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    Entries in 2014 London Chess Classic (9)

    Sunday
    Dec142014

    London Chess Classic, Round 5: Anand Beats Adams and Wins on Tiebreaks

    The Berlin theme tournament London Chess Classic is over, and Viswanathan Anand was the tiebreak winner over Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri thanks to the fact that his one win came with the black pieces, while their single wins each came with the white pieces.

    Anand's single win came in the last round, in a Berlin (what else?) against Michael Adams. Interestingly, Adams would have won the tournament had he won the game, and this even though he'd have an even score (on the traditional system) and would have lost almost half his games. (Seems absurd to me, and it's even more absurd that he would have been the tiebreak winner by virtue of winning more games than his rivals. Isn't it crazy to reward wins not just once but twice?) Adams had the advantage at multiple moments in the game, but in time trouble basically fell apart starting around move 28.

    Had there been a win in either of the other games, other than by Fabiano Caruana, that person would have passed Anand in the scoretable. Hikaru Nakamura tried hard with Black against Caruana in a Berlin (and this after he more than once semi-jokingly accused Vladimir Kramnik of ruining chess with the Berlin!), but was unable to achieve anything and was at times even a little worse. They drew, and so did Giri and Kramnik. Their game was an Open Catalan (an opening that might be even less of a fan favorite than the Berlin), and while Kramnik eventually obtained a nominal edge it was an easy hold for Giri.

    It was a nice tournament for the three winners, and a very good year for all of them too. Anand won three tournaments this year, came in a close second in the world rapid championship, and performed creditably in his title match with Magnus Carlsen. Giri played very well in 2014 and is finishing the year at #7 in the world. Kramnik's year was more up and down, but he finished the year on a high note, gaining more than 20 points in his last few tournaments.

    The final standings: 1-3. Anand, Giri, Kramnik 7; 4. Nakamura 6; Adams, Caruana 4. The last round games are here, with comments on the Adams-Anand game.

    ...

    The Mind Games tournaments are still going on in Beijing, but once they finish in a couple of days I think the Big Guys are done until Wijk aan Zee (with Carlsen, Caruana, Aronian, etc. - including Hou Yifan, who can surpass Judit Polgar's current rating if she gains at least three rating points), which starts January 9 - a good break for player and fan alike.

    Saturday
    Dec132014

    London Chess Classic, Round 4: Nakamura Beats Adams; Kramnik & Giri Still Lead

    Another long day here, so I'm afraid that only a brief summary of the round 4 action from the London Chess Classic is forthcoming. (Sorry.) Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri, the leaders coming into the round (and exiting it as well) both enjoyed a small pull at varying times in their games, but neither could make anything of it. Kramnik enjoyed some extra space and a solid - or rather, solid-looking - center on the white side of a Gruenfeld against Fabiano Caruana, but a very nicely timed tactical sequence by the world's #2 allowed him to liquidate into a drawn ending. (The star move: 20...Nxd4!)

    Viswanathan Anand had a pull against Giri, but when he couldn't figure out how to make anything of it he had to switch over to defense. Ultimately he succeeded, and that game was drawn as well.

    With a win over Hikaru Nakamura Mickey Adams could have leapfrogged them into first place, but he was ground down very nicely by Nakamura. Nakamura is now within a point of the leaders, who play each other in the final round, with Giri having White. If they draw and Nakamura manages to beat Caruana, he'll end up in clear first. In fact the situation is a little complicated given the tournament's 3-1-0 scoring, and in fact every player except for Caruana(!) could still wind up at least tied for first! Here are the last round pairings, and the scores: 

    • Adams (4) - Anand (4)
    • Caruana (3) - Nakamura (5)
    • Giri (6) - Kramnik (6) 

    If either Giri or Kramnik wins, that player will take clear first. If they draw and Nakamura wins, then Nakamura takes clear first. If they draw and Caruana scores, then Adams or Anand could tie for first with a win. In case of a tie, who wins on tiebreaks?

    The first tiebreaker is number of games won. If Adams is in a tie for first, he wins, as he'll have two wins compared to Giri's and Kramnik's one. If Anand wins and ties for first, then he takes first by the second tiebreaker, which is wins with Black. (Giri & Kramnik both got their one win with White.) If Giri & Kramnik are the only ones in the first place tie, then they have to play an Armageddon game, as they are tied on all three tiebreakers (the third was head-to-head; they drew). In that game White will have six minutes plus an increment of two seconds per move while Black gets 5' + 2" and draw odds.

