I (a 2300 player) would never consider 62...g5 in this position giving White a protected passed pawn. Nakamura either thought it was a drawing method, or the toughest defense, but Carlsen showed there is a clear winning plan for White. 62...g5 strikes me as a clear mistake but are other moves easier for White to win against?

I am trying to understand this decision by a 2800 player, thanks.

  • Actually, this is a very good question. I wondered it myself and the chessbase reporter said: "A shocker! We will never really understand why Nakamura decided to commit hara-kiri here." (en.chessbase.com/post/sinquefield-cup-2018-round-9) Aug 30 '18 at 17:23
  • One motive would be resolving the kingside tension. Though as you said, White gets a connected passed pawn, so I don't know whether ...g5 is good. Sep 28 '19 at 23:46

Let's say that Naka doesn't push g5 and instead waits (with for instance Rb7). Then it is white who can play g5+, taking advantage of the pin on the 6th rank. If black plays Kg6, then Kg4 and h5+ is unstoppable. It is clear that white is making progress. If black instead plays Kh5, then gxf6 hxf6, Rxf6 and black has lost a pawn and his king is completely stuck in a box. Rf5+ might be a possibility (taking on e5), black still cannot move the a pawn (due to an immediate Ra6 getting behind it), and again white has clearly made progress.

I believe Naka was sure that these lines were easy wins for white. Better to make the committal, but potentially holdable, g5 move, and try and hold the position with a static pawn structure, than sit and wait only to lose in a few moves.

  • 62...Kh7 63.g5 fg5 64.hg5 Re7 is another option. Sure White continues to squeeze but these lines appear to be unclear still while g5 is a clear loss I believe. Did Naka just not know this ending?
    – Ywapom
    Aug 30 '18 at 17:21
  • g5 not a "clear" loss if you believe you can stop white from penetrating. If so, this ending could be transformed into a philidor position. Unfortunately, you cannot stop an eventual king penetration... Aug 30 '18 at 19:52
  • This is definitely the why of nakamuras decision Sep 9 '18 at 4:46

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