2015 London Chess Classic (London, England)

After a banner season of strong event including the FIDE Grand Prix, FIDE World Cup and open events such as Millionaire Chess and Qatar Masters, the last leg of the Grand Chess Tour will reach its climax with the London Chess Classic in an expanded format. Unlike last year’s six-player format, this year will be ten players. Nine players have competed in the previous two Grand Prix events (Norway and Sinquefield) and Michael Adams will be the wildcard nominee.

Michael Adams - Viswanathan Anand, 0-1. Photos by Ray Morris-Hill.

Viswanathan Anand (right) won this encounter
and edged the field in last year’s event.
Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

Viswanathan Anand silenced many critics by winning last year’s contest. Since losing his world championship title to Magnus Carlsen, Anand has shown more zeal in his play. While many will say Carlsen’s poor performances is due to boredom, the same assessment was not made for Anand.

Many assumed it was loss of strength due to age. He has caused people to reassess ageism as both Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik remain elite players. In fact, fellow middle-ager Michael Adams is no easy out in this tournament. Nevertheless, the young players will be looking for blood. This tournament is a must-win for Carlsen to gain some momentum after several results below his standard.

Nakamura peering at the Carlsen's game against MVL. Photo by chess.com.

Carlsen will be facing players on the prowl.
Photo by Mike Klein (chess.com).

The “Sofia Rules” will be enforced such that no draws will occur in the first 40 moves. The tournament will adopt the football scoring of three points for a win and one point for a draw.

Will Aronian be in good form?
Photo by Lennart Ootes.

Along with the 7th London Chess Classic, Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) has announced additional events. The London Knockout will feature eight of Britain’s top players in a format that is certain to bring excitement at the Conference Centre in Kensington, London. There is the Pro-Biz Cup designed to involved the business community with chess promotion and charity.

There is also a FIDE Open event, a 9-round Swiss format with a £15,500 prize fund. The Super Rapidplay Open will return on 12th-13th December and will be a 10-round FIDE rated open with all players playing in the same section and competing for section prizes.

(Drum Coverage from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

2014 London Chess Classic
December 4-13, 2015 (London, England)
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Carlsen, Magnus GM Norway
2834
2 Topalov, Veselin GM Bulgaria
2803
3 Anand, Viswanathan GM India
2796
4 Nakamura, Hikaru GM USA
2793
5 Aronian, Levon GM Armenian
2787
6 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
2787
7 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
2784
8 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
2773
9 Grischuk, Alexander GM Russia
2746
10 Adams, Michael GM England
2737
(Official Site)

Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

21 Comments

  1. Round #1: Friday, 4 December 2015

    Veselin Topalov 0-1 Anish Giri
    Alexander Grischuk ½-½ Hikaru Nakamura
    M Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Magnus Carlsen
    Fabiano Caruana ½-½ Levon Aronian
    Viswanathan Anand ½-½ Michael Adams

    Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, Michael Adams, Veselin Topalov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    2015 London Classic participants: Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, Michael Adams, Veselin Topalov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    The first round of the London Chess Classic kicked off with very tense play. Although there was only one decisive game, there was drama in a few of the games. Anish Giri mounted a sparkling comeback after being outplayed by Veselin Topalov. Afterwards, Giri attributed his winning to his eye for “cheapos” but it was serendipity that won the order of the day.

    Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri had an epic climax.

    Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri had an epic climax.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Picking up the action in the middlegame, 12…e5!? was an interesting break with pressure on the a1-h8 diagonal for black. Aesthetically, it appeared that black had the advantage with a knight ensconced on the queen six square. This was followed by a quick mobilization of his pieces. After 20…Qxd4 fans were saying that black was crushing, but it was an illusion. After 21.a5! Nd7 22.Ra4 Qe5 23.Nxd5 white was fighting for the initiative.

    Giri threw cold water into Topalov’s face with 33…Nxf2! with a scintillating attack to follow. Black’s 35…Qd5! makes the idea clear. White is mated.

    A brawl ensued after 26…g5!? After 27.Qb4, the “cheapo potential” tactics were developing on the board. There were pieces splayed all over the board, but after 32…Ne4, it appeared the game would fizzle out if white played the natural 33.Bxe4 eliminating the dangerous knight. However, the Bulgarian chose to pluck a pawn with 33.Qxa7?? and got a cold shower after 33…Nxf2! Suddenly black is winning! After 34.Bxe2 the intermezzo 34…Nxh3+ was decisive.

