Reports | November 02, 2008 22:00

Nakamura beats Karpov & Ivanchuk to win Cap d'Agde

Nakakura wins Cap d'Agde 2008OK, American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura is a strong blitz player, we knew that. But what about rapid chess? And what about opponents like Karpov and Ivanchuk? Well, he just beat them both, the former world champion in the semi-final and the Ukrainian in the final, and so Nakamura became the convincing winner of the 2008 Troph?ɬ©e CCAS in Cap d'Agde!

From 25 October to 1 November, 16 GM's were participating in the 8th Troph?ɬ©e CCAS rapid event in Cap d'Agde. It's the seaside resort of the town of Agde, France on the Mediterranean sea. The event was a closed tournament first divided into two groups, then 1/4 finals, 1/2 finals and the final.

In our previous report we saw that from the A group Caruana, Ivanchuk, Vachier-Lagrave and Bu Xiangzi had qualified for the quarter finals, and from the B group the names were Carlsen, Nakamura, Karpov and Radjabov. Karpov defeated Caruana, Ivanchuk beat Radjabov, Carlsen was too strong for Bu Xiangzhi and Nakamura knocked out the French hope Vachier-Lagrave. OK, all that is old news - how did the tournament continue?

Well, on Friday the semi-finals were played and the French chess fans were treated with two delightful chess matches that were both decided in the blitz games: Karpov-Nakamura ?Ǭ?-?Ǭ?, ?Ǭ?-?Ǭ?, 0-1, 0-1 and Carlsen-Ivanchuk: ?Ǭ?-?Ǭ?, ?Ǭ?-?Ǭ?, 0-1, ?Ǭ?-?Ǭ?.

Let's first have a look at the games between former world champion Anatoli Karpov and online blitz specialist Hikaru Nakamura. The quick, theoretical draw in game one must have come as a big surprise to the organizers and the present fans, but after that the minimatch quickly became very exciting. Nakamura's knight on d6 looked a bit clumsy in game two, and with 24.Na4! and 25.Ba5! Karpov seemed to get the upper hand, but a few moves later everything was fine for Black.

Nakamura - Karpov

In the first blitz game (3 minutes plus 2 seconds per move) Karpov played his old favorite against he King's Indian: the Saemisch. 10...e6 is not the theoretical response and White was slightly better afterwards, but after some inaccurate moves Nakamura quickly turned it into a winning ending. After that, scoring a full point with Black was too difficult a task for Karpov against such a fast and solid opponent.

The Carlsen-Ivanchuk minimatch was at least as exciting. It started with a highly original Queen's Gambit where a quiet middlegame position suddenly turned into an ultra-sharp battle - Chucky's 25...Rae8! was a cool response to Carlsen's agressive play and afterwards the Norwegian nicely defended a slightly worse position. In the second game Carlsen's active play compensated for Ivanchuk's bishop pair, which against Black's bishop and knight was clearly not enough to get more than a theoretical advantage.

Ivanchuk - Carlsen

But in the first blitzer, probably due to an inaccurate move order in a Hedgehog English, Carlsen had to let both of his bishops be traded for Chuky's knights, and then the Ukrainian quickly spotted the tactical problem of the move 26...f5. A very smooth victory. Carlsen then had to go all or nothing and he did, by sacrificing some pawns in a Nimzo, but he got nowhere close to Black's king. Ivanchuk tried to win the ending for a while but then accepted the draw anyway.

And so yesterday it was time for the grande finale, with reigning world blitz champion and winner of this year's Tal Memorial blitz (besides some bigger events, of course!) Vassily Ivanchuk versus Japanese-born American Hikaru Nakamura, who, among other quickplay events, won the Corsican Masters exactly one year ago!

This final didn't reach the blitz stage. Nakamura went for an Open Ruy Lopez in game one and he was well prepared for Ivanchuk's treatment: the almost forgotten Keres Variation with Qe2, Rd1 and c4. It was a nice little motive in the ending where Black could allowing e5-e6 because of the g6 break after fixing White's kingside.

Nakamura - Ivanchuk

And then in the second game the Ukrainian was just outplayed! In an ending that should have been a draw (just look at the position after 21.Rac1) White centralized his rooks and king and put all his pawns on white squares, and suddenly he was just slightly better, with his knight against Black's bishop. Black's last mistake was to trade the last rooks, because after the instructive knight manoeuvre to c6 (attack a5 and square b4, but also covering e7 and e5 to keep the Black king away) his position was suddenly completely lost.

Another wonderful perfomance by Nakamura!

Photos thanks to Europe-Echecs

Video reports by Europe Echecs:


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.


