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Hikaru Nakamura vs Julio Becerra Rivero
US Championship (2007), Stillwater, OK USA, rd 9, May-23
Ponziani Opening: Ponziani Countergambit (C44)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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May-24-07  Temugin73: An orribile opening from Nakamura, imho, not worthy of a GM..
May-24-07  Capatin17: Great Game by Becerra!!
May-25-07  nescio: <It would be interesting to know the last time someone played Ponziani's Opening at the US Championship before this game.>

I don't understand why it would be interesting, but anyway, this one seems a good candidate: E Epstein vs A Stein, 2006

May-25-07  ongyj: <centrecounter>I don't know whats the grounds for "lack of respect" to his opponents. To me, you can only accuse someone of having lack of respect with actions such as refusing to shake hands, or make public accusations that hurt your opponent. [That sounds more like the rivalry between Topalov and Kramnik.] What I believe is that, someone has started this posting about "lack of respect" on Nakamura's part, and many people just tend to agree, without objectively asking themselves why Nakamura's opening choice shows a lack of respect. I'm not trying to ridicule anyone, because I used to make groundless accusations against Nakamura's behaviour for his refusal to offer draw in a "seemingly drawn game against Zhu Chen", which someone has correctly pointed out, it wasn't a dead draw at all.

And just as an additional information for the match between Nakamura and Sasikiran, Sasikiran didn't treat the opening that well, which allowed Nakamura a tiny advantage at one stage of that game. Perhaps one of the best way to play against 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5!? would be 2...Nf6! as contributed by a previous posting, sacrificing a pawn in exchange for many many tempo.

May-26-07  Wolfgang01: <centercounter>: "Lack of respect" to opponents????? Here I laugh … lllooolll

Your sorrows should one have.

Naka is just 20. I think his ELO-rating says more about strength and respect than the choice of the opening-line. If you want to surprize your opponent you can do this only with rare and seldom played lines. Sometimes you lose, if your chosen line isn't that good.

May-28-07  thegoldenband: What's the best plan for Black after 19. Qxg4?
May-28-07  suenteus po 147: <nescio> It's interesting to me how persistent (or not persistent) certain openings are at the main events.
May-28-07  mrbasso: <thegoldenband>
Well, 19.Qxg4 seems to be a draw.
Amazing. You would think black wins easily.

May-29-07  mrbasso: It's probably a win for black, though not easy at all. My chess engines Fritz,Shredder and Rybka think it's a draw.

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2007.05.23"]
[Round "9"]
[White "H Nakamura"]
[Black "Becerra Rivero, J."]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "C44"]
[WhiteElo "2658"]
[BlackElo "2544"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[TimeControl "60"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 f5 4. d4 fxe4 5. Nxe5 Nf6 6. Bb5 Bd6 7. Nc4 Be7 8. Ba4 d5 9. Ne5 O-O 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. Nxc6 Qe8 12. Nxe7+ Qxe7 13. O-O Ng4 14. h3 e3 15. Bxe3 Nxe3 16. fxe3 Bxh3 17. Rf3 Bg4 18. Rxf8+ Rxf8 19. Qxg4 Qxe3+ 20. Kh2 Qh6+ $1 21. Qh3 (21. Kg1 Qc1+ $19) (21. Kg3 Qd6+ $19) 21... Qf4+ 22. g3 ( 22. Qg3 Qc1 23. Qxc7 (23. Qe5 Qxb2 24. Qxd5+ Kh8 25. Qc5 Rg8 $19 (25... Rf6 $2 26. Qd5)) 23... Qxb2 24. Qc5 Qxa1 25. Qxd5+ Kh8 26. Qb3 h5 $19) 22... Qf2+ $1 ( 22... Qe3 $2 23. Na3 $11) 23. Qg2 Qe1 24. Qxd5+ Kh8 25. Kh3 h6 26. c4 Rf2 27. Nc3 Qxa1 28. Qa8+ Kh7 29. Qe4+ Kg8 30. Qe6+ Rf7 31. Qe8+ Rf8 32. Qe6+ Kh8 $19 *