    After his 35.Kf1, Topalov may have missed 35…Qd5! threatening mate. It is well-known that the queen and the knight make a deadly combination since they cover a wide range of squares in a close distance. This was illustrated perfectly and white went down in flames after the innocuous 36.Bh5. Black mates in eight after 36…Qh1+.

    Hikaru Nakamura missed his chance.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Hikaru Nakamura wants to make a move to compete for the Grand Tour title and had a chance to get off to a good start, but faltered after developed a winning advantage. In a Berlin Defense, Nakamura got the edge after white’s ambitious 21.f4?! After two minutes, the American belted out 21…f5 and grabbed an advantage after 22.Rad1 g6 23.Ne6 fxg4 24.Nxc7? However, after 24…Rc8! black played 24…Ra7? and started floundering with knight checks and settled for a three-fold repetition. Black’s best path to victory would have been 28…Bxd7! Nakamura appeared to be very disappointed at the result.

    Viswanathan Anand played an uncharacteristic 1.c4 against Michael Adams and got absolutely nothing out of it. Perhaps he is saving his preparation for a particular player… or maybe he is concerned about devastating flooding wreaking havoc in Chennai. Regardless of the reason, Anand effectively got an easy day at the expense of a white game.

    Video by IM Sagar Shah.

    Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian entered a Ruy Lopez, but there were none of the usual fireworks that burst after a positional struggle. A comical position resulted with an impenetrable barrier created by the pawns. Yasser Seirawan and Alejandro Ramirez brought up an interesting case of a player who invoked a ruling that a player cannot lose in such a game unless there is a position that can produce a loss. For example, K+R vs. K+N could still be declared a win despite it being a “book draw”. With the pawns creating such a barrier.

    Carlsen trotted out the Sveshnikov and held comfortably. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Carlsen trotted out the Sveshnikov and held comfortably.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and World Champion Magnus Carlsen played the minimum amount of moves and the game flatlined. In a well-known line in the Sveshnikov Sicilian, but ended up in a perpetual check. Moral victory for the champion at the expense of a few Elo points.

    Games of Round #1 (Notes by IM Sagar Shah)

    Games (Round #1): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-1.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826

  2. Round #2: Saturday, 5 December 2015

    Anish Giri ½-½ Michael Adams
    Levon Aronian ½-½ Viswanathan Anand
    Magnus Carlsen ½-½ Fabiano Caruana
    Hikaru Nakamura ½-½ M Vachier-Lagrave
    Veselin Topalov ½-½ Alexander Grischuk

    Damp squib today in anticipated matchup. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Damp squib today in anticipated matchup.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Today’s games were easy to report on because there was not much action. Nakamura-MVL had a topsy-turvy battle where all three results were possible. Nakamura avoided the Grunfeld with 3.e3!? but ended up a tempo down in a Modern Benoni. This yielding of some initiative allowed black to obtain a dynamic position.

    As the game progressed, it wasn’t clear who was winning. In a queenless middlegame, the pieces pranced around the board. After a dramatic series of moves, white had an exchange, but had to keep black’s queenside pawns at bay. A draw was agreed.

    Anish Giri's shirt provided most of the color in today's games. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Anish Giri’s shirt provided most of the color in today’s games.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    In the other games, rather quiet play ensued when Giri-Adams was the first to draw despite having some play on the board. Carlsen-Caruana sidestepped the Berlin and white came out with a passed d-pawn, but the America kept an eye on it. The rook sacrifice for the perpetual check was a nice motif.

    Topalov-Grischuk was a fairly tame game that whittled down to a minor piece ending. Nothing left. Aronian-Anand saw a Ragozin without much imbalance. In the end, neither side wanted to jeopardize a worse position and a three-fold repetition followed.

    Games of Round #2

    Games (Round #2): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-2.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826

  3. Round #3: Sunday, 6 December 2015

    Alexander Grischuk ½-½ Anish Giri
    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 1-0 Veselin Topalov
    Fabiano Caruana ½-½ Hikaru Nakamura
    Viswanathan Anand ½-½ Magnus Carlsen
    Michael Adams ½-½ Levon Aronian

    Former World Champion missed his chances against a Berlin. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Former World Champion missed his chances against a Berlin.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    There are certain opening trends in top level chess. Over the years, we have seen many theoretical battles played out over the board until there is an epic game that turns the tide. Right now, that opening is the Berlin Defense against the Ruy Lopez. There were three games related to the Berlin which received reactions among viewers.

