January 31, 2014 21:56

Nakamura Beats Anand in Round 2 Zurich Chess Challenge

Former World Champion Vishy Anand started badly at the Zurich Chess Challenge. In the second round the former World Champion lost with the white pieces to Hikaru Nakamura in a Berlin Ruy Lopez. The top clash between Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian was an English game and ended in a draw after 40 moves. Boris Gelfand and Fabiano Caruana drew a Leningrad Dutch after 56 moves.

Photos © Maria Emelianova

It was already quite a coincidence that in the last eight classical games Vishy Anand and Hikaru Nakamura played against each other, Anand had White. On Friday the two were paired against each other, and again it was the Indian behind the white pieces. And there was another pattern: Nakamura had won the last two games, and again he won as Black this time!

In a Berlin Ruy Lopez, Anand repeated his 4.d3 and 5.Bxc6 line which he had also played against Magnus Carlsen in November in Chennai. With 6.h3 he followed his opponent, who had played like that against the French GM Laurent Fressinet last year, and on the next move he played a novelty.

It seemed that White had won the opening phase when Nakamura decided to put his king on the queenside. “Objectively I shouldn't even castle long but I felt it was very interesting. I have a feeling it's suspicious to say the least. I kind of just wanted to attack,” said Nakamura. And he got that attack.

When White pushed d3-d4 he more or less “forced” Black to sacrifice on h3, as one of the commentators, GM Peter Leko, said. During the game Nakamura was not sure at all whether it was correct, and he was happy to find out after the game that the computer liked it. Anand didn't find the best moves and soon there was no defense against Black's attack.

PGN string

Nakamura beat Anand for the third time in a row as Black

The big game of the round was of course Carlsen-Aronian, a game with a historical average Elo of 2842. The world's #2 equalized rather easily against the world's #1, in fact. 

2872 vs 2812

“I tried to be a little clever in the opening which was not a good idea because I felt that [after 15 moves] Black is the only one who can be slightly better,” said Carlsen. However, the Norwegian played accurately and managed to keep the balance.

PGN string

“Did you comment on Magnus’ cheapo 22.Bf3?”
“That's not a cheapo, that's a beautiful trick!”
Boris Gelfand and Fabiano Caruana played a topsy-turvy game. The Italian faced the rare 8.b4 but did remember that it had to be answered by 8...e5. Gelfand's decision to take a pawn on e5 was risky, and he admitted that after 16 moves “probably it's White who has to be careful.” However, Black then “completely misplayed it,” said Caruana. “I almost managed to lose.”
Women's World Champion Hou Yifan, one of the special guests in Zurich, watching the games
Main sponsor Oleg Skvortsov talking to Ljubomir Ljubojevic, with Genna Sosonko in the background

Zurich Chess Challenge 2014 | Pairings

Round 1 30 January 15:00 CET   Round 2 31 January 15:00 CET
Carlsen 1-0 Gelfand   Gelfand ½-½ Caruana
Aronian 1-0 Anand   Anand 0-1 Nakamura
Nakamura ½-½ Caruana   Carlsen ½-½ Aronian
Round 3 1 February 15:00 CET   Round 4 2 February 15:00 CET
Aronian - Gelfand   Gelfand - Anand
Nakamura - Carlsen   Carlsen - Caruana
Caruana - Anand   Aronian - Nakamura
Round 5 3 February 13:00 CET        
Nakamura - Gelfand        
Caruana - Aronian        
Anand - Carlsen        

Zurich Chess Challenge 2014 | Round 2 Standings


Photos © Maria Emelianova. The tournament consists of five rounds of classical played from Thursday to Monday (30 January to 3 February), followed by a rapid tournament with reversed colors on the last day (4 February). You can follow the live games here on the official website

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


mickey's picture

Anand collapsed again. Time for retirement.

Septimus's picture

Anand is hiding his preparation again.

Anonymous and proud's picture

Drawnand is such a punching bag.


Anand will win the candidates this is just on purpose, is just the best way to hide preparation you know.

Anonymous's picture


TMM's picture

Nakamura on Twitter after beating Anand: "Form is temporary but class, class is permanent."

Xenyatta's picture

Loving the Tweets from Nakamura. Can you imagine what he'll have to say when he (finally) beats Carlsen?

Of course, naysayers might point out that Nakamura has yet to face either Carlsen or Aronian in this Zurich event so far.....

