Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nakamura wins! Nakamura wins!

Nakamura and Wang Hao drew in 22 moves this morning in the category 20 Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee. In the final position, Wang Hao could have won an exchange with 23.Bxb4?! cxb4!, but that would have left him in a passive position and given Nakamura a very strong pair of connected passed pawns, supported by the two bishops.

World Champion Vishy Anand, who trailed by half a point going into the round, also drew, against Nepomniachtchi. Nakamura thus won the tournament outright with the impressive score of 9-4 (6 wins, 6 draws, and a loss to Carlsen). Anand was second with 8.5. Aronian can tie with Anand if he succeeds in grinding out an endgame win against Smeets. Carlsen drew against Grischuk, finishing with 8 points.

With this extremely impressive and gutsy performance, Nakamura establishes himself as a member of the world elite. The last time an American won a tournament of this caliber was Gata Kamsky's win at the 2007 World Cup. To find the last time an American other than Kamsky won a remotely comparable tournament, you'd have to go back a very long time, maybe to Yasser Seirawan's victory at Haninge 1990. Congratulations to Hikaru Nakamura on his well-deserved win of one of the strongest tournaments ever!

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