    Well… there you have it. We are in the era of the Berlin Defense popularized by Vladimir Kramnik as a risk-free response to the Ruy Lopez. All of the Berlin-related games were drawn, but not before some scares. Viswanathan Anand got the upper-hand against Magnus Carlsen’s Berlin, but made some inaccuracies and fell behind. In the end, he was able to hold the rook ending.

    Grischuk went in the tank for over an hour on move 20.
    Maybe the coffee isn’t strong enough.
    Photo by Amruta Mokal.

    The other Berlin Defense was handled by Anish Giri who also fell behind and was on the precipice of disaster. Alexander Grischuk had a healthy dose of preparation and at one point shared that the natural 19…Nxd6 loses! Giri did not go down that path, but ended up worse. Unfortunately, Grischuk had fallen low on time, made some inaccuracies and let Giri off the hook.

    month, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura played an exhibition match in which Caruana surprisingly won. Perhaps this gave him confidence. The all-American matchup didn’t go all the way to Berlin, but only halfway.

    Nakamura couldn't be pleased with his prep this round.

    Nakamura couldn’t be pleased with his prep this round.
    Photo by Amruta Mokal.

    The anti-Berlin with 4.d3 started a different type of game and the strategy almost paid off. It appeared that Caruana had positional grip with attacking chances after 15…b4. Nakamura decided to toss a pawn for activity and tied up white’s forces. Caruana’s attempt at counterplay yielded nothing and Nakamura took a half-point.

    The decisive game of the round was a Sicilian Najdorf (of course)… kill or be killed. Veselin Topalov is fortunate to have nine lives in this tournament because he’ll need them. He’s already lost two. The 6.h3 line has been employed at the top level to sidestep main lines of 6.Be2, 6.Bc4 and 6.Bg5. This move is the cousin of 6.g3 but there is the option of also playing g4 after h3. In actuality, MVL got nothing special out of the opening except a little space.

    MVL got an early Christmas present from Topalov.

    MVL got an early Christmas present from Topalov.
    Photo by Amruta Mokal.

    White then decided to raid the queenside and an imbalance was created and when the smoke cleared there was a white passed a-pawn. This pawn served as a distraction and black’s weakened kingside became a problem. Black’s 34…Rxa5? led down a path of destruction. The desperado 36…Rxf2 was losing, but 36…Qc1 gave more chances… probably still lost.

    Games of Round #3

    Games (Round #3): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-3.pgn

    Replay of Round #3

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826

  4. Round #4: Monday, 7 December 2015

    Anish Giri ½-½ Levon Aronian
    Magnus Carlsen ½-½ Michael Adams
    Hikaru Nakamura 1-0 Viswanathan Anand
    Veselin Topalov ½-½ Fabiano Caruana
    Alexander Grischuk ½-½ M Vachier-Lagrave

    Girl plays 1.Nc3 for ceremonial move. Would Carlsen keep that move? Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Girl plays 1.Nc3 for ceremonial move. Would Carlsen keep that move?
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    It is disrespectful to call Anand anyone's 'client' but you simply need to find a different way of putting it. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    It is disrespectful to call Anand anyone’s ‘client’ but you
    simply need to find a different way of putting it.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Games of Round #4

    Games (Round #4): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-4.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

  5. Round #5: Tuesday, 8 December 2015

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Anish Giri
    Fabiano Caruana ½-½ Alexander Grischuk
    Viswanathan Anand 1-0 Veselin Topalov
    Michael Adams ½-½ Hikaru Nakamura
    Levon Aronian ½-½ Magnus Carlsen

    Anand played a nice game today against Veselin Topalov. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Anand played a nice game today against Veselin Topalov.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Games of Round #5

    Games (Round #5): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-5.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

  6. Round #6: Thursday, 10 December 2015

    Anish Giri ½-½ Magnus Carlsen
    Hikaru Nakamura ½-½ Levon Aronian
    Veselin Topalov ½-½ Michael Adams
    Alexander Grischuk 1-0 Viswanathan Anand
    M Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Fabiano Caruana

    A very interesting scenario. Well done! Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    A very interesting scenario given tension in France. Well done!
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Not the game of the round, but a classic shot. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Not the game of the round, but a classic shot.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Games of Round #6

