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Hikaru Nakamura vs Alexey Shirov
Tata Steel Group A (2011), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 3, Jan-17
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense (C78)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <Landman: Just seeing this game now. What's wrong with 58...Bxc4+? Seems to hold for Black but I must be missing something. Maybe 59.Kd2 Rb1 60.Nd4! intending Nf5+>

Yes, pretty much what happened in the game itself after a couple of intermediate rook moves by Black - that was the idea behind 58.Nb3!

Naka could probably have made life easier for himself a bit earlier with 54.c5!, creating a passer on the Q-side after the exchange of pawns on d6 (since 54...dxc5 55.Rxc5 just drops the c pawn - White is also threatening to win the bishop with Rc6); but his way of winning the endgame was quite impressive regardless.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: With all the massive complications in earlier parts of the game, the point where things really started going downhill for Shirov may be 52...Ra3+?; As surprising as it may sound, 52...Ra4! is much better - in that case, White's only way of defending his Q-side pawns is the awkward 53.Rb5, and after 53...Ra3+ 54.Kd4 (or 54.Kf4 Ra2) Rg3 Black seems to be holding it together. Note that on move 53, ...Ra4 wouldn't bring the same results anymore, because the white king is now on time to defend the b-pawn with 54.Kc3.
Jan-17-11  iamsheaf: <Uncommon Opening> Yes, I always thought that spanish game was an uncommon opening, :-)
Jan-17-11  talisman: had to leave this one around move 58, man what a game. <Eyal>'s started going downhill at 52.Ra3+...shirov was in time trouble if i remember.
Jan-17-11  James Bowman: Very nice, a tactical slug fest early on and the grinding endgame victory was just fun too. Shirov was there to win, but was just out classed today so no shame on him either a great game takes two players playing that way. Nakamura looks like he is at his tactical best but with some of the rough edges smoothed out.
Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: Nakamura picked up a 500 Euro prize for best game of the day, according to the tournament report on the official tournament site at

A NYT blog report by Dylan McClain at observes <Nakamura also won on Monday, beating Alexei Shirov of Spain in a long game that was a masterful display of technique as Nakamura gained an edge in the opening, nursed it through the middlegame and converted his advantage into a victory in the endgame.>

P.S.: Congratulations to GM Nakamura on taking an early lead in this category 20 tournament with an average rating of 2740. Hopefully, he has enough energy to play well in his next game after this 7 hour marathon session.

Jan-17-11  notyetagm: A *tremendous* win for Nakamura.

He has now beaten both Grischuk and Shirov with consecutive Whites.

Let his naysayers eat crow, those who he said all that Nakamura was good for was ICC bullet chess.

By the way, how did Carlsen do today?

Jan-17-11  OneArmedScissor: lol I called it. I said Naka will grind Shirov down in an endgame and win.
Jan-17-11  notyetagm: Game Collection: Nakamura's Best Games

Nakamura vs Shirov, 2011 A masterful display by Nakamura in the opening, middlegame, and endgame

Jan-17-11  polarmis: Here's my slightly tidied up (hard to summon up the energy to go through it all again in detail!) version of Sergey Shipov's commentary on the game:

Shirov was punished for his time handling and strangely refusing to make what you'd think would be his trademark attacking moves (e.g. 35...g3! and Black's on top), but Nakamura found some stunning moves - 58. Nb3+! is worthy of showering the board with gold coins...

Jan-17-11  ajile: Um since when is the Ruy Lopez an Uncommon Opening? I clicked on the link thinking I would get something unusual.

: /

Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: I suppose most people know that, but this "Uncommon Opening" thing is something which happens with games that are broadcast live. It's supposed to get fixed when the next live broadcast is on, though this doesn't always happen...
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: An epic!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: Looking at the final version of Shipov's notes to the game (in, apparently he thinks that Black could still hold the draw with <66...Rb1+> (instead of Be2+) - a key factor (also mentioned by <hms123> during the game) being that in certain setups Black can draw the rook endgame even against two unopposed connected white passers. He gives the line 67.Kc2 Rxb5 68.Nxc4 Rc5 69.Rg4 [69.Kd2 Rxc4 70.Rxd5 Rg4 71.Rd3 c5, I suppose] 69...dxc4 70.Kc3 Ra5 71.Kb4 [71.Rxc4 Ra3+ & Rxg3] 71...Rh5 72.Rxc4 Rh7 73.Kb5 Ke5 74.Rg4 Kf6 75. Kc6 Ke6 76.Rf4 Ke5 77.Rc4 Rg7 78.g4 Rh7 79.h5 Kf6 80.Rc5 Rg7 81.Rf5+ Ke6 82.Rf4 Ke5 83.Rc4 Kf6 84.Kb7 c5+ 85.Kc6 Kg5 86.Kxc5 Re7:

