Nakamura Connects, Takes Early Lead in Showdown

American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura knocked down Armenia's Levon Aronian in the first round of their $100,000 match, the Showdown in Saint Louis.

Just give him the first swing.

American super Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura struck first in the Showdown in Saint Louis, breaking out of a dry-looking Queen’s Gambit Declined and fighting his way through a scrappy middlegame against World No. 4 Levon Aronian.

Nakamura made full profit off White’s inherent advantage in Friday’s first round, despite not finding much against Aronian’s Ragozin Defense in the game’s earlygoing. While Nakamura focused his early intentions on the queenside with 10. c5 and 11. Na4, Aronian pushed for more than equality in the position with his central break 11...e5.

But time smiled in Nakamura’s favor on Friday night, as Aronian’s ticking clock lead to some questionable decisions in the heat of battle. Aronian’s forcing a queen trade was intended to carry the opposite-colored bishop game toward a draw, but instead allowed White to focus all of its forces on the exposed f7 pawn.

And the Showdown in Saint Louis is not the time to flinch. Aronian’s demise came with 27...Rdd7, a retreating move designed to bolster f7 -- yet one that brought white rolling downhill with 28. e5!

Nakamura vs. Aronian Round 1 Analysis by GM Yasser Seirawan

In the surrounding GM norm invtitational at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, all eyes remain on 13-year-old Sam Sevian. Entering St. Louis with his three GM norms already secured and just 16 points away from FIDE’s necessary 2500 watermark, Sevian knocked down both GMs Denes Boros and Samy Shoker in the tournament’s first two rounds on Friday. The two wins push Sevian’s rating to 2493, tantalizingly close to breaking the record as the youngest American Grandmaster in history. The statistic is currently held by GM Ray Robson, at 14 years, 11 months, 16 days.