Nakamura Wins 2009 US Championship

This neat little game secured Hikaru Nakamura sole possession of the $40,000 first prize at the 2009 US Championship in St. Louis. I predict it will also bring him $275 more in the "SOS competition," for the best game played with a variation written about in Secrets of Opening Surprises! This "surprise" line may soon become the main line, since it's hard to find much to like for Black here.

GM Hikaru Nakamura (2701) - GM Josh Friedel (2516) [C58]

US Chess Championship/Saint Louis USA (9) 2009


1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3










A move first played by Isidor Gunsberg in the 19th Century but recently revived by Daniel Stellwagen, who presents an article on it in "Secrets of Opening Surprises, Volume #9." Most authors dismiss this move based on the game Castaldi - Keres, mentioned below. But Beliavsky and Mikhalchishin give it surprisingly favorable treament, writing: "This rarely met move is clearly better than its reputation. Its idea is to secure the e4 square for the knight, to deprive Black of activity by ... e5-e4 and, when the opportunity presents itself, to exchange a pair of knights. Of course there is also a drawback - a backward d2 pawn and the difficulty in developing the bishop on c1."

 

8... Be7

This is one of the few options not discussed in Stellwagen's article, and it is possible that Friedel chose it for that reason.

 

a) 8... h6?! is frequently seen but simply drives the Knight to a good square: 9. Ne4 Nd5 10. O-O Be7 11. Ng3! g6 12. Re1 Qc7 13. b3 (13. a3!? O-O 14. b4 Nb7 15. Bb2 Bf6 16. Nc3 Bg7 17. Ba6 0-1 Navara,D (2638)-Tomashevsky,E (2664)/Budva ch-EUR pff 2009 (54)) 13... O-O 14. Bb2 Bd6 15. c4 Nf4 16. Bf1 c5 17. Nc3 f6 18. Nge4 Qd8 19. Ba3 Nb7 20. Nd5 Ne6 21. Nxd6 Qxd6 22. b4 cxb4 23. Bxb4 Nbc5 24. Bc3 Nd4 25. Bxd4 exd4 26. Qb1 Bf5 27. Qb2 Ne6 28. Qb7 Rae8 29. Qxa7 Rf7 30. Qa4 Rb8 31. d3 Kg7 32. Rab1 Rfb7 33. Rxb7+ Rxb7 34. Qa8 Qb8 35. Qa6 Rb1 36. Rxb1 Qxb1 37. Qa7+ Kg8 38. Qe7 g5 39. Qxf6 1-0 Daniel Stellwagen (2621)-Jan Willem de Jong (2474)/Hilversum NED 2008.

 

b) 8... Bc5?! was played in the stem game but should not be promising after 9. O-O O-O 10. Nc3 (as Stellwagen notes: "Black has no compensation for the minus pawn. White is clearly better.") 10... Bb6!? 11. Be2?! (11. b4! Nb7 12. Qf3 Nd6 13. b5 Stellwagen) 11... Nd5 12. d3 Nb7 13. Nf3 Bc7 14. Re1 f5 15. Nd2?! ( 15. Bf1 with the idea of g3 notes Stellwagen.) 15... Nc5 16. Nf1 Ne6 and Black eventually seized the intiative in Gunsberg - Chigorin, Havana 1890 -- but Chigorin was clearly just the better player.

 

c) 8... Bg4?! also helps White get organized by 9. Be2! Bf5 10. d3 h6 11. Nf3 Bd6 12. Nc3 Qc7 13. Be3 (13. Nd2! O-O 14. Nde4 Nxe4 15. Nxe4 Be7 16. O-O) 13... Rd8 14. Qc1 O-O 15. O-O Rfe8 (15... e4! 16. Nxe4 Nxe4 17. dxe4 Bxe4) 16. h3 Bf8 17. Re1 c5 18. Nd2! Be6 19. Nb3 Nd5 20. Nxa5 Nxc3 21. bxc3 Qxa5 22. c4 Kh7 23. Rb1 f5 24. Rb5 Qc7 25. Qa3 Rc8 26. Reb1 f4 27. Bd2 Qd6 28. Bc3 Bf5 29. Qxa7 Qg6 30. Rb6 Qg5 31. Bg4 Bxg4 32. hxg4 Qxg4 33. f3 Qh4 34. Qb7 Kh8 35. Qe4 Re7 36. a4 Rce8 37. a5 Re6 38. a6 Rxb6 39. Rxb6 Qd8 40. Rb7 Bd6 41. a7 Qa8 42. Rd7 1-0 Groszpeter,A (2540)-Zsinka,L (2320)/Budapest ch-HUN tt 2008.

