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    « Carlsen the Norwegian "Name of the Year"? | Main | London Chess Classic, Round 8: Kramnik Keeps in Striking Distance »
    Monday
    Dec102012

    Carlsen Wins London Chess Classic

    Alas, there wasn't much drama in the final round of the 2012 London Chess Classic, at least in respect to the race for first. Vladimir Kramnik needed to defeat Michael Adams with the black pieces to have a chance of catching Magnus Carlsen and forcing an Armageddon playoff, but there wasn't much he could do. Adams played the ultra-solid 5.Re1 variation against Kramnik's Berlin, and although 14...c6! gave Black some slight hopes for an edge Adams threw water on all the sticks before they could make a fire. After 25.a5 it was clear that there was little to be done, and once the rooks came off a few moves later there was nothing left but to engineer a repetition to placate the arbiters for the Sofia rules.

    That draw guaranteed that Carlsen would take clear first (at least on the 3-1-0 system; a loss would offer Kramnik the consolation of tying on traditional scoring), Kramnik clear second and Adams at least shared third. Carlsen obtained some winning chances against Viswanathan Anand when the latter played 22...Rd7, inadvertently cutting off the knight's natural retreat. His position was completely fine before that, and while it was probably objectively fine afterwards as well his knight was rather uncomfortable after 23.b4 Nd3 24.Reb1. Anand decided to sac a pawn to extract it, and the resulting position after 30 moves looked like something out of a 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian. Black remained a pawn down, but with active pieces, good blockading knights, and two White weaknesses to eye on a3 and c3.

    There was a critical position after Carlsen's 46.Kd1 where Anand thought for around 45 minutes before making his move. Black has many choices there - many tempting choices, at that - but Anand felt that his pieces were all where they should be, and so it was appropriate to temporize with 46...Kd8. The engine disapproves, preferring several other moves including 46...Rxf3 and 46...Ra1+. The problem with Anand's move - again, in the engine's view, though the point is entirely logical - is 47.Kc1, aiming to push the rook off the a-file with Kb2 and then play for mate with Ra4. Black's best bet is 47...Ne6 48.Kb2 Rxf3 49.Ra4 Nc7, but after 50.Raa7 White threatens to win Black's knight - e.g. 50...Rxg3 51.Rb8+ Ke7 52.Nd5+ Kd6 53.Rd8+ Kc5 54.Nxc7 with a likely win. 50...Rd3 stops that idea, as Black would have 54...Rxd8 at the end of the previous variation, but that loses to 51.Rb8+ Ke7 52.Nd5+ Kd6 53.Nb4. Fortunately for Anand, Carlsen didn't spot this idea, and after that Black's activity sufficed for a draw.

    There was one decisive game, and that was Nakamura's win against Luke McShane. Nakamura was always somewhat better, but it wasn't a winning advantage (or generally even close to one) until the last move of the game. Instead of the obvious, natural and correct 32...Bc6 (with equality) McShane played the gross blunder 32...Kg7??, and had to resign after 33.Qxe5, when he's down a piece for nothing. That's what exhaustion and time trouble will do to you! As for Nakamura, the win elevated him into a tie for third with Adams.

    Last in the recap but first to finish was Judit Polgar's game with Levon Aronian. Polgar decided to check Aronian's homework in a Marshall Gambit, and the result was an easy draw for Black, possibly all worked out beforehand. The players followed the game Shirov-Tomashevsky, Saratov 2011 through Black's 22nd move, and then instead of Shirov's 23.Rg4+ Kh8 24.a4 Polgar played 23.a4 immediately. In fact the position is completely drawn either way, so I don't think that 23.a4 was any sort of special preparation; nor do I believe that she simply wanted to put an end to the tournament. My suspicion is rather that she was surprised by 14...Qf6, as Aronian had played 14...Qh4 seven(!) times back in 2008 (including once against her) and twice more back in 2005.

    Gawain Jones had the final bye. (The bye-bye bye.)

    By way of a broader picture: Carlsen won this tournament for the third time in its four years, with only Kramnik interrupting his reign last year with a similar +4 score. As all chess players not living in a cave know by now, Carlsen has broken Garry Kasparov's all-time rating record of 2851, setting a new mark of 2861.4, which will be rounded down to 2861 come January, when it's official. Kramnik had a fantastic tournament as well, and played the cleanest chess of anyone in the tournament. His rating will go up to 2810 when the next official list comes out, breaking his previous all-time record by a point. It also puts him in second place on the list, ahead of Aronian, who had an awful tournament by his exalted standards. Kramnik reported feeling very happy about his form, and felt that if he could maintain his current level while fixing some little things in time for the Candidates in March, he'd have very good chances there.

    Adams had a very good tournament as well, and it could have been even better. He got a half-point gift against Anand (reverting to traditional scoring), but could easily have scored another point or even point and a half against Carlsen and McShane. In any event, he showed signs of regaining the form that made him a top five player in the late '90s through the first half of the '00s. For Nakamura too it was a success as he played well, picked up nine rating points and got back into the top 10.