click for larger view

And that's a TB draw.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: ...And Monokroussos on his blog ( is also skeptical about White's winning chances in this rook endgame; he's more succinct and after 66...Rb1+(!) 67.Kc2 Rxb5 68.Nxc4 Rc5 69.Rg4 dxc4 70.Kc3 Ra5! 71.Kb4 gives as an example the continuation 71...Ra8 72.Rxc4 Rh8 73.Rxc7 Rg8 74.Rc3 Kf5 which is also a TB draw.

I suppose that later in the game, the outcome of 73...Rxd5 (instead of Shirov's 73...Bf5) 74.Rxg4 might be also open to question, although it seems less favorable for Black.

Jan-17-11  dagano: beautiful game.
Jan-18-11  Kazzak: Yes, Shirov was not up against the wall until the very end here, and there were several opportunities to move it to a freeze. But that's not the point - what a difference between the Nakamura who got tossed around at the 2009 London Classic, and who seemed adrift after move 40 in several of the games there, compared to this Nakamura.

He's learned to curb his impatience; he's managing his time well; and he's kept his burning determination to win. And that gives us a game that goes to 93 moves, where Nakamura manages to move the tiniest of advantages past the middle-game and into the endgame. Shipov had a hard time accepting what was happening to Shirov, and in the end simply recognized that "the American" was outplaying him.

I've spent an early morning replaying the game to Shipov's notes, and this is one major game for Nakamura. His confidence in his ability to spot complications and counter them must have increased significantly. What a reversal compared to Carlsen's development. A few years ago Nakamura would pull 2. Qh5 and spend time defending it as a way to sabotage the prep of someone heavy on theory -- now his moves are solid. Whereas it's Carlsen who seems prone to speculative gambles and questionable moves.

I do believe that seeing Nakamura in the sole lead will be more than a red rag to a bull for Carlsen, though. This Wijk is about to become a watershed moment, which makes the new decor apt.

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Shirov isn't the player he was ten years ago. I don't think beating him puts Naka at the grown ups table just yet. He has to play a full season of these elite tournaments, and hold his own against Aronian, Carlsen, et. al.
Jan-18-11  Kazzak: @HeMateMe
You're quite right. We won't have long to wait, however.

In this tournament, he's already beaten Grischuk and drawn Aronian. He has black against Carlsen and white against Anand and Kramnik - and that's as many from "the grown ups table" that they could fit into the tournament.

Naka's remaining white:

Naka's remaining black:
Giri (today)
Wang Hao

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Who is "We"? Is there a super secret society of chess ninjas? Did you guys make a movie with Uma Thurman?
Jan-18-11  Helloween: My vote for game of 2011 thus far!
Premium Chessgames Member
  4tmac: Well, there has been a lot of Scotch's lately...Bishop's Opening, Kings Gambit,.......not a Petroff or has an early b5 & know what...
Premium Chessgames Member
  4tmac: Monokroussos shows this drawing attempt (position after ..Bf5! in a hypothetical line)

click for larger view

good try even if it would fail to Ne4+

Dec-01-11  tonsillolith: Wow. That was an incredible game. Shirov was extremely tenacious. It seemed like he was continually whittling away White's advantage with lots of really annoying pieces and tactical "gotcha's", but Naka kept fighting and fighting.

So much tactics going on in that game. I think I'm going to try to memorize this game. I think it would make me be good.

Jul-23-18  PJs Studio: This game looked like to heavyweights standing in the middle of the ring slamming each other for twelve rounds. Split decision at the end goes to Naka. Slamminí game. Love Shirov as a player, congrats to Naka for taking him down.
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