2012 World Chess Olympiad, Istanbul Turkey
GM Hikaru Nakamura (USA) – – GM Vidmantas Malisauskas (Lithuania)
If I had to pick two words to describe Hikaru’s approach to chess – the words DETERMINATION and PERSERVERANCE come to mind! In the USA 3.5 to .5 match victory over Lithuania, Hikaru (with the match already decided) reached a completely equal queen endgame. Many players would have long since agreed to a draw, but Hikaru managed to find a way to squeak out a valuable point.
After a Sicilian defense battle that raged across the whole board, we pick up play in the queen endgame at move 77. Black seems to (and is) doing quite OK. He threatens to promote his pawn on g1 and he even threatens to capture Hikaru’s b4 pawn with check. With a bit of toggling around in between, both sides manage to promote their pawns (78…g1=Q and 82.c8=Q). With 82…Qg-d4+ and 83…Qxc3+ one pair of queens come off, still leaving us with a completely equal queen endgame where each sides remaining passed pawn is still way back on their respective fourth ranks. Hikaru spends several moves checking the black king to play on his opponents nerves and then each pawn advances to their respective fifth rank (90…e4 and 91.b5). Pretty riveting stuff – ☺ With 92…e3, Black is actually the first to achieve the sixth rank with his passed pawn, but Hikaru had come up with the blockading plan 92.Kc1, 93.Kd1 and 94.Ke2. The position was still completely equal, but Black had new challenges to face. Hikaru’s 98.Qb4+ placed his queen behind his own passed pawn while driving the black king away from the black e3-pawn. Black correctly sacrificed his last pawn (99…Qh2+!), but failed to appreciate the moment when he needed to bring his own king over (100…Ke6!!) to control the white passed b-pawn and secure the draw. Black’s 100…Qg3+?? backfired as Hikaru was able to bring his king up to support his advanced passed b-pawn – 101.Kd3, 102.Kd4, 103.Kc4, 105.Kc5and 106.Kb5! with a winning position. Hikaru’s cross-check 107.Qc4+.