Another Escape Gets Carlsen First Win In London
Carlsen wins another game that was close to lost. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Another Escape Gets Carlsen First Win In London

| 45 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen was again on the verge of losing at the London Chess Classic today, again came back into the game and this time even won, vs. Michael Adams. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is chasing him in the Grand Chess Tour, also won his first game, vs Sergey Karjakin.

The third winner was Ian Nepomniachtchi, who played sharply and won a nice game against Vishy Anand. The Russian GM is now sharing first place with Fabiano Caruana, who drew with Wesley So

2017 London Chess Classic | Round 6 Results

Fed Name Result Fed Name
Ian Nepomniachtchi 1-0 Viswanathan Anand
Sergey Karjakin 0-1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Fabiano Caruana ½-½ Wesley So
Levon Aronian ½-½ Hikaru Nakamura
Magnus Carlsen 1-0 Michael Adams

On Saturday Magnus Carlsen played a similar game as he had done the day before; one with two faces. He went from bad to worse in the middlegame, held on, and eventually equalized. With Michael Adams mishandling the endgame, the Norwegian even scored the full point this time.

Carlsen started the game with 1.f4, which he had only done once before in over-the-board play, when facing Vladimir Kramnik in Leuven this year. There, Nigel Short told an anecdote about him sharing a table with Carlsen and Kramnik at the Norway Chess closing dinner:

"I started asking Magnus about influences and he began talking very positively about Bent Larsen, the great Danish, Scandinavian player. Vladimir Kramnik immediately said: 'Oh, we don't study Larsen in Russia because we consider him to be a coffee-house player.

It was very interesting today, we saw Magnus Carlsen playing 1.f4, the Bird's Opening, which Bent Larsen did on a number of occasions and I'm wondering whether he deliberately decided to play coffee-house style against super classicist Vladimir Kramnik and I'll show you how dangerous coffee-house chess can be."

Carlsen's Bird Opening turned into a Leningrad Dutch with reversed colors, and right after the opening something went wrong.

"I obviously miscalculated pretty badly," Carlsen said. "I thought I was basically lost, or close to lost if he played 14…Rac8 and then played 15…Bd4+ after that.

Here Adams should have played 14...Rac8!

"I mean I can fight on, like 15.Qxa7 Bd4+ 16.cxd4 Qxd4+ 17.Be3 Nxe3 18.Kh1, but even if he just makes quiet move like 18...Bc6 or 18...Be6 or something I thought it should be basically lost. At least practically speaking I didn’t think I could possibly hold this."

Adams: "Yeah, I mean I was miscalculating something. I thought about 14…Rac8 but at the end I thought 14…Bd4+ was good."

When Adams missed this opportunity, Carlsen got "a little more optimistic," adding: "I thought he let me off the hook. And then I just blundered immediately."

Here both players missed that White has 18.Nf3!.

Adams: "As soon as I played 17…f5 I thought, ‘18.Nf3 and then I’m going to have to resign.’ Then he went 18.Bh3. I might not have resigned, but I think it’s very, very bad after 18.Nf3."

Carlsen, sighing: "What can I say? Up to this point I was missing everything. I started to pull myself together. It says something about your shape when you just think, ’18.Nf3 exf3,’ and you cut off the line right there. Of course I was trying to make 18.Nf3 work but I didn’t even calculate 19.Bxf3 which is insane."

But, like against Nakamura, Carlsen managed to pull himself together. He was happy about how he played the second half of the game, which started with the following moment.

Here Black went for 26...Nf5.

Carlsen: "I was really happy to see 26…Nf5 because then I was still much worse obviously but at least I could see a scenario where I could hold this game. And then a lot of things went right for me after that obviously."

Adams: "26…Nf5 was really a big mistake for me. Removing the knight from d4, I sort of thought it wasn’t a good idea. Just practically after that I think he was getting control of the game."

Magnus Carlsen vs Michael Adams, London 2017

Adams and Carlsen right after the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Meanwhile, MVL was doing well against Karjakin, and this might have influenced Carlsen's attitude somewhat. "Around move 37 or 38 I started to actually play for a win because I needed to win this game, not necessarily because of the position. I can understand with the psychological situation he’s in, having had such a good position, when you actually have to defend, that’s not much fun."

Carlsen improved his already dominating record against Adams to +10 =6 -1, but the win wasn't enough to put Carlsen in a good mood. "What can I say? I’m not pleased with my level of play in this tournament at all. It’s been awful. I think I’ve been fighting quite well and that’s what got me the full point today," he finished his interview with Maurice Ashley.

Then, not for the first time, the world champion declined to speak to the media.

