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Levon Aronian vs Hikaru Nakamura
"Nock, Nock, Naka on Levon's Door" (game of the day Mar-21-2015)
London Chess Classic (2012), London ENG, rd 1, Dec-01
English Opening: Symmetrical Variation. General (A30)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  rilkefan: Stockfish prefers 17.Nd5 forcing ...Bxd5 and holding black to a very slight edge. 17.Nd2 was almost a pawn worse. 19.Qh5 was better than misplacing the knight on a4, but after 26.Nc3 (avoiding ...Bb3 lines) black would have only been up half a pawn. 26.Rd2 just loses, and 31.Nb2 makes matters worse.

I'm glad to see Naka playing strongly, but sad to see Aronian losing the thread like this.

Interestingly, stockfish hates white's position already (ok, -0.5) after 5.g3 because of the game line.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jambow: The commentaters as late as move 24 preferred white over black but admitted it was very sharp. I always think Nakamura has good chances when the commentators don't like his position but can't give specifics. Aronians knights on the a file looked ridiculously out of play to me and I thought whites d&c pawns and their squares would be exploited. GG glad to see Nakamura looking like himself.
Dec-01-12  Everett: Used to play these Reverse Dragons as White, and have learned my lesson that I am incapable of playing them well.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Jambow> Most interesting; of course, this was on-the-spot commentary, so anything goes, but one long-term problem for White in that middlegame is that he has no secure posts for his knights, as the game continuation showed to full effect.
Dec-01-12  Everett: Shouldn't <32..Nf3+> lead to mate?
Premium Chessgames Member
  nfazli: 32. ... Nf3+ 33. Bxf3 exf3 34. Qc4+ Kh8 35. Qf1 Qxb2 36. Nc5 bxc5 37. h4 cxb4 38. g4 bxa3 39. Kh2 a2 40. Kh3 a1=Q 41. Qxa1 Qxa1 42. gxf5 Qf1+ 43. Kg4 Qxf2 44. f6 Bxe3 45. fxg7+ Kxg7 46. h5 Qg2+ 47. Kf5 Qg5+ 48. Ke6 Qf6# ]X 32... Ng4 0-1...houdini
Dec-01-12  Atking: Great game from Nakamura, especially vs the number 2 and with Black. Good start!
Dec-02-12  The17thPawn: Isn't this the same Nakamura who was being trashed as a patzer just two tournaments ago? I guess he's not washed up just yet:)
Dec-02-12  Llawdogg: I like 11 ... Nb6! rather than castling. Nakamura avoided trades and kept his advantage while preparing Nc4.

21 ... f5! was also excellent. After 23 ... e4 the white light squared bishop was blocked out of the game.

Finally, 26 ... Bd5 was strong. And 27 ... b6 forced the exchange sacrifice from Aronian that sealed the advantage for Naka.

Very strong play by Hikaru.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Hesam7: Aronian's choice of opening is very strange, first he opts for a sideline (<5 g3>) and follows it with <7 Bd2> which scores terribly for White: all 3 games in CG database are won by Black, 7 N1c3 is the option where White does well. Aronian's first new move (based on games in CG database) is <12 Be3>, a move engines don't like.

<17 Nd2?> Aronian's first real mistake now Black is simply better. 17 Nd5 should have been played.

Nakamura's <19...Ba7?!> is suboptimal. Instead he had a number of strong moves to choose from, I like 19...Bd4, for example 20 e3 Qa5! 21 ed4? Qa4 22 de5?? Bg4 Black is winning. Best seems to be 21 Nc3 Bc3 22 bc3 f5! (22...Qc3? 23 Ne4!=) 23 Qe2 e4

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Here my engine recommends 24 g4!? but after 24...g6 25 gf5 gf5 26 f3 Qc3 27 fe4 f4! White will lose a pawn.

Aronian's big mistake is of course <26 Rd2?> after which Black is close to winning. After 26 Nc3 Bc5 27 Rd5 Rd5 28 Nd5 Qd5 29 bc5 Ne5 30 Rd1 Nd3 31 Bf1 Rd8 he can hope for a draw.

<29 Rd1?> now Black is winning, 29 Qc7 or 29 Nc3 offered more resistance.

Aronian's last two moves are blunders but I don't think White can save the game at that point.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: Instead of 8 N5c3, after 8 Bxb4 Nxb4 9 N5c3 White will be able to chase Black's N on b4 away by a3.

Although Nakamura appeared to outplay Aronian for most of the game, this does not have to mean that Aronian was in poor playing form.

It is conceivable that in some variations if White is given just one extra tempo, Black encounters slight but persistent difficulty and perhaps it was just such a type of game which Aronian hoped to win. Perhaps there was a shortage of a tempo somewhere which he saw too late.

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Nice game, Naka. The trap is sprung on move 26...b3.
Dec-02-12  paul1959: 8 Bd2xb4 a6xb5 was probably not to Aronian taste.

9 Bb4-d6 Qd8-a5+
10 Qd1-d2 Nf6-e4
11 Qd2xa5 Ra8xa5 followed by Nc6-d4 looks good for Black.

Other moves at 9th lose the c4 pawn and Black looks OK.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: About 20 years ago, Ray Keene suggested that this whole variation of the Symmetrical English is better for Black.

I've never seen much cause to disagree.

Mar-21-15  waustad: I love the Dylan reference.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Aronian has never been the same since his face-lift.
Mar-21-15  waustad:
Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: Excellent pun!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Chizoad: As an advocate of the English opening, I find that games that have an early trade in the center very often end up passive for white. The positions are flexible when defending and are probably theoretically fine but in practical play my results are poor when I've turned myself into the black side of the board after playing 1. c4.

Another practical aspect of these positions as white is that as a non-expert it's easy to throw away the extra tempo because I often can't find a good plan. Even GMs seem to get into trouble here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: White will be mated soon.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WannaBe: Horrible, just horrible pun. Kudos to who ever came up with it. =))
Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: <Wannabe> I confess to submitting this pun...I think. What I mean, is about 3-days ago I submitted a pun "Knock, Knock, Naka on Levon's Door"...but you notice, the pun on the GOTD removes the 'K's' to read "Nock, Nock, Naka on Levon's Door". I didn't submit the pun spelled this way; however, my pending puns no longer show this submission, so I assume, this was it...

In any case, I think its an ok pun, but really appreciate <waustad>'s link to Bob Dylan

As for the game, at first, I thought it was first class; then thought it was too poor to be a GOTD, mainly due to Aronian's oversight(s). But after re-visiting the game repeatedly, I think its quite good and very complex and completely worthy of being a GOTD


Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <rilkefan: Stockfish prefers 17.Nd5 forcing ...Bxd5 and holding black to a very slight edge....>

On general grounds, White has got to get his pieces out of the box and try to gain space; the game continuation was nothing but a horror show for Aronian with all the pieces on the board. It may well be that Aronian rejected 17.Nd5 because he disliked 17....Bxd5, followed by ....Nd4 with ....Nc2 to follow.

Jul-14-15  Everett: Karpov vs Hjartarson, 1989

Nice Karpov win in the White Dragon.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: "That long, black cloud is coming down
Knock, knock, knocking on heaven' door"
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