Carlsen beats Howell in first round London Chess Classic

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen took an early lead at the London Chess Classic on Saturday. In the only decisive game of the round, the Norwegian beat David Howell with White.

The first move in Carlsen-Howell was performed by tennis legend Boris Becker | all photos © Ray Morris-Hill for the official website except when mentioned otherwise

EventLondon Chess Classic 2011PGN via TWIC
DatesDecember 3rd-12th, 2011
LocationLondon, UK
System9-player round robin
PlayersCarlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams, Short, McShane, Howell
Rate of play2 hours for 40 moves followed by 1 hour for 20 moves followed by 15 minutes to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment from move 61
Prize fund€ 160,000
Tiebreak1. # games won. 2. # games won with Black. 3. Result of the game(s) between the tied players. Otherwise Armageddon.
NotesDraw offers only through the arbiter. 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw. The player who has a “bye” will assist the commentators during the round.

Videos by Macauley Peterson

The 3rd edition of the London Chess Classic took off on Saturday afternoon shortly after 14.00 local time, again in the 440-seater auditorium of the Olympia conference hall at Hammersmith Road in Kengsington, London. The first move, or should we say first serve, was for none other than Boris Becker.

A six-time Grand Slam singles champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and the youngest-ever winner of the men's singles title at Wimbledon at the age of 17, it's no secret that Becker is also a chess fan. He once famously played Garry Kasparov live on CNN and played the game to focus his mind ahead of big tennis matches.

During the round he played a couple of friendly chess games with Nigel Short. The official game is given below:

[Event "London Classic Becker-Short"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "2011.12.03"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Becker, Boris"]
[Black "Short, Nigel"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C63"]
[PlyCount "32"]
[EventDate "2011.11.03"]
[EventType "game (rapid)"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceDate "2011.12.04"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. exf5 e4 6. Ne5 Bxf5 7. O-O Qd4 8.
Qh5+ g6 9. Nxg6 hxg6 10. Qe2 Bd6 11. g3 O-O-O 12. c3 Qd5 13. f4 Bc5+ 14. d4
exd3+ 15. Qf2 Bh3 16. Qxc5 Qg2# 0-1

Short started the tournament with a bye and assisted the commentators whereas Boris Becker joined the audience and saw Nigel Short using one of his crutches for other purposes! | Photo © John Saunders

Becker said:

Chess is much like tennis as it involves being one-on-one against your opponent and having to plan ahead. There’s a lot of strategy involved and elements like shaking hands before you begin teaches fair play and sportsmanship.

It was probably a good idea that Becker and Short didn't play each other on the tennis court, because in that case the match would have been short, and it would have been... Short!

As it turned out, Becker currently is suffering from a broken leg and needs crutches to go around...

The first round in action with some TV crew members and photographers still on stage

Becker's excellent first serve was 1.e4, played at Magnus Carlsen's half of the court. A Ruy Lopez came on the board as opponent David Howell countereed with a few classical backhand returns: a setup with ...Nf6 and ...Bc5. Right after the opening, the net caught fire when Carlsen sacrificed two pawns for good chances on the kingside. This soon became a crushing attack but in his opponent's timetrouble, the Norwegian made a mistake and the final position turned out to be quite unclear, but Howell had already resigned, with just three seconds left on the clock.