May-30-07  thegoldenband: <mrbasso> That's about the same conclusion I came to, albeit using a much less powerful engine (Sigma Chess). I'm mildly surprised that Nakamura didn't play 19. Qxg4, essentially saying "show me", instead of being clearly worse (though up a pawn) with 19. Qe1.
May-30-07  4daluvofchess: <ongyi>, The term "Lack of Respect" has multiple meanings. One implies rudeness- such would be the case if someone repeatedly offered someone else a draw in a lost position after having it declined (or indeed, in most positions). But another meaning of the phrase is "underestimation". If Hikaru played Ponziani's opening against Becerra (or much worse, Qh5 against Sasiskiran) and still expected to win, then it is certainly reasonable to conclude that he does not adequately appreciate their abilities. It is not rudeness, but something perhaps more innate to his psyche- he thinks he can beat them "no matter what oppening" is played.

However, there are of course other reasons why he might have played these openings. One is the element of surprise- which Kasparov used to great effect throughout his career (again, that would apply more to this game than the one with Sasiskiran). Also, it's possible that he feels certain opponents are strongly prepared against his openings, and so wants to play a game "from scratch". I don't really know; I'm nowhere close to his level. I just feel like the claim by <centercounter> was both reasonable and plausible, and should not be characterized as ignorant or naive.

May-31-07  ongyj: <4daluvofchess> "If Hikaru played Ponziani's opening against Becerra (or much worse, Qh5 against Sasiskiran) and still expected to win, then it is certainly reasonable to conclude that he does not adequately appreciate their abilities. It is not rudeness, but something perhaps more innate to his psyche- he thinks he can beat them "no matter what oppening" is played."

There are too many reasons to suggest that otherwise appears more true. Firstly, at this moment of time, I do not see an immediate refutation of the Ponziani Opening to the extent that White absolutely loses. (Unless you could enlighten me on that, though 3...f5 does look just a little nasty to White, as played in this game.) Secondly, it is still very subjective to say things like "which opening is the best", or "opening A is inferior to opening B". While someone can make that claim, others may not necessarily agree. Every individual has their own opening style, which suggest that everyone finds and plays particular type of openings(positions) they're most comfortable with. Maybe Nakamura finds comfort in rare openings like the Ponziani, and more likely is that he wants to surprise and/or force his opponent to play into his preparations or something.

Finally, players nowadays seek to WIN games, especially in tournament play, where wins are crucial. "Going through the motion" of most of the existing, overanalysed lines usually result in nothing but dead draws. In the game of Nakamura-Sasikiran, if I'm not betrayed by my memories, Sasikiran DID spend ALOT of time pondering of his response after 2.Qh5. Now tell me Nakamura's 2.Qh5 did NOT serve a purpose at all? At the very least it exhausted his opponent's time, which is also a very important part of the game (How many games are won by time forfeits, blunders due to time trouble by opponents?)

I'm not saying that <centrecounter>'s comments are "ignorant" or "naive". Apparently it had the support and agreement of <4daluvofchess> and seems "reasonable" and "plausible", BUT it is NOT OBJECTIVE.

"The only obstacle that seems to be in the path of Nakamura to greatness is his apparent IMPUSLIVENESS and (LET'S FACE IT) LACK OF RESPECT for some players. He also recently SPOILED A GOOD TOURNAMENT by playing 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 against Saskiran."

is NOT true at all. Just for an additional information, in that particular tournament, Timman and Sasikiran "chickened out" to an 11 move draw for a joint first in the last round. Talk about SPOILED A GOOD TOURNAMENT eh? At least I enjoyed Nakamura's "fighting chess" and his creative, bold and daring play(and his never say die spirit) in almost all his games.