    Standings after Round #6

    1st-4th: Nakamura, Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave, Giri, 3.5
    5th-8th: Carlsen, Aronian, Caruana, Adams, 3.0
    9th: Anand, 2.5, 10th: Topalov, 1.5

    Games (Round #6): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-6.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

  7. Round #7: Friday, 11 December 2015

    Fabiano Caruana ½-½ Anish Giri
    Viswanathan Anand 0-1 M Vachier-Lagrave
    Michael Adams ½-½ Alexander Grischuk
    Levon Aronian 1-0 Veselin Topalov
    Magnus Carlsen 1-0 Hikaru Nakamura

    The world’s top ten is packed with only 20 Elo points between the 2-10 positions. Magnus Carlsen was still on top despite losing a boatload of points since reaching 2889 last year. He was on tap for a huge matchup today against his nemesis Hikaru Nakamura. Certainly this was an anticipated matchup.

    No matter the record, these two are intense rivals… and it shows.
    Photo by Amruta Mokal.

    What would Carlsen play? Would we see yet another Berlin Defense? A King’s Indian? Would we see 1.Nf3? The World Champion essayed 1.d4 and the game went into a Queen’s Gambit follow a little-tested path. Carlsen 16.d5! was the right idea to open up the position for his two bishops, a theme that would serve him well later on.

    An epic endgame ensues. Will the bishops reign supreme over the tricky knights?

    Nakamura’s 22…Bxc3 even gave Carlsen two bishops versus two knights with an objectively better structure… or what it? Soon black was finding difficulty in employing his knights and the bishops exerted tremendous pressure on the queenside. However, would Carlsen have enough? He has made a career out of playing out “drawn” ending only to goad his opponent into making unforced errors. Alas… that’s chess… a war of wills.

    The black knights trotted about the board looking to stifle the bishops. Maurice Ashley made an interesting point about the minor piece duel. Essentially bishops can determine when trades occur moreso than knights. After trading the rooks with 37.Rxd7 Nxd7 we entered an era where a masterpiece was painted.

    At first glance, It appears that black can hold this position, but white’s active king played a major role. After walking up the board with 38.Kg3, 43.Kf4, 44.Kg5, Carlsen weakened the black kingside with 46.h4, 52.h5 and 53.h6. Carlsen was very patient in probing the weakness, but hatch an ingenious plan. the bishops immobilized the knights, but Nakamura’s 62…f6? further weakened the defense.

    A brilliant stroke after 67.Kxf6!! Nxf4 68.Ke5 Nfe2 and black’s knights are locked out of their own house!

    As the black knights flailed away, Carlsen uncorked 67.Kxf6!! sacrificing one of his prized bishops. After 67…Nxf4 68.Ke5 Nfe2, both of black’s knights were simply banished in exile!
    In a very unique situation, the knights became clumsy behind a barrier trying to track down two streaking passed pawns. It turns out that Nakamura missed 71…Kg6! while battling severe zeitnot. Carlsen would not allow another chance. Instead Nakamura played 71.Kf8? and after 72.Ke4! (threatening Kd3!) the knights had to scramble to stop the pawns.

    Unbelievable.

    Black tried to sacrifice a piece to stop one of the passed pawns with the king blockading the other. However, in the end black was in total zugzwang. Heartbreaking loss for Nakamura who now is winless against 12 losses against Carlsen. You would think that eventually Nakamura would find a breakthrough. When this does happen, it will be interesting to see how Carlsen reacts. Here was Nakamura’s take on the game.

    Video by CCSCSL.

    In another thrilling encounter, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a brilliant attacking game against Viswanathan Anand to move into sole first place. The game was another Najdorf Variation, but this time we’d see the positional 6.Be2 variation championed by Anatoly Karpov in the 70s.

    The move 10.Qd3 has been seen as a modern way of playing this line. It was played recently by Carlsen in his white loss against Alexander Grischuk. After 10…0-0 Carlsen played 11.0-0 and lost a tough game. Anand decided not to repeat this discussion and opted for 11.c4!? MVL had certainly done homework and punched out with 11…b5!

    Nice finish by the Frenchman. There is no saving grace for Anand who did not receive a good birthday present today.