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.03"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Howell, David W L"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C65"]
[WhiteElo "2826"]
[BlackElo "2633"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "79"]
[EventDate "2011.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 O-O 6. O-O Re8 (6... d6 7. Nbd2
Bb6 8. Nc4 Ne7 9. Nxb6 axb6 10. Ba4 Ng6 11. h3 Nh5 12. Bg5 f6 13. Be3 Nhf4 14.
Bb3+ Kh8 15. Bxf4 Nxf4 16. Nh4 f5 17. Nxf5 Qg5 18. Qg4 Qf6 19. Qh4 Qxh4 20.
Nxh4 Nxd3 21. Nf3 Rf6 22. Rad1 Nxb2 23. Rd2 Na4 24. Nxe5 Be6 25. Ng4 Bxg4 26.
hxg4 Nxc3 27. Re1 h6 {1/2-1/2 Anand,V (2817)-Carlsen,M (2823)/Moscow 2011}) 7.
Bg5 h6 8. Bh4 Bf8 $146 (8... a6 9. Ba4 Ba7 10. Re1 d6 11. Nbd2 Kh8 12. Nf1 Rg8
13. Ne3 g5 14. Bg3 Rg7 15. Bc2 Nh7 16. d4 f6 17. h3 Qf8 {Alekseev,E (2691)-Van
der Werf,M (2432)/Plovdiv 2010}) 9. Nbd2 d6 10. d4 exd4 11. Nxd4 Bd7 12. Nxc6
bxc6 13. Bd3 Be7 14. f4 Qb8 15. Bxf6 Bxf6 16. e5 {Howell had missed this idea.
During the press conference he said: "A lack of confidence, bad form. I told
myself I was going to play really quickly but the opposite happened."} dxe5 17.
Ne4 Qxb2 18. f5 $5 ({There were several ways to continue such as} 18. Rf2) ({or
} 18. Qh5 {but the text move makes sure the a1-h8 stays closed for the moment
and the knight on e4 is a great blockader.}) 18... Red8 19. Bc4 Be8 20. Qh5 {
As ...Bf6-e7 can always be met by f5-f6, White can pick any moment to take on
f6. He shouldn't do it too early, when the black king can find a relatively
safe spot on e7.} Rd6 $5 ({Another defensive method was} 20... Qb6+ 21. Kh1 c5)
21. Rab1 Qc2 22. Qg4 Kf8 23. h3 Rad8 24. Kh2 {White controls the board and has
all the time in the world.} Qa4 25. Rb4 Qa3 26. Rb7 R6d7 (26... Qa4 $5) 27. Qf3
Qa4 28. Qe2 Re7 29. Nxf6 {As White can't really improve his position anymore,
Carlsen moves on to the next stage.} gxf6 30. Qe3 Red7 $1 {The best try.} (
30... Kg7 31. Rb4 {followed by e.g. 32.Rf3 is crushing.}) 31. Qc5+ $1 (31.
Qxh6+ Ke7 {is not clear at all.}) 31... Rd6 (31... Kg8 32. Rb4 Qc2 33. Bb3 Qd2
34. Rg4+ Kh7 35. Qf8 $18) 32. Rxc7 Qc2 33. Rc8 $1 {White is winning.} R8d7 34.
Be6 $1 Ke7 (34... fxe6 35. fxe6 {is curtains.}) 35. Bxd7 Bxd7 36. Rh8 Qd3 37.
Rf3 ({Essentially there's nothing wrong with this move, but the easiest was
probably} 37. Rf2 Qd5 38. Qxa7 {and now} e4 {as in the game simply fails to}
39. Qa8 Qe5+ 40. g3) 37... Qd5 38. Qxa7 e4 39. Qb8 $2 {Only this is really
inaccurate.} (39. Rf1 Qe5+ 40. Kh1 {keeps the f-pawn on the board and makes
the threat of Qa8 much stronger. White should be winning quite easily after
the time control.}) 39... Qe5+ 40. Rg3 {and with 3 seconds left on the clock,
Howell resigned.} ({However, after} 40. Rg3 Qxf5 {the position isn't so clear.
The computer still likes White very much and goes} 41. a4 {but practically
speaking Black is very much alive.}) 1-0

Magnus Carlsen came to the stage in a determined manner, and took an early lead in the tournament

In another '2800 club member with White against a local hero' kind of game, Luke McShane was more successful against Levon Aronian. In a Chebanenko Slav the Englishman did get under pressure and in timetrouble as well, but thanks to 29...Re8! he held things together. Aronian, who was mainly trying to make things complicated, had underestimated this move and immediately made sure the game would finish in a draw. The Armenian was reluctant to give concrete evaluations afterwards, dubbing the game as "too complicated".

