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2007 Barcelona - Krasenkow vs. Nakamura
Every Move Explained

This game was played in October 2007 at the Magistral Ciutat de Barcelona (Casino de Barcelona) chess tournament between Mikhail Krasenkow of Poland and Hikaru Nakamura of the USA. Krasenkow had the White pieces, Nakamura the Black.


At the time this game was played, Hikaru Nakamura, age 19, was ranked 61st in the world (FIDE rating 2648). Mikhail Krasenkow, age 43, was ranked 44th (2668).

Nakamura earned the master title from the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) at age 10 by achieving a 2200 USCF rating. He earned the GM title at age 15. He won the 2005 U.S. Championship in December 2004 at age 17. Like many young players, he calculates complicated positions easily, has an aggressive no-holds-barred style, and is a phenomenal blitz player.

Krasenkow, born in Moscow, moved to Poland in 1992. He earned the IM title in 1988 and the GM title in 1989.

Nakamura played the Black pieces.

Next move: 1.Nf3 • For more about White's first move, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Initial Position.


Krasenkow is a firm devotee of closed opening systems. He opens 1.d4 in more than half of his games with White, plays 1.Nf3 often, and occasionally varies with 1.c4.

White's first move, when it doesn't transpose into one of the other closed openings, is known as the Réti Opening or Réti System. For a discussion of the ideas behind 1.Nf3, see Every Move Explained, Petrosian - Pachman 1.Nf3.

Next move: 1...Nf6


Nakamura plays many different opening systems and is not reticent about playing bizarre or unusual openings. He answers 1.Nf3 with 1...Nf6 more often than with other moves, but also plays 1...d5 and 1...f5 when it suits him. With the White pieces, he has a preference for 1.e4, but also plays 1.d4 and 1.c4.

The widespread use of computer analysis has made the choice of chess opening system more complicated than it was in pre-computer eras. The most popular openings have been studied deeply using chess playing software and the games of the top players are available in massive databases containing all known, important games. This has made it relatively easy for players to prepare specific openings against specific opponents.

A large opening repertoire is one of the defenses modern masters use to counteract this easy analysis. Like a boxer who keeps moving to confuse the opponent, a chess player keeps shifting his openings.

Next move: 2.c4


White's second move immediately steers the game into an English Opening, characterized by 1.c4. The position shown on the board is often reached by the moves 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3.

For a discussion of the responses to 1.c4, see Chess Openings - English Opening. • For a discussion of sample continuations after 1.c4 Nf6, see Chess Openings - English Opening 1...Nf6

The move 2.c4 is Krasenkow's favorite continuation after 1.Nf3 Nf6, but he also continues 2.d4 in a fair number of games. This move steers into the opening systems that start 1.d4.

Next move: 2...e6


One of Black's early decisions in the closed openings is the development of the Kingside Bishop. It can be developed on the a1-h8 diagonal by moving ...g6, or it can be developed on the a3-f8 diagonal by moving ...e6. The two moves ...g6 and ...e6 are rarely played together early in the game, because they weaken the dark squares on the Kingside.

Nakamura plays both ...g6 and ...e6 systems, with a preference for developing the Bishop via ...g6.

Next move: 3.g3


In most games that start with a closed opening -- 1.d4, 1.c4, or 1.Nf3 -- White will eventually, and usually within the first 10 moves, make all three of those moves, as well as Nb1-c3. Since White has already played 1.Nf3 and 2.c4, both 3.d4 and 3.Nc3 would be good third moves in the current game.

White's other early decisions involve the development of the Bishops. One or both can be fianchettoed on the board's long diagonal or they can be developed on their long start diagonals: the c1-h6 diagonal for the Queenside Bishop, and the a6-f1 diagonal for the Kingside Bishop. White decides that, in the current game, the Kingside Bishop will be developed on its long diagonal.

In previous games that reached this position, Krasenkow played equally 3.d4, 3.Nc3, and 3.g3. He is an expert in the Catalan Opening, characterized by 1.d4, 2.c4, and 3.g3.

Next move: 3...d5


After having played ...e6, Black often plays the move ...d5 quickly. On top of staking a claim in the center, it opens the square d7 for the development of Black's Queenside minor pieces.

In the given position 3...d5 is superior to 3...d6. On d6, the Pawn obstructs the diagonal of the King's Bishop, reducing its choice of moves to ...Be7. The move ...d6 is played more often after ...g6, when there is no problem of obstructing the same Bishop.