    MVL continued to play actively with 19…f5! and soon Anand was trying to untangle his mass of pieces. While black has good play, all three results were possible. That would be until white was forced to sacrifice the queen for a rook and knight. The material was practically equal, but black had a passed pawn while holding many threats on the kingside. After 32.Ne6 it appears white wins more material, but black hit with 32…Bxh2+ 33.Kh1 Rxf2! Thud.

    Devastating loss for Anand who has had a disappointing tournament. Certainly the flooding disaster in Chennai must be heavy on this mind despite him mentioning the safety of his family. Those close to the situation say that flooding plains reach six feet in some areas and is a national disaster. Health pandemics are quite possible in a country where the infrastructure is already quite shaky. Prayers go to India and to Indian chess community.

    Topalov was throttled by Aronian. When it rains, it pours. Photo by Amruta Mokal (CheBase India).

    Topalov was throttled by Aronian. When it rains, it pours.
    Photo by Amruta Mokal (ChessBase India).

    The other decisive game was between Armenia’s Levon Aronian and Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov. This main line symmetical English that ended up with a sharp skirmish with 9.b4!? After 9…cxb4 10.Nd5. It is not clear what black expected to get from this position, but was totally overrun after the suicidal 18…g5? Black’s pieces were cut off of its king’s defense by the strong white center and in the final position white has a bevy of threats. No mas!

    With the tournament clearly a lost cause, Fabiano Caruana trotted out the “Trompowsky Attack” against tournament Anish Giri. This opening is sometimes seen for shock value and can often catch black off guard. “Fabi” was hoping to hold onto his pawn long enough to gain time and lead in development. No dice. Giri was able to win the pawn back and go toe-to-toe in the middlegame which fizzled into a draw. Caruana weighs in on his “Tromp”.

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Adams-Grischuk saw a Najdorf with the 6.g3 variation. The Russian chose a Dragon setup, but the game quickly liquidated into an equal position. Not the most ambitious way to play for white, but with seven draws, Mickey Adams is holding his own and is on 50%.

    Games of Round #7

    Standings after Round #7

    1st: Vachier-Lagrave, 4.5
    2nd-5th: Carlsen, Giri, Grischuk, Aronian, 4.0
    6th-8th: Caruana, Nakamura, Adams, 3.5
    9th: Anand, 2.5, 10th: Topalov, 1.5

    Games (Round #7): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-7.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

  8. Round #8: Saturday, 12 December 2015
    Anish Giri 1-0 Hikaru Nakamura
    Veselin Topalov ½-½ Magnus Carlsen
    Alexander Grischuk ½-½ Levon Aronian
    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Michael Adams
    Fabiano Caruana ½-½ Viswanathan Anand

    Two players at opposite ends of field. Photo by Amruta Mokal.

    Despite losses last round, bright smiles for two national legends.

    Two players at opposite ends of field. Photo by Amruta Mokal.

    Two players at opposite ends of field,
    but still a fierce fight ahead.
    Photos by Amruta Mokal.

    Some very interesting games in the eight round despite only one decisive game. Front-runner Anish Giri was facing Hikaru Nakamura who was coming off of a tough loss against his nemesis Magnus Carlsen. That game ended in a bitter loss for the American, his 12th loss in classical chess against the World Champion.

    Anand tried to create counterplay with 37…a5! 38.Rxa5 b3 39. Ra7 b2. This caused white to relase his grip on the position and stop the racing b-pawn.

    There were some interesting struggles notably Caruana-Anand in the Catalan. There was 11.Ng5!? and the interesting 16.Bc1!TN The instructive ending coming out of the resulting middlegame as Anand was racing pawns down the board.

    Topalov-Carlsen had a very interesting scenario in that Carlsen tried for 50 moves to try to win a very lifeless ending. There was a unique predicament for Carlsen. He had to capture a pawn or move a pawn to restart the count. However, if he had done either, the game would have dissipated quickly. In the end, he had nothing better than to take the e-pawn to avoid the 50-move rule, but Topalov held easily.

    Carlsen explains to Anand why he took the pawn with 84. Nxe5. Photo by Amruta Mokal.

    Carlsen explains to Anand why he took the pawn with 84. Nxe5.
    If not, the 50-move rule would have been invoked!
    Photos by Amruta Mokal.

    Grischuk-Aronian was a tense struggle in an English where black employed a hedgehog-type structure. With the d-pawn missing it has a different character, but black executed novel play with 16..Ra7, 18…Qa8 and 22…h5 with raking bishops hitting at the imposing white center. After 32…Nde5 it appeared that Aronian had good play, but overlooked 36.Nh6+! making a draw.

