A let-off for Hikaru Nakamura

This endgame has been included because it was mentioned recently in a posting on the English Chess Forum.

One of the most striking features of top chess in 2015 has been the rise of American GM Nakamura whose endgame play has improved considerably.

In this ending from 2013, however, he was rather lucky. The initial seven-man pawn ending is inevitably going to become a queen and pawn ending. Early in that phase, Nakamura made what could have been a fatal error but his opponent failed to take advantage.

(1) Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2723) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2775) [B01]
Thessaloniki FIDE GP Thessaloniki (6), 28.05.2013

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Bf5 6.Ne5 Nf6 7.Bd3 Bxd3 8.Qxd3 e6 9.0-0 Nbd7 10.Qg3 Qc7 11.Re1 Nb6 12.Qf3 Bb4 13.Bh6 gxh6 14.Qxf6 Rf8 15.a3 Bxc3 16.bxc3 Nd5 17.Qxh6 Nxc3 18.Qh4 Qe7 19.Qxh7 Nb5 20.Red1 Rd8 21.Nf3 Qf6 22.Qd3 Rg8 23.Rab1 b6 24.g3 Rg4 25.c3 Qf5 26.a4 Qxd3 27.Rxd3 Na3 28.Re1 Nc4 29.Ne5 Nxe5 30.Rxe5 Rd5 31.f4 Ke7 32.Kf2 Rg8 33.c4 Rd7 34.f5 Rg5 35.fxe6 Rxe5 36.exd7 Ra5 37.Rf3 Kxd7 38.Rxf7+ Ke6 39.Rf4 Rxa4 40.d5+ Kd7 41.dxc6+ Kxc6 42.g4 Ra2+ 43.Kg3 Ra1 44.g5 Rg1+ 45.Kh4 a5 46.Rg4 Rxg4+ 47.Kxg4 7-man rook ending47...Kd6 This is one of three moves to hold the draw (Kd6, Kd7 or ...a4). 48.Kh5 a4 49.g6 a3 50.g7 a2 51.g8Q a1Q Now queen ending 52.Qd8+ Kc6 53.Qc8+ Kd6 54.Qd8+ Kc6 55.Qd5+ Kc7 56.Qf7+ Kd6 57.h4 Qe5+ 58.Kh6

58...b5?? Three moves held the draw. Nakamura's move should have lost. 58...Qe3+ ; 58...Qh8+ ; 58...Kc5 59.cxb5! Qxb5 5-man queen ending; Dominguez missed the win. [59...Qh8+ holds out longer, losing in 78. 60.h5? Allows Black to improve his king position. [60.Kg7! wins in 49; 60.Qf6+ or Qg6+ or Qf4+ win. 60...Ke5! Back on the drawing path. 61.Kg7 Qc6! 62.h6 Qg2+! 63.Qg6 Qb7+! 64.Qf7 Qg2+! 65.Kh8 Qa8+! 66.Qg8 Here Black has five moves to hold. 66...Qf3 This is one of them. 67.Qg6 67.h7 would have obliged Black to find 67...Qh5! which prevents Qe8+. 68.Qb8+ Kf6 Ke6 also ok. 69.Qb6+ Kf7 or Ke7. The White king cannot get out of the corner. Dominguez probably thought Nakamura would easily find this and so tried something else. 67...Qf8+ Also Qa8 or Kd4 hold. 68.Kh7 Qf3 69.Qg7+ Ke6 70.Kg8 Qh5 One of three moves to hold. 71.h7 Qe8+ 72.Qf8 Qg6+ 73.Kh8 Qf7! Since the queen exchange stalemates White there is no possibility of progress now against sensible play by Black who only needs to keep his Q on f7 and his K adjacent to her. 74.Qc8+ Ke7 75.Qc7+ Ke8 76.Qe5+ Kd7 77.Qb5+ Ke7 78.Qg5+ Ke8 79.Qg8+ Last try 79...Qf8 Immediately ends the game but Ke7 also holds the draw. 80.Qxf8+ Kxf8 1/2-1/2

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