Dejan Bojkov's Game of the Day

Carlsen signing autographs, London 2017

Carlsen signing autographs, with a young fan watching. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Whereas his win against Adams came somewhat unexpected, and Ian Nepomniachtchi wasn't sure what to think of it, today there was enough reason to be very satisfied. The Russian GM outplayed five-time world champion Vishy Anand rather nicely after trying an early g2-g4 in the English. In the Netherlands the legendary IM Manuel Bosboom is as lethal as a gun with this setup.

Nepomniachtchi explained that he knew the idea from when Black plays ...c6 and ...d5, and he thought it was logical against ...a6 because d5 will be hanging if Black allows g4-g5.

In an interview for the Russian YouTube channel, Nepomniachtchi gave another reason for playing 7.g4. He praised Anand's intuition and was looking for a sharp position: "It's hard to play Vishy in normal positions because he plays very good 'out of his hand', it's hard to beat him there."

Anand accepted the pawn sacrifice and that was good, after which Nepo "played like a complete moron," as he put it himself, as he missed a tactic. Black was doing OK there.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, London 2017Nepomniachtchi was critical about his opening play. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Anand: "I basically felt I was doing fine out of the opening. It's not like I prepared 7.g4 but I liked my position after ...f5 and ...e5." 

There was a moment where Anand could have traded queens. Nepomniachtchi thought it was slightly better for White due to the pawn structure; Anand said it was "within the range of acceptable."

As it went, Anand misjudged the position on move 27 and he suddenly found himself in a rather bad situation. "I was running into this thing that consistently the position turned out to be worse than I thought it was."

Viswanathan Anand, London 2017

Anand: "I completely misjudged the position." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Ian Nepomniachtchi with fans, London 2017

Nepomniachtchi, also surrounded by fans, who came in much bigger numbers now that the round was on the weekend again. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The third winner of the day was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who thus kept hopes alive to win the Grand Chess Tour. He needs to win at least one more time than Carlsen in the remaining two rounds and then it will depend on the other results whether he can make up for the three GCT points.

Today the Frenchman beat Sergey Karjakin, who thus lost his second game in the tournament—but not before showing bravery. The Russian GM "decide to check" his opponent in a topical line of the Sicilian Najdorf. "I just wanted to play principled. I wasn't sure that this line is so comfortable for Black."

About his preparation, he said: "I think I was prepared well but in fact maybe I was wrong because I underestimated the position might be potentially dangerous for white because he has good squares."

Sergey Karjakin, London 2017

Karjakin bravely met MVL in "his" territory. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Vachier-Lagrave: "I actually think this was what I checked but I am not sure because I couldn't remember during the game. It's just a game of chess, basically."

In this position Karjakin spent a lot of time calculating 21.g6 and saw lines that ended in a draw; afterward he said he should have gone for it. Eventually he went for 21.Rh3 but he had lost valuable time on the clock and didn't have much play left after 21...Kb8. "I don't have any strategic ideas and he has a very nice position."'s interview with Vachier-Lagrave.

Sergey Karjakin vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, London 2017

A sharp Najdorf in the making. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

On what was his 30th birthday, Hikaru Nakamura had the tough task of playing Levon Aronian as Black—the day after missing a win vs Carlsen. But the American GM fulfilled it well.

On move 17 Nakamura deviated from a game Aronian played at the Palma Grand Prix against Ernesto Inarkiev—who by the way was celebrating his 32nd birthday today! 

But Aronian kept blitzing his moves. Nakamura: "It's kind of hard you know, you prepare so much and to look at every move at move 20 was already a bit much because there are so many possibilities. I looked at a couple of other moves besides 20.Qb1. Somehow I overlooked this one. But I thought I played quite well."

Hikaru Nakamura turns 30

Nakamura turned 30 today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Aronian was better, but let his advantage slip away. "I thought about playing a good game, but I didn't manage."

Levon Aronian vs Hikaru Nakamura, London 2017

Deep preparation led to a good position but not a win for Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Not much happened in Caruana-So, a 5.d3 Ruy Lopez that was quite similar to the Giuoco Pianissimo that we're seeing so much these days.

Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So, London 2017

Caruana and So checking the giant screen that shows the games, where Carlsen's 1.f4 had just appeared. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

London Chess Classic, Standings After Round 7

London Chess Classic, Pairings Round 8

Elsewhere in the venue Luke McShane won the British Knockout Championship after beating David Howell in the final. The latter was leading after four classical games, but McShane managed to tie the score in the four rapid games today and then won the blitz playoff 2-0 to clinch the £20,000 first prize (€24,120, $26,780). Howell got half of that.

The third rapid game saw a dramatic moment as Howell blundered terribly in a better position:

Luke McShane, the 2017 British Knockout Champion.

Luke McShane, the 2017 British Knockout Champion. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Levon Aronian and Hrant Melkumyan

Levon Aronian and Hrant Melkumyan, who tied for first place in the open tournament with Gabriel Sargissian (first on tiebreak) and Sebastien Maze (third). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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