The move 4...dxc4 is not yet a threat. White could recapture the Pawn immediately with 5.Qa4+ and 6.Qxc4.

Next move: 4.Bg2


Having prepared the development of the Bishop to g2, White follows through. The Kingside is now clear for castling O-O.

White is not afraid of 4...dxc4. The Pawn is easily recaptured, while the Bishop on g2 would have its long diagonal blocked by one less Pawn.

Next move: 4...Be7


Black also develops the Kingside Bishop to its natural square. On b4, it would be vulnerable to attack by a2-a3 followed by b2-b4, with a quick gain of space on the Queenside for White. On c5, it would be subject to attack by d2-d4, essentially giving White a free move for the development of the Queenside Bishop.

On d6, it would not be subject to immediate attack, but would have to watch out for d2-d4 followed by c4-c5, again with gain of space for White and a corresponding cramp for Black on the Queenside. Furthermore, the Bishop on d6 has no hope of attacking White's castled King, efficiently protected by the Pawn on g3 with its two supporting Pawns on f2 and h2.

Black has other moves that are not bad, but less attractive. The move 4...d4 lacks punch because the Knight is not on c3; White could continue 5.b4, and if 5...Bxb4, then 6.Qa4+ Nc6 7.Ne5. Moves like 4...b6, 4...c5, 4...c6, and 4...dxc4 could also be played, but why give White information about future plans?

Next move: 5.O-O


White has spent three of the first four moves developing the Kingside, which now presents the safest haven for the King. Queenside castling O-O-O would take a long time to prepare and the safety of the King has already been compromised by c2-c4.

The move 5.d4 would transpose into the Catalan Opening. Krasenkow apparently had no intention of going that route for this particular game.

Next move: 5...O-O


Black has also spent three of the first four moves developing the Kingside. With the White King castled on the Kingside and a White Bishop developed on the a8-h1 diagonal, Queenside castling O-O-O would present an enormous risk.

Both players will now devote thought and tempi to developing their respective Queensides. Where will the remaining minor pieces be positioned?

Next move: 6.b3


The move 6.d4 would again transpose into the Catalan Opening. The move played in the game, 6.b3, is the most popular alternative in the position. Tactically, it supports the Pawn on c4, defending against any threat of ...dxc4. Strategically, it prepares for the development of the dark squared Bishop on the long diagonal.

Many different moves have been tried by Black in this position: 6...b6, 6...c5, and 6...c6. An overriding concern is how to develop the Queenside. The Knight will probably go to d7, and there are three ways to develop the Bishop: on the c8-h3, a8-h1, and a6-f1 diagonals. With the Knight on d7, the last two possibilities are better for the Bishop, but which to choose?

Next move: 6...a5


Black defers the decision on deployment of the b- and c-Pawns, launching a Pawn against the White Queenside Pawn structure. The move 6...a5 grabs a little more space and prepares an eventual ...a4 followed by ...axb3. This would open the file for Black's Queenside Rook.

Black can afford to make a few extra moves for development, because the position is closed. There are no immediate threats on either side.

White has several possible moves. In addition to the obvious developments Bc1-b2 and Nb1-c3, the move a2-a3, preparing to answer ...a4 with b3-b4, is playable. While 7.d4 would be met with 7...a4, the less committal 7.d3 is possible.

Next move: 7.Nc3


White develops the Knight to its natural square. On top of attacking d5, which is adequately protected, the Knight prevents an immediate ...a4.

Black now has a number of options. The move 7...d4, attacking the Knight, suggests itself, although this would release the tension and make the advanced Pawn on d4 a possible target. The minor piece developments 7...Nbd7 and 7...b6 (preparing a Bishop move on the a6-c8 diagonal) are also possible. After 7...b6, there is no way for White to take immediate advantage of the open a8-h1 diagonal. Black chooses another plan.

Next move: 7...c6


Black defers all decisions on the minor pieces and improves the Queenside Pawn structure. This is again possible because of the absence of direct threats by White.

The game move 7...c6 supports the Pawn on d5 and sets up a Pawn chain (b7-c6-d5) on the a8-h1 diagonal, an effective defense against the Bishop on g2. It also prepares for the development of the Queen by ...Qc7 or ...Qb6. All options are still open for both Black's Queenside minor pieces.

A more subtle effect of the Pawn on c6 is to prevent Nc3-b5. Now White has to consider what to do with the Knight on c3 in case of ...d4.