I'd like to see a quad consisting of Carlsen. Aronian, Caruana, and Kramnik. Nakamura and Topalov would be the ones added to make a "Hex". When Giri actually cracks the Top 10, he will have merited inclusion into such Super-Elite events.

strana's picture

Caruana and Giri could not even get a place in
Russian Finals. Do you remember that this so strong Caruana finished around position 40 ( !!) in the European Championship just 2 years ago, when he was already considered a "very strong" Gm by people from the West?? There are at least 15 russians stronger than both Caruana and Giri. Andreikin, for example, is not only better but clearly more talented than Nakamura, Giri and Caruana. It is really funny to hear those comments about how good Caruana, Giri, etc are and sad that only 3 Candidates ( Aronian, Kramnik and the weakest of them all, Karjakin) get invitations to play these closed tournaments.

Anonymous's picture

Yeah, 15 Russians stronger than Caruana sounds about right. He did after all have a bad tournament a few years ago even if he's top 5 nowadays.

Anonymous's picture

If those 15 are so strong why don't they prove it ???

PDXTony's picture

Based on what evidence? FIDE rating list puts Caruana at 5th in the world. Saying that there are better players that are close in rating is one thing but 15 in Russia alone has no basis in fact? Andreikin is talented and he plays actively so has the same chances as anyone else to gain rating points and PROVE he is better,.. talk is cheap. Nakamura had to earn his place in the top 10 and changed his style and approach to the game to do so. National pride, being the fan of a players style or approach is a bias all humans have that distort the facts and realtiy. Andreikin is a great player but 50+ points off the top 10 a very difficult 50 points. Invites are made based on results not fantasy That said Andreikin is invited to the 2014 WC candidates so we shall see how he does. If he is successful I am sure you will see him in these top level tournaments.

NotthefakeDirk's picture

I think he was talking about Anand in the main. They analyzed together after the game. It may also have been a not so subtle message to the people who have been haranguing him on twitter because of his shaky performance. If you don't like the guy of course you would take it the wrong way but he did leave it ambiguous by not directly referring to anand.

Thomas Richter's picture

Nakamura's tweet is ambiguous to cryptic, particularly in the light of what he said after the game in the live transmission. He admitted that he was worse out of the opening, and called the Nxh3 sacrifice his only chance - but considered it to be objectively losing. In a way (that was also the tone of the live commentary) he was lucky - and Anand unlucky - that he had to muddy the waters, and that this desperado couldn't be directly refuted.

Then he used his chances, but calling it a "well-played game" (from start to finish!?) seems like annotating based on the result, and/or on liking one player while disliking his opponent.

NotthefakeDirk's picture

He never said he was losing. I just rewatched the interview and he though he was worse but was pleasantly suprised to hear that the computers though it was objectively equal after Nx gx Bx.
Now he would have been worse according to the computers if anand had found the a6 push at the right moment but anand isn't carlsen or aronian ;-)

No one said nakamura played well from start to end not sure where you got that one from. He said he felt he played the last 10 moves or so perfectly which according to the triple engine analysis is more or less correct given that the engines are not in agreement but his choices were all top moves in at least on of them over that span.

Of course the tweet was about anand in the main but it could have had a double meaning. That was all I was intimating. Nakamura clearly needs to get some additional help with his openings because if he wants to take the next step he can't win all of his games from inferior positions by move 10. Activity and understanding at the cost of pawn-structural integrity has its limits and we might see that demonstrated over his next three games.

Thomas Richter's picture

"Don't you understand English?" (pun about Anand at the WCh match intended). In the live transmission, now at 31:52 in Part 3, Nakamura literally said "probably losing I suspect".

Morley wrote "well-played game by Nakamura" - to me, this refers to the entire game, not just to the last 10 moves.

NotthefakeDirk's picture

Probably losing was referring to anything BUT Nx. d4 forced nakamura's hand and Leko called it a brilliant game. Thomas Richter or Leko? Hmm.... I'll go with Leko. Have a good day/night, T.O.

Thomas Richter's picture

Nope, the Nakamura quote is included in the game notes that appeared shortly after my comment:

"Probably losing I suspect." (Nakamura just after the game) "If I don't take I just lose."

So he considered Nxh3 "less losing" and offering better practical chances than less forcing alternatives, but nonetheless 'probably losing' - which is a bit more promising than 'just losing'.

I don't know about you personally, but generally Leko seems to be the least popular 2700+ player - so it's a bit funny if he is "quoted for truth". The trick is to quote selectively. At one stage Leko said "brilliant performance by Nakamura, he used his chances" - which also implies that the game was overall topsy-turvy. He also called Nakamura lucky, and Anand unlucky that Nxh3 was virtually forced (that wasn't something I made up because it's supposedly a standard T.O. comment!). It refers to luck in the position - in a way, Nakamura won (also) because he had nothing left to lose at some stage?

