Reports | May 21, 2011 22:15

Nakamura-Ponomariov equal after four games

Nakamura-Ponomariov equal after four gamesIn a match between Hikaru Nakamura (USA) and Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine), played in Saint Louis, USA, the score is 2-2 after 4 games. Ponomariov won the first in a King's Indian but with the same opening Nakamura levelled the score in game 3. A match between Ray Robson (USA) and GM Ben Finegold (USA) is played simultatenously; Robson leads 2.5-1.5.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, USA hosts two 10-game matches (six classical, four rapid) from May 16th till 25th, 2011. One is 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 is a match between GMs Ben Finegold and 16-year-old Ray Robson.

In the second match, Finegold would originally play against 80-year-old GM Viktor Korchnoi of Switzerland, but the legendary player has been forced to withdraw due to health concerns. The organizers said the ailment was not serious in nature, but that it impaired Korchnoi’s ability to travel internationally.

Showing his humor, at Monday's opening press conference Finegold said he “looked at a database of all 73 years of Korchnoi’s games, including those games against Steinitz.” He added: “I was preparing, but not general openings. I was looking at positions I could get. As long as Ray plays like Korchnoi.”

On Tuesday, the first games in both matches were immediately decisive. Ponomariov played the Mar del Plata variation with 13.g4 against Nakamura's King's Indian and quickly got a winning position. Missing earlier chances to decide the game, eventually the Ukrainian mated his opponent with bishop and knight.

Nakamura-Ponomariov

Six classical and two rapid games between Hikaru Nakamura and Ruslan Ponomariov

“This is what happens when you take three and a half months off classical chess,” Nakamura said during post-game comments. The American admitted that 21...Nf6 was a big mistake. “Just about everything wins here for white,” he said.

Ponomariov said his move 49. Bd5 was a mistake, blaming a jet lag. Nakamura had hoped for some technical drawing chances in the endgame if he could have exchanged his dark-squared bishop for Ponomariov’s knight, but didn't succeed.

In the other game, Robson won on the black side against Finegold, who played the Alapin Sicilian.
“At time control, I thought maybe it’s a draw,” Finegold said. However, after 42. d5, the St. Louis grandmaster said he was losing.

Ray Robson

16-year-old GM Ray Robson leads against GM Ben Finegold (41)

On the second day, both games ended in a draw. “I had a pleasant position—two bishops,” said Ponomariov. “This game requires a lot of analysis. Somehow Hikaru found a way.”

“I decided to try the idea of Nd2, Nb3,” Nakamura said. “I completely underestimated all the counterplay he gets. It was all very unpleasant to say the least.”

Finegold, who drew with Black using the Philidor defence, said he had played it “maybe 20 years ago” but he had seen that Robson had played against it only two times. “He’s pretty good at openings,” Finegold said.

In the third game, Nakamura managed to level the score in another King's Indian. The American was the first to admit that it was not because of his opening play. His position had doubled a and c pawns at one point, and his decision to play Na6 on move seven was a deviation from his preparation.

Saint Louis matches

The Saint Louis matches

“I spent all day preparing a line… but at the last minute decided to play Na6,” he said after the game. The King’s Indian may be “a bad opening to play in a match format,” Nakamura said. “It’s pretty much all or nothing. But that’s why I’m playing this match. I get experience and learn something from it.”

On Ponomariov’s 16.Qd6, Nakamura said he was “significantly worse.” He was concerned about Ponomariov then playing Qa3, hitting the a6 pawn. “I think I have a nice position,” Ponomariov said about the resulting position after the exchange sacrifice. “After Qc5 check I started sinking,” and added that he had to improve his calculation.

The third and fourth game in the Finegold-Robson match ended in draws, and also game four in Ponomariov-Nakamura ended peacefully. Two more classical games will be played in both matches, and then the players will play four more rapid games.

Each day the games start 3:30 p.m. CDT (22:30 CET) and commentary for the live games is provided by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Online spectators can watch the action live at saintlouischessclub.org/live. You can still follow much of the action thanks to the video archive - all material produced by Macauley Peterson.

Video archive

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Photos © Saint Louis Chess Club

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, 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.

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