Clifford's picture

I'd say Japanese-born is relevant in Nakamura's case because he still maintains links there, e.g. winning the 2008 Japan Open which would normally be a tournament far too weak for him to play. Also, being the strongest-ever Japanese-born player is something special.

arne's picture

Macauley, I think you're being a bit too negative when you imply that people might think 'less' of Nakamura when they hear he's Japanese-born. Don't you think the term can in fact somehow convey positive information about him to people who (like me, when I first heard of him) say: 'Huh, Nakamura, that sure doesn't sound American! Is he some new import guy or what?' Then, after reading he was only born in Japan, not raised, they may think: 'Hey, that's cool, so he's really raised in the US, now I will truly root for him!'

Kim Qvistorff's picture

Amusing discussion on Hikaru's country of origin. In all the years I have known him he has never once mentioned Japan. As far as I know we usually have little (read no) control over where our parents choose to live and give birth to us. Anyway I was - like others - somewhat surprised about "Chucky's" play at the end. My guess is that he was already mentally preparing to take on Hikaru in blitz. Trust me - even for a truly great player like Ivanchuk -- it is a serious task to beat Hikaru in blitz. Not least since Hikaru tends to do really well in big events.

Prasanna's picture

@ Theo: Somehow great champions tend to fear losing their top position to others while still being an active player. Bobby Fischer was an extreme case with high dosage of cerebal eccentricity. Kasparov is only a mild case of this eccentricity (at least he plays Simuls). Karpov & Korchnoi are of a different breed; they breath chess and knows no other business. Chess is such an adiction that calling him or any other a true warrior for keep playing chess is debatable!

Lionaile's picture

@ manu
I was also wondering...
and then I found this site with unofficial rating list for rapid play:

Give us an idea...

Manu's picture

Thx Lionaile, great data!
Another interesting thing to know would be exacty who owns who in classical chess.
For example Carlsen is minus x with Anand but plus x with Topalov and even with me (because we never played a game ).
Like having a big chart with the names of the players and the scores between them.
Maybe this already exists but i never found it.

Macauley's picture


@Peter wrote: "And isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t ?¢‚Ǩ?ìJapanese-born?¢‚Ǩ? then as important as ?¢‚Ǩ?ì22-year-old?¢‚Ǩ??"

No, I don't think so. Where someone is born (in and of itself) has no impact on his or her chess skill, whereas a person's age (experience, stamina) generally does. It's also a more relevant detail because it means that Nakamura is young and improving (and he's not yet 21).

@Arjon: You don't care what country he culturally identifies with, but you DO care where he was born? I don't understand that. The first gives you lots of information, the second is a meaningless fact that was totally outside his control. I'm not talking generally, I'm talking specifically -- in the case of Nakamura.

Saying the "Latvian-born Spaniard Shirov" may be just a truthful, but don't you think it distinguishes Shirov implicitly as somehow "less Spanish." Now perhaps that would be the writer's intention in Alexei's case, because he has only lived there part of the time during adulthood. It might also be relevant for many former-Soviet players who emigrated to the U.S. and are now American citizens, because chess development in their formative years may well have come from their country of origin -- useful info.

In Hikaru's case, he's no "less American" by having been born in Japan, and his chess development was probably influenced more by his step father, the prominent American chess educator Sunil Weeramantry, than by anyone or anything else.

So, rather than providing useful background info, I suspect the phrase "Japanese-born American" could actually be misleading, because it would tend to put Nakamura in the Shirov/Gulko camp, rather than in the "homegrown" American GM camp.

So, @Pillates: I agree with you -- country of birth can be important, it just isn't in this case.

@ObamaFan: No, of course I'm not saying that, and this has nothing to do with politics. The "less relevant in the U.S.A." comment was regarding "foreign-sounding names," which is a phrase that doesn't make a lot of sense in the U.S., because (unless your surname is "RunningBear" or "Dances-with-Wolves") all "American" names reflect the country's immigrant past and present (and, I hope, future).

@ Tom Vananderoye: I hope my point is a bit clearer. In Nakamura's case I just don't see how the distinction adds any useful information. Does his moving to the U.S. at the age of 2 or 3, rather than being born there have any bearing on his chess success in Cap d'Adge? What does it add to our knowledge? Maybe it has some trivia value, but beyond that, I don't see it. Meanwhile it has the potential to mislead.

OK, I'm done, now. Back to being a CV lurker...

Janis Nisii's picture

I don't think Nakamura outplayed Ivanchuk in the second game.
I mean, Chuky scrupulously created a bad Bishop by placing his pawns on a5, b6 and g5, scoring an own goal.
All in all, I think the Jap...err American just cashed what an apparently drunk Chuky offered to him :)
I have no clue on why Ivanchuk played so badly, but I'm sure there must be some (psycholigical?) explanation.
Congrats to the winner, of course.

Jonas's picture

Does anyone know when FIDE is going to introduce rapid and blitz ratings?

So sad that in our information age we still don't have rapid and blitz ratings.

