Reports | May 27, 2011 16:55

Nakamura and Robson win St Louis matches

Nakamura and Robson win St Louis matchesHikaru Nakamura and Ray Robson won their matches held this week in Saint Louis, Missouri (USA). Nakamura defeated Ruslan Ponomariov in the last classical game to score 3.5-2.5, and won the rapid games 3-1. Robson defeated Ben Finegold 4-2 in the classical games and in the rapid he was the strongest with 2.5-1.5.

General info

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (USA) hosted two 10-game matches (6 classical, 4 rapid) from May 16th till 25th, 2011. One was between Saint Louis Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, ranked No. 7 in the world, and GM Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, ranked No. 11 in the world. The other was a match between GMs Ben Finegold and 16-year-old Ray Robson. More info in our previous report.

Classical games 5-6

After four classical games, the match between Nakamura and Ponomariov had a 2-2 score on the leader board. The fifth game was another 7...Na6 King's Indian. Although he had won the third game, Nakamura wasn't happy with the opening phase so he deviated himself at move 10. This time the American was in his preparation until move 17 and said his position should have been fine. However he thought 19...a5 was not accurate. “I simply forgot after 19...Qc7? I lose immediately to 20.e5,” he said.

"32.Re1 and 33.Rh1 seems very unpleasant for me,” Nakamura said. “After 32.Kg2, it goes to where I am much worse to where I have crazy notions I might win.” “My position was slowly, slowly improving, and I had some hope,” Ponomariov said. “But he calculated some variations better than me.”

The game between GM Ben Finegold and GM Ray Robson went a epic 137 moves, with Finegold pressing for his first win. He had two pawns, on the f and g files, and a knight against Robson’s dark-squared bishop and g-pawn.

Saint Louis 2011
Diagram 2

The latter part of the game focused on Finegold trying to get his king to f5 in attempt to gain Robson’s pawn on g5. But Robson’s king kept his opponent’s king from the square. The game ended in a draw after no captures were made under the 50-move rule.

In the classical part, victories went to Nakamura and Robson who won their 6th match games with White on Sunday. Nakamura again played the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined and already at move 8 the queens were traded. Ponomariov said he didn’t expect Nakamura to go for the ending. “I just made normal moves, and I suddenly realized there are no more good moves,” Ponomariov told commentators WGM Jen Shahade and IM John Donaldson. “I was just simply outplayed.”

Despite the result thus far, Ponomariov said he likes this type of match. He said he did not think he was showing his best chess but wants to talk to the Ukrainian Chess Federation about setting up a similar match in return. “I really got what I wanted out of the opening for the first time,” Nakamura said after the game. “All my moves were natural.”

Robson and Finegold renewed their battle in the Sicilian Dragon. Robson went all the way, trying to mate his opponent in classical style. After the game he said 10.h4 was “the only good deviation I could find.” “Before 27...Re2 I think I was winning,” Finegold said about his 27th move. He thought Robson’s 26. g5 “seems suspicious.”

Saint Louis 2011
Diagram 1

The computer confirms Finegold's comment, and comes up with the pretty move 27...Re5! that is just winning for Black. In the game, 27...Re2? lost instantly to 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qxg7+!

Rapid games

The two Saint Louis residents prevailed on the first day of rapid chess, last Tuesday, each notching a win with White and holding with the black pieces. After drawing a Leningrad Dutch with Black, Nakamura played 1.b3 in game 2. About this, Ponomariov said: “rapid is more for fun.” The former U.S. champion said he had played the resulting positions “millions of times on ICC.” He lost a pawn but said it was hard for black to come up with a plan. With 36.a5 he took some risk, but with little time on the clock it worked out well.

Robson continued the match against Finegold by again using more time in the opening. In the first rapid game Robson quickly fell behind on the clock, spending 9 minutes for his first 11 moves. Finegold still had 24 minutes, and after the game said Black's 14...Nd7 was a mistake.

Saint Louis 2011
Diagram 3

15.Ng4! Nf6 16.Nh6+ Kh8 17.Ne5 Nd8 18.a5 a6 19.Ra4 Rb8 20.Rh4 Qc7 21.Bf4 and White won quickly.

The second rapid game in this match ended in a draw.