    MVL-Adams had a theoretical game going all the way to move 23 before making a new move. After that, the game went only a few more moves before being drawn.

    Games of Round #8
    (Game notes by IM Sagar Shah)

    Standings after Round #8

    1st-2nd: Giri, Vachier-Lagrave, 5.0
    3rd-5th: Carlsen, Grischuk, Aronian, 4.5
    6th-7th: Caruana, Adams, 4.0
    8th: Nakamura, 3.5
    9th: Anand, 2.5
    10th: Topalov, 2.0

    Games (Round #8): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-8.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

  9. Round #9: Sunday, 13 December 2015
    Viswanathan Anand ½-½ Anish Giri
    Michael Adams ½-½ Fabiano Caruana
    Levon Aronian ½-½ Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    Magnus Carlsen 1-0 Alexander Grischuk
    Hikaru Nakamura ½-½ Veselin Topalov

    Two players at opposite ends of field. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Carlsen essayed 1.Nf3, but the game ended up in a Sicilian. Grischuk missed his chances in the end when zeitnot came back to haunt him. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    The last round of the London Chess Classic and the last event of the Grand Chess Tour was quite a finale. Adams-Caruana and Nakamura-Topalov were anti-climatic, but there were a few games that would determine who would win the tournament and the Grand Tour. Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were front-runners and decided against taking undue risks.

    In Aronian-MVL, the Armenian stated that he tried to take the Frenchman out of his preparation, but was unable to get anything out of the middlegame. The game petered out into a drawn rook and pawn ending and MVL would have at least a tie for first after Anish Giri drew with Viswanathan Anand. That game was a Berlin (featured in 29% of the games). Giri drew rather comfortably and he would got through all three tournaments without having lost a game.

    Anish Giri did not lose a single game in the tour, finished with +4, but came up just short of victory. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Anish Giri did not lose a single game in the tour, finished with +4, but came up just short of victory. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    The game of the round was Carlsen-Grischuk. The game was a Rossolimo Siclian, but followed a speculative line championed by Veselin Topalov who beat Carlsen with it at the Sinquefield. The move 7…g5!? was quite as risk for the Russian as Carlsen and his team would undoubtedly have corrected the problems in the Topalov game. Carlsen immediately snapped off the pawn with 8.Nxg5. After that Carlsen played the strange 11.Rf1!? to refocus his attention on f4, f5. Sure enough he played in ten moves later with 21.f4 and 22.f5.

    The problem in this game is that Carlsen fell prey to opportunism and Grischuk fell prey to his usual zeitnot problems. The World Champion went hunting on the queenside and got his pieces bunched up while Grischuk conjured up a deadly attack. After 29.Ng4 Qh4, both players were approaching severe time pressure… Grischuk in a worse situation.

    Grischuk plays 29…Qh4 creating threats. After Carlsen’s 30.fxe6? the Russian missed his chance.

    In the diagrammed position, white has to find the correct move since a draw wasn’t good enough. Furthermore, his queen and knight are on the sidelines watching helplessly… four black pieces assailing the white king overmatching the white rook and knight. Carlsen played 30.fxe6?? to the horror of fans worldwide. Gawking at this blunder commentators were banging out the variations… 30…Rxg4! 31.hxg4 (31.exf7?? loses brilliantly to 31…Qe1+ 32.Rf1 Rxg2+! 33.Kxg2 Qg3+ 34.Kh1 Qh2 mate.) 31…Qh2+ 32.Kf2 Nf4 with a strong attack.

    Grischuk, in severe zeitnot, played 30…fxe6 to loud groans. However, this move is still equal. After 31.Nxe5, black had an easy draw with 31…Qe1+ 32.Rf1 (32.Kh2 Nf4! winning) Rxg2+ 33.Kxg2 Qg3+ drawing. Grischuk played 31…dxe5 32.Qxe6 and had to see 32…Qg5! but didn’t. He played 32…Qe1+ and the draw evaporated. The better player you are the luckier you are! Carlsen would end on 5.5/9 and go to the tiebreaks with Giri and MVL to see who would be declared the champion.

    Tiebreaks: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Anish Giri

    In the tiebreak competition, Carlsen, Giri and MVL would play to see who would be crowned the tournament champion. It also turns out that this tiebreak would help determine the overall winner. However, if MVL got to the finals and beat Carlsen, the two would be tied in Grand Tour points and would have to play another tiebreak the next day!