Tom Vananderoye's picture

I don't really understand macauley's point. A lot of articles I read on American websites ussualy state in which state of American a person is born and where he lives for the moment.
Also: I know a few persons whose family has moved from abroad to my country, Belgium, who have been born here but still identify strongly with their native country. As Nakamura apparantly has visited Japan on several occasions it could still be relevant.
Third point: as Japan is a big country with a large tradition in mindsports (Shogi) but with a limited chess culture somebody like Nakamura could really be invaluable to market the game there.

Amos Sky's picture

Nakamura can't predict the greatness of future chess talents like Carlsen but he plays a mean game of chess. He's definately a dissident in SGM's circles but I think he's got the right attitude to break a few of their hearts over the board. The boy's got swagger and that's why I love him.

ObamaFan's picture

Why would it be "less relevant in the U.S.A. than it is in Europe."?

Are you implying Europe is less progressive than the US.

America has more far-right organizations than any other country.

Manu's picture

I always wonder what would be the ELO of the other top ten players if they play as many games as Ivanchuk.Of course not talking about Carlsen who likes to play a lot too.

Arjon's picture

@Peter Sorry, I was too lazy to look up where he was actually from ;)

@Macauley The basic point is that I do not know nor care what country he identifies with. This associated 'Japanese born' is not only written with benign intentions, but at its root is not at conflict with 'American'. Saying 'The Spaniard Shirov' is just as truthful as saying 'The Latvian born Spaniard Shirov' but the former leaves you with a mild feeling of cognitive dissonance. In nearly every country (the US being a notable exception) there is a high correlation of citizenship and ethnicity; so no, I do not believe that it is stupid to associate 'Nakamura' with Japanese faster than with American.

Somehow you argue the case that he should just be called 'the American' because it seems that you find 'Japanese born American' inferior or demeaning; stripping him of his undoubtedly high sense of patriotism, maybe? You can try to convince me that it was just a dry logical remark, saying that P ^ Q is as truthful as saying P (without the Q 'caveat'), but I'm not sure I will buy it ;)

pillates's picture


the country of origin is always of importance when we talk about chess players, cause it has to do with chess culture etc (although admitedly this looks irrelevant for Nakamura case, since he was too young when he moved to US but even so, who knows of any other Japanese chess players? so even saying that Nakamura was only born in Japan has some interest in itself), so normally people are quite interested to know where a chess player comes from, it has nothing to do with discrimination actually, at least Europeans do not see it this way...

Anon's picture


Does anyone the name/artist of the track that was featured in the second part of the video?


peter's picture

Let's be accurate: Sokolov (well, Ivan) wasn't "Russian-born" and I never wrote that!

I think thus far we're missing two details.
1) People who live in the States and are called Nakamura can be born in Japan, or in the States (or somewhere else!). Usually in the latter case, one or both of the parents were born in Japan, but even that isn't necessary. After reading your comments, I've come to think that in the former case, it might be relevant, even on a general chess blog, to mention it. Especially for the States, where many GMs were not "US-born". Although I admit that calling Boris Gulko "Soviet-born" is more relevant than calling Nakamura "Japanese-born".
2) The big majority of visitors knows about these players, but what to do with the small minority that doesn't know about Nakamura yet? Shouldn't we flip in one or two biographical points here and there to educate them? And isn't "Japanese-born" then as important as "22-year-old"?

xtra's picture

if this was a japanese blog, maybe it would have said "japanese-born" to sort of claim Nakamura, not completely of course, but people are usually more interested in their countrymen than others...("why" would be an interesting question. e.g. in sweden, often there is a fuzz made if there is only a -connection-, like the hollywood star with a swedish mother. its strange but apparently it gives something to some people)

anyway, of course it isnt, or shouldn't be, important for an american where nakamura is born, but that doesnt mean it lacks importance for everyone else. :-)

Sharpie's picture

Strange, but I've never heard of Reshevsky called the Poland born grandmaster but Kamsky is often referred to as coming from Russia.

Theo's picture

It's just great to see Karpov still playing!
Compared to his rival Kasparov, who retired when he felt the hot breath of the younger generation in his neck.

Karpov is the true warrior!

Macauley's picture

@ ~~~~: You're right.

@arne & Arjon: Not to belabor the point, but I actually think you both have missed mine. It's precisely because of the rather unusual cultural makeup of the U.S. that the X-born distinction lacks relevance, and some other descriptive adjective ("twenty-year-old," "ultra-competitive") would make more sense in this context. How a guy looks may be relevant in Holland, but it's so commonplace to have U.S. citizens looking every which-way, that only an extremely provincial American (of which there are some of course, but that's another matter), would seriously think about his Japanese DNA.