    Neither Anand (one win, one loss, and some shaky draws) nor Aronian (one win, two losses) will feel good about this tournament, though for Aronian the psychological situation is better. For Anand it was yet one more poor result, while for Aronian it was a lousy start with two losses, after which he stabilized.

    Polgar (+1 -4) looked rusty, as she often does these days, while Jones (-5) just had to take to his lumps in his first super-tournament. McShane's result (+1 -5) was surprisingly bad, however, as although he was an underdog by rating he had played very well in previous editions of the Classic.

    Final Results (on 3-1-0 scoring; the "real" score follows)

    1. Carlsen 18/24 (6.5/8 [five wins, three draws])
    2. Kramnik 16 (6 [four wins, four draws])
    3-4. Adams, Nakamura 13 (5 [both won three, lost 1 and drew 4])
    5. Anand 9 (4)
    6. Aronian 8 (3.5)
    7. Polgar 6 (2.5)
    8. McShane 5 (2)
    9. Jones 3 (1.5)

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    Reader Comments (6)

    "Polgar (+1 -4) looked rusty, as she often does these days"
    Maybe she is a bit rusty - she plays less frequently, and even less against the world elite. But over the last two years she still had three pretty good events:
    - a 7.5/10 score at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk
    - the last World Cup also in Khanty-Mansiysk where she eliminated Karjakin, Movsesian and Dominguez before losing against Svidler
    - the 2011 (Open) European Championship where she finished in shared first place.

    December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    I really enjoyed Kramniks games, especially his commentries, he is really a pleasant guy.
    With a few excpetions, it seems to be the case that there is a high colleration between being pleasant and a super GM.

    1 on 1 I still think he is stronger than Carlsen and has a deeper understanding, as their last couple of games show, where even in their 2nd last game: nimzo game with black Kramnik had him in trouble. In the commentries it even comes thru that Carlsen only really seems to have reverance for Kramnik.

    [DM: You must be speaking of some other Carlsen. Maybe his feelings towards Kramnik have mellowed, but he has made it clear in the past that he's not a big fan. As for Carlsen being stronger and having a "deeper understanding", I'm not sure that even Kramnik thinks this anymore. (At one point he might have, but now he seems to think that when he's playing his best, he may be up to Carlsen's level, but he can't maintain it while Carlsen consistently does.]

    On the chess in schools thing... if I were in charge here is what I would do:
    1) get Kramnik, Levon, J.Polgar and then make an intro DVD about chess for free.. each a chapter.
    Then give this to the schools for free (not just in UK!)... problem solved! No need for 200,000k to train adult teachers that cant play etc..

    In fact I think all tuition (not just chess) should be done this way... by whoever the world leaders in the field are.. making presentations/lectures and mass distributing this... rather than people that didnt make it in the field and ended up teachers. (I dont mean offence to teachers we need them, but I think this is the best way)

    [DM: Please offer the comment at the relevant post, especially so that people reading it can benefit, counter-comment, etc. Anyhow, I don't really understand your comment. You mean kids are supposed to learn the rules and basics from videos of world-class players? What happens when they have questions - are they going to teleconference with Carlsen to help them grasp en passant or mate with king and queen vs. king?]

    December 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermonster_with_no_name

    I thought Anand had a decent showing, in the sense that most of the games were rich in complex battles, and (fingers crossed) hopefully this is a sign that the prolonged slump is ending.

    [DM: I would say that he played with some ambition, which is a pleasant change, but the quality wasn't very good as measured by his usual standard.]

    December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaideepblue

    I think Kramnik's all time ELO high was 2811 way back in 2002. So he is still two points away from breaking his all-time record.

    [DM: You (and Emmanuel) are correct; I mistakenly trusted Wikipedia.]

    December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRaymond Datari

    The FIDE page has Kramnik's highest ever rating at 2811, between Jan-Jul 2002. So he still seems to be two points short of breaking that record.

    http://ratings.fide.com/id.phtml?event=4101588

    December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmmanuel

    McShane did fine for an amateur!

    [DM: This "amateur" label is an exaggeration, considering that he has played 33 games this year.]

    I had the pleasure of attending round 4 in person and meeting the players. The McShane - Aronian game was very interesting. McShane constantly seemed to find new ways of prolonging the struggle. I wonder will he considering turning professional (again). After the match Aronian looked shattered. I’m sure he was glad of the win and the rest day that followed.

    Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet the big Vlad. Maybe next year.

    I was wondering how much the 3-1-0 scoring system (that Dennis loves so much) had on the overall struggle. It seemed to me that there were a very high number of fighting games. Naka pushed forever against Adams and incidentally taught me something about bishop and knight endings as well as why they are super GMs and I’m not! There were other incentives to win also. Game of the day got €1,000 and there was a pool of €21,000 to be divided among the winners for each won game.

    Great tournament – Well done Mr. Pein.

    December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNimzobg

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