    Friday
    Dec122014

    London Chess Classic, Round 3: Three Draws, But A Near-Miss For Adams

    There weren't any decisive games in today's action at the London Chess Classic, but there was some excitement in the games between Hikaru Nakamura and Viswanathan Anand on the one hand, and between Michael Adams and Vladimir Kramnik on the other. (The third game, between Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri, also had some brief excitement as the players broke new ground in the Berlin endgame, but it fizzled out by move 23 and the remainder was just for the sake of appeasing the organizers.)

    Nakamura essayed the Evans Gambit against Anand, and while that may sound exciting to players who haven't looked at many games played with that gambit since Chigorin and Steinitz were duking it out for the world championship, they tend to be pretty dull. (Not always, but usually.) Anand came out of the opening in good shape, but small inaccuracies in the early middlegame gave Nakamura an initiative. Once in a bit of trouble, however, Anand defended like a lion, and he held his own through the complications. Eventually the players repeated, and while the engines on the Chess24 live feed makes it look as if Anand had an advantage he didn't. White remains quite active (look at the board!) and there are a lot of tricks, too. The position is equal even if Black continues, and there are probably many more ways for Black to go wrong than for White in a game between humans.

    Finally, there's the Adams-Kramnik game. Like Caruana-Giri it went into the Berlin "endgame", and Kramnik found a significant new idea for Black in the trendy 9.h3 line. He equalized easily and could have forced a draw, but decided to press instead. The idea of running the a-pawn was a good one, but it would have been better without his rook on a3. A very long think on his 34th move led him into all kinds of trouble, and with his 40th move Adams could have put the game away. He saw the move and assessed it correctly, but to his misfortune decided that another move would give him an even better version of the same thing. As he surely realized very quickly, his assessment was completely mistaken, and Kramnik escaped with a draw without any further adventures. Ironically, both players made bad decisions based on overthinking a particular move: long think, wrong think.

    Had Adams won, he would have taken over the lead. As things stand, Kramnik and Giri continue to lead with 5 points apiece on the tournament's 3-1-0 scoring system. Adams has 4 points, Anand 3, and Nakamura and Caruana have 2. Tomorrow's round starts two hours earlier, and has these pairings:

    • Anand - Giri
    • Kramnik - Caruana
    • Nakamura - Adams

    The games are here, with some annotations to Adams-Kramnik.

    Thursday
    Dec112014

    London Chess Classic, Round 2: Kramnik and Giri Win, Lead

    The London Chess Classic's main event started yesterday, and now it's almost half over. Still, it's offering good value, and today two of the three games had a winner.

    Vladimir Kramnik had a new and tricky idea ready in the Petrosian System against Hikaru Nakamura's King's Indian, and when Nakamura went awry in the complicated middlegame on moves 18 and 19 - and maybe move 17 as well - it was all one-way traffic. Nakamura held out until after the time control (if he had had more time he might have resigned a little earlier), and then called it quits.

    After that, Anish Giri finished upending the previous leader, Michael Adams, to join Kramnik in first. Giri came out of the opening with a nice positional edge, but for a long time Adams hung tough and the outcome was uncertain. The uncertainty vanished after the tactical error 38...Ra1, which allowed 39.Ne8+. That wins the g-pawn by force sooner or later, and two extra pawns in that ending was one too many.

    The third game was the first to finish. Fabiano Caruana was well prepared in the Queen's Gambit Declined for Viswanathan Anand's 5.Bf4 line, and in particular Caruana's 14...Nd7! was a surprising turn Anand had overlooked. Black will be doing great if he gets in ...e5, so Anand saw nothing better than repeating moves and calling it a day. Not an ideal result for him, certainly, but it left him the rest of the day to celebrate his 45th birthday.

    Kramnik and Giri lead with 4 points apiece (remember, it's 3-1-0 scoring), Adams is in third with 3, Anand has 2 and both Nakamura and Caruana have 1. The round 3 pairings are:

     

    • Nakamura - Anand
    • Adams - Kramnik
    • Caruana - Giri

     

    It has been a long day, so rather than work up my own notes to the main game of the day, I'll turn it over to Chess24's Jan Gustafsson:

    Wednesday
    Dec102014

    London Chess Classic, Round 1: Adams Leads After An Up-And-Down Win Over Caruana

    Day 1 of the main event of the London Chess Classic got underway, and there was a bit of everything. Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri fulfilled their professional obligations by ensuring that the tournament had at least one Berlin. Nakamura went for the 5.Re1 line, which is one of the two main anti-endgame variations, and while he got a little pressure it wasn't nearly enough to obtain serious winning chances.

