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Saturday, December 14, 2013

London Chess Classic 2013: Favourites through to Quarter Finals

Chess Blog for Daily Chess News and Trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2013

Hello everyone,

The latest chess news updates from the London Chess Classic 2013 are here from a report by John Saunders:


So the preliminary stage is over, with the result that all eight starting favourites are through to the quarter-finals (pairings are Kramnik-Anand, Adams-Svidler, Caruana-Gelfand, Short-Nakamura). The tournament has had a number of surprise individual results but in the end the double-cycle all-play-all format has ensured that the consistent performers have come through.


McShane 0-1 Adams: The result of this game means that all qualification issues in group A are settled - Mickey and Vishy proceed to the quarter-finals, with a decisive result between them in the final round (or a coin toss) deciding which of them finishes first and second. The game exited Lopez theory on move 14, when Luke innovated with 14.Bg5. A couple of moves later it was chased back to d2, so one wonders about its efficacy. Mickey soon threw off the shackles of 'Spanish torture' and was giving his youthful rival what looked like a nasty Chinese burn down the b-file. There followed some fairly standard cut and thrust until Luke rather unexpectedly overstepped the time limit (despite the ten-second increment). Clearly he should have read yesterday's report, which contained the secret of rapidplay chess, as told by Mickey Adams - "play a bit faster".

Anand ½-½ Istratescu: This result accomplished something of comfort for both players. For Vishy, it gave him the point he needed to be sure of playing on Saturday. For Andrei it gave him a point - his first. Not an exciting game and I'll save you a few minutes of your life by advising you not to play through it.

Kramnik ½-½ Sadler: Matthew's draw means that he still has a small chance of qualifying, though he has to rely on help from someone else. Vladimir seemed to be struggling a little around move 35 but it was probably just an illusion as there was no concrete way for Black to make progress. 

Svidler 1-0 Rowson: Peter always seemed on top here but Jonathan put up a good fight. I was a bit surprised he didn't repeat positions with 44...Kg8. It came down to rook and three versus rook and two. The decisive error was 57...Rxh4, played when Jonathan still had three minutes left on his clock and giving Peter a tempo to switch his rook behind the b-pawn. 

Gelfand ½-½ Nakamura: This result came as a slight surprise as Boris has an imposing score against Hikaru, but it was good enough to secure the Israeli super-GM's qualification through to the next round.

Polgar 0-1 Jones: Gawain was already eliminated so was just playing for the honour, but Judit started the game needing a win if she was to have any chance of continuing in the tournament. Consequently she played no-holds barred chess, which of course suits her style. There were a number of occasions in this game when she might ordinarily have settled for a draw, e.g. on move 20 when 20.Rh8+! forces a draw via a double rook sacrifice, but her attempts to win eventually compromised her game. A well-played game by Gawain.

Short 1-0 Sutovsky: A great result for Nigel to secure "another day's work" as he quipped to me in the VIP room about his qualification for the knock-out phase. Nigel's experiences to date on the stage at Olympia have not been very positive and he effectively changed the script. He felt more comfortable with what I referred to as his 'Victorian repertoire', in this case a Giuoco Piano which turned into a weird sort of Evan’s Gambit in slow motion. "Yes, going for f7 is what it's about." Emil took the free ‘Evans pawn’ on b4 with his knight but this only lent wings to Nigel’s attack and Emil had to give the pawn back. On move 24 Emil made an oversight, allowing Nigel to go a pawn ahead. He soon wrapped up the game to secure his place in the next stage with a round to spare.

Howell 0-1 Caruana: David described the end of his hopes as 'abrupt' and it certainly was that as he blundered a rook after being a pawn up and having the better of things for much of the game. It ended his qualification hopes but put Fabiano through to the quarter-finals. Had he taken his chances, David might well have scored two wins against the world number seven, but moral victories don’t count on the scoreboard.


Adams ½-½ Anand: Both players were already assured of their place in the quarter-finals so the only thing to be decided from this game was who was to be the winner of the group. However, it was a full-blooded encounter, with Vishy attacking fiercely on the kingside and Mickey trying a most unexpected piece for two pawns sacrifice to try and defuse it. It was an ingenious defence and it eventually encouraged Vishy to sacrifice a piece back to secure a draw. With the game ending in a draw, the two tied for first place in the group and the placings were decided by lottery after the game, while the players were in the commentary room. Vishy chose an envelope and discovered the number one. This meant he was paired with the second finisher in group B (who turned to be his world championship rival Vlad Kramnik, although we didn’t know it at that precise moment).