Anonymous's picture

Agree with Thomas, Nakamura was lucky and Anand unlucky, simple as that!

malper's picture

You say: "Activity and understanding at the cost of pawn-structural integrity has its limits". But please see Carlsen vs. Gelfand in the first round. Carlsen with three pawn island and with doubled pawns ended up with 3+ pawns at the end. We (1950-2050 ELO) are too inferior to understand it is going on at this level.

Thomas Richter's picture

I don't think you refuted "NotthefakeDirk": if 'activity .. at the cost of pawn-structural integrity' has its limits, there are situations when a player stays within such limits. Not too surprising that Carlsen stayed within the limit: besides being a strong player, such creativity isn't his normal style so he thinks twice before entering/allowing such a position. "If Tal sacrifices a piece, there's hope (at least objectively spoken); if Karpov sacs, you're in deep trouble". 

Another recent example is Dominguez-Caruana from Wijk aan Zee, oops Amsterdam (the round played at the Rijksmuseum). Are there also examples when a world-top player went too far? Probably so, but I can't come up with anything at the moment.

Anonymous's picture

"he was lucky - and Anand unlucky"

Yes, that's the standard T.O. comment when Nakamura or Carlsen wins. Nakamura has been lucky a lot against Anand lately, winning every game in spite of being black.

baladala's picture

Korchnoi once put it in different words: "Anand was good, is good and always will be good."

Morley's picture

A few years of subpar tournament play, followed by the crushing loss to Carlsen last year, have really taken a lot out of Anand. I hope he recovers in this event somewhat and doesn't finish too close to the bottom in March. Regardless, well-played game by Nakamura.

Thomas Richter's picture

"A few years of subpar tournament play ..." - how many is 'a few'? Some people have a firm belief in ratings: from May 2010 until March 2011, Anand improved his rating from 2789 to 2817 (partly due to his match against Topalov, but also due to good, certainly not 'subpar' tournament results). Then he took about a half-year fatherhood break, then his rating declined - so a few is 2 1/2 at most.

However, his results in 2013 weren't really subpar: 8/13 in Wijk aan Zee, winning Baden-Baden (not the strongest-ever event but he edged out Caruana), 3/6 in Zurich last year was neither great nor subpar, 5/9 in both Alekhine Memorial and Norway Chess was also not that bad, which leaves Tal Memorial.

Maybe Anand would now need a longer break, like Kramnik and Topalov after losing WCh matches against ... Anand. Kramnik came back as strong as ever, Topalov almost so (I think he hasn't quite reached his former level). But this time the break between WCh match and the next candidates event is very short, and it makes sense to play one classical event in between.

Morley's picture

For a reigning world champion and 2800 player, these are absolutely subpar results. I agree that a break would do him good. Kramnik came back reinvigorated from his loss, and I see no reason why Anand can't get his confidence back and do the same. It was bit unlucky for him that the World Championship and Candidates events are so accelerated these two years.

Anonymous's picture

"A few years of subpar tournament play ..." - how many is 'a few'?"

At least 6-7 years. When a player like Anand hasn't won one single tournament in six years (expect for the weak one where no opponent was top 10) it is obviously subpar for such a player, unless one has a very low estimation of Anand's "par".

Thomas Richter's picture

So second place (consecutively in Bilbao, Nanjing, London and Wijk aan Zee in late 2010/early 2011) is already subpar for Anand? If only first place is on par, what would be above par? Just the rare occasions when a player finishes a point or more ahead of the field?! Conveniently for Anand-bashers, Caruana had briefly dropped out of the top 10 just before Baden-Baden last year.

To me, defending one's rating is on par; anything else isn't a very low, but an excessively high estimation of anyone's par. If the same standards were applied to Nakamura .... !!??

Anonymous's picture

"So second place (consecutively in Bilbao, Nanjing, London and Wijk aan Zee in late 2010/early 2011) is already subpar for Anand?"

Of course it is subpar for a World Champion like Anand when one has to refer to a couple of second places during a six year period as a sign that he has been "on par" all these years. The Anand of his best would have won numerous tournaments the last six years. It isn't "convenient for Anand-bashers" to say that he has played much better than this earlier in his career, it's just how it is.