The final press release had 'Whirlwind Rapid Play Ends International Match' as the headline. Tornado warnings sent the four grandmasters to the basement more than once at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis on Wednesday. Luckily the games could still be played.

With Black, Nakamura switched to the Slav. Ponomariov may have been thrown off his game briefly as he had never experienced a tornado. As the games were halted, he joined others and watched as the weather maps lit up red, which signified tornado warnings. In the meantime, seconds GM Ivan Salgado Lopez and GM Alejandro Ramirez played blitz during the delay. Once play resumed, Nakamura was able to quickly dispatch the former FIDE World Champion.

Saint Louis 2011
Diagram 4

In a slightly worse position Ponomariov decided to give two pieces for rook and pawn, to complicate matters, and played 19.Nxe6? Qxe6 20.Bg4 - can you see why this is a mistake?

Robson won with Black as well in one of the most interesting games of all, recommended for replay in the viewer below!

Ponomariov provided tornado action in the final rapid game, busting out the Volga/Benkö. “I wanted to have some fun because I already lost the match,” Ponomariov said. “Why not have fun?” He said he thought it would be an easier line for him to play since he knew it.

Saint Louis 2011
Diagram 5

In the final game Ponomariov calculated better. He went 29...Qc5! 30.Bd2 Rc2! which forced a draw in spectacular fashion after 31.b6 Qd4 32.b7 Rxd2 33.b8Q+ Bf8 34.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 35.Kh3 Qe2 36.Qc8 h5 37.Rb8 Kh7 38.Qxf8 Qf1+ 39.Kh4 1/2-1/2

“Somehow even in this game, Hikaru played faster than me,” Ponomariov said. The young Ukrainian expressed thanks for “such an opportunity to play such games.”

Discussing about what he learned from the match, Ponomariov talked about Nakamura’s play. “It’s interesting to see Hikaru fights in every game and finds ways to put pressure on the position,” he said. Ponomariov also will talk about his experience and the organization of the match when he returns to Ukraine. He asked about DVDS “to show, not just tell” about the club and the event.

Nakamura also complimented the former world champion on his play. The Saint Louis grandmaster noted he was usually the one dealing with jet lag and time zone changes to play such matches. “I think Ruslan was better prepared than me in general,” he said. “I think I was a bit fortunate, especially game three.”

Finegold said the weather break gave the GMs a rare opportunity. “We got to chat a little bit,” the club’s resident GM said, and obviously an important topic was the Candidates matches “The players should be ashamed of themselves,” Finegold said about several short draws. “Hikaru played for wins, Ruslan played aggressive chess and Ray played for the win.”

Each day commentary for the live games was provided by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Online spectators could watch the action live at You can still follow much of the action thanks to the video archive - all material produced by Macauley Peterson.

Video archive

Classical games 5-6 + rapid games

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Reports based on press releases by Ken West | Photos © Saint Louis Chess Club



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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


ebutaljib's picture

First rapid game between Ponomariov and Nakamura went down to bare kings as it was clearly seen on live video transmission. Don't know why everywhere there is an incomplete game. Here is the full game:

[Event "Rapid Match"]
[Site "Saint Louis, USA"]
[Date "2011.05.24"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Ponomariov, Ruslan"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A88"]
[WhiteElo "2754"]
[BlackElo "2774"]
[PlyCount "194"]
[EventDate "2011.05.24"]
[EventType "match (rapid)"]
[EventRounds "4"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[Source "Saint Louis USA"]
[SourceDate "2011.05.26"]
[WhiteTeam "Ukraine"]
[BlackTeam "US of America"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "UKR"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]
[TimeControl "1500+5"]