Next move: 8.d4


White stops the threat of ...d4 by blocking Black's d-Pawn. The move 8.Bb2 was also possible, because if 8...d4, then 9.Na4, and White will again have play against the advanced d-Pawn.

Next move: 8...Nbd7


After playing 7...c6, which took one square away from the Black Knight, Black is left with a choice of two squares for the piece. The move 8...Na6 is less attractive because it allows the White Knight to occupy the center by Nf3-e5.

The a6-square is also looking like a good place to develop the light squared Bishop, where it will take aim at several soft spots in the White camp, starting with the Pawn on c4.

Next move: 9.Qc2


White defers the decision on developing the Bishop. Perhaps it will find service more useful on the c1-h6 diagonal rather than the long a1-h8 diagonal.

Why choose the square c2 to develop the Queen? First of all, the Queen doesn't have a lot squares available to it. On d3, it would present another target for a Black Bishop on a6. On d2, it would block its own Bishop's diagonal.

Defensively, the move 9.Qc2 prepares to protect the Pawn on c4. Offensively, it prepares e2-e4, which would create tension in the center and look to open the diagonal for the Bishop on g2. Now that White is nearing full development, it is time to start thinking of a middle game plan.

Next move: 9...b6


The last Black minor piece to be developed is the Queenside Bishop. Black's 9...b6 prepares for its transfer to two attractive diagonals. On a6, the Bishop will attack the c-Pawn for a second time.

White now has to consider the evolution of the game over the next few moves. The decision on where to develop the Bishop remains. After that, the Rooks will be connected and available to move to a number of attractive files.

Next move: 10.e4


White wants to put pressure on Black by increasing the tension in the center. The Black Pawn on d5 is now attacked three times and defended three times. The Bishop on g2 is a potential fourth attacker. On top of that, the e-Pawn can move to e5, attacking the Knight on f6. Where would it go?

If Black eases the tension with ...dxe4, the Pawn on c6 will become vulnerable. Even worse, the entire Black Queenside would come under pressure by the fianchettoed Bishop, no longer restrained by the c6-d5 Pawn chain.

Next move: 10...Ba6


Black ignores the problems with the e-Pawn. The move 10...Ba6 completes development of the minor pieces. It also attacks the Pawn on c4 a second time, when it is defended only once, and pins it to the Rook on f1.

As often happens in the transition from the opening to the middle game, the tension in the game is increasing and tactical possibilities are multiplying. Both players will seek to release the tension with exchanges, but only if it confers a long term advantage for their side.

White must have now considered the pros and cons of 11.e5. The response 11...Ne8 is forced, but then what? White has released the pressure on d5 and must find a solution to the threat on c4. The Black Knight could climb back into the game with ...Nc7, when ...c5 becomes possible.

Next move: 11.Nd2


White decides to maintain the tension in the center and foregoes the push to e5. The move 11.Nd2 protects the c4-Pawn a second time. It also opens the diagonal for the Bishop on g2, discovering an attack on the d5-Pawn. Although that Pawn is attacked four times and protected three times, it is not yet vulnerable, because the attacking Pawn on c4 is pinned to the Rook.

White hopes that Black will now release the tension in the center by ...dxc4 or ...dxe4. Both moves would put White in command of the center.

White's move has one small drawback, perhaps overlooked before it was made. The d4-Pawn is no longer protected.

Next move: 11...c5


Black ignores the possibilities to decrease the central tension, increasing it instead. Now attacked four times (three times for real) and defended twice, the d5-Pawn is abandoned to its fate. In return, Black threatens the unprotected d4-Pawn. Allowing its capture would threaten the Knight on c3 force it to escape to a safer square.

If now 12.dxc5, Black takes advantage of the unprotected d4-square a different way by playing 12...d4. This leads to an exchange sacrifice by 13.Na4 bxc5 14.e5 Nxe5 15.Bxa8 Qxa8. The Black Queen and light squared Bishop would then operate unopposed on the a8-h1 diagonal, putting the White King at considerable risk, while the White Rooks would lack an open file to break into the White position.

If instead 12.e5, 12...Ng4, where the Knight is safe for the next few moves. If attacked, it can get back into the game by ...Nh6, a maneuver which was not available before 11.Nd2.

Next move: 12.exd5


White avoids the variations mentioned in the previous note, both of which give Black a good game, and heads for a position where both sides have chances. Perhaps the move was chosen by the process of elimination: 'This move looks bad and that move looks bad; this move is not clear, so let's try it.'