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.03"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Aronian, Levon"]
[Black "McShane, Luke J"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D15"]
[WhiteElo "2802"]
[BlackElo "2671"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "83"]
[EventDate "2011.??.??"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 a6 5. Qb3 e6 6. Bg5 Be7 7. e3 O-O 8. Be2 h6
9. Bh4 dxc4 $146 (9... Nbd7 10. O-O Qb6 11. Qxb6 Nxb6 12. c5 Nbd7 13. b4 Re8
14. a4 Ne4 15. Nb1 Bxh4 16. Nxh4 g5 17. Nf3 e5 18. Rd1 {Chan,N (2398)-Ismail,A
(2033)/Kuala Lumpur 2010}) 10. Qxc4 b5 11. Qd3 Nbd7 12. a4 b4 13. Bxf6 Nxf6 14.
Ne4 c5 15. Nxc5 Bxc5 16. dxc5 Bb7 17. Rc1 Rc8 18. Nd4 Bxg2 19. Rg1 Bd5 20. f3
Qc7 21. Rg3 Rfd8 22. Qxa6 Ra8 23. Qb6 Qe5 24. Kf2 Nh5 25. c6 Nxg3 26. hxg3 Qh5
27. Kg2 e5 28. e4 exd4 29. exd5 Re8 30. Qb5 Ra5 31. c7 Rxb5 32. Bxb5 Qg5 33.
c8=Q Rxc8 34. Rxc8+ Kh7 35. d6 Qd2+ 36. Kh3 Qd1 37. d7 f5 38. Kg2 Qd2+ 39. Kg1
Qe1+ 40. Kg2 Qd2+ 41. Kg1 Qe1+ 42. Kg2 1/2-1/2

A good tradition in London: talented young chess players making the first move at the boards of top grandmasters | Photo © John Saunders

Another much anticipated encounter was the one between Kramnik and Nakamura, who met with the same colours earlier this year both in Dortmund and at the Tal Memorial. In July Nakamura won with a KID, in Moscow a Grünfeld ended in a draw.

Nakamura played something completely different in London: he decided to enter the Catalan territory that has been explored so much in recent years at top level. In fact the players followed Kramnik-Anand, Bilbao 2010 for 19 moves and for five moves longer the position was known from a correspondence game. Kramnik said:

It's a very concrete position. In reality Black is making only moves for some time.

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.03"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E04"]
[WhiteElo "2800"]
[BlackElo "2758"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "90"]
[EventDate "2011.??.??"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. d4 dxc4 5. Bg2 Nc6 6. Qa4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Nd5 8.
Bxb4 Ndxb4 9. O-O Rb8 10. Na3 O-O 11. Qb5 b6 12. Qxc4 Ba6 13. Nb5 Qd5 14. Qxd5
Nxd5 15. a4 Na5 16. Ne5 Rbd8 17. Nxa7 Nb4 18. Rac1 Rxd4 19. Nb5 (19. Rxc7 Bxe2
20. Rfc1 f6 21. Nec6 Naxc6 22. Nxc6 Nxc6 23. R7xc6 Rfd8 24. h3 R8d6 25. Rxd6
Rxd6 26. Rc6 Rxc6 27. Bxc6 e5 28. f4 exf4 29. gxf4 Kf7 30. Kf2 Bc4 31. b4 g5
32. fxg5 fxg5 33. h4 gxh4 34. a5 {1/2-1/2 (34) Anand,V (2800)-Kramnik,V (2780)/
Bilbao 2010}) 19... Bxb5 20. axb5 f6 21. e3 Rdd8 22. Nf3 Rf7 23. Bh3 Re7 24.
Rc3 $146 (24. Rfd1 Rd3 {1/2-1/2 (24) Splichal,S (2197)-Dlouhy,R (2154)/ICCF
email 2009}) 24... Kf7 25. Ra1 Rd3 26. Bf1 Rxc3 27. bxc3 Nd5 28. c4 Nc3 29. c5
Rd7 30. Nd4 Ne4 31. cxb6 cxb6 32. Rc1 Nc5 33. f4 Ke7 34. Nc6+ Nxc6 35. bxc6 Ra7
36. Rd1 Rc7 37. Bg2 e5 38. fxe5 fxe5 39. Rb1 e4 40. Rxb6 Kd6 41. Rb4 Kd5 42.
Rd4+ Ke5 43. Rc4 Kd5 44. Rd4+ Ke5 45. Rc4 Kd5 1/2-1/2

Vladimir Kramnik, one of the great experts of the Catalan...

...but held by Hikaru Nakamura who found many 'only moves'

Adams and Anand also followed theory for a long time. Their example, in a 6.Be2 Najdorf, was a Bundesliga game from last year between the young Dutch grandmasters Smeets and Giri. In that game Black won, and so White needed an improvement somewhere which Adams came up with at move 22.