 

d) 8... Ng4! may actually be Black's best: 9. Ne4 f5 10. Be2 h5! 11. h3 fxe4 12. hxg4 Bc5 13. b4! Qd4 (13... Bxf2+? 14. Kxf2 Qd4+ 15. Kg3 Qxa1 16. Nc3!) 14. bxc5 O-O 15. O-O Qxa1 16. Nc3 e3 17. gxh5 exf2+ 18. Rxf2 Rxf2 19. Kxf2 Be6 20. Bf3 (20. Ba3!? Qxd1 21. Bxd1) 20... Rf8 21. Kg3 Bxa2 22. Qe1 Be6 23. d4 (23. d3!? Stellwagen) 23... Nc4 24. Kh2 Rxf3 25. gxf3 Bf7 26. h6 gxh6 27. Ne4 Bg6 28. Qf1 Kh8 29. Qxc4 Qxc1 30. Qe6 Qf4+ 31. Ng3 Bh5 32. Qc8+ Kh7 33. Qc7+ Kg8 34. Qb8+ Kf7 35. Qc7+ Kg8 36. Qb8+ 1/2-1/2 Stellwagen,D (2625)-L\'Ami,E (2581)/Maastricht match Adv. 2008.

 

e) 8... Nd5 is the "book" recommendation, but White looks good after 9. Nf3! (the books only give 9. Ne4?! f5!? (9... Nf4! 10. Bf1 f5 Stellwagen) 10. Ng3 Nf4 11. Bf1 Bc5!? (11... Bd6! Stellwagen) 12. c3 Bb6 13. d4 Ng6 14. Bd3 O-O 15. b4 Nb7 16. Bc4+ Kh8 17. d5 Nd6 18. Bb3 f4 19. Nf1 Ne4 0-1 Vincenzo Castaldi-Paul Keres/04 1937) 9... Bd6 (9... Nf4 10. O-O Nxd3 11. cxd3 Bd6 (11... f6 12. d4 exd4 13. Re1+ Kf7 14. d3) 12. Re1 O-O 13. Nxe5 Re8 14. d4) 10. O-O O-O 11. Re1 when Stellwagen provides detailed analysis showing that White does quite well from this position with moves like Nc3, h3, Bf1 and d3.

 

9. Nc3

This seems an improvement on 9. O-O O-O 10. Ne4 given by Beliavsky and Mikhalchishin.

 

9... O-O 10. O-O Rb8

10... h6 11. Nf3 Bg4 12. h3 Bh5 13. Be2 e4 14. Ne5 Bxe2 15. Qxe2 Qd4 16. Ng4 Rfe8 17. d3 exd3 18. Qxd3 Qxd3 19. cxd3 Nxg4 20. hxg4 Rad8 21. Rd1 Bc5 22. Bf4 Rd7 23. Rac1 Bb6 24. Na4?! (24. b4! Nb7 25. Ne4) 24... Rd4! 25. Nxb6 Rxf4 26. Nc4 Re2 27. Ne3 Rxb2 28. f3 Rxa2 29. Nf5 Rb4 30. Ra1 Rbb2 31. Rxa2 Rxa2 32. Rb1 Rd2 33. Ra1 Nb3 34. Rxa7 Rxd3 35. Ne7+ Kh7 36. Nxc6 1/2-1/2 Alexander Morozevich (2788)-Sergey Karjakin (2727)/Moscow RUS 2008.

 

11. h3 c5 12. b3 Rb4 13. Re1 Bb7 14. Ba3!

Much stronger than his chief alternative, 14. Rxe5 which appears to give Black some play with 14... h6 15. Nf3 Rf4 16. Re3 c4 17. bxc4 Bc5 -- though even here White should be able to hang onto a material advantage.

 

14... Rf4

Black's Rook will not be happy adventuring along the rank, but retreat was even less attractive: 14... Rb6 15. Nf3 xe5, and White comfortably wins at least another pawn.

 

15. g3! Rd4 16. Nf3

 










16... Rxd3?!

16... Nc6!? is suggested by Dennis Monokroussos as "an interesting way of pursuing tactics along the diagonal" while bringing "the offside knight back into action." Indeed, it might be Black's best try, using tactical means to head toward a heavy piece ending where he might be able to at least cause Nakamura trouble: 17. Nxd4 Nxd4 18. Ne4 Nxe4 19. Bxe4 Bxe4 20. Rxe4 Qd5 21. Re3 Bg5 22. Rc3 and Black's initiative leads only to lost endings, e.g.: 22... Rd8 23. Bxc5 Bxd2 24. Rd3 Qxc5 25. Rxd2 Qd5 (25... Nf3+ 26. Qxf3 Rxd2 27. Rd1 Rxd1+ 28. Qxd1 is too easy) 26. c4 Nf3+ 27. Qxf3 Qxd2 but White's extra pawn -- and a passed one at that -- will triumph.

 

17. cxd3 Qxd3 18. Nxe5 Qf5 19. g4! Qf4 20. d4 Rd8 21. Qe2 Rxd4??

 










Falling headlong into a neat trap. But there was really no hope at this point:

a) 21... Qxd4 22. Nxf7! Kxf7? 23. Qe6+ Kg6 24. Qf5+ Kf7 25. Rxe7+ Kf8 26. Bxc5

b) 21... Qh6 22. Qe3 Qh4 23. Bxc5 Bxc5 24. dxc5 followed, if need be, by Qg3 and White has an easy win.

 

22. Bc1!

and the Queen is trapped. Friedel resigned.

1-0

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Game in PGN

Copyright © 2009 by Michael Goeller