It's not that I perceive the description "Japanese-born" as "discriminatory," it simply is so by definition, as in "discriminating -- making a distinction." To be clear, that ought not to be confused with an implied prejudice, and I have no doubt about Peter's benign intentions. But the fact that you raise Sokolov's name as being not typically Dutch, simply makes my case! That detail may be meaningful in the Netherlands, or by extension, Europe, but it's really quite trivial in the U.S., where names can rarely be said to be "indigenous."

Is "Peterson" an American name, or Scandinavian? What about Baharvar? Or Wolff or Greenstein? (All guys I went to school with.) Or, for that matter, Obama or McCain?

It would be relevant only if people would be confused into thinking that "Nakamura" couldn't possibly be American (as stated) because it's a name of Japanese origin, but surely that would be stupid. If you're clearly talking about an American player (one who was raised, and culturally identifies with the United States), then why bother to focus on how he looks, or where he was born?

I mean, you can, of course, but what's the relevance? For whom does it clarify something? For someone who isn't aware of any U.S. history?

Okay, now I'm belaboring the point... ;)

Arjon's picture

@Macauley Though it might well be the case that where someone was born is less important in the US (not in the least case because it would be stupid, as even the most hard-core Americans were of widespread European descent just a few generations ago), I did actually see the Russian-born Sokolov phrase that peter mentioned. Sokolov is not a typically Dutch name, so the addition is not discriminatory (it is not the phrase but the name which discriminates between Russian and Dutch) but rather elaboratory. The relevance is obvious to us who have not known Hikaru since he was four, we want to know that "The Japanese Guy" 's name is Nakamura.

It does, however, seem to be typically US to percieve this as discriminatory... wink wink.

~~~~'s picture

But Macauley, didn't Ivanchuk make his mistakes BEFORE the minor piece ending? In that case the Carlsen blog doen't contradict what was said above.

arne's picture

@Macauley, it's an interesting discussion, but of course Nakamura also looks Japanese (whereas Naiditsch doesn't look particulary 'latvian'). Of course looks don't mean anything, but somehow I feel it's a little more relevant in Nakamura's case, however unfair this undoubtedly this.

anil's picture

Nakamura (player name starwars) is ranked 3rd in blitz list......I was curious to know who the two players rated above him are.....Even though I searched for a long time trying to decode the names of the two rated above him (Ultimatebourne,silvernight), I couldn't find any answer......Anybody any clue??

Macauley's picture

FYI...Vibes is not the only one using "outplayed" to describe the ending of the second game. Henrik Carlsen on MagnusChess, writes, "In the second game, the symmetrical pawn ending with two rooks and a bishop versus a knight looked very drawish but after Ivanchuk allowed the exchange of rooks Nakamura outplayed him in the ensuing ending."

Usually, Henrik wouldn't write something like that without at least the tacit approval of Magnus.

Anyone know whether there were any draw offers in the game, and, if so, by whom and at what stage?

Macauley's picture

Just thought I'd throw this out there for discussion:

I couldn't help noticing the phrase "Japanese-born American" in reference to Nakamura. I don't recall seeing "Latvian-born German Arkadij Naiditsch," or "Yugoslavian-born Ivan Sokolov" bandied around much, and it could well be argued that where someone was born is actually less relevant in the U.S.A. than it is in Europe.

I've known Hikaru since he was about 4 years old. He doesn't have any memory of his early years in Japan, he doesn't speak Japanese, and the relevance of his place of birth (in this context) is close to zero.

You can call him an American without caveat -- it's quite OK.

Michael's picture

The second game of the final made me think of a remark by Kasparov that Ivanchuk's most dangerous opponent is Ivanchuk himself and that sometimes he plays like a weak amateur. One can hardly say that Nakamura outplayed him, it was rather Ivanchuk outplaying himself with completely pointless manoeuvres and obvious strategic mistakes (putting pawns on dark squares, trading rooks etc). I would say that he played the endgame on a 1500 level at best. The only explanation is that Ivanchuk must have been terribly nervous. His bad nerves have always been his weakest point. A great pity for such a fabulous talent.

peter's picture


Actually if you search for Sokolov you will notice that I've used the term "Bosnian-born". But you're right in pointing out that these adjectives are not always very relevant - I've merely picked them when running out of synonyms.


Yes, when I chose "outplayed" I had some doubt but I found it even harder to write that Chuky played badly! (Which he probably did.)

ed's picture

Naka is a true American GM, and a very good one at that. I sincerely hope he gets more invitations to super tournaments like Linares, Corus and others. I am sick and tired to watch the same players batle year after year in those tournaments. A pity organizers are so conservative in their selection of players.

cyronix's picture

For additional blitz and rapid ratings you need people who calculate the ratings,
people that want to be payed.

Lionaile's picture


You've got everything in the following link

Anon's picture

Hi, Does anyone know what the last 2 soundtracks used in this video were? THanks!!

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