    In a format, that created some controversy, Carlsen sat out the first phase of tiebreaks since he had the best tiebreaks. So Giri and MVL had to play a two-game rapid mini-match (25’+5″). It was strange that it was not a round robin with all-play-all between three players. Carlsen would take a rest although admitting to watching the first game. What a match it was!

    In a strange format, MVL and Giri face off in a qualifier for the final. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    In a strange format, MVL and Giri face off in a qualifier for the final.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    In the first game, it was a Berlin (again), but it showed why the defense is such a weapon in high-level play. Black risks little and gets a solid position. In fact, MVL missed a subtlety in the middlegame banking his responses on 26.fxe5+ Kg5 27.Ke4, but black has 27…Rxe5+ mating. After that Giri seized control and went up 1-0.

    MVL came roaring back with an impressive win against an anti-Grunfeld. This strategy allowed black easy equality and it appeared that Giri was playing for the draw. As commentators pointed out, this is a dangerous strategy. The game was a see-saw battle, but MVL kept creating problems and soon Giri was on the defensive. In the ensuing time scramble, Giri blundered a piece and the match was tied!

    In the last game, MVL had draw odds with a 6:5 time disadvantage… a draw would move him into the final against Carlsen. A phenomenal blitz player, MVL put on a strong display and outplayed Giri. In the end, he had mate in five, but went for repetition. Giri was even getting mated. Unfortunate for Giri that he went undefeated in the Grand Tour but loses in the tiebreak. he would not get a chance to face his nemesis.

    Tiebreaks: Magnus Carlsen vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

    Two games for the tournament title and tour title… clearly a lot on the line. There was still griping about the format. This time by Giri:

    It’s quite frustrating that this guy Magnus gets so extremely lucky, it’s just absurd! I heard that if MVL wants to win, he needs to beat Carlsen twice. He needs to beat him one match, then they share the Grand Chess Tour Standings, and then he needs to beat him again to win the Grand Chess Tour.

    he added,

    First of all he doesn’t have to play this match that I played now, and secondly he has a second chance to win the Grand Chess Tour. He can beat him in a second match after losing one.

    Anyway the game started and it was a Rossolimo Sicilian. Carlsen opted for a line with a small space advantage and to basically grind MVL down. None of this worked and the game appeared to be heading toward a draw. In the end there were many ways to draw the game.

    MVL has a number of ways to draw this game. He erred with 51…Rf1?? and lost. It shows that even top-level GMs can forget basic principles.

    In the diagrammed position, MVL had three drawing options (Ra1, Rb1, Rc1), but he chose the wrong one! After 51…Rf1?? the king threatened to walk up the board and escort the pawn to a queen. After the white rook cut off the black king, MVL resigned. Wow.

    In the second game MVL, got nothing even after sacking the exchange for an outside passed pawn. Black built an impenetrable wall and MVL had nothing to do but repeat moves. Thus, Carlsen won the London Chess Classic and would be the Grand Chess Tour champion.

    What is strange is that MVL would only be relegated to 3rd place despite beating Giri. The final standings were based on Sonneborn-Berger points and not the tiebreak tournament. It also means that MVL will not qualify for the Grand Chess Tour next year. There is a fierce debate in the chess and certainly adjustments will be made in future editions. There will already be an additional tournament added in 2016.

    Interview with Garry Kasparov

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Games of Round #9

    Standings after Round #9

    1st-3rd: CARLSEN, Giri, Vachier-Lagrave, 5.5
    4th: Aronian, 5.0
    5th-7th: Caruana, Adams, Grischuk, 4.5
    8th: Nakamura, 4.0
    9th: Anand, 3.5
    10th: Topalov, 2.5

    Games (Round #9): https://www.thechessdrum.net/palview7/london15-9.pgn

    Video by CCSCSL.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

  10. oh i forgot to tell yall Um at the Buffalo Public Library bout to go practice on the chess.com site right now and the traditional practicers on the site got mad cuz of my funny prediction that Naka would struggle vs their fide champ so they tell me naka can crush me in the 1-minute bullet chess, typical theorizers ya know? But in REAL LIFE we played already on ICC in the early 2000s so here goes our real bullet game so i dont KNOW WHAT THEY R TALKIN BOUT DO U? i played 1d3! he played d5 and i played 2 c3 and he played e5 and i played 3f4! he played ef and i played Bf4 and he played Bd6 and i played 4Nf3 and he played Bf4 and i checked him on A4 and he played NC6 and i took on the F4sq.then he played Nf6 then i played my Funny knight over to a3! he sHORT castled! then i used a trick and went to Ntoc2,now I KNOW its not quite a traditional game but Um wondernin what the Chessdrummers think of it? oh sometimes i write FUNNY 2. Adia?

