London Chess Classic 2013 begins with Super 16 in Rapid Format
Here is the London Chess Classic 2013: Super 16 Rapid update (excerpts), by John Saunders, on Rounds 1 and 2 played on Wednesday.
After the opening ceremony, with brilliant Norwegian guitarist Alf Wilhelm Lundberg playing his own arrangement of ‘Chestnuts’ for all of us chess nuts, it was straight down to action. Rapid chess is,of course, a very different beast from classical (or longplay) chess. At this, the highest level, the opening and early middlegame can be played with as much accuracy as a classical game but sooner or later the limited thinking time puts the players under huge pressure and this can cause a huge swing in fortunes, much as in a blitz game. This proved to be the case at the Classic right from the start, as we shall see.
Replay all the games of both the rounds with Chess King.
Anyone predicting a result based on computer assessments after 20 or 30 moves of the first batch of four games would probably have only got one of the four results right. Mickey Adams himself demurred when asked if he was better all the way but his win looked the least problematic of the first four games on the stage as he took on the FIDE Open qualifier Andrei Istratescu from France, who no doubt struggled to make the transition after four days of tough classical chess.
The 15th World Champion Vishy Anand, playing his first game since Chennai, was definitely in severe trouble against Luke McShane as the world’s strongest amateur played swooped to win rook for knight. But, in the inevitable time pressure, Luke made a poor move (31.Ke2 – see the accompanying PGN file), Vishy’s pawns suddenly became massively strong and Luke crumbled.
Vishy wasn’t the only world champion to turn his game around. Vladimir Kramnik did much the same against Peter Svidler. Vlad tried a tactic (19.Nxc7) which he later admitted was a mistake as it marginally lost material (two pieces for rook and pawn) but he managed to generate enough counterplay to force his opponent into time trouble and finally blunder.
The rounds are played in two shifts of four games, so now Groups C and D took the stage. It proved very tough for Emil Sutovsky to make the transition from classical to rapid chess in one day (bear in mind that he had already played four tough games before the other guys started), and his attempt to do something unusual in the opening backfired against Fabiano Caruana, and the brilliant Italian super-GM made no mistake.
Gawain Jones’s first game was against the world number three rapidplay player, Hikaru Nakamura, rated 2812 at rapid chess. (In case you were wondering who the two players above Hikaru on the rapid list are... surprise, surprise, Magnus Carlsen, rated 2845 at this form of the game, and Russian superstar Alexander Grischuk, 2828.) So it was a particularly valiant effort for Gawain to draw against Hikaru. An interesting position cropped up on move 50: Jones - Nakamura, Round 1, after 49...Bc6
Here Gawain played 50.Qd4, to which Hikaru replied 50...e5!, opening the path for his queen to come to h3 and threaten mate on g2 or h1. Gawain replied 51.Qxe5 (there’s nothing better) and here Hikaru should have played the crushing intermezzo move 51...Re8!! before putting his queen on h3. Instead he went there immediately – 51...Qh3? – and Gawain was able to block the diagonal with 52.Rd5! If Hikaru takes the rook, he would actually lose so he had to retreat his queen. Thereafter Gawain had rather the better of it but it wasn’t enough to win.
Nigel Short’s homebrew opening seemed to throw David Howell off course slightly, but the crowd of English GMs in the VIP room, where Nigel’s illustrious contemporary Julian Hodgson holds sway, were a bit disappointed when he didn’t go all in with something other than 9.Qxe6 in the opening. Thereafter he played steadily to secure a draw.
Judit Polgar was made to pay for a slight inaccuracy (14...Nbd7) in the opening against Boris Gelfand, who won a pawn and exploited it calmly and efficiently as if it were a classical game.
Anand-Adams was cagey but accurate and a draw ensued. Luke McShane, probably disappointed at not snaring Vishy in the first game, came back strongly in round two against Andrei Istratescu. A tactic to exchange a couple of pawns (15.e5) looked innocent enough but Julian Hodgson was alive to its potential. He pointed out the general vulnerability of Black’s kingside pawn structure minus the h7 pawn. Luke was alive to this possibility, too. Andrei tried to create counterplay with 25...f3 but Luke’s attack crashed through. Even so it might have been averted had Andrei challenged the white queen with ...Qf6 at a couple of junctures.
Svidler-Sadler was a very exciting draw, with the players attacking on opposite flanks. Matthew’s dangerous queenside attack goaded Peter into a piece sacrifice on g6, which wasn’t too far from being a win. Peter flung a second piece into the maelstrom but that proved only good enough to draw.
Despite the high tactical content, the players didn’t seem to miss anything when you compare their moves with silicon.
Judit Polgar has had an even stickier start, losing both her games. In round 2 she was up against a determined Hikaru Nakamura, desperate to get his first three-pointer in the bag. Judit gradually came adrift after the inaccurate 37.Re1.
The final game to finish was Gelfand-Jones, coming down to a tricky knight endgame. The pundits thought Gawain might just get away with his suspect position but Boris was implacable and found a way to win, even after it came down to N+P v N.
Group A: Adams, Anand 4, McShane 3, Istratescu 0.
Group B: Kramnik 6, Rowson 3, Sadler, Svidler 1.
Group C: Gelfand 6, Nakamura 4, Jones 1, Polgar 0.
Group D: Caruana 6, Howell 4, Short 1, Sutovsky 0.
Super Sixteen Rapid rounds 3 and 4 take place on Thursday 12 December 2013, starting at 1400 UK time. There are three further sessions at 1530, 1800 and 1930.
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