7th London chess classic; 6th round

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Giri childRound six of the London Chess Classic took place on Thursday 10 December at the Olympia Conference Centre and saw just one decisive game. Alexander Grischuk defeated Vishy Anand to join three other players in the lead with +1, while the former world champion dropped back to ninth place. Scores after six rounds: 1-4 Anish Giri (NED), Alexander Grischuk (RUS), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 3½/6, 5-8 Mickey Adams (ENG), Levon Aronian (ARM), Magnus Carlsen (NOR), Fabiano Caruana (USA) 3, 9 Viswanathan Anand (IND) 2½, 10 Veselin Topalov 1½. Three rounds remain.

John Saunders reports:
Two of the three leaders, Vachier-Lagrave and Caruana, met in this round and had the opportunity to play for the (as yet) unprecedented heights of +2. A ‘London Wall’ variation ensued (I’ve decided to drop the B-word from now on) and the metaphorical edifice proved as sturdy as the bricks and mortar one built by the Romans. (It’s worth remembering that London started life as a Roman city, not an English one. So Fabiano should feel at home here.) The game wasn’t without interest – it was ‘book’ to move 13 – and Maxime, not to mention the GM pack in the VIP room, did their best to make White’s position work. But Fabiano seemed to have the measure of Maxime’s menacing pair of knights. It was the first game to finish.

The second game to finish was Giri-Carlsen. A few sighs of relief may have been heard as Magnus eschewed 3…Nf6 and pushed his pawn to a6.


Soon they were into another elderly line of the Ruy Lopez which followed Yates-Ed.Lasker, New York 1924, until move 17, when Giri opted for 17.Qb1 and Carlsen innovated with 17…g6. Giri had the two bishops and Carlsen had an isolated d-pawn but it didn’t seem to count for much. The game lasted for 53 moves but the game looked dead from some way out. Giri will probably be glad to have the world champion out of the way (not that he has a bad record against him), while Carlsen has now drawn all six of his games and may be starting to wonder where his next point is coming from.

It wasn’t until 7.50pm that the third game finished, although fewer moves were played in Nakamura-Aronian than in Giri-Carlsen. The opening was a Catalan, with Aronian trying the beginner-ish manoeuvre 11…Ra6 and 11…Rb6 in front of his pawn chain, instead of the more conventional 11…Na6. It’s not unprecedented but still looks artificial. The game never really caught fire and was balanced throughout. Moving on…

Adams Topalov

So far in this tournament the tiny handful of decisive results have involved Topalov, Anand or both of them. So there were high hopes for the other two games. In the end both of them provided full value for the spectators, although only one of them did indeed provide another decisive outcome. Topalov pressed hard for a result against Mickey Adams and looked to have good prospects when Adams started to go astray and blundered the exchange. But some imprecise play let the English GM indulge his penchant for caïssic escapology and another half-point was chalked up on the scoreboard. Connoisseurs of horseplay will want to add this game to their collection as both players managed to uncork a deadly knight fork, one which (nearly) won and the other which definitely saved the game.

Figure 4 Topalov and Adams: the two horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Round 6

V.Topalov M.Adams

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0‑0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5 Steinitz first played this against Chigorin at Nuremberg in 1896 so it has a lengthy pedigree. It’s a solid line with which White loses few games. 7…c6 8.h3 b6 9.b4 a5 10.a3 h6 Adams has been here before, drawing games with Gelfand and Berkes in this line. 11.Bd3 Ba6 12.Bxa6 Rxa6 13.00 Qc8 Previous games had seen 13…Qa8 played here. 14.Rb1 axb4 15.axb4 Qb7 16.Ne1 Rfa8 17.Nc2 R6a7 18.f3 Qc8 19.Qd3 bxc5 20.bxc5 e5 21.dxe5 21.Bh2 looks more normal but Topalov introduces a degree of imbalance into the game. 21…Nxc5 22.Qd2 Nfd7 23.Nd4 Ne6 24.Rfc1 Nxf4 25.exf4 Bc5 26.Kh2 Bxd4 27.Qxd4 Nf8 28.Qd2 28.Nxd5?? is not possible because of the counter-pin 28…Qd7! 28…Ng6 29.Rb2 Qd7 30.Ne2 It all looks fine to here but Adams’s concentration starts to waver hereabouts. He had about 16 minutes’ thinking time left to move 40. 30…Ra4 31.Rbc2 R8a6 It starts to get difficult after this. Probably just 31…Rc8 was right. 32.Nd4 Ne7?  33.Nb3! Threatening to fork three heavy pieces on c5 and the threat cannot be adequately countered. 33…Qf5 34.Nc5 Ra8 35.Nxa4 Rxa4 36.g3 g5 Forcing White to keep finding good moves. 37.fxg5 hxg5 38.Re1 Precision was needed here and Topalov is not currently in a state to provide it: 38.Qc3! and now if 38…Ng6 simply 39.Qxc6 and the rook on a4 is attacked. This one tempo makes all the difference. 38…Ng6! 39.e6 White can’t adequately defend the e5–pawn. If 39.Rxc6 Nxe5 and, ironically, Black gains sweet revenge for the vicious triple fork which cost him the exchange in the first place. 39…fxe6 40.Rxc6 Houdini finds a way to keep a semblance of a winning chance open for White: 40.g4! Qf6 41.Rxc6 Ne5 42.Rc8+ Kf7 43.Rc7+ Kg8 (The point of 40.g4 is seen in the line 43…Kg6?? and now 44.Qc2+ wins as the black queen cannot interpose on f5, whereas in the game line it can.) 44.Rf1 Nxf3+ 45.Kh1!? Ra1, etc, but it’s a typical computer line. 40…Ne5 41.Rc8+ Kf7 42.Rf1 42.Rc7+ Kg6 is very safe. 42…Nxf3+ 43.Rxf3 Qxf3 44.Qc2 Kg7! An only move but perhaps not so difficult to find. 45.Qxa4 45.Qb2+ d4 46.Rd8 Qe4 leads nowhere. 45…Qf2+ 46.Kh1 Qf1+ 47.Kh2 ½‑½