  11. Carlsen wins London Classic…GrandTour!

    World Champion Magnus Carlsen won the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour by winning the London Chess Classic on tiebreaks. It was a rather austere series for Carlsen garnering an efficient +1 over the three events. He was helped by his high-scoring performances in Sinquefield and London.

    Indeed there were some disgruntled fans and players commenting on the tiebreak system. It appeared that there was a point about Maxime Vachier-Lagrave winning his match against Anish Giri, but only getting third place behind Giri. In addition, it seemed quite ironic that Carlsen won the Grand Chess Tour (27 games) with +1 and Giri came in second with +5.

    Magnus Carlsen receiving both Grand Chess Tour Cup and London Chess trophy. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    Magnus Carlsen receiving both Grand Chess Tour Cup and London Chess trophy.
    Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

    There is no reason to call Carlsen “lucky” although his opponents did miss opportunities. Perhaps Alexander Grischuk thought he would somehow get mated and didn’t play 30…Rxg4! in the last round in London. Perhaps Giri saw Thor’s shadow when he had his chance to play 21.f4! There is no understating the tension at this level. Carlsen stated that he was nervous in the game versus Grischuk, but it was the Russian who habitually entered zeitnot.

    There is no understanding why opponents let Carlsen wiggle away so frequently, but that is the intrigue of chess… a war of nerves. Carlsen will be watching carefully when the Candidates tournament takes place in March. Many of these players will be participating. For future Grand Chess Tour events, there should be adjustments… certainly in the tiebreak system and perhaps in variety of players and more tournaments. There are the same players for several tournaments… not to mention Tata Steel and opens like Qatar Masters and Millionaire Chess. We shall see.

    1st: Veselin Topalov, 6½; 2nd-3rd: Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, 6; 4th: Anish Giri, 5½; 5th-6th: Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 4; 7th-8th: Magnus Carlsen, Alexander Grischuk, 3½; 9th-10th: Levon Aronian, Jon Ludwig Hammer, 3.

    Norway: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/06/18/2015-norway-chess-stavanger-norway/

    1st: Levon Aronian, 6; 2nd-5th: Anish Giri, Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, 5; 6th-7th: Veselin Topalov, Alexander Grischuk, 4½; 8th-9th: Viswanathan Anand, Fabiano Caruana, 3½; 10th: Wesley So, 3.

    St. Louis: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/08/22/2015-sinquefield-cup-st-louis-usa/

    1st-3rd: Carlsen, Giri, Vachier-Lagrave, 5.5; 4th: Aronian, 5.0; 5th-7th: Caruana, Adams, Grischuk, 4.5; 8th: Nakamura, 4.0; 9th: Anand, 3.5; 10th: Topalov, 2.5.

    London: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Video Archive: https://livestream.com/accounts/3913412/events/4518826
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/11/29/2015-london-chess-classic-london-england/

  12. Nice win for Magnus, Naka clearly misplayed his knights from an Ultramodern point of view in their individual game so why are they making such a big deal of the 7th rd win?

    1. Hikaru could have drawn, but it showed that you can still play for a win in those positions. Most would have agreed to a draw long ago. We see how Maxime Vachier-Lagrave blundered against Carlsen. Three moves drew, but he played another one. Carlsen has been fortunate many times, but the 12-0 score is clearly remarkable. Once Hikaru breaks that streak, he’ll probably get a couple more immediately after. If Carlsen ever allow Hikaru to gain any momentum, it may change things in a match.

      1. Yeah possible he could have Drawn Daaim however its necessary to have a High Level of Confidence in Chess almost to the point where one can truly be perceived as being ARROGANT! thats the only way he will eventually beat this dude, plus u gotta do some Serious work just pressin buttons for a half hour after the game is clearly not enough, so hes gotta be more Serious than that cuz that hasnt worked. We also need more input from some of our best players here on the chessdrum so the young players coming up can have some SERIOUS guides as well, good to hear from ya bro!

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