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.03"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Adams, Michael"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B92"]
[WhiteElo "2734"]
[BlackElo "2811"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "2011.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. O-O
O-O 9. Be3 Be6 10. Qd2 Nbd7 11. a4 Nb6 12. a5 Nc4 13. Bxc4 Bxc4 14. Rfd1 Rc8
15. Bb6 (15. Nc1 Qc7 16. Bb6 Qc6 17. f3 Nd7 18. Be3 b5 19. axb6 Nxb6 20. Nb3
Qc7 21. Qf2 Rb8 {Efimenko,Z (2702)-Nepomniachtchi,I (2730)/Porto Carras 2011})
15... Qe8 16. Nc1 d5 17. Nxd5 Nxe4 18. Nxe7+ Qxe7 19. Qe1 f5 20. b3 Bf7 21. c4
Rfe8 22. f3 $146 (22. Nd3 Bh5 23. f3 Ng5 24. Qf1 e4 25. Ne1 Rc6 26. Rd2 Rg6 27.
fxe4 fxe4 28. Qf5 Rf8 29. Qd5+ Kh8 30. h4 Nh3+ 31. Kh2 Qxh4 32. Qd8 Qg3+ 33.
Kh1 Rgf6 34. Nc2 h6 35. Bc7 Nf2+ 36. Kg1 Qh4 {0-1 (36) Smeets,J (2669)-Giri,A
(2677)/Germany 2010}) 22... Nc5 23. Qe3 Nd7 24. Nd3 (24. Ba7) 24... Nxb6 25.
axb6 e4 26. fxe4 fxe4 27. Nf4 Rc6 28. Nd5 Bxd5 29. Rxd5 Qe6 30. Rad1 Rxb6 31.
Rd8 Rc6 32. R1d4 Rc8 33. Rxc8 (33. Rxe4 Qxe4 34. Qxe4 Rcxd8 35. Qxb7 Rd2 {
looks like a draw.}) 33... Qxc8 34. Rxe4 Rxe4 35. Qxe4 Qd7 36. Kf2 h6 37. Ke3
a5 38. h3 b6 39. Qe5 Qc6 40. Qe4 Qc5+ 41. Kd3 Qg1 (41... Qd6+ 42. Qd5+ Qxd5+
43. cxd5 b5 44. Kd4 Kf7 45. Kc5 a4 46. bxa4 bxa4 47. Kb4 Ke7 48. Kxa4 Kd6 49.
Kb3 Kxd5 50. Kc3 Ke4 51. Kd2 Kf4 52. Ke2 Kg3 53. Kf1) 42. Qe8+ Kh7 43. Qe4+ Kg8
44. Qf3 Qc5 45. g4 Qd6+ 46. Ke3 Qe5+ 47. Kd3 Qd6+ 48. Ke3 Qe5+ 49. Kd3 1/2-1/2

Indian High Commissioner Rajesh N. Prasad meets with Adams and Anand before the game | Photo © John Saunders

Round 1 standings


London Chess Classic 2011 | Schedule & results

Round 103.12.1115:00 CET Round 204.12.1115:00 CET
Kramnik½-½Nakamura Howell-Adams
Aronian½-½McShane McShane-Carlsen
Carlsen1-0Howell Nakamura-Aronian
Adams½-½Anand Short-Kramnik
ShortbyeAssisting the commentary AnandbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 305.12.1115:00 CET Round 406.12.1117:00 CET
Aronian-Short Carlsen-Kramnik
Carlsen-Nakamura Adams-Short
Adams-McShane Anand-Nakamura
Anand-Howell Howell-McShane
KramnikbyeAssisting the commentary AronianbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 508.12.1115:00 CET Round 609.12.1115:00 CET
Nakamura-Howell Adams-Aronian
Short-Anand Anand-Kramnik
Kramnik-Adams Howell-Short
Aronian-Carlsen McShane-Nakamura
McShanebyeAssisting the commentary CarlsenbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 710.12.1115:00 CET Round 811.12.1115:00 CET
Short-McShane Anand-Carlsen
Kramnik-Howell Howell-Aronian
Aronian-Anand McShane-Kramnik
Carlsen-Adams Nakamura-Short
NakamurabyeAssisting the commentary AdamsbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 912.12.1113:00 CET    
McShane Anand    
HowellbyeAssisting the commentary    


Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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