2016 London Chess Classic (Round #3)

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Aronian, L
ARM
½-½
So, W
USA
2 Adams, M
ENG
½-½
Giri, A
NED
3 Nakamura, H
USA
1-0
Anand, V
IND
4 Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
½-½
Topalov, V
BUL
5 Caruana, F
USA
½-½
Kramnik, V
RUS
Official Site

Round #3: Sunday, 11 December 2016
Hikaru rebounds… continues domination of Anand

The only decisive game of the round was not the most exciting, but there is a sidenote. It is known that Hikaru Nakamura has difficulties against Magnus Carlsen losing 11/12 decision games against him. However, his win over Viswanathan Anand pushing his score to 8/9. It is interesting that players are psychologically-affected when facing a particular opponent. Mikhail Tal used to lose consistently to Viktor Korchnoi and of course Vladimir Kramnik won 14 games against Judit Polgar without a loss. What is it? Hard to tell. However, Anand’s meltdown was shocking.

Hikaru Nakamura seems to be one of the few players to have Viswanathan Anand’s number. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

Anand played a provocative 8…g5 (which weakened the light squares) had been played many times before at top level. In fact, the game followed the path of Vitiugov-Aronian 2015 until 12.a3. Anand’s 13…Kf8 looked suspect and Nakamura quickly began to work on loosening up the king’s cover. The key moment came when Anand played 22…Rhe8. Theory states that the rook has to stay on h8 in case more defensive measures are needed.

After 23.fxg5 hxg5 Nakamura punched out with 24.e4! While the move does not win, it threatens to blast open the position which would be perilous for black. On 24…Nxe4 25.N5xe4 dxe4 26.Rxe4 white was winning after 26…Rxe4?? Anand had to donate his queen after 27.Nxe4 Qg6 28.Nf6! Qxf6 29.Rxf6 Kxf6 30.Qc3!

In the ensuing position, black tried to coordinate pieces for a fortress, but the weakened kingside would not offer adequate cover. The fleet-footed queen was poised to pick off another piece in the end.

Aronian-So after 10.Rxc1. No.. this was not a handicap game with move odds.

The most hard-fought game today was Aronian-So with the leader of the tournament almost taking a loss. The game featured a line in the English not seen in top level chess since the 70s and 80s. On 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb4 6.Bc4 the sharpest line was 6…Be6!? 7.Bxe6 Nd3+. However, So played 6…Nd3+ 7.Ke2 Nf4+ 8.Kf1 Nd3 9. Qe2 Nxc1 10.Rxc1. He played this line for this position???

Look at the position. Five developed pieces to a measly pawn on c5? Many gambit players would dream to get this piece play at the cost of a couple of pawns, but Aronian has not sacrificed anything! We have seen a lot of rules broken in this tournament, but this type of recklessness almost cost So a full point.

Aronian went on the offensive with 11.h4! However, he is not going to shove the h-pawn, but after 11…a6 12.e5 Nc6 he essays 13.Rh3!? This move looks aggressive and perhaps like Topalov yesterday he wants to attack the kingside or maybe swing rook over to the queenside. While Aronian was enjoying the warmth of afternoon tea, it was So who had to sweat quite a bit.

It is hard to believe that black’s Swiss cheese queenside could give black adequate shelter. White tried to blast through with 26.d4, but black tried to use white’s own pawn as a blockade on the c-file. It worked and So found resources! White had no way to break through and when the queens came off there was nothing better than to sue for peace.

The other three games ended in instructive rook and pawn endings. In Caruana-Kramnik, black got two rooks on the 7th rank but white’s active rooks held easily. In MVL-Topalov, there was a Berlin on the board, but leave it to the Bulgarian to spice things up. When 12…g5! was thrown on the board, many gasped, but actually MVL has seen this before… in one of his own blitz games!

Black had a strange position with trebled pawns on the c-file and an airy king. However, he found some counterplay with 25…f4! and now white was trying to hold the position. Topalov kept throwing more wook on the fire with 29…Nh5! and seemed to be readying himself for a knockout punch. MVL responded with the computer-like 30.Rg1! Topalov may have missed his chance after 30…cxd5 and should’ve opted for 30…Qf5! after 30…cxd5 heavy material came off and a draw was academic in 10 more moves.

Adams-Giri breathed fresh air with a Rossolimo Sicilian. This line is similar to Chekhover variation after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4!? Nc6 5.Bb5. The game the knight is on d7. In the middlegame was a typical Sicilian theme… battle over d5-square. Usually if black gets in d5, it’s trouble for white. So Adams overprotected d5 with knights on c3 and e3, but guess what? Black played d5 anyway gambitting a pawn and achieving equality rather smoothly. In fact, it was white fighting for the draw. However, Adams set up a well-known fortress and split the point.

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #3) 6:21:39

Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: https://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

Daaim Shabazz

Dr. Daaim Shabazz is the creator and webmaster of The Chess Drum. He serves as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds an MBA in Marketing and a doctorate in International Affairs & Development. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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