2018 London Chess Classic (London, England)

In the aftermath of a successful hosting of the World Chess Championship that saw Magnus Carlsen defend his crown, the city of London is getting another gem of an event in the London Chess Classic. Fabiano Caruana is back in action after a valiant fight against Carlsen, losing in tiebreaks. This is the last tournament of the Grand Chess Tour with the winner taking $120,000 top prize, but there are other subplots that will make this finale a must-watch.

The week-long event (December 11th-17th) will be held at two different venues… the headquarters of DeepMind, the brainchild of Alpha Zero and the London Olympia. Alpha Zero, the self-taught artificial intelligence engine, has been in the news lately because of its highly-fancied matches with Stockfish, but more importantly its spellbinding games.

2018 London Chess Classic
December 11-17, 2018 (London, England)
Name
FED
Flag
Classical
Rapid
Blitz
GM Fabiano Caruana USA
2832, #2 2789, #10 2767, #16
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA
2778, #6 2786, #11 2937, #2
GM Levon Aronian ARM
2765, #11 2802, #7 2889, #3
GM Hikaru Nakamura USA
2746, #17 2844, #2 2858, #4
(Official Site)

The four players qualified by holding the top four positions in the GCT standings with Hikaru Nakamura holding the top position. Caruana was able to qualify by virtue of winning a playoff tiebreaker over Wesley So. While many speculated that Caruana would not play so soon after a grueling battle, he is coming “locked and loaded” with a chance to become the world’s #1 player.

Levon Aronian, a threat to win any given tournament, will attempt to hoist the GCT trophy. Along with Nakamura, he is one of the playing founders of the Sinquefield Cup having participated in each edition since the inception of 2013. Norway Chess 2015 was the event that spawned off the GCT tour with Veselin Topalov winning the inaugural event.

The real issue moving forward is coming up with new format with a variety of players. The same combination of players have competed every year which raises the question of the tour’s future. Will the GCT present any new ideas for the future or will we see the same players competing every event? That is the buzz going around in fandom circles.

According to the GCT official site…

After two Classical games on December 11-12, play switches to Rapid & Blitz on Dec. 13. The winners then go through to the 3-day Final, held at the traditional Olympia London venue on December 15-16 (Classical) & 17 (Rapid & Blitz). There will also be a Third Place Playoff.The 2018 GCT champion will take home a 1st prize of $120,000 (there’s $80,000 for 2nd, $60,000 for 3rd and $40,000 for 4th).

Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Regulations: https://www.londonchessclassic.com/

Drum Coverage: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

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.

7 Comments

  1. Round #1 (Classical): Tuesday, 11 December 2018

    2018 London Chess Classic
    4 Caruana, F
    USA
    ½-½
    Nakamura, H
    USA
    3 Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    ½-½
    Aronian, L
    ARM
    Official Site

    The London Chess Classic kicked off with announcements by chief organizer IM Malcolm Pein and ceremonial moves by DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis and local school children. Fabiano Caruana was playing compatriot Hikaru Nakamura and all eyes wanted to see how the championship challenger would play after the match. The answer was… quite well.

    Fabiano Caruana (Round 1) 2018 London Chess Classic

    Fabiano Caruana before facing teammate Hikaru Nakamura
    Photo by Lennart Ootes

    In fact, Caruana developed a pull in the position with a potential attack on the kingside. Nakamura actively repelled the attack by diverting white’s rooks on the h-file and got some play on the queenside. Meanwhile white had to play actively, got the queens off and when the smoke cleared, the game fizzled to a draw.

    Levon Aronian has been one of the players chosen to compete for the world title because of his dynamic style and willingness to take risks. He was much better in his game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but the Frenchman had enough compensation for the exchange and held the draw. Very exciting start to the tournament!

    Full Broadcast (Round #1) 4:45:53

    Video by CCSCSL

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2017/12/12/2018-london-chess-classic-london-england

  2. Round #2 (Classical): Wednesday, 12 December 2018

    2018 London Chess Classic
    1 Nakamura, H
    USA
    ½-½
    Caruana, F
    USA
    2 Aronian, L
    ARM
    ½-½
    Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    Official Site

    Full Broadcast (Round #2) 3:49:36

    Video by CCSCSL

    Interview with Magnus Carlsen

    Video by chess24.com

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2017/12/12/2018-london-chess-classic-london-england

  3. Round #3 (Rapid and Blitz)
    Thursday, 13 December 2018

    2018 London Chess Classic
    1 Nakamura, H
    USA
    4½-1½
    Caruana, F
    USA
    2 Aronian, L
    ARM
    1½-4½
    Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    Official Site

    Full Broadcast (Round #3) 5:07:47

    Video by CCSCSL

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2017/12/12/2018-london-chess-classic-london-england

