Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nakamura wins U.S. Championship

Nakamura, after winning (as Black) against Kamsky, had a half-point lead over Kamsky going into the last round. Naka had White against Seirawan, who was having a horrible tournament, while Kamsky was Black against Robert Hess. The safe, "professional" thing to do would be to play solidly against Seirawan and keep an eye on Kamsky's game. If it looked like Kamsky was going to draw or lose, Naka could draw and clinch the win; if it looked like Kamsky would win, Naka could press for the win against Seirawan. Instead, Naka trotted out a "Brand X" line against Seirawan's French (1.e4 e6 2.f4?!), which is almost never seen (less than a third of a percent of the games with the French Defense) and gives Black a plus score! The critics (including me) would have said "What was he thinking!" if Naka had lost. But no, it worked like a charm - Naka crushed Seirawan, while Kamsky drew. This gave Naka the championship by a full point, undefeated, 8.5/11 (6 wins, 5 draws). This is comparable to Fischer's typical score in U.S. Championships. Congratulations to Hikaru Nakamura on his gutsy play and incredible performance!


Frederick Rhine said...

I'm told that 2.f4!? isn't as "Brand X" as I thought. There's an article about it at In recent years it's been played by GMs like Zvjaginsev (gesundheit!), Bologan, Igor Glek, Alex Stripunsky, and even the half-man/half-caribou Dimitri Reinderman.

Bill Brock said...

So how does White play for the advantage after 2...c5?

Nakamura probably wasn't worried about that: he just wanted to play chess.

Frederick Rhine said...

I suppose 3.d3 d5 4.Nd2, not that that's any great shakes. 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 is also legal. I agree with your assessment of Nakamura's motivations.

GreenCastle said...

I've played 2.f4 several times OTB. The idea is to achieve a superior version of the Advance, e.g. 2.f4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.c3 .: Na3-c2 and only then d4. c2 is the ideal square for White's difficult-to-develop QN in the Advance French where it supports d4 and doesn't get in the way of White's other pieces, but it's hard to get it there because Na3 can usually be met with ..cxd4 and ..Bxa3.

I feel Black can equalize based on playing an early ...h5 securing f5 for his KN and blockading White's K-side pawns. But it's a much different type of position for Black to play.