Sunday, November 4, 2007

Hikaru's Immortal Game

I don't spend too much time following GMs since my openings don’t follow theirs and their deep play is often inaccessible to me (translation: I'm lazy). But a friend showed me a game of GM Hikaru Nakamura’s that astounded me. Apparently Nakamura has been tearing up the European circuit with this clear first at Magistral D'Escacs in Barcelona and now clear first in the Corsican Circuit. This was his second round game in the Magistral against GM Michal Krasenkow, #44 on the October 2007 FIDE Rankings. Hikaru is listed as #61 -- for now.

This should become a very celebrated game with tons of Informant and New In Chess coverage, but I’m going to try my hand at annotating it, with Fritz’s help of course.

Krasenkow,M (2668) - Nakamura,H (2648) [A14]

Magistral D'Escacs Barcelona ESP (2), 19.10.2007

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.b3 a5 7.Nc3 c6 8.d4 Nbd7 9.Qc2
The ECO code attached indicates A14 English: Neo-Catalan declined. I think d4 has returned it to the Catalan Closed, but it's hard to find a match for Black's queenside development. 9...b6 10.e4 Ba6 11.Nd2 c5 12.exd5 cxd4 13.Nb5 exd5 14.Nxd4 Rc8 15.Re1 b5 16.Bb2 Re8 17.Qd1?!=/+ White's Queen shies away from a rook discovery... [ 17.Rad1=] 17...bxc4 18.bxc4 Qb6 19.Rb1 dxc4 ...while Black's Queen stands its ground. This position almost defies analysis. It took Fritz 8 running on my 1.4 Ghz Celeron M four and a half minutes to a ply depth of 13 moves to finally evaluate 20.Nc6 as good for Black. 20.Nc6? The heat has been building in the last couple moves. This looks like a critical moment, the first spark. Unfortunately for GM Krasenkow, the computer evaluation of this position favors GM Nakamura's interpretation of the tactics. 20...Rxc6! Krasenkow unleashes his fireworks. 21.Bxf6 Black is currently up one pawn, but has Queen and Rook en prise while White only has his Bishop en prise. Superficial logic dictates that White should come out the exchange for a pawn ahead. But logic is just for us mere mortal humans and Vulcans. Positionally, White seems to have both rooks actively developed. Both bishops are raking their respective diagonals. The main problem is that the knight on d2 is lame and also hobbles the Queen behind it. But it's not like Black's Nd7 is much better and Black's Queen is in trouble. I wonder if GM Krasenkow had any inkling of the next move.21...Qxf2+!! Nakamura unleashes a bolt from the blue! Not only is this a spectacular move, it's the only move that helps Black's game in this position. [ 21...Nxf6? 22.Rxb6 Rxb6+/- gives the game the imbalance of Queen versus Rook, Bishop, and Pawn, but Fritz prefers White, perhaps because of Black's weak pawns.] 22.Kxf2 [ First of all, if White declines with 22.Kh1 Rxf6 23.Ne4 Qa7 24.Nxf6+ Nxf6-+ he's down two minors and two pawns (8 points) for a rook (5 points).] 22...Bc5+! [ 22...Rxf6+?? doesn't cut it as the King retreats into the corner and it is White who has the decisive advantage. 23.Kg1+-] 23.Kf3? [ Somehow the distraction of 23.Bd4! helps White's defense. 23...Bxd4+ 24.Kf3 Rf6+ 25.Kg4 Ne5+ 26.Kg5 Bc8-+ Even though Black has only Bishop and Pawn to White's Queen, Fritz evaluates almost eight pawns of advantage to Black. Still, there's no forced mate, just a King's ransom of material to save the hostage at g5.; 23.Kf1 is also miserable. 23...c3+! 24.Re2 c2! 25.Qxc2 Bxe2+ 26.Ke1 Bd3+ 27.Kd1 Bf2! 28.Nc4 Bxc2+ 29.Kxc2 Rxc4+-+ Black has won back the Queen with interest.] 23...Rxf6+ 24.Kg4 Ne5+ 25.Kg5 25.Kh5 Rh6+ 26.Kg5 Rg6+ and 25.Kh4 Rh6+ 26.Kg5 Rg6+ would both transpose back to the game. [ 25.Rxe5 Bc8+! 26.Rf5 ( 26.Kh4 leads to mate in 4 starting with 26...Rxe5) 26...Bxf5+ 27.Kh4 Rh6+ 28.Kg5 Bc8 and Fritz reports that 29.Qe1 is the best move, staving off mate until 14 moves from now. 29...Re3!! adds the insult of declining the queen as the best move to checkmate.] 25...Rg6+ 26.Kh5 [ 26.Kh4 Be7+ 27.Kh3 Rh6+ 28.Qh5 Rxh5#; 26.Kf5 Bc8+ 27.Ke4 Rd6 28.Kf4 a) 28.Qh5 Rd4+ 29.Ke3 Ng4+ 30.Kf3 Nxh2+ 31.Qxh2 Bg4+ 32.Kf2 Rf4#; b) 28.Bh1 g5 29.Rf1 Rd4+ 30.Ke3 Rf4+ (b) 30...Rd3+ 31.Ke2 Nf3+ 32.Ne4 Rxe4#) 31.Ke2 Nf3+ 32.Ne4 Rexe4#; 28...Nd3+ 29.Kg5 Rxe1 30.Ne4 Rxe4 31.Bxe4 Be3+ 32.Kh4 Rh6+ 33.Qh5 g5#; 26.Kf4 Nd3+ 27.Kf3 Rf6+ 28.Kg4 Bc8+ 29.Kh4 Rxe1 30.Qh5 ( 30.Ne4 Rxe4+ 31.g4 Bf2+ 32.Kh5 Rh6+ 33.Kg5 f6#; 30.Qf3 Rh6+ 31.Kg5 Be7+ 32.Qf6 Bxf6#; 30.Rb5 Re5 31.Rb6 Rf4+ 32.g4 Bf2+ 33.Kh3 Rf3+) 30...Rf4+ 31.g4 Bf2+ 32.Kh3 Rf3+ 33.Bxf3 ( 33.Nxf3 Nf4#) 33...Nf4#] 26...f6 27.Rxe5 Rxe5+ 28.Kh4 Bc8 White resigned. Black has mate in 6. [ 28...Bc8 29.Bd5+ Rxd5 30.g4 Rd3 31.Qf3 Rxf3 32.Nxf3 Rxg4+ 33.Kh3 Rg5+ 34.Kh4 Bf2#] 0-1

If he sacrificed his queen against the #44 in the world, in a significant tournament, my friend and I figure that Nakamura saw it all, including the mates. Amazing.

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