    About the contest between Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand, there are (at least) three possible reactions. If you've never before seen a game in the Botvinnik System, you're in for a thrill. If you have seen the Botvinnik System but don't really know much before the basic tabiya around move 16 or so, you too will find the game entertaining. If you are well-acquainted with the theory of the variation - and there is a LOT of theory to know - you'll find it a bit ridiculous. For once, Kramnik brought nothing new to the table, and Anand only needed to show that he was up-to-date in his knowledge. The first new move of the game was 39.Kf3, and by that point the game was already a dead draw for players of their caliber.

    Finally, Michael Adams and Fabiano Caruana played a rather screwy game in which both players repeatedly enjoyed and gave away winning advantages. First Adams misplayed the opening, an Anti-Marshall with 8.d3, and Caruana was soon winning. He in turn messed up, and then Adams was winning. Fate smiled on Caruana for a while, as he escaped, got an advantage and made the time control too. And yet despite all of this, he suffered a double whammy. He missed a neat trick, but after his position was losing in any case he sidestepped it. Unfortunately for him, Adams hadn't found the trick, and if Caruana had put him to the test and he didn't spot it, the Italian player would have been alright. In the end, Adams showed good technique and won the game.

    He leads with 3 points (they are using the 3-1-0 scoring system), Caruana has 0 and everyone else has 1. Here are the pairings for Thursday's round 2 action:

     

    • Anand - Caruana
    • Giri - Adams
    • Kramnik - Nakamura

     

    The round 1 games, with my comments, are here.

    Wednesday
    Dec102014

    London Chess Classic: Adams, Nakamura and Kramnik Tie For First In Blitz

    ...but finish as listed above in terms of tiebreaks. The point of the blitz event (aside from the entertainment of chess fans, which was considerable) was to determine pairing numbers. Players picked pairing numbers according to their order of finish, and this meant that the top three all get an extra game with the white pieces. Mickey Adams chose to alternate all the way, with White in rounds 1, 3 and 5. Hikaru Nakamura has White in rounds 1, 3 and 4, while Vladimir Kramnik gets White in his first, second and fourth games. Anish Giri led the event with 5.5/7 (= 16 points on the 3-1-0 scoring they used during the blitz and will use during the classical tournament as well), but dropped his last three games to finish half a point (on classical scoring; one point on 3-1-0) behind the leaders. He'll have White in games 2 and 5. Viswanathan Anand will have White in games 2 and 4, and tailender Fabiano Caruana gets White in games 3 and 5.

    Here are the pairings for tomorrow's first round, which starts at 4 p.m. London time (= 11 a.m. ET): 

    • Kramnik - Anand
    • Nakamura - Giri
    • Adams - Caruana

    About the blitz event: it was both exciting and relatively blunder-free; surprisingly so, I'd say. Perhaps the players were sufficiently warmed up without being worn out by the previous days' rapid tournament. The early leaders were Giri, Adams and Nakamura, while Kramnik started out especially slowly with just half a point from his first two mini-matches. Adams and Nakamura slowed a bit while Kramnik finished on a tear with 5.5/6, and as already noted Giri collapsed at the finish to come in fourth. Anand didn't play great, but he had his moments - one of which was what I believe was his first-ever win against Nakamura in any sort of time control - a rather brutal win at that. As for Caruana, he hasn't generally been considered one of the very top blitz players, so his fans shouldn't worry that this is a portent of things to come in the classical tournament.

    Tournament site here.

    Sunday
    Dec072014

    Nakamura Wins London Rapid; Giri Second

    The London Chess Classic Super Rapidplay was anyone's tournament through eight rounds, but Hikaru Nakamura took over in the last two rounds. In round 9 he had Black in a tough game against Fabiano Caruana. The position was more or less equal for most of the game, but Caruana got short of time and lost speedily. 46.Nxb3 was a mistake in what was still an equal position, but Caruana probably thought that after 46...axb3 47.Qe3 that he would round up the b-pawn. This was wrong for many reasons, not least due to the game continuation 47...b2 48.Qe1 Rd4 and White resigned. The problem is that 49.Qb1 will not win the pawn on account of 49...Rxe4 50.fxe4 Qf4+ followed by 51...Qc1, or more precisely ...Qc1 when it comes with check. (Thus if 51.g3, first 51...Qd2+ and then 52...Qc1+.)

    Nakamura finished the round in clear first, with only his last round opponent, Viswanathan Anand, within half a point. The opening was a success for Anand: a better, risk-free position with a time advantage to boot. He must have felt that the risk-free approach wouldn't give him any real winning chances, but the way he went about things was rather too crazy, and Nakamura won pretty easily. Nakamura finished with a massive 9.5/10 while Anand and many others finished with 8 points. (Others on that point total included Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, and the American GMs Daniel Naroditsky and Aleks Lenderman.) Anish Giri took clear second with 8.5 points, defeating the semi-unretired British player Matthew Sadler and giving him his only defeat of the tournament.

