Round #7: Friday, 16 December 2016
London is hosting an 1.e4 theme tournament with the Najdorf as the star!
The Ghost of Mikhail Tal visited London as a rash of spectacular Sicilians have graced the halls. Before going to today’s action, lets take look at one of the most beautiful examples.
— Chess.com (@chesscom) December 15, 2016
Losing? Tal did not win this game?? Is this a misprint? No… the artist was none other than the attacking genius of Rashid Nezmehtdinov! After Fabiano Caruana’s spectacular victory against Hikaru Nakamura’s Najdorf, the same line appeared in today’s round. Ironically, Nakamura played white this time! Perhaps he was inspired by Caruana as Tal was by Nezmehtdinov. He played the same exact line he lost to and handled it with power and grace.
In this game, MVL followed Caruana-Nakamura until 13…Bb7 instead of Nakamura’s fateful 13…g5. However, after 14.Bg2 Rc8 15.Kb1 he went 14…g5 anyway. The difference is black has already mobilized on the c-file. In addition, the b7-bishop cuts the a8-h1 diagonal, so Nakamura played 16.Qh3! instead of the recommended 16.h4. What does this do? It gets the queen out of harm’s way and if 16…gxf4? 17.g5 is strong. After 16.Qh3, MVL countered with 16…Nc5 17.Rhe1 h5!? What a position!
Nakamura assessed the key position and bolted forward with…
Another blazing Najdorf in Nakamura-MVL!
During the post-game interview, Nakamura asserted, “I didn’t see any reason that it was losing on the spot… I didn’t see any risk, so why not take a chance.” After a series of exchanges in the center, the key moment according to Nakamura was 24.Ka1! Moves later, MVL is still hiding behind his wall of pawns, while stripping away white’s. In the position below, it appears as if white has some problems.
There is still some danger for white after 27…bxa3
However, in the postmortem Nakamura showed a very deep calculation when he stated that after 28.Qxf4 axb2+ 29.Bxb2, he had seen black’s shot of 29…Rg5! In fact Nakamura state that he had seen this move after MVL played 18…Ncxe4. Sheesh. Given the expanse of these lines the commentators and fans were simply in awe. However GM Josh Friedel made an incisive comments about trends with the black pieces.
I guess Caruana-Naka and Naka-MVL illustrate why everyone is playing the Berlin. #londonchess
— Josh Friedel (@joshfriedel) December 16, 2016
So after 29…Rg5 Nakamura closed the deal with 30.Qxd6+ Kg8 31.Rg1! squelching all counterplay. He finished it off nicely with 35.Rg6+ Kh5 36.Rg1 f5 37.Qf3+ and MVL will lose his queen or be mated.
To be frank, two of the other games showed a simple spar, but not a championship-level match. Aronian-Anand was a very placid game and ended after the obligatory 30 moves white So-Kramnik took six moves more. Michael Adams eschewed his standard 1.e4 and played the English Opening. Despite the British connection, the opening gave Adams nothing special and the game was drawn rather comfortably by Caruana.
The most interesting game was between two hapless competitors. Anish “The Artist” Giri and Veselin Topalov who has been a good client this tournament. This game was a tough struggle with pieces shuffling back and forth, probing and prodding. It was like a Greco-Roman wrestling match. In fact, pawns never moved again from moves 34-67.
A key moment came after 50…Qa4?? Topalov basically took his queen out of play and white could’ve played a powerful stroke 51.g5! All of a sudden black’s kingside comes apart and the black queen is too far to aid her monarch. Play would go 51…fxg5 52.fxg5 hxg5 53.f4! g4 54.f5! breaking down the door. 54… Fortunately, Giri played 51.Nf2? The dance continued and Topalov’s king scurried to safety on the queenside. Giri missed his chance… again.
A classic of Topalov capturing his certain mood at the London Classic.
Photo by Lennart Ootes
It was good fortunate that Topalov stopped the spate of losses. That is one of the remedies to getting back on course. For Topalov, the tournament has been a disaster. There is no other way to describe it. He seems rather listless and before the round, he appears to be groggy. Perhaps there is something more to his bad form than chess. He is still capable of playing sparkling chess, but this tournament was not such a time. If he finish with two wins… or without another loss, it would be a good ending.
Video by GM Daniel King
Full Broadcast (Round #7) 6:14:05
Video by CCSCSL
— chess news (@chessnews) December 17, 2016
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/