Thomas Richter's picture

A closer look at his four consecutive second places in late 2010 to early 2011 suggests that Anand had the best combined result of all regular participants, including the most established ones and a fan favorite:

Bilbao behind Kramnik, ahead of Carlsen

Nanjing behind Carlsen

London behind Carlsen on football scoring (tied on classical scoring, relevant for Elo), ahead of Nakamura and Kramnik

Wijk aan Zee behind Nakamura, ahead of Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik.

This is reduced to "he didn't win any of these events". Under 'normal circumstances', he might have won at least once or twice - he was 'unlucky' that one player (and always a different one) showed excellent form in three events. I didn't say that Anand was always on par, others claim that he was always subpar. "Convenient for Anand-bashers" referred to calling Caruana not a top10 player - he was in all but two rating lists since February 2012.

If Anand's career continues like the ones of Korchnoi, Karpov and Timman, so what? Five to ten years from now, will people still emphasize that he used to be better or suggest that he should have retired long ago? Apparently, Anand's problem was/is that he is/was world champion, hence people have excessively high expectations. But everyone will eventually decline, most likely (if he doesn't do a Kasparov retiring near the peak of his career) also Carlsen in, say, 20 years.

Anonymous's picture

"This is reduced to "he didn't win any of these events""

You are talking about Anand's best, very short, period during six years, and even then he didn't win anything. Imagine for example Carlsen going six years without winning a top tournament and people saying that he is just as strong as ever since he did finish second a couple of times 3-4 years ago, and that it is Carlsen bashing to claim that he ever scored better results.

Regardless of the rating lists it's difficult to make Grenke a top tournament, Anand faced Meier, Naiditsch, Fridman, Adams and Caruana. That's the only tournament Anand won the last six years, which doesn't mean that he always has been subpar, of course.

Xenyatta's picture

Anand is finding a way to experience a brief, 5 round tournament, and nevertheless have it seem very long indeed....

I liked his treatment of the Berlin, and he had a decent edge. It would have been a clear plus had he reacted correctly to the Nakamura sacrifice.

It must really suck to be the "Customer" of Nakamura. I think that Anand can accept a subordinate status to Carlsen, maybe Aronian too...but he must be galled by his recent results vs. Naka.

schachchess's picture

Round 2 standings are scored wrong. It should be scored on the "football" system.

Morley's picture

Not quite. Classical wins are worth 2 points (3 in football / Sophia scoring) and draws 1. In the rapid, wins will be worth 1 point and draws .5. Most points including classical and rapid wins Zurich 2014.

Gregorov Lubiesky's picture

How, someone who had been at the top of chess elites for decades, could suddenly lose all the steam and come out so empty? Forget about people, who kick him for drawing the games, but wouldn't someone like Anand with so much experience under his belt, be able to avoid these horrible short losses, and early blunders. I mean losing in the end game with a slight blunder is understandable, but these days he is able to so quickly make himself a inferior position in the first 20 moves, and then spend all his energy to try defend it and just further worsen the position in that process and then resign. Really strange what has been happening with Anand and Radjabov, they were able to fall from the top and reach the bottom in no time. In case of Anand, it is simply the lack of fire in him. There is no priority for chess left in his life anymore. He should just retire or take a very long break, until he is able to come with a sincere answer that could create a purpose for him to continue playing chess. With that fire absent, he will be like a python with a large undigested meal in his stomach. The only thing his mind will do is sleep. He just likes the wins and not the path to it anymore, and it never happens in that order.

Xenyatta's picture

Anand's all-time Top "Live Rating" was 2820, achieved in January 2011. So, he's lost close to 60 points since then. It's a lot, but not so much. I think that being World Champion, and the burden of defending the title has adversely impacted his Tournament results. His play has become a bit "crabbed". I'm hopeful that Anand can let go of his aspirations to regain the title, and simply seek to add a few new tournament trophies, and create some brilliancies to add to the next edition of his biography. Botvinnik had a renaissance after he ceded the title to Petrosian in 1963. It's easy to see how Anand can regain form, and claw back into the Top 3 or Top 5 for a while.

malper's picture

I am inclined to agree. But I still hope that he is able to recover soon. Maybe he knows/feels something that we don't.

Niima's picture

@ Gregorov Lubiesky

All good until "He should just retire..."

What business of yours is it what Anand should or should not do? You and other Anand bashers (not to mention Gelfand bashers, Kramink bashers and non-Carlsen bashers in general) are so good at giving advice, fix your own lives.

What's Next?'s picture

Anand's fire is gone. Why is he hurting himself and continues to play with Super GM's?. Is it so difficult for him to accept that he is no longer a world class player. It's really sad if he will play the Candidates in this shape. Let Caruana play instead.

