Mr Hikaru's Holiday - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


In a sparkling return to form, Hikaru Nakamura took a well-earned break from the streaming demands of his popular Twitch channel to score what proved to be an emphatic double win in the latest leg of the pandemic-curtailed Grand Chess Tour season, as the tournament wildcard cruised to victory in the 2021 Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament to take home the title and $37,500 first prize.

Nakamura’s dominance all hinged on a positional squeeze over the US #1, Fabiano Caruana (see game below), in the ninth and final round of the rapid – a crucial win over his nearest rival that not only gave him the tournament lead for the first time, but also proved to be a big confidence-booster for the speed maven going into the blitz tournament, where the favourite remained undefeated to be crowned the overall champion with the luxury of three rounds(!) to spare.

“Oh well, vacation time is over, back to work at 10AM tomorrow. See you all on twitch!” tweeted Nakamura to his many followers in victory – such is the busy life these days of being one of the game’s leading influencers on twitch, where going undefeated to win two tournaments over 5 days against top opposition, it wasn’t so much a case of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday as Mr Hikaru’s holiday!

Final (combined) standings:
1. Hikaru Nakamura, 18/27; 2. Fabiano Caruana, 15.5; 3. Richard Rapport, 14.5; 4. Wesley So, 14; 5. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, 13; 6-7. Peter Svidler, Jeffery Xiong, 12.5; 8. Liem Le, 12; 9-10. Sam Shankland, Leinier Dominguez, 11.5.

The marquee event of the Grand Chess Tour, the prestigious $325,000 Sinquefield Cup now follows, running 17-27 August also in the world-renowned Saint Louis Chess Club in the US midwest. The full line-up is: Fabiano Caruana (USA),Wesley So (USA), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Peter Svidler (Russia), Leinier Dominguez (USA), Sam Shankland (USA), Jeffery Xiong (USA) and Darusz Swiercz (USA).

Coverage of the 2021 Sinquefield Cup will begin Tuesday, August 17 at 14:50 CDT with live coverage from the resident top commentary team of GM’s Yasser Seirawan, Alejandro Ramirez, and Maurice Ashley on

GM Hikaru Nakamura – GM Fabiano Caruana
Saint Louis Rapid, (9)
Ruy Lopez, Moeller Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Bc5 The Moeller Defence, named after Jørgen Møller, the early 20th century Danish master and Nordic champion. It’s very sharp, and Black gets a chance for active development and able to fight for the initiative early doors – and White has to take care, as he can go very wrong very quickly, especially if he goes into Ruy Lopez autopilot mode. 6.c3 b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.d4 dxe4 9.dxe5 Nakamura opts to eschew all the complications and trades the queens – but if you are looking for a more “spirited” adventure, then 9.Nxe5 Nxe5 10.dxc5 Qe7 11.Bg5 Bb7 is your bag. 9…Qxd1 10.Rxd1 exf3 11.exf6 gxf6 12.Be4 Bd7 13.Nd2 This is a very obscure line, thought to marginally favour Black, but both players were very confidently bashing out their moves. 13…fxg2 Caruana is the first to go into the “tank”, taking time to prefer this rather than any of the other major options, such as 13…0-0-0 14.Nxf3 which very marginally favour White. 14.Nb3 Bb6 15.Nd4 Bxd4 16.cxd4 0-0-0N Caruana is the first to diverge with seems a logical novelty, which certainly looks better than 16…Rc8 17.Bf4 previously seen before here. 17.Bf4 Rhe8 18.Bxg2 Nakamura now takes his first real think of the game,  just double checking that the g2-capture wasn’t going to come with any risks attached to it via the open g-file. He could try to defer the capture for now with 18.Bf3 Ne7 19.Rac1 c6 20.d5 Kb7 21.Rc5 cxd5 22.Bxd5+ Bc6 23.Bxc6+ Nxc6 24.Rxd8 Rxd8 25.Rh5 Rd4! 26.Bg3 (White does not have the luxury for 26.Be3 Rg4 27.Rxh7 Ne5! and White is in trouble.) 26…Rd2 27.Rxh7 Rxb2 28.Rxf7+ Kb6 29.a3 a5 30.Bc7+ Kc5 31.Bf4 but the game looks to be fizzling out to a draw, especially when you see lines such as 31…a4 32.Kxg2 b4 33.axb4+ Kc4 34.h4 a3 35.Bc1 Rb3 36.Bxa3 Rxa3 37.b5 Kxb5 38.h5 Nb4 39.Rxf6 Nd5 40.Rf3 Ra8 41.Rf5 Kc5 42.Kg3 Kd4 43.f4 Ra1 and it is hard to make anything with the passed pawns with Black’s pieces being active and well-placed. 18…Ne7 19.Rac1 c6 20.d5 Kb7 21.Rc5! The rook lift is easily the best move, and played confidently and quickly by Nakamura, who was looking the more relaxed of the two by this stage. 21…cxd5 22.Bxd5+ Bc6 23.Bxc6+ Nxc6 24.Rxd8 Nxd8? This was slightly puzzling to my eyes, unless Caruana intended it to be just that, perhaps pushing the envelope a little to confuse Nakamura, as the obvious recapture was 24…Rxd8 25.Rh5 Rd4 (The more awkward defence is 25…Rh8 26.Rh6! Nb4 27.Rxf6 Nxa2 28.Rxf7+ Kc6 29.Rf6+ Kb7 but again it is hard to see how White can make anything of his advantage with so few pawns now left on the board.) 26.Be3 Rg4+ 27.Kf1 Rg7 28.Rh6 Nb4 29.Rxf6 Nd5! 30.Rd6 Nxe3+ 31.fxe3 and the R+P is destined to end in nothing other than a draw. 25.Rc7+ The crucial difference now is that Nakamura’s rook dominates on the seventh. 25…Kb6 26.Rd7 b4 27.Kf1 Kb5 28.Be3 Caruana may well have protected his shattered pawns, but Nakamura’s pieces are more than a match here for being sans a pawn. 28…Kc6 29.Ra7 [see diagram] At the end of the day, Nakamura can pick his moment to regain his pawn – but he can take delight in torturing Caruana further by delaying it just a little longer. 29…Kd5 30.Ra8! Rf8 Caruana is caught between an endgame rock and a hard place. After 30…Kd6 31.Bf4+ Kd7 32.Ra7+ Ke6 33.Rxa6+ Kf5 34.Bd2 the b-pawn is also set to fall with White holding a decisive advantage. 31.Bh6 Re8 32.Bd2 It’s just a matter of time before Nakamura cashes in by picking off some weak pawns. 32…Kc5 33.Be3+ Kb5 34.Rb8+ Kc6 35.Rxb4! The best way to restore the material balance, as it keeps Black’s remaining pawns as far apart as possible, making them harder to be defended. 35…Ne6 36.Rb6+ Kd5 37.Rxa6 The passed queenside pawns are the deciding factor; and the rest of the game is somewhat academic now. 37…f5 38.Ra5+ Ke4 39.Ke2 Nf4+ 40.Bxf4 Kxf4+ 41.Kf1 Rc8 42.Ra4+ Ke5 There’s no defence. After 42…Kf3 43.Ra3+ Ke4 44.Re3+ Kf4 45.a3 the Black king is cut off and White simply and safely pushes his queenside pawns up the board. 43.Rb4 1-0 Caruana resigns with a4 and b3 seeing White’s pawns start to run quickly up the board.


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