Istratescu 1-0 McShane: with nothing much to play for, Luke tried an English Defence, but the Frenchman on the other side of the board launched a tremendous assault down the f-file. A disappointing end for Luke, but an excellently played game by Andrei, who at least managed to finish on a high note.

Sadler ½-½ Svidler: Had he won this game, Matthew would have gone to a tie-break with Vlad Kramnik, so there was everything to play for. It followed known Grünfeld theory to move 14, with Matthew innovating with 15.Nf3 (where 15.h4 has been played before). Peter decided to return Matthew’s sacrificed pawn. Lots of material then came off the board but there was a double oversight all too familiar at this time control) when Peter allowed a 30.Bxg6 cheapo but Matthew failed to spot it. Julian Hodgson’s voice in the VIP Room was by now at such a high frequency that he could probably only be heard by a passing dog, but he descended back to a more normal frequency as Matthew’s chance came and went. Thus ended what was actually a very good tournament for the infrequently-playing Sadler. Peter went through as group winner of what had long been designated ‘the group of death’ so well done to him.

Rowson ½-½ Kramnik: Vlad might have needed to win this game had Matthew won against Peter but as things turned out his score in it proved irrelevant. He played cagily, aiming for a slow positional crush should he need to press for a win. Perhaps he had learnt his lesson from the last round of the 2013 Candidates’, where it turned out a draw would have been good enough to qualify him for a world championship match. Eventually, when he realised no more was necessary, he acquiesced to a draw. Jonathan played well to keep him at bay. Here is some text from Jonathan’s post-tournament tweets another ‘must-follow’ account – @jonathan_rowson): “It was a joy to have been part of the chess family again [at the London Classic], where even my blunders and oversights felt like old friends. Ever so slightly wistful: three right moves [at the] right time [would have equalled] seven more points. But it doesn’t work like that and, in any case, that's a lot!”

Nakamura ½-½ Polgar: Hikaru and Judit entertained us with a ‘Tromp’, with Hikaru eschewing the usual 10.Qh5+ move. Hikaru emerged from the opening a pawn up but Judit’s active defence kept her in the game. In fact, she turned it around and soon she was a pawn up herself, and they were into an endgame. “Endgames are just so much fun!,” quipped @GMHikaru later. With Boris Gelfand losing, the draw was enough to give Hikaru first place in the group, and a pairing with Nigel Short in the quarter-finals.

Jones 1-0 Gelfand: Gawain claimed the mighty scalp of Boris Gelfand in superb style. 17.Rb3 seems to be untested and before long Gawain sacrificed a piece on the kingside and switched the rook across to that side of the board. As so often at rapidplay, it proved very much more difficult to defend against a direct attack on the king than to prosecute it. As Julian Hodgson said on commentary, “the initiative is even more important at rapidplay than it is in normal chess.” The best Boris could do was force off the queens but that left him with a number of vulnerabilities in the rook and pawn endgame that he couldn’t quite manage to defend.

Sutovsky 1-0 Howell: At last, some joy for Emil after much suffering in the previous five rounds, but more misery for David. The opening was a Berlin, but David compromised his position with 19...Nd4 and 20...b5 and was soon unceremoniously pushed off the board.

Caruana 1-0 Short: Both players had already booked their passage to the quarter-finals, but Nigel could still secure first place if he won and then picked the envelope with the number one in it. Probably elated after his qualification success, he didn’t quite maintain his form into the evening session. Fabiano soon had two big pawns dominating the queenside and (cue, a cliché) the rest was a matter of technique. Fabiano plays Boris Gelfand in the quarter-final, while Nigel faces Hikaru Nakamura.

FINAL PRELIMINARY GROUP STANDINGSGroup A: Anand, Adams 12, Istratescu, McShane 4.
Group B: Svidler 11, Kramnik 9, Sadler 7, Rowson 4.
Group C: Nakamura 10, Gelfand 9, Jones 7, Polgar 5.
Group D: Caruana 16, Short 10, Howell 5, Sutovsky 3.

The Super Sixteen Rapid quarter-finals take place on Saturday 14 December 2013, starting at 1400 UK time. There are three further sessions at 1530, 1730 and 1900. Check the official website for live broadcast of the London Chess Classic 2013. 

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