♖xd6 ♘b7 23. ♖d2 ♖xa5 White is left with an extra pawn, but Black's bishop pair and fact that the pawn is quite restrained makes the advantage minimal. Still, we are in one of those situations where normally White plays for two results: He can win if he advance his extra pawn, and draw if the pawn should fall...Nope! Chess is rich in possibilities and even the best players in the world sometimes suffer surprising setbacks.

24. ♖b1 ♘c5 25. ♘d5 ♗d8 26. h4 Caruana is slowing improving his position.

26... ♖a3 27. ♘ec3 ♖ca8 A very "Nakamura-like" move. The rook on c8 was controlling the c-pawn. But of course with three minor pieces in the way, the pawn isn't going anywhere soon. So, Hikaru searches for a dynamic concept, even looking under rocks for activity — in this case trying to seize the a-file.

28. ♖dd1! Avoiding Black's plan.

28... ♗a5 29. ♘b5 ♖a2 30. ♗f3 g6 We have arrived at the critical moment of the game. Firstly because it seems to be the last moment where White can aspire to stay ahead, and secondly because it was the last move that Caruana had time to think before encountering severe time trouble, which contributed to his defeat. It's worth noting that this tournament is played with the official FIDE time control, with no increment before move 61.

In our live broadcast you can see the time spent on each move in the notation table, along with the engine evaluation. You can even try out your own moves right on the live board!

31. ♘e7+ Caruana must have seen his pawn c2 falling and decides to exchange it for apparently strong activity against the black king. However, as Nakamura demonstrated, Black's activity also comes into play.

31. ♘d6 was more accurate, forcing 31... ♗xd5 (31... ♖xc2 can't be played due to 32. ♘e3 ) 32. exd5 (32. ♖xd5 gives up the pawn and leads to a likely draw. 32... ♖xc2 33. ♗d1 ♖d2 34. ♖xc5 ♖xd6 35. ♖xe5 Black will endeavor to exchange a pair of rooks after which the draw should not be too difficult) 32... ♖xc2 33. ♖a1 The d-pawn will not be so easy to stop. If it reaches d7, all of Black's pieces will be needed to defend, and he may suffer before White acquiesces to a draw.

31... ♔g7 32. ♘c6 ♘a4! Threatening to exchange on b5 and then fork White's rooks on c3, so the following sequence is forced.

33. ♘d6 ♗e6 34. ♖b7 ♖xc2 35. ♘xe5 Fabiano did not fully appreciate the danger.

35. ♘xf7 once again going up a pawn. Although after 35... ♘c5 36. ♖b5 ♗xf7 37. ♖xa5 ♖xa5 38. ♘xa5 ♘e6 bringing the knight to d4 should ensure a draw.

35. ♘xa5 would be a direct way to draw.

35... ♘c5! Suddenly the white pieces become discoordinated.

36. ♖e7? The rook Fabiano!

36. ♖bb1 was necessary, and after 36... ♗c7 37. ♘c6 ♗xd6 38. ♖xd6 ♖aa2 39. ♖f1 defending the white pawn is critical. White can't aspire to anything, but at least he shouldn't lose!

36... ♔f8 37. ♘c6 Hurrying, Caruana defends his rook but did not manage to evaluate the consequences of Black's powerful attack. As we have seen many times before, it's possible to see fierce attacks even without queens, especially when almost all other pieces remain on the board!

37. ♖xf7+ was the last desperate measure to continue the fight. 37... ♗xf7 38. ♘dxf7 In my opinion White has very good practical chances to hold the position, although we might have seen Nakamura press on for a hundred more moves.

37... ♘b3 38. e5 ♗b6 Finally f2 is falling, while f7 remains safe!

39. ♖b7

39. ♖f1 is impossible due to 39... ♘d2 Just look how well coordinated Black's pieces are!

39... ♗xf2+ 40. ♔g2 ♗c5+ 41. ♔h1 ♖aa2 And Caruana had to throw in the towel. A brilliant counterattack by Nakamura, turning the tables in just a few short moves.


Aronian 1/2 - 1/2 Karjakin

Levon Aronian got a very good position out of the opening. On move 19 Karjakin decided he was not afraid of his opponent's attack as he castled right into it. The bishop sacrifice from Aronian came swiftly but nevertheless the Armenian was not able to continue the onslaught and settled for a draw. A miscalculation that could weigh on his morale, as Levon has not been in the best form of late.

1. d4 ♘f6 2. c4 e6 3. ♘f3 d5 4. ♘c3 c6 5. e3 ♘bd7 6. ♗d3 Aronian and Karjakin had reached this position three times in previous clashes. In all three Aronian tried 6.Qc2, although 6.Bd3 was no surprise, as it has been Aronian's preference recently.

6... dxc4 7. ♗xc4 b5 8. ♗d3 ♗b7 One of the most popular choices in this complex opening. Another option is to "forget" b4 and continue instead:

8... a6 9. e4 c5 The most classical line.

9. e4 b4 10. ♘a4 c5 11. e5 ♘d5 Aronian is an expert in this position with both colors, so I was waiting to see what was in store.

12. dxc5 An interesting alternative to the main line.

12. O-O allowing 12... cxd4 Amid complications, Black is generally doing fine in the position.

12... ♘xc5 13. ♘xc5 ♗xc5 14. O-O ♗e7 Karjakin is the first to innovate. Up to now, there was the virtually automatic:

14... h6 permanently preventing knight jumps to g5. The nearly 20 minutes which Sergey spent in this position indicates that it was not part of his preparation.