What are the pros and cons of 12.exd5? The White Pawn on d4 is lost, but the extra Pawn on d5 is adequately protected. Perhaps the Black Pawn that ends up on d4 can be recaptured. As for the light squared Bishops, the diagonal for White's will remain open, while that for Black's looks to be closed. It's hard to say which side is better.

Next move: 12...cxd4


If Black doesn't want to lose a Pawn, this capture is forced. The Pawn now attacks the Knight on c3. Once it moves, Black can think of playing ...exd5, when the recapture by the Knight is no longer possible.

Where should the Knight move to avoid the Pawn's attack? The moves 13.Nb5 and 13.Ne2 look equally plausible, when Black continues 13...exd5 in either case.

Another possibility is 13.d6, attacking the Bishop and discovering an attack on the Rook. After 13...Bxd6, the win of the exchange by 14.Bxa8 would again leave the White King vulnerable on the long diagonal. White could play instead 14.Nce4, again a tough fight for both sides.

Next move: 13.Nb5


White opts to keep the central tension and looks to capture the Pawn on d4. Ths move, which also threatens d5-d6, is more aggressive than the similar move 13.Ne2.

If now 13...Bxb5, White has 14.dxe6, attacking the Knight on d7 and discovering an attack on a8. If 14...Rc8, pinning the c-Pawn, White recaptures the piece with 15.exd7, then aims to win the weak Pawn on d4.

Next move: 13...exd5


Somewhat miraculously, this Pawn capture solves all of Black's tactical problems. First, it stops the threat of d5-d6. It can't be recaptured because the Knight on b5 would be en prise (also true if the Knight had moved 13.Ne2). It keeps the long diagonal closed, protecting Black's Rook. Finally, it maintains the pressure on White's c4-Pawn, which will now become a weak point in the White position.

Next move: 14.Nxd4


White keeps the material balance by recapturing the unprotected Pawn on d4. If White defers the capture by 14.Bb2, Black could capture 14...Bxb5, leaving White with a crippled Pawn majority on the a-/b-files, in effect two Pawns behind.

White now threatens 15.Nc6, forking the Black Queen and Bishop. After 15...Qe8, White would win a piece with 16.Re1.

Next move: 14...Rc8


Black meets the threat of 15.Nc6, removes the Rook from the long diagonal where it has been vulnerable for several moves, and attacks the c-Pawn a third time.

Although the c-Pawn is also protected three times, it is pinned on the file and on the diagonal. Black now threatens to win it with 15...dxc4 16.bxc4 Ne5.

Next move: 15.Re1


White moves the Rook out of attack from the Bishop on a6, eliminating one of the pins on the c-Pawn. At the same time, the Rook stops Black from attacking the c-Pawn once more with ...Ne5. It also attacks the Bishop e7, which is protected for the moment. Given the chance, White will play Nd4-f5, attacking the Bishop a second time and placing the Knight on a strong square where it threatens the Black King and is not easily dislodged.

Black could now play 15...Bc5. This would be a perfectly good move, except that it cuts the pin on the c-file and shelters the White Queen from the Black Rook.

Next move: 15...b5


Black attacks the c-Pawn a fourth time. Defended only three times, it is at risk of being captured by 16...bxc4 17.bxc4 Bxc4 (not 17...dxc4 18.Nc6). Furthermore, Black threatens ...Bb4, removing another defender of the c-Pawn.

A less obvious consequence of 15...b5 is that it prepares ...Qb6. The Queen on b6 combined with the Bishop on c5 would create a powerful battery against White's f2.

Next move: 16.Bb2


White activates the last undeveloped minor piece, planning to hold the position through tactics. The Bishop move 16.Bb2 protects the Knight on d4, and aims at Black's King position, the squares f6 and g7 in particular.

Black could now win a Pawn with 16...bxc4 17.bxc4 Bxc4 18.Nxc4 Rxc4. White would have some compensation in the Bishop pair and the strong Knight on d4.

Next move: 16...Re8


Black spurns the win of the c-Pawn. The move 16...Re8 protects the Bishop, thereby freeing the Black Queen to move into the game. Black could have also played 16...Bb4 or 16...Bc5, but these moves are still available.

Next move: 17.Qd1


The White Queen moves out of the pin. Both 18.cxd5 and 18.cxb5, winning a Pawn in either case, are threatened.

Next move: 17...bxc4


Black eliminates the dual threat of the c-Pawn capturing on d5 or b5. Taking instead with 17...dxc4 invites 18.Nc6, when Black is forced to capture 18...Rxc6.