  4. Grand Chess Tour FINAL
    (Hikaru Nakamura vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave)
     
    Flag
    1C
    2C
    3R
    4R
    5B
    6B
    7B
    8B
    pts.
    Score
    Nakamura
    USA
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    1
    15
    MVL
    France
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    ½
    0
    13
    Grand Chess Tour (3rd Place)
    (Fabiano Caruana vs. Levon Aronian)
     
    Flag
    1C
    2C
    3R
    4R
    5B
    6B
    7B
    8B
    pts.
    Score
    Caruana
    USA
    ½
    ½
    ½
    1
    0
    0
    1
    1
    5
    16
    Aronian
    Armenia
    ½
    ½
    ½
    0
    1
    1
    0
    0
    3
    12
    Drum Coverage

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
    Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2017/12/12/2018-london-chess-classic-london-england

  5. CLASSICAL
    15th-16th December 2018

    RAPID
    17 December 2018

    Hikaru Nakamura in first rapid against Maxime-Vachier Lagrave.
    Photo by Lennart Ootes

    BLITZ
    17 December 2018

    Videos by CCSCSL

  6. Grand Chess Tour coming to Africa in 2019!

    Players of CIV Invitational

    Dr. Essoh Essis, President of the Ivorian Chess Federation will host one of the rapid and blitz events as part of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. It will be the first elite event held in Africa since the 2004 FIDE Knockout in Tripoli, Libya. Photo by Alina L’Ami

    Hikaru Nakamura won the Grand Chess Tour a week ago which culminated in the London Chess Classic. This is the first year for the Grand Chess Tour final which ended in a four-player tournament featuring mini-matches of classical, rapid and blitz.

    The twist is that a win in a classical game is six points; four in rapid and two in blitz. On draws, the point total is split. In the end, Nakamura defeated Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 15-13 on a thrilling win in the final game.

    The discussion on tournament formats and the incidences of draws continued from the recently-ended World Chess Championship as Nakamura-MVL saw seven draws before the American won the final blitz game for the margin of victory. The match between championship challenger Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian had five decisive games ending in a 16-12 score. Nevertheless, the games were exciting despite numerous draws. What fans may not understand is that these four players are intricately familiar with their peers and to needlessly force the game into an inferno is… playing with fire.

    GM Hikaru Nakamura, winner of 2018 Grand Chess Tour, will be defending his title in diverse places. Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

    Does chess need to be fixed for wider appeal? That discussion is what players in online fora and chess tournaments are talking about. What may be in store for the 2019 Grand Chess Tour may be even more exciting. There were announcements that the GCT will have two events outside of the U.S. and Europe, where all of the events have been held. The tour will expand to seven events with three of them making a debut in 2019. On the slate for hosting the GCT events are Croatia, India and Cote d’Ivoire. The St. Louis Rapid and Blitz has been taken off the tour.

    While not a FIDE event, this initiative fits what Arkady Dvorkovich had pledged to do in his campaign. Now as the FIDE President, he wants to make chess more global in scope and mentioned the drive to have tournaments (including the Olympiad) on different continents.


    “We need to change the geographical location when it comes to big tournaments, I will ensure that the game is staged not only in Russia and Europe but to other regions like Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab speaking countries to bring diversity.”

    ~Arkady Dvorkovich speaking in Nairobi, Kenya (link)


    After South Africa’s unsuccessful (and controversial) bid in 2014, an African Olympiad idea will have to wait at least for two Olympiad (2020 Khanty-Mansisyk, 2022 Minsk, Belarus). However, it seems as if things are about to change.

    Cote d’Ivoire has been making waves in the chess world. Under the leadership of Dr. Essis Essoh, the federation has successfully hosted the 2017 Cote d’Ivoire Team Invitational and also the CIV Invitational Rapid and Blitz in August. The event got rave reviews from the participating players.

    When Nigeria’s IM Oladapo Adu spoke to The Chess Drum during the Batumi Chess Olympiad, he was effusive in his praise for the organization and conditions. Assisting in the event’s success, Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa played a key role and Garry Kasparov’s endorsement for Cote d’Ivoire to host a GCT event proved invaluable.

    This will be many of the participants’ first trip to Africa and the perhaps the first visit by a sitting world champion since Viswanathan Anand’s visits throughout the years. The Ivorians hope to repeat this success for the GCT.

    Official Site: https://www.grandchesstour.com

    Cote d’Ivoire… here we come!

    CIV Invitational - IM Oladapo Adu with Andrew Kayonde

    Nigeria’s IM Oladapo Adu with Zambia’s IM Andrew Kayonde
    after the 2018 CIV Rapid and Blitz Invitational
    Photo by Alina L’Ami

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