Xenyatta's picture

Let's hope his shape improves by the time that he competes in the Candidates. But he has a spot in it, per regulation, and he is entitled to play. he owes it to himself to be well prepared, otherwise the event will be a brutal experience. There's always one player who has dodgy form...Anand wants to beat that player, not be that player.

Gregorov Lubiesky's picture

I am probably the biggest Carlsen hater living in the planet as of today. But, seeing this candidates line up I (am so disappointed and) believe that it would be a very long while before a worthy opponent shows up in a WC match against Carlsen. The recent WC match (if you call it one) was just the beginning of a long list of cake walks for Carlsen. Unfortunately, the Carlsen era has started indeed and gonna last a decades ahead. Even if Aronian wins this candidates, the only thing that comes to my mind is how Carlsen brutally tortured and choked Aronian recently in St. Louis, more horrible thing to remember was that it was Aronian who had the almost winning position, but he was sweating all the time and finally lost. Carlsen was so relaxed on his chair and that itself made Aronian mad. The memory of Aronian saying in the post "I played like an idiot" still haunts me. So does the memory of Anand saying in the post "I imploded". And these are the people lining up in the candidates... wussss ! Oh yeah, and the great Kramnik... it was five, six years ago when a teen Carlsen growled that "he would squash Kramnik like a bug"... and we can't believe this guy would intimidate him in a WC match. The rest of the lineup is still figuring out "what kind of chess is this guy playing" kind of. What a comedy line up for the candidates.

Anonymous's picture

"I am probably the biggest Carlsen hater living in the planet as of today"

Noooo, i hate him so much that I can hardly breathe! I hate hate hate hate hate him!!!

Andreas's picture

who cares? tell this your grandma

Xenyatta's picture

It's a tough break for Caruana, since he'd have real chances to Win the Candidates (though he wouldn't be the favorite).

Aside from Anand, the field consists of Aronian, Kramnik, and Svidler (all 3 also played in the previous Candidates tournament), along with Topalov, Karjakin, Mamedyarov and Andreikin.

I just don't see Anand getting humiliated by such a field. It's true that Aronian gives Anand fits, but he has pleasant memories playing against Kramnik and Topalov, and Svidler has a horrible score vs. Vishy. Anand's rating puts him as 4th seed, and I expect that he'll finish at +1 or +2. It will be interesting to see which Topalov shows up.

Lennart Meier's picture

For you, a world class player seems to be a serious world championship contender. But a more usual sense of the word certainly includes the whole top 10, maybe the whole top 20.
When I look at Anand's results from 2013, I have certainly the impression that he played like a Top10-player: His Elo stayed virtiually constant (he won one point) and he began and finished in the top10. His only really bad tournament was the Tal Memorial -- but there Kramnik finished even behind him and no one suggests that he should retire. Of course, he looked also bad in the world championship - but this was more that Carlsen was so strong. Few players would have fared better. And concerning the very recent past: He played a quite decent London classics.

We will see how Anand's form will develop during this year. Losing these two games against two very strong opponents does not mean that Anand became a weak player. We should just not measure him against his performance three or seven years ago. He is now just a super-GM among others. The future will show how long he can stay in the top10.

Xenyatta's picture

Yeah, I do like your definition of Top 10--Top 20 ranked players being World Class. Of course they are! Maybe even everybody who sports a 2700+ rating (although that is getting increasingly lax)?

Really, there is a fair amount of mobility between Top 20, and the Top 10, even the Top 5. However, most of the Top 20 players won't match up well vs. Carlsen. He's just that strong. Carlsen has more or less purged himself of the tendency to take on too much risk, or overpress against a weakie. But if you are going to select the Top 3-5 players (to round out the field of a Quad or a Hex) to go against Carlsen, Anand is no longer among them.

RG13's picture

Why? Because he is a professional and he loves to get paid. As Steinitz once said - "The glory I can spare, the cash I cannot!"

Anonymous's picture

Between the two 2811 peaks of Kramnik was a 2729.
Between the two 2813 peaks of Topalov was a 2767 and he comes from 2751 now.
Anand peaked at 2817 when he was 41. Today he is at 2764 in the liverating.

Andy's picture

Ahem.... I better not say anything about Vishy... no, won't say anything about Vishy...

Anonymous's picture

I'll say something about Vishy for you: he would beat you with closed eyes.

Andy's picture

He's not in my league, my friend!
I have Borislav shoes!


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