Sunday, June 26, 2022

Candidate R2: Nakamura returns

a savings for the birthday boy

Alireza Turquoise turns 19 at the Candidates tournament in Madrid. This came from a draw from a slightly inferior position in his first round game against youngster Timur Radjabov. On his birthday, he once again had the black pieces – and it was a more difficult task for him to fight to get to a draw against Richard Rapport.

White could have further improved his position with 38.Rg7+ Kh8 (38…Kf8 leads to mate) 39.Rgd7, inviting Black to exchange a pair of rooks. In a simplified position, Rapport would have proved that his active king and advanced passed pawns are factors large enough to claim victory in this particular endgame.

Instead, Rapport refused to leave his rook pair in seventh place by playing 38.K4, giving Black a chance to fight back – even if from a low position. At this point, Turquoise was in deep-time trouble, and Rapport was playing fast enough to increase the pressure on his young opponent.

The Hungarian decision backfired, as Turquoise defended the resource until eventually scoring half a point. Although it was not easy at all, Turquoise managed to avoid a draw in two games with Black, who started his first outing in the Candidates tournament.

Alireza Turquoise | Photo: FIDE/Steve Bonhej

almost lost novelty

Referring to the novelty he played on the 10th move in his game against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Fabiano Caruana said,

I knew Ng4 would come as a surprise. I don’t know if many people have analyzed this move. […] It is borderline losing, a huge gamble.

Indeed, the American grandmaster managed to surprise his well-prepared opponent.

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Napo, who is known to play early even in classical games, spent about 35 minutes in his next five moves, while Caruana continued his home preparations.

The Russian used a sensible approach in response to the novelty, but on move 17 he decided to try his chances by dropping a pawn as he lifted his queen’s rook on the third file.

17.Ra3 d4-pawn left hanging. For the first time in the game, Caruana used a lot of time, as he spent 9 minutes before capturing the sacrificed pawn.

A tense battle ensued, with Black’s kingside pawns sitting on g5 and h6 in front of his own king. Eventually, Caruana sat in the driver’s seat, but he too began to feel low at times. Around 30, the American opted to repeat the position and secure half a point.

Nepomniachtchi and Caruana held the lead after two rounds in Madrid.

Ian Nepomniachchi

Ian Nepomniachchi | Photo: FIDE/Steve Bonhej

Naka defeated Radjabowi

The two elite grandmasters who made a name for themselves by employing the sharp King’s Indian defense – and then switched to a more positional approach – played the only deciding game of the round. Hikaru Nakamura had the white pieces against Timur Radjabov, and took a comfortable lead in the opening middlegame.

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Once the queens left the board and a rook and knight appeared on the board against the rook and bishop endgame, Radjabov decided to prioritize activating his rook rather than defending his weak pawn on move 35.

The Azerbaijani could try to defend the low position with passive play, as it is difficult to find a way to progress with white. Instead, he went 35…kd5Permission 36.RC6When there is no way to defend a pawn.

Changing the situation was not trivial at all. Or, as Dutch GM Max Warmerdam keep this,

From this position, Nakamura needed sixteen more moves to score a full point and returned to a fifty percent score after his first-round loss against Caruana.

Hikaru Nakamura, Taimur Radjabowi

Six and a half hours later – Timur Radzabov | Photo: FIDE/Steve Bonhej

Round 2 Result


Round 2. standing after


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