Naka wins in London

Nakamura beat Short today in the 5th round of the London Chess Classic in a remarkably tame Marshall Attack, while Carlsen won against Howell and the other games were draws. Nakamura is now one of the front-runners of the tournament, along with Mcshane and Anand. The Bilbao scoring system awards 3 points for a win and only 1 point for a draw, so it differs considerably from the normal chess scoring system, inducing players to fight for wins where perhaps they would otherwise have been content to draw.

Nigel Short played the Marshall Attack, and specifically chose a tricky sideline with 9…e4 (Herman Steiner variation) instead of the mainline 9…Nxd5. One of the themes of this line is black’s thorn pawn on f3. If white captures the pawn straight away with the queen, he falls into a massive attack which I have lost to in blitz. In this game, Nakamura allows the “thorn pawn” to sit there the entire game, never picking it up despite it’s annoying cramping presence. Naturally, he avoids picking it up because he knows that (1) he shouldn’t waste time picking up a dead pawn and (2) by leaving that pawn there it’s almost goading Nigel by pointing out the harmlessness of his plan. Check out the hot trap in the parenthetical.