Nepomniachtchi I. (2730)
Nakamura H. (2758)
6th Tal Memorial (4.5)
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 The American super star is going out for blood in this game! He has not been able to create serious winning chances in this tournament, and his game against Svidler was very one-sided in favor of the Russian, so he brings out all of his fighting spirit on Ian!
6. Be2 Perhaps a slight disappointment for the spectators. The game steers away from the razor-sharp lines of the Yugoslav attack, but this doesn't mean the game will be any less interesting.
6... Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. Re1 Nc6 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Bf1 a5 11. Nd2?! A strange novelty. The more common move is
11. a4 Bxb3 12. cxb3 Nb4 With the idea of e6 next move, which is considered to be fine for Black.
11... a4 11... d5 12. exd5 Nxd5 13. Nxd5 Bxd5 looked like a slight edge for Black already, however the move played in the game is just as ambitious.
12. Ndb1 Although original, this anti-development maneouvre of the knight cannot be recommended. It is not heading for any particularly useful square.
12... Ra5 13. Na3 d5 14. exd5 Nxd5 15. Ncb5 Qc8 16. c3 Rd8 There should be almost no doubt that Hikaru has achieved an excellent position from the opening.
17. Qe2 Nc7 18. Rd1 Nxb5 19. Nxb5 Ne5 20. Na3 Retreating again to the side of the board...
20. Nd4 Bc4 21. Qe1 Bxf1 22. Qxf1 Rad5 followed by a3 gave Black a dominating position.
20... Rad5 21. Rxd5 Rxd5 22. Be3 Ng4 23. h3 Nxe3 24. Qxe3 Qc6 Nakamura has now established a stable advantage. He holds the open d-file, the pair of bishops and is overall more active. Although he is still far from winning, he has punished Ian for his dubious play.
25. Nc2 Qc7 26. a3 Be5 27. Nb4 Rd8 28. Nd3 Bd6 29. Re1 Bf5 30. g3 Bxd3!? Nakamura tries to dismantle Ian's position in an opposite colored game where he will hold the initiative. It was also possible to tend to the position in a more calm and subtle matter, as he is holding all the trump cards.
30... h5 31. h4 Kg7 with the idea of f6 and e5 comes to mind.
31. Bxd3 Bc5 32. Qf3 Rd6 The point, now the f2 AND b2 pawns will be under fire.
33. Re4 Rb6 34. Bc4?! 34. Re2 Rf6 35. Qg2 looks unpleasant but I don't see how Black makes progress.
34... e6 35. Re2 Bxa3 36. Bxe6 Bxb2?! 36... Rxb2 Although it is usually not advisable to trade pieces when the opposite colored bishops are on the board and you are trying to play for a win; I believe this was a better move. Although Hikaru has won some queenside pawns, the initiative on the kingside is lost, which means he has to be careful of his own king. The combined power of the passed a-pawn and the pressure he can exert over f2 might still allow him to win this game.
37. Bxf7+!? 37. Ba2 Bxc3? (37... Ba3 38. Re4)
38. Bxf7+ Qxf7 39. Qxc3 leaves the king way too vulnerable to consider winning.
37... Qxf7 38. Qd3 Re6? And Nakamura falters. It is hard to blame him with little time left. It was absolutely essential to take control of d8.
38... Qc7! 39. Re8+ Kg7! 40. Qd4+ Rf6 41. Rd8 Qxc3 42. Rd7+ Kg8 43. Rd8+ Rf8 44. Rxf8+ Kxf8 45. Qd8+ Kf7 46. Qd7+ Kf6 47. Qd6+ Kf5 An Black isn't only not getting mated, the checks run out soon and his extra material should tell.
39. Qd8+ Kg7 40. Qd4+ Kg8 41. Qd8+ Qf8 42. Qd5 Qd6 Trying to win. The rook is quite poisoned.
43. Qxd6 43. Qxe6+ Qxe6 44. Rxe6 Kf8! And since the R can't make it to the a-file, this becomes incredibly dangerous for White.
43... Rxd6 44. Rxb2 a3 45. Ra2 Ra6 Like in the rest of the game, Black is the one holding all the trump cards, however it is still far from winining. His a3 pawn is quite vulnerable and the pawn count will be dangerously reduced.
46. Kf1 Kf7 47. Ke2 Ke6 48. Kd3 Kd5 49. f4 h5 49... Ra4 50. c4+ Kc5 51. g4 lead nowhere for Black.
50. g4 h4! I like this move, as it makes h3 into another weakness, specially considering what White's only resouce in this position is.
51. c4+ Kc5 52. Kc3 Re6 53. Rf2 Re3+ 54. Kc2 Kxc4 54... Kc6!? Was an intersting study-like move. The idea is to try to catch the f-pawn with the K, while allowing the R to defend and capture pawns. However it mights till not be enough. 55. f5 gxf5 56. gxf5 Kd7 57. Kb1 Rxh3 58. Ka2 Ke7 59. Rf4! (59. f6+? Kf7 60. Rf4 b6 Zugzwang.)
59... b6 60. Rd4 Kf6 61. Rf4 And the game is still not won.
54... Kd6 55. Rd2+ is awkward for Black.
55. f5 g5 Controlling the important f4 square.
56. f6 Re8 56... Rb3 57. Rf4+? Overly cute.(57. Rf1=)
57... gxf4 58. f7 Rc3+
57. f7 Rf8 58. Kb1 Kd5 59. Rf5+ Ke6 60. Rxg5 Rxf7 61. Rh5 b5 62. Rxb5 Rf3 63. Rb6+ Ke5 64. Rb5+ Ke6 65. Rb6+ Kd5 66. g5 Rxh3 67. Rb4 Ke5 This endgame with the split pawns is unfortunately for Hikaru drawn. It is reminiscent of the Botvinnik-Fischer endgame from the 1962 Olympiad. The defensive task is not incredibly difficult.
68. g6 Kf6 69. Rg4 Kg7 70. Ka2 Kh8 71. Rf4 Kg7 72. Rg4 Rh1 73. Rb4 h3 74. Rb3 Kxg6 74... h2 75. Rh3 Kxg6 76. Rh8 is a simple draw, since the a3 pawn does not help Black.
75. Rg3+ Kf5 76. Rc3 Ke5 77. Rxa3 Rh2+ 78. Ka1 Kf4 79. Rb3 Rh1+ 80. Ka2 Rh2+ 81. Ka1 Rh1+ 82. Ka2 Kg4 83. Rb4+ Kg3 84. Rb3+ Kg4 85. Rb4+ Kg3 Hikaru had the advantage the entire game, it seemed like he was about to win in several ocassions, but Ian's combination of resourcefulness and sheer desperation allowed him to scrape a draw from an atrocious opening.
Game(s) in PGN