- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

It may not be 100 percent politically correct these days, but one of my old chess books talked about certain players having “hung an Indian sign on” — established an overwhelming dominance over — a rival.

Morphy, in his short career, often simply outclassed the competition, including a 12-3 edge in decisive games over the German world champion Adolf Anderssen. Capablanca, unbeatable in his prime, ran up the score against some of the top players of his day, including Janowski (9-1), Bogoljubov (5-0) and longtime American champion Frank Marshall (21-2).

Some head-to-head records are harder to explain. Latvian great Mikhail Tal was a world champ and even boasted a plus-score against Bobby Fischer, but against fellow Soviet GM Lev Polugaevsky, he had but two wins against eight losses in his career. Boris Spassky had an inexplicably tough time against Anatoly Karpov, with a 2-14 record.

Among today’s stars, the most improbable imbalance had been U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura’s unblemished record of failure against Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen.

Having a minus score against Carlsen is of course no disgrace, but the Norwegian had racked up a startling 12-0 record with 18 draws in games played at classical time controls against the American, even as Nakamura more than held his own against virtually all of his other super-GM rivals.

But the shutout is over, as Nakamura finally shed the Indian sign in the very first round of the elite Bilbao Grand Slam Masters tournament now underway in the Spanish city, doing so from the Black side of a Fianchettoed Dragon Sicilian. White sacrifices a pawn, and Nakamura has to ensure some nervous moments for his boxed-in queen (18. Bc1 g5 19. Bxh3 Qxh3 18. Bxg5 is bad because of 18Nxg4! 19. fxg4 Bxa1 20. Qxg4+ 21. Kh1 Qxe4+! [Qxg5?? 22. Rg1], and Black is up), but after 22. f4 e6! 23. c4 Rfd8 24. Rde1 Ne8, Black has consolidated, with an extra pawn and the better pieces.

Carlsen’s bid for active play only hands the d-file to his opponent, and after 34. Qh3 Qd1 35. Qe3 e5! 36. Qg3 (fxe5 fxe5 37. Rxf5? is bad because of 37Qg4+, picking off the rook) 37Rg6 37. Kh2 exf4 38. Qxf4 Qh5+, Black’s preponderance of kingside forces puts White’s king in mortal peril. With 45. Kh2 Qd4!, Black locks down the long diagonal and gives his king an escape route.

The rest is a mopping-up operation: 46. b4 Kg7 (unpinning the knight) 47. Qc7+ Kh8 48. Qc8+ Rg8 49. Qxf5 Nf3+ 50. Kh3 Qd6, and Carlsen with no defense to the twin threats of 51Rg3 mate and 51Qh6+.

Carlsen rebounded like a champ with two straight wins, including one over Sergey Karjakin, the Russian grandmaster who will try to take his crown in their title match this November in New York. (Both players may have been holding back their “A” games ahead of that match.)

From the diagrammed position, the Norwegian whips up a raging kingside attack seemingly from nothing with 31. g4 a5 32. Rg2 Nh7 33. h4 Rb6 34. g5 Kh8 35. Rfg1 f5? (White’s attack has been building, but this panicky move creates more problems than it solves; tougher was 35Rg6) 36. Qh3! Rb4? (suicidal, as the rook now plays no role in the defense; 36Rd6 37. gxh6 Bxh6 38. exf6 Nf6 at least puts up a fight) 37. gxh6 Bxh6 38. Qg3 Nf6 39. Qg6, and there’s no defense. After 39Ng4 (Ng8 40. Qh5 Qd6 41. Rg6 is crushing) 40. Rxg4!, Black resigned as 40fxg4 41. Qxh6+ Kg8 42. Qg6+ Kh8 43. Qh5+ Kg7 44. Rxg4+ Kf6 45. Qg6 is mate.

Carlsen-Nakamura, Bilbao Masters Final, July 2016

1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 d6 3. Nbc3 a6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nf6 8. O-O O-O 9. b3 Nc6 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Bb2 Qa5 12. Na4 Bg4 13. Qe1 Qh5 14. f3 Bh3 15. g4 Qh6 16. Rd1 g5 17. Bc1 Bxg2 18. Kxg2 Qg6 19. h4 gxh4 20. Qxh4 d5 21. g5 dxe4 22. f4 e6 23. c4 Rfd8 24. Rde1 Ne8 25. Nc5 Nd6 26. Qf2 f5 27. Bb2 Nf7 28. Bxg7 Kxg7 29. Qg3 Rd6 30. Rd1 Rad8 31. Rxd6 Rxd6 32. Qc3+ Kg8 33. Rf2 Qh5 34. Qh3 Qd1 35. Qe3 e5 36. Qg3 Rg6 37. Kh2 exf4 38. Qxf4 Qh5+ 39. Kg1 Qd1+ 40. Kh2 Qh5+ 41. Kg1 Nxg5 42. Qb8+ Kg7 43. Qe5+ Kh6 44. Qf4 Qd1+ 45. Kh2 Qd4 46. b4 Kg7 47. Qc7+ Kh8 48. Qc8+ Rg8 49. Qxf5 Nf3+ 50. Kh3 Qd6 White resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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