The London Chess Classic is shaping up very differently from some recent tournament I'm remembering to forget - there are wins in every round, and the overall percentage of draws is very low: just 35%. This is partially but not completely due to the abysmal form of 3/4 of the British contingent: Nigel Short, Michael Adams and David Howell have already lost three games apiece, while no other player has lost more than once. And so it was today.
Hikaru Nakamura defeated David Howell in a way characteristic of both players. Nakamura applied constant pressure on the white side of an English, and Howell played pretty well until his time trouble got too severe, and then collapsed.
Vladimir Kramnik has gone back to playing more solidly in this event; wisely, I think, as he needs to maintain a rating lead of more than seven points over Sergey Karjakin to assure himself of a spot in the next Candidates' cycle. Against Michael Adams today he didn't get anything from the opening or the early middlegame, for that matter, but Kramnik gradually wore him down. His successful use of the minority attack (culminating in 28.b5 cxb5 29.Rxb5) left Kramnik with plenty of targets to aim at with no risk at all, and eventually some of them fell. Kramnik went to +2, Adams to a startling -3.
Viswanathan Anand has been on a terrible run: absolutely uninspired play in the Tal Memorial, and a winless -1 here through four rounds. Today, at last, he took a step back to health, defeating Nigel Short with the black pieces. Short got nothing from his 3.Bb5+ Anti-Sicilian, but wasn't in any trouble either until he sent his knight out of play with 34.Na6. Its extraction cost him a pawn, and Anand had no trouble converting his advantage in the technical phase.
Finally, heirs apparent to the chess throne Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen played the round's only draw. Aronian had an edge, and perhaps 20.Nd6 or 27.b3 (among other possible improvements) would have given Carlsen more challenging problems to solve before he could save the point.
Standings After Round 5 (totals are based on the tournament's 3-1-0 scoring; the second number indicates the number of rounds played):
1. Nakamura 10 (5)
2. Carlsen 9 (5)
3-4. Kramnik, McShane 8 (4)
5-6. Aronian, Anand 5 (4)
7. Short 3 (4)
8. Adams, Howell 2 (5)
Round 6 Pairings:
- Adams - Aronian
- Anand - Kramnik
- Howell - Short
- McShane - Nakamura
- Carlsen - bye
Today's games, with my comments, are here.