Saint Louis GMs Prevail in First Rapid Showdown

Chess club Saint LouisThe two Saint Louis grandmasters prevailed in the first day of rapid chess in the international match Tuesday at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, each notching a win with white and holding with the black pieces.

GM Hikaru Nakamura showed a risky plan that would not work in longer time controls can provide enough problems to win with the faster time control. He opened with b3 as white after gaining a draw in the first game with the Dutch Defense against former world champion GM Ruslan Ponomariov.

GM Ben Finegold won with the white pieces in his first rapid game against GM Ray Robson.

Nakamura said his 36. a5 in the second game was risky. WGM Jen Shahade thought Nakamura was better, but he said if his opponent had more time he could find the correct line and possibly come out better.

As for his 1.b3, the former U.S. champion said he had played the resulting positions “millions of times on ICC.” He lost a pawn but said it was hard for black to come up with a plan. Nakamura said the game shows a good knight against a bad bishop and students could benefit from studying that position. IM John Donaldson during commentary referred to the bishop as a “big pawn” when it was on c5.

Asked about facing Nakamura’s unusual opening move, Ponomariov said “rapid is more for fun.”

“Hikaru, with the time, put some problems (on the board),” he told Shahade and Donaldson.

“For me it was just important to play a game just to feel how to use the time,” Ponomariov said after talking with the commentators. “Hikaru thinks maybe this is not the best move if I play this, but maybe it’s unpleasant for his opponent—he’s not just looking for the best move in the best position.”

Robson continued the match against Finegold by again using more time in the opening. Under the rapid format, Robson quickly fell behind on the clock. In the first rapid game he was down to 16 minutes for his first 11 moves. Finegold still had 24 minutes.

Finegold told the commentators he thought Robson’s 14. Nd7 was a bad move.

In their second game, Finegold got doubled rooks on the seventh to force a draw.

Nakamura leads his match 5-3 over Ponomariov. Robson leads Finegold 4.5 to 3.5.

The final day of the international match is Wednesday with two more rapid games.

To follow the games live Wednesday, visit saintlouischessclub.org/nakamura-v-ponomariov-robson-v-finegold/live. Live commentary by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade can be found at livestream.com/uschess. Rounds and commentary are open to club members, and memberships start at just $5/month for students or $12/month for adults.

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