With an easy draw against Vladimir Kramnik of Russia in the penultimate round, Hikaru Nakamura of the United States preserved his lead in the elite section of the Tata Steel chess tournament in the Netherlands. Nakamura has 8.5 points.
Wang Hao of China, Nakamura’s opponent in the final round on Sunday, is all that stands in his way of victory. Though obviously any opponent can be dangerous, Wang will probably not pose the kind of challenge that the top players would. As Nakamura said after his game on Satuday, “At least, he’s not Kramnik. So I’ll have some chances in the final round.”
Viswanathan Anand of India, the world champion, has the best chance to catch Nakamura as he only trails him by half a point, though Anand was a bit lucky that it was not more. He was White on Saturday against Anish Giri of the Netherlands and he was completely outplayed. Though there was never a moment when Giri clearly missed a win, Anand was on the defensive throughout the game. It was only on Giri’s last move, when he blundered and lost his advantage, that Anand felt comfortable and the players agreed to a draw.
Anand said after the game, “I just drifted, making a move according to one plan and then another in line with a different one. I had the feeling I was losing, although there was never anything concrete.”
It was another remarkable performance by Giri, who beat Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the No. 1 player in the world, earlier in the tournament, and also with the Black pieces. At only 16 years old, he is clearly moving up fast.
Anand will have Black against the talented and tough Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia in the last round.
Technically, should Nakamura lose, there are two other players who could catch up to him: Carlsen and Levon Aronian of Armenia, who each have 7.5 points.
Carlsen has had an uneven tournament, but he is coming on strong in the latter stages of it. He won his second consecutive game on Saturday, this time smashing Wang, who…