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Fabiano Caruana vs Hikaru Nakamura
Tal Memorial (2013), Moscow RUS, rd 4, Jun-17
Sicilian Defense: Najdorf Variation (B90)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  beenthere240: I don't like white's position after move 18. I don't know what Caruana was thinking about starting a queenside pawn demonstration and then blasting the center open with 25. f4.

I really don't like his king side castle immediately after black has provoked g3. And then follow that with h3 as if his king side protection wasn't weak enough. The final diagram is revealing. White has his queenside passer but it's not worth bupkis. The white king is protected by nothing.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jimfromprovidence: I think I figured out one reason for 38...Rc3. There lies lies a nasty threat if next is 39 d7?

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Black follows with 39...Rxe5! anticipating 40 fxe5 Qxe5+ 41 Kh1 Qh8+, winning the queen.

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Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: The one difficulty with Black's position near the end is that his pieces are too active. Nakamura said he had to decide whether the attack with Ra8-Ra3-Ra2 or the attack with Kg7 Rh8+ was better.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gilmoy: <8..h5> Naka in bullet!

<13..Qh4+> messing with young minds

<20.b4 Bf8> Transpose to Bayonet-Zaitsev :) But White is weaker with half-closed c offering no boulevard.

<30.Bxf6> allows <32..Bd4+> a Benoni, with <34..Bb6> Jobava's theme of repositioning the B onto the f2/g1-diagonal. <13..Qh4+ 14.g3> looks like a fianchetto, but weaker, admits same crowbar.

Black was thisclose to having no space for his pieces, but like a good Benoni, had exactly enough. Then Black has a central dense pack, very tough to dislodge. White's forlorn pawn rush ran right past the action.

Waiting moves will drive you crazy. Even worse, he's waiting on your clock.

Premium Chessgames Member
  PawnSac: < Jimfromprovidence: I think I figured out one reason for 38...Rc3. >

Yes Jim. An accurate and astute eye. White was so fixated on his center pawn that black afforded him every opportunity to go astray. Naka's tactics are usually very sharp, so when something is not obvious, it merits a deeper look. Good post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <Second Najdor Fabi loses and by playing 6.f3. Karpov almost always played 6.Be2 with good results.>

This is actually Caruana's 4th consecutive loss on the White side of a Najdorf/English Attack, after Caruana vs Topalov, 2013, Caruana vs L Dominguez, 2013 & Caruana vs Gelfand, 2013. Nakamura mentioned this series of losses at the press conference, btw, as something that encouraged him to go for the Najdorf.

Most likely there's nothing wrong with the English Attack in itself (6.f3 instead of 6.Be3 is just a change in move order meant to limit Black's options by preventing 6...Ng4), but there probably is with Caruana's handling of it. Looking at those games, he does seem to keep coming up short with good middlegame ideas.

Jun-17-13  notyetagm: Live Broadcast Page

<csmath: Caruana made a typical "white" mistake playing Najdorf - <<<overcommitting too many pawns and then not being able to keep them. White pawn structure after 25 moves looks awful.>>> With so many weaknesses not wonder he got into a mating net.

click for larger view

8. ... h5 is surely becoming strong weapon against English (f3) setups.>

Jun-17-13  notyetagm: <tamar: The one difficulty with Black's position near the end is that his pieces are too active. Nakamura said he had to decide whether the attack with <<<Ra8-Ra3-Ra2>>> or the attack with <<<Kg7 Rh8+>>> was better.>

Nice problem to have: "Do I mate down the a-file or down the h-file? Hmmm."


Go Naka!!!

Jun-17-13  Shams: <Eyal> Do you have a link to the press conference?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: Here's a link to the press conference:
Jun-17-13  Shams: <Eyal> Thanks!
Jun-17-13  waustad: From the tournament regs pdf:
The time control is 1 hour 40 minutes for 40 moves + 50 minutes for next 20 moves + 15 minutes till the end of the game with an increment of 30 seconds for each move starting from move 1.

If you notice before tomorrow morning there is a bit of an edit to make.

Premium Chessgames Member
  PawnSac: < Eyal: Most likely there's nothing wrong with the English Attack in itself (6.f3 instead of 6.Be3 is just a change in move order meant to limit Black's options by preventing 6...Ng4), but there probably is with Caruana's handling of it. Looking at those games, he does seem to keep coming up short with good middlegame ideas. >

It is also true that Naka is pretty expert with these positions, and usually handles them very sharply. I have not played over all Caruana's white Najdorf games, but i would suspect that he recently has switched to the 6.f3 move order and is not quite "seasoned" with it yet. Caruana is a brilliant young player, which is both his strength and weakness. Fortunately for him, his inexperience is usually far outweighed by his strength. Tho in this game his positional judgment was skewed by his ambition. Be that as it may, I'd be overjoyed to be anywhere near his ability.