The capture 17...bxc4 has the secondary benefit of opening the b-file. Black's ...Qb6 will attack the Bishop on b2.

Next move: 18.bxc4


White has nothing better than to recapture the c-Pawn. As on the last few moves, White is willing to sacrifice a Pawn to obtain some counterplay with the Bishops.

Next move: 18...Qb6


Black develops the Queen to the square that was left vacant with 15...b5. The Queen attacks the unprotected Bishop on b2, which must remain on the long diagonal to protect the Knight on d4, also under attack by the Queen.

In addition to attacking the two minor pieces, the Black Queen looks down the diagonal at the Pawn on f2 and the King on g1. After the further ...Bc5, the Black pressure on that diagonal will become much stronger.

Next move: 19.Rb1


White protects the undefended Bishop. At the same time, the Rook move prepares a discovered attack on the Black Queen after a Bishop move off b2.

Next move: 19...dxc4


After avoiding this move for so long, Black finally plays it. This allows the move Nd4-c6, but Black has seen further ahead.

If now 20.Bc3, Black ducks out of trouble with 20...Qc5. This would still have been better for White than the game continuation.

Next move: 20.Nc6


White attacks the Bishop on e7 a second time. He was undoubtedly expecting a move like 20...Bb4, when 21.Rxe8+ Rxe8 22.Bd4 gives White some hope of recovering the Pawn.

Next move: 20...Rxc6


White was certainly not expecting this move. The move allows a discovered attack on the Black Queen with 21.Bxf6. The sequence 21...Nxf6 22.Rxb6 Rxb6 would then leave Black with Rook, Bishop, and Pawn for the Queen. White soon wins the a- or c-Pawn, getting a material advantage.

Next move: 21.Bxf6


White carries through with the discovered attack on the Queen.

Next move: 21...Qxf2+


Black sacrifices the Queen, a move certain to find its way into future collections of brilliant chess moves. The move alone, which few players would find in the given position, is worth '!!'. White probably had the move in mind when playing 18...Qb6, making it worthy of another '!'.

The Black sacrifice draws the White King into the open space in front of its own Kingside Pawns.

Next move: 22.Kxf2


Black accepts the sacrifice. The only alternative is 22.Kh1, when Black takes the Bishop on f6, winning a piece.

Next move: 22...Bc5+


This is the main idea behind the Queen sacrifice. The Bishop not only checks, it also prevents the King from escaping back into its corner.

Now 23.Kf1 loses to 23...c3+, 23.Re3 to 23...Bxe3+, and 23.Bd4 to 23...Bxd4+. If you don't see why these variations are bad for White, study them to see the different ideas.

Next move: 23.Kf3


White plays the only move that offers any hope of survival. Now the game turns into a King hunt, where it is nearly impossible to calculate all variations over the board. White hopes that Black does not have a checkmate, when a perpetual check might offer salvation to both players.

Next move: 23...Rxf6+


Down an entire Queen, Black recovers a minor piece and drives the White King in front of its own Pawns.

Next move: 24.Kg4


White plays the only move to escape check. The Black Rooks control adjacent files; the Bishops control adjacent diagonals. The White King is in a mating net.

Next move: 24...Ne5+


Black brings another piece into the attack. The Knight move also opens the c8-h3 diagonal, where the light-squared Black Bishop will participate to take more squares away from the King. For example, if now 25.Rxe5, then 25...Bc8+.

Next move: 25.Kg5


In this position all of White's moves lose. With ...Bc8, Black will attack all the remaining safe squares of the King.

Next move: 25...Rg6+


25...Bc8 also wins.

Next move: 26.Kh5


White tries to avoid checks by the Bishop on c8, but it doesn't make much difference. Black can also find lines where ...Bc8 wins as a quiet move, i.e. without a check.

Next move: 26...f6


Black sets up a checkmate with ...Rh6, giving Black the chance to survive a few extra moves. The move 26...Bc8 would also win in a few moves.

Next move: 27.Rxe5


White counters the immediate mate on ...Rh6 by eliminating the piece that covers g4.

Next move: 27...Rxe5+


Now the Rooks are working on adjacent ranks.

Next move: 28.Kh4


Black's move is the only legal move in the position.

Next move: 28...Bc8


The Bishop arrives on the square that has been the key move since the Queen sacrifice. White can now postpone checkmate for at most six moves. White resigns.

The King hunt provides an excellent conclusion to a thrilling game.

Next move: 0-1

For all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series, see
Improve Your Game.