Nakamura unbeaten for 27 games; Sinquefield Cup starts in St Louis
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Hikaru Nakamura, the five-time US champion, has a Twitch stream with over 1m subscribers, so the 33-year-old now rarely plays chess with classical one-game-a-day time limits. His renowned speed skills, where he vies with Magnus Carlsen for top spot in the world rankings, remain undiminished.
Nakamura is a deadly performer at time rates ranging from 25-minute rapid right down to online “ultrabullet”, where each player has 15 seconds for the entire game. He was devastating last weekend in the St Louis rapid and blitz, where he was unbeaten in 27 games and made sure of the $37,500 first prize with three rounds to spare.
The secret is his exceptionally quick reactions to rapidly changing situations on the chessboard, plus the dexterity, control and instant hand-brain co-ordination needed to make long sequences of correct moves with just two or three seconds increment on the clock. When Jeffrey Xiong decentralised a knight at move 23, Nakamura created a decisive attack where at the end Black faced mate or ruinous material loss.
At the end, Carlsen sent a barbed congratulatory tweet to “World No 2 rapid and blitz player” — a reference to how the Norwegian’s rival had started St Louis as No 1, but had slipped back due to his many draws. Carlsen is the official blitz champion, and a speed match between them would be sure to attract tens of thousands of viewers.
Meanwhile, neither Nakamura nor Carlsen is competing in the $325,000 Sinquefield Cup, America’s most prestigious international tournament, which began on Tuesday.
Fabiano Caruana, America’s world No 2, who won the 2014 Sinquefield with a record 3103 rating performance, is the favourite in his home city — especially because two of his expected rivals, Anish Giri and Levon Aronian, could not reach St Louis due to travel problems.
Play starts at 9pm BST daily. Games with full grandmaster and computer commentary can be viewed on the official site.
Rainer Buhmann vs Nikita Vitiugov, Moscow Aeroflot 2017. Black to move and win. A tactic solves the puzzle, but certainly not 1 . . . Qe4? when White plays 2 Qxf7+ and 3 Qxh7 mate.
*This column was republished on August 18 to fix the link to the solution