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Saint Louis Grandmasters go 0-2 in Round 1

By Ken West

Grandmaster Ruslan Ponomariov uncorked Nf3 on the fifth move against Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura’s King’s Indian Defense and went on to win the first game of their international match Tuesday at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

“This is what happens when you take three and a half months off classical chess,” Nakamura said during post-game comments with International Master John Donaldson and Women’s Grandmaster Jen Shahade.

In the other game, Grandmaster Ray Robson won on the black side against Grandmaster Ben Finegold, the club’s resident GM. Finegold played 2.c3, the Alapin, or closed Sicilian.

Nakamura said he knew he would “get something tactical” from Ponomariov, who played 13. g4. Donaldson said the young Ukrainian also usually plays 5. f3, the Saemisch variation against the King’s Indian. Nakamura said his Nf6 on move 21 was a major mistake.

“Just about everything wins here for white,” he said.

The former world champion then traded his knight on b3 for Nakamura’s knight on d4. After Nakamura recaptured with his e pawn, Ponomariov got the e5 pawn push. Nakamura had to give up his knight for two pawns because of the pin of his pawn on d4.

Nakamura resigned after Ponomariov’s 93rd move as the young Ukrainian was weaving the knight/bishop mate.

Ponomariov said his move 49. Bd5 was a mistake, saying he is still fighting jet lag. Nakamura said he had technical drawing chances in the end game if he could have exchanged his dark-squared bishop for Ponomariov’s knight.

The Finegold-Robson game ended with mate on the board.

“At time control, I thought maybe it’s a draw,” Finegold said.

However, after 42. d5, the Saint Louis grandmaster said he was losing.

Robson said he didn’t look at any lines against the closed Sicilian “and not even e4 a lot.”

The young grandmaster said he thought he was winning after 43. Bc5.

Live commentary by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade can be found at Rounds and commentary are open to club members, and memberships start at just $5/month for students or $12/month for adults.