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 d6 5. O-O Bg7 6. c4 O-O 7. Nc3 c6 8. d5 e6
9. dxe6 Bxe6 10. b3 Na6 11. Bb2 Re8 12. Qc2 Qe7 13. Rad1 Rad8 14. e3 Nb4 15.
Qb1 a5 16. Ng5 Bc8 17. Ne2 Ng4 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Nf3 Qf6 20. a3 Na6 21. b4 Be6
22. Rc1 axb4 23. axb4 Bf7 24. Ned4 c5 25. bxc5 dxc5 26. Nb5 b6 27. h3 Ne5 28.
Nxe5 Qxe5 29. Qa2 Nb4 30. Qa7 Qb8 31. Qxb8 Rxb8 32. Nd6 Red8 33. Nxf7 Kxf7 34.
Rfd1 Ke7 35. e4 f4 36. Rxd8 Rxd8 37. gxf4 Nd3 38. Rb1 Nxf4 39. Rxb6 Rd4 40. Bf1
h5 41. f3 Rd2 42. h4 Ne6 43. Bh3 Nf4 44. Bf1 Rc2 45. e5 Ne6 46. Bd3 Rc3 47.
Bxg6 Rxf3 48. Rb7+ Kf8 49. Be4 Re3 50. Bd5 Rxe5 51. Kf2 Ke8 52. Kf3 Kf8 53. Rh7
Ng7 54. Kf4 Re1 55. Kg5 Rg1+ 56. Kf6 Ne8+ 57. Kf5 Rf1+ 58. Kg5 Rg1+ 59. Kh6 Ng7
60. Be4 Kf7 61. Rh8 Rg4 62. Bd5+ Kf6 63. Rf8+ Ke5 64. Rf7 Nf5+ 65. Kxh5 Rxh4+
66. Kg5 Rf4 67. Be6 Nd4 68. Bd5 Nf3+ 69. Kg6 Rg4+ 70. Kh5 Rh4+ 71. Kg6 Nd2 72.
Rf5+ Kd4 73. Be6 Ne4 74. Rd5+ Kc3 75. Kf5 Kb4 76. Rd1 Nc3 77. Re1 Rh5+ 78. Kf6
Na4 79. Ke7 Nb2 80. Re4 Rh7+ 81. Kd6 Rh6 82. Kd5 Nd1 83. Rf4 Nb2 84. Re4 Na4
85. Ke5 Rh1 86. Rf4 Rd1 87. Rf8 Nb2 88. Rb8+ Kc3 89. Kf6 Ra1 90. Rb5 Nd3 91.
Bf5 Ra6+ 92. Ke7 Rc6 93. Kd7 Rh6 94. Bxd3 Kxd3 95. Rxc5 Kd4 96. Rc6 Rxc6 97.
Kxc6 Kxc4 1/2-1/2

Peter Doggers's picture

Thanks! I always get the games from TWIC as Mark does a great job collecting everything in one place. I'm sure he'll update the game soon as well.

ebutaljib's picture

I don't blame you or Mark Crowther, because he gets what the live transmission gives him. I blame the organizers because they don't upload the correct games on their sites the next day. They have the correct and official scores. Somebody just need to check and correct if there was any fault in DGT transmission. Very few organizers do that.

silvakov's picture

A small correction: Robson-Finegold rapid match was drawn, as Finegold won the first day 1,5/0,5 and lost the second by the same score...

RealityCheck's picture

The St. Louis Chess & Scholastic Club shows the chess world that chess isn't just about the money!!

They staged two superstars GM Nakamura & GM Ponomariov, one rising star, GM Robson and their resident GM Finegold. The competition involved a Classic and Rapid chess mix employing the match format and standard (classical) time controls. Not to mention live internet coverage! They managed all this without an XXL budget because Nakamura and Ponomariov, the superstars, felt that "playing" chess was as important as making money from it.

Let's hope this trend continues.

P.S.- Naka, Pono, thx for giving something back to the chess community!!

CAL|Daniel's picture

um it was all about money. Have you heard of appearance fees?

David's picture

I hadn't paid much attention to Ruslan in the last few years, but seeing that he still fights strongly in every game, and provides polite and friendly interviews, I have become a genuine fan. I have added him to the small list of players that I will follow for the next WC cycle.

ebutaljib's picture

Here is whats next for the elite.

Eiae's picture

I hope Nakamura was bluffing in this match, cause his play was not an impressive to put it mildly. In fact he probably should have lost it.
Will be interesting to see how he does in Bazna.

CGY's picture

Ray Robson visited my local chess club in Florida once. He played a 25-board simul and gave a lecture on one of his tournament games, and even played us one-on-one in blitz. Very polite, very talented young GM. Huge congratulations to he and Nakamura!

known1's picture

ok great, anyone knows when carlsen, anand, aronian play next?

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