Finally, that rare commodity here at Olympia this year: a decisive result. Grischuk-Anand started with an English opening, with slight Dutch overtones. Grischuk didn’t get much out of the opening, other than a hefty time deficit whilst snatching a pawn on b7 and then extricating his queen to safety (no news, there, then). The opening seemed to work out absolutely fine for Anand but then he lost his way in his opponent’s time trouble. First he overpressed in the middlegame and pushed his f-pawn too far forward. Grischuk now had an advantage but it may not have been winning but for Anand’s dubious 40th move and outright error on move 51.


Round 6

  1. Grischuk V. Anand

1.c4 e5 2.d3 Nc6 3.Nf3 f5 4.g3 Nf6 5.Bg2 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 0‑0 8.Nc3 d6 9.0‑0 Bd7 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.cxd5 Ne7 12.Qb4 Nxd5 13.Qxb7 c6 14.Nd2 Nb6 15.Qa6 d5 Black is emerging out of the opening very well. 16.Rac1 f4 17.Nf3 Qf6 18.Qa5 Kh8 19.b3 Bg4?! This looks dubious. Perhaps Black should sit tight and let Grischuk’s time pressure do its work. 20.Qc3 Attacking two pawns so the reply is more or less obligatory. 20…e4 21.Qxf6 Rxf6 22.Nd4 f3 Although this drives the white bishop into the corner, the embarrassment is only temporary and White will emerge one day to capture the f3–pawn. 23.exf3 exf3 24.Bh1 Rc8 25.Rfe1 White grabs the open file. He now has a considerable advantage. 25…h6 26.b4 Na4 26…a6 may be better: 27.Re3 Rcf8 and White can’t play 28.Rxc6? Rxc6 29.Nxc6 because of 29…Rc8 when 30.h3 Rxc6 31.hxg4 Rc1+ 32.Kh2 Rc2 should hold for Black. 27.Re3 Rcf8 28.h3 Some of White’s advantage dissipates after this. Instead 28.a3 keeps stirring the pot. 28…Bxh3 29.Rxf3 Bd7 30.Bg2 g5 31.Rxf6 Rxf6 32.Nf3 Kg7 33.Ne5 Be8 34.Bh3 White was down to 3 minutes to Black’s 12. 34…h5 35.d4 Nb6 36.Rc3 Nc4  The start of a good plan to hold the balance. 37.Nxc4 dxc4 38.Rxc4 Rd6 39.a3 Bf7 Simply 39…Kf6 seems better as White has little scope to improve his game. 40.Rc5 Rxd4? Again 40…Kf6 looks reasonable but the text is a definite error. 41.Rxg5+ Kf6 42.Rf5+ Kg6 43.Rc5 Rd1+ 44.Kh2 Bd5 45.Bg2 Rd2 46.Bxd5 cxd5 47.Kg2 Kf5 48.Ra5 Ke4 49.Rxa7 Winning a second pawn but the game is not over yet. 49…d4 50.b5 Rb2 51.a4  51…Kd3? 51…d3! pretty well secures the draw. If 52.Rd7 Rb4 53.Rd8 Rxa4 54.b6 Rb4 55.Rb8 d2 56.Rd8 Rxb6 57.Rxd2 with a drawn endgame. 52.Rb7 Ra2 53.b6 Rxa4 54.Rb8 1‑0 It’s not immediately obvious but White now has a comfortable win, e.g. 54…Rb4 55.b7 Rb2 (To stop the f-pawn racing down the board) 56.Kh3! and now it becomes clear: 56…Rxf2 57.Rc8 and the pawn promotes.

Jovanka Houska, David Howell

On Wednesday, while the Classicists rested, David Howell wrapped up his British Knock-Out Championship victory with a last-round win against Nick Pert, making the score 4-2. David Howell takes home £20,000 while Nick pockets a not inconsiderable £10,000 himself. English GMs don’t often get such generous pay days so this is a most welcome additional contest to the British professional chess scene.


The FIDE Open reached the eighth and penultimate round. Benjamin Bok of the Netherlands is in the lead with 7/8 after defeating Eric Hansen of Canada. The other leader Evgeny Postny drew with Romain Edouard. Scores going into the final round: 1 Benjamin Bok (NED) 8/9, 2-4 Alex Lenderman (USA), Hrant Melkumyan (ARM), Evgeny Postny (ISR), Jahongir Vakhidov (UZB) 7½. Amongst those on 6 are British champion Jonathan Hawkins and veteran Mark Hebden.


Round 7 is scheduled for Friday 11 December 2015 at 16.00.

More of my photos from round six are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskqE2Uc9

John Saunders

London Chess Classic Reporter (@johnchess)


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