Not a Nakamura fan, but someone who enjoys creative opening play, and can't tolerate against "unjustified claims against professionals" ^O^

Aug-14-07  Chessmensch: This game is discussed in detail by Susan Polgar and Paul Truong in the August 2007 Chess Life. It's not yet online so I can't provide the link. It is also annotated by John Watson later in the same issue. The game was awarded the first brilliancy prize.
Aug-14-07  euripides: The middlegame produced is a little like a two knights, for instance

Bronstein vs Smyslov, 1952

The positions in the 2 knights are very sharp and tricky to assess. Apparently computer analysis has tended to encourage White to hang on to the pawn in some cases.

So I think Nakamura might have believed he was justified in taking the pawn here.

Aug-14-07  apf123: I do not understand in Becerra hand`s is a "lack of respect " or "understimation" of Nakamura" but I am pretty sure that the same game in Kasprov,Topalov or Carlsen hand`s would've been a master piece
Aug-14-07  syracrophy: Shame on Nakamura by losing to a perfect unknown!
Aug-14-07  cotdt: <lack of respect>on ICC i saw nakamura play hundreds of games against carlsen. after finally winning two games in a row, he just left without saying a word.
Aug-14-07  cotdt: <syracrophy: Shame on Nakamura by losing to a perfect unknown!> no shame here! black played an amazing game!
Aug-15-07  Zonszein: Becerra is not "a perfect unknown"!
Sep-22-07  ongyj: Checking with freebie Fritz 5.32[Seems to be the best free chessware, isn't it?] suggests that 3...f5 isn't as great as I first thought it was:) Its good, but not a killer against Ponziani as I thought it was. 4.exf5 is good enough, with ideas of Bb5. If White didn't play d4 White could respond to ...e4 with Nd4 encouraging trade. If Black doesn't quickly reclaim the f5 pawn White has Qh5 threats.

I wonder if Julio J Becerra-Rivero came up with the ideas of this game OTB or was it background(home) preparations, but it's simply GREAT. Not that Black has an absolutely forced win, but Black has very good follow up after gambiting the pawn on c6, eventually exploiting the slightly undeveloped White Queenside and the slightly exposed Kingside. Sorry for over-focusing on Nakamura in this game:( Its a well deserved brilliancy game which deserves more attention! By the way, Nakamura's moves in this game, up to move 14 at least, are mostly 'computer choices' (though maybe stronger programmes might not play like that, who knows?)

Aug-11-08  Blunderman: Some of the comments in this thread are ridiculous and fan-boyish.

The bottom line is that Nakamura is who he is: He is bold and wild in his play. He wants to win, but he doesn't want to win in uninspired, stale styles. He likes to create, or attempt to, imaginative and shocking moves that win in my opinion.

That's what chess is at it's core, right? Heuristics?

How old is the guy? I would like to know how many people that bashed him on this thread have his rating now or at his age.......I want to see.

Lack of respect has NOTHING to do with openings at all. Get over all of the hate and jealousy.

I am not a Nakamura fan and stumbled upon this game via a link from a friend. I was amazed at the bickering over choosing the C44 opening. It's chess.....ultimately a game no matter what you choose to call it. The ludicrous over-analysis of a player's opening to the point of calling it disrespectful is hilarious to me.

Amazing tactics and wild play make the game fun. If you want to memorize safe lines go for it. I will skip your games on here and watch Nakamura's any day.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: What was wrong with 17.gxh3 and 19.Qxg4? I suck at tactics so...
Aug-30-08  mrbasso: <Stonehenge> You might take a look at my analysis above. There is nothing wrong with 19.Qxg4, however Black is always better.
Jun-01-12  LoveThatJoker: Guess-the-Move Final Score:

Nakamura vs J Becerra-Rivero, 2007.
Your score: 75 (par = 47)


Jun-28-21  rwbean: 14...♘xf2! is even better!
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