15. ♕e2 Both in this position and the well-known 14 ... h6, Black allows a check on b5, which would force his king to f8, but the general consensus is that the monarch does not run much risk there and Black can seize the initiative, eventually gaining a tempo with Qb6 attacking the bishop. As so often in modern chess, the traditional opening "rules" have pros and cons and are in a constant debate.

15... ♕b6

15... O-O? is still not possible. 16. ♕e4! g6 17. ♗h6 and nobody would want to have his king stuck in this rotten castle!

16. ♘g5 Taking advantage of the absence of the h6 pawn, the knight can springboard to e4 this way (rather than the usual route via d2).

16. ♗g5 is another approach, but after 16... h6 17. ♗xe7 ♘xe7 I don't see how exchanging bishops here will particularly benefit White.

16... h6 17. ♘e4 ♖d8 18. ♕f3 A curious move. To understand it we must compare it with 18.Qg4, which in principle would be much more normal. On one hand there is a "technical" reason as Aronian controls g3 with his quen, just as on g4, only with the bishop on d3 defended. On the other hand, it's a sort of psychological challenge. With 18.Qg4 Aronian would force the black to lose its castling rights, but does black really want to castle? Probably not! On the contrary, he is begging Karjakin to castle! The h6 advance, and the e5 pawn makes castling a risky venture.

18... ♗a6 19. ♖d1 O-O And Sergey picks up the gauntlet!

19... ♗xd3 20. ♖xd3 and any queen move like for example 20... ♕c7 going to the more active c2 square was an option with the king left in the center.

20. ♕g3 ♔h8 21. ♕h3 ♔g8? Karjakin — apparently full of trust in his defensive resources — moves away from the confrontation with the white queen. Aronian simply "believes" him so that the game ends in a draw; we will see, however, that he had a better option at his disposal.

21... ♗xd3! was more precise.

a) 22. ♖xd3 would have been answered by 22... ♔h7 and the king defends itself from the impending sacrifices! 23. ♖g3 ♕d4 (23... ♖g8 would have been a rather odd way to prevent an impact on g7 and not very aesthetic at that) 24. ♖xg7+ ♔xg7 25. ♗xh6+ ♔g6! and White would have had to settle for the draw.

b) 22. ♗xh6? ♗xe4! 23. ♗e3+ ♔g8 24. ♗xb6 axb6 and since Black's king is not endangered, the three minor pieces surpass the queen.

22. ♗xh6! gxh6 23. ♕xh6 f5 The only defense from White's numerous threats.

24. ♕g6+ Aronian spent a lot of time here, calculating all the possible lines.

24. exf6 ♗xf6 25. ♕g6+ ♗g7 26. ♗xa6 and there's no good way to continue the attack. The engine, too, does not have a convincing follow-up! After 26... ♕xa6 (26... ♘f4 ) 27. ♘g5 (27. ♘c5 ♕b6 ) 27... ♖f6 28. ♕h7+ ♔f8 Black has no problems.

24... ♔h8 25. ♕h6+ After having spent the bulk of his thinking time, Levon decides to force the draw.

25. ♘g3 would have been the critical move; White retreats his knight from the attack, only to add it back from h5! 25... ♗c5 26. ♕h6+ ♔g8 27. ♘h5! Black lacks an appropriate defense. 27... ♗xf2+ (27... ♔f7 will be refuted by 28. ♕h7+ ♔e8 29. ♘g7+ and the discovered attack will not exactly be pleasant. 27... ♖d7 28. ♗xa6 ♕xa6 29. ♖xd5! and Black's e6-pawn would be pinned due to the unprotected queen on a6! This is a critical detail, ensuring White's victory.) 28. ♔h1 Does not change much. 28... ♕c7 (28... ♖d7 will again be met with 29. ♗xa6 ♕xa6 30. ♖xd5 ) 29. ♕xe6+ ♕f7 30. ♕xf7+ ♔xf7 31. ♗xa6 with two extra pawns which should suffice to win the game comfortably. 

25... ♔g8 26. ♕g6+ ♔h8 27. ♕h6+ Here was a good opportunity missed by Aronian. While it is true that it is quite easy for us to see all the crucial lines with the help of our electronic crutches, a player of his calibre should still be able to spot the Ng3-idea and calculate the most important lines.


Anand  1/2 - 1/2 Kramnik

The clash of two former world champions did not catch too much attention. It was flawless, but also extremely solid and without any imbalances. A Queen's Gambit Declined resulted in a position where White had a very symbolic edge but nothing more, so that Black was never in any real danger.

The tension in this position quickly evaporated after the exchange of queens on c7 and somewhat later with the exchange of rooks along the g-file. Has Vladimir found his Berlin Wall against 1.d4?

Kramnik opted for supersolidity in order to have a good start in Zurich |Foto: Official Website

Hence, after the first round Hikaru Nakamura emerged as the sole leader and should be on cloud nine after this important win. The American however will hardly be able to rest now, since in today's round he will be facing Kramnik with Black, who managed to downright destroy his beloved King's Indian Defense. Will we witness another theory battle between those two? Karjakin meanwhile has White against Caruana, and Anand plays against Aronian You can follow all of the second round action here!

Amongst the audience we could find Arturo Pérez Reverte, one of Spain's most influential contemporary writers. |Photo: Official Website

IM David Martínez

David is the current coach of the Spanish Women's National Team and GM David Antón Guijarro. He's responsible for chess24's Spanish site. You can watch his series "Entrenamiento de Grandes Maestros" and "Estrategia de Alto Nivel" as well as a lot of other videos on our YouTube channel.

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