July 13th 2016 will be remembered as Independence Day for Hikaru Nakamura as he stopped years of torment at the hand of Magnus Carlsen. In round 1 of the Bilbao Super GM tournament, the 28 year old American defeated the world champion at classical chess for the first time, having lost 12 of the previous 30 games against Magnus.
A slow start didn’t suggest fireworks. Carlsen responded to the Sicilian with the unusual 2.Ne2!?, and Hikaru went for a Dragon setup. However, Magnus’ aggressive g4 also opened his own King position and Naka got a chance to counterattack very swiftly.
What had seemed like a decent position for White, soon shifted into favoring Black. Hikaru Nakamura’s Kingside pawns claimed key squares and his Queen, which had looked to be out of the game, suddenly appeared very dangerous indeed.
IM Valeri Lilov has analyzed the game, with all its twists and turns, for iChess.
Overall, one may say that Carlsen overestimated his attacking chances. Perhaps he also went too far in his attempt to use his psychological advantage over the talented American. Maybe his unbeaten 30 game record made him overconfident.
While this may have paid some part in the result, Valeri suspects it was also a matter of misevaluation and Magnus didn’t see the strong e7-e6 move, parrying all his Kingside attacks. It happens to even the very best sometimes!
The sign of a champion is how well they bounce back and three consecutive wins in the following games, put the Norwegian in 1st place. Still, this loss to Nakamura will surely be his most painful of the year to date.