Jun-17-13  Shams: I don't think anyone is looking to tangle with Caruana on either side of the Spanish, so he's going to have to get used to other systems. And he will, no doubt. He'll take this opening back to the lab and pound it into shape.
Jun-17-13  Nezhmetdinov: Naka seems to divide opinion on these boards, perhaps due to a certain flightiness in his play and results, but this is a fine game, even if Caruana handled his side of the game rather weakly. I'm beginning to like the American. This is the Tal Memorial, you know. This kind of chess should be celebrated.
Jun-17-13  csmath: First of all it seems to that 8. ... h5 and 9. ... Nbd7 were prepared opening for Caruana and even though he at first reacted well following theory the move 10. ... Nxd5 confused him.

This seems to me as a prepared variation as it is not played often.

Caruana tended to play safe but overloaded his position with pawn weaknesses.

14. g3 is not a good move (14. Bf2 would be fairly standard alternative)

23. a4 on the onset looks logical but it will prove to be liability later (yet another pawn weakness)

25. f4 seems rash as well

and finally

26. h3 looks bogus anyway you take it.

After 26 moves white pawn weaknesses cannot be repaired, this is already a lost position.

Nakamura plays rather well - excellent prepared opening, thematic break with 28. ... b5! and very precise 32. ... Bd4 and 34. ... Bb6! keeping both eye on the kingside and protecting d8 promotion square.

I think I noted that earlier, Nakamura is becomming a pretty good Najdorf player.

Jun-17-13  csmath: This is going to be very important game for 8. ... h5 anti-English Najdorf even though Casruana played his pawns lousy. Might be a good theory for the books about how "not to play with pawns."
Jun-17-13  Chess for life: Very happy for Nakamura with this win against top talent.
Jun-17-13  Olsonist: Jim, on 38 ... Rc3, the rook was getting kicked and it had two reasonable choices, Ra7 and Rc3. Yes, d7 is defendable; it 'has' to be. And d7 is also a threat for Ra7. Your defense works there as well.

But I think Nakamura was already thinking mating net (B, R, Q and R) which is the beauty of Rc3. He was probably more than happy when Caruana played d6 which 'forced' him to construct his net.

It seems Caruana was oblivious to the threat as evidenced by taking the e pawn. I'd even go back to g4. I haven't watched the interviews and I'd be interested in what Caruana has to say.

Premium Chessgames Member

click for larger view

Here, after 23...Nf6, it was a now-or-never moment for the thematic 24.c5, with the tactical point 24...dxc5 25.d6 Rd7 26.bxc5; the comp's top recommendation for Black here is 24...h4 which is very messy. Instead, after 24.Bb6(?) Rcc8 White doesn't have this possibility anymore (because after dxc5, d6 doesn't come with a tempo); and next move Caruana goes in a completely different direction with 25.f4, from which point his position deteriorates quickly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <Olsonist: Jim, on 38 ... Rc3, the rook was getting kicked and it had two reasonable choices, Ra7 and Rc3.>

38...Ra7? would actually be a bad mistake because of 39.Ng4! and White suddenly gets conterplay with the threats of knight checks, and after 39...Kg7 there's 40.Qb2+ (here's another important reason for putting the rook on c3 - to block this check in advance) 39..f6 41.Qxf6+ Qxf6 42.gxf6+ Kf7 43.Ne5+ Kxf6 44.Rxe4 and White's position seems defensible. 39.Ng4 would have been relatively best in the game itself as well, but there it's very far from saving White because after 39...Kg7 there's not much more that can be done with the knight than just plug the h-file by 40.Nh6.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jimfromprovidence: <PawnSac> Thanks for your encouraging comments.

<Olsonist> <Jim, on 38 ... Rc3, the rook was getting kicked and it had two reasonable choices, Ra7 and Rc3.>

Actually, I was thinking of 38...Rc5 as the alternative even though I did not state that.

I don't see 38...Ra7 because it allows 39 Ng4, with the threat of 40 Nh6+.

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Further, black can still play 39...Kg7, but that move now has no teeth as white has 40 Qb2+.

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Now the only move black has is 40...f6. Now white can play 41 Qxf6+ and force a queen trade.

This example shows in another way why 38.. Rc3 was so good.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jimfromprovidence: <Eyal> You beat me to the punch!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Dionysius1: Oh my goodness! I've just seen why White resigned. Golly, Nakamura really has him tied up to the nth. I was getting cross with myself with everybody going on about the great position and me not seeing it. Suddenly understanding about the threat of Rh8 is like an electric shock. I'm actually glad I'm a patzer -I bet if I wasn't I'd be blasee about the position. Golly, made my night that did (he babbles like a schoolgirl).
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <Jim> Great minds think alike:-)

The best (last) chance to try and mix things up might have been 38.Qxe4. Nakamura mentioned in the press conference that in such a case he was planning 38...Rc2+ 39.Kg3:

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39...Rc3+ 40.Rf3 Rxf3+ 41.Qxf3 (41.Kxf3 Qh3+ 42.Ke2 Ra8) 41...Bc7 - but here after 42.Qe4 White might be able to go on fighting. For a completely clean win, Black has to find <39...Rxe5!> 40.Qxe5 (or 40.fxe5 Qxg5+ 41.Qg4 Rg2+!) 40...Qd3+ 41.Rf3 Bf2+! 42.Kg4 Qf5+ 43.Qxf5 gxf5+ 44.Kxf5 Bxe1.

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