    A reminder: the blitz tournament to determine the pairings for the six player main event will be tomorrow, which will in turn begin on Wednesday after a rest day.

    Saturday
    Dec062014

    London Chess Classic, Rapid Tournament: Six Lead At The Halfway Point

    There haven't been any intra-super-GM battles yet in the rapid tournament before the main event, but they'll start in tomorrow's action. Right now there are six players with perfect 5-0 scores. In rating order, they are Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik, Matthew Sadler, David Howell and Anish Giri.

    If that ordering made you say "What?!", just wait, it gets weirder. This is, as noted in the title and in the first sentence of the post, a rapid tournament. So, of course, obviously, they are using blitz ratings. This is an odd decision, and one would suspect that it's even illegal with respect to the FIDE laws of chess. I've seen tournament directors and arbiters do some boneheaded things over the years, but I'm guessing that there's a non-crazy explanation. Maybe many of the amateurs had blitz ratings but not rapid ratings, so they decided to use the former for pairing purposes.

    Anyway, four of the main event players are included in the 5-0 scores, and the other two, Viswanathan Anand and Michael Adams, are among the seven players with 4.5. They did not draw against each other, but were partially upset by lesser lights. There were plenty of upsets in the tournament, and many more near-upsets. To take maybe the most amazing instance, Nakamura was absolutely busted in round 4 against IM James Adair. He blundered a piece on move 8 (or, if you prefer, goofed things up on move 6 and decided that chucking the piece two moves later was the best practical try, though I'm skeptical of that explanation) and remained completely lost for a good long while. Nakamura is nothing if not a great fighter though, and on move 38 Adair had a choice. He was behind on the clock, but still had enough time to work out one of the following tactical solutions:

    (1) 38.Ne5+ Bxe5 39.dxe5 f3+ 40.Ke1 f2+ 41.Kxf2 Rd2+ 42.Kg3 f4+ 43.Kh3 Rd8 44.Kg4 Rh8 45.Kxf4 Kd7 46.Kxe4 with a routine win.

    (2) 38.Nh4 Rxd4 39.h8Q f3+ 40.Nxf3 exf3+ 41.Kxf3 Rf4+ 42.Kg2 Rg4+ 43.Kf1 Bxh2 44.Qxh2 with a win...maybe. Black might be able to construct a fortress, and while I wouldn't bet on it it's clear that White would have a difficult time breaking Black's position down under the time constraints of a rapid game.

    Unfortunately for Adair, he chose door #3, 38.Nxf4, which was only good for a draw...with correct play. Two moves later he chose the wrong reply to a check, going for 40.Ke1 rather than 40.Kf1, and lost. A real pity for Adair.

    Another unfortunate was IM Ali Mortazavi, who had been lost against Caruana but had fought his way to a massive opportunity. On move 38 (again!) he could have won with 38.fxg6 (an obvious move to make in any case) 38...hxg6 39.Rxg6+!, and here Black is dead: 39...Kxg6 40.Bh3+ Kh~ 41.Qxf8 (if nothing else) and White will mate or win the house.

    Adams was another fortunate escapee in round 3. IM James Cobb was winning in an exchange-up ending, but in time trouble first let the win slip (with the very natural 54.Kxf5; 54.h5! was the move) and then the draw (on move 58). Chess can be a cruel game, as we all know.

    Event website here, results table here, games here.

    Saturday
    Dec062014

    London Chess Classic: Rapid Play Event Starts Today (Saturday)

    The six super-GM invitees to the London Chess Classic are Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura and Michael Adams, and they will be playing in three events with three different time controls. The first is a 10-round rapid tournament over the weekend, and that's an open event with not only other professionals but even amateurs participating. That starts about five hours from now, at 6 a.m. ET/1 p.m. local time in London. Come Monday, they'll play in a blitz event to determine the pairing numbers for the classical tournament, which will start on Wednesday and run a round a day through the tournament's end next Sunday.

    Fun questions to ask: will Caruana manage to stay ahead of Magnus Carlsen on the rapid rating list? (He currently tops the list, but only by three rating points.) Will Anand continue his generally strong play from this year, or will he be deflated from the loss to Carlsen? And will he feel some extra motivation to "punish" Adams for the latter's being one of Carlsen's secret seconds? How will Kramnik and Giri fare on the heels of their play in Qatar? The answers are coming soon...