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Carlsen Escapes vs Nakamura, Keeps Grand Chess Tour Hope Alive
With Carlsen repeating moves, Nakamura sees the win slip away. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen Escapes vs Nakamura, Keeps Grand Chess Tour Hope Alive

Hikaru Nakamura had Magnus Carlsen on the ropes today, but failed to deliver. The only winner in round six of the London Chess Classic was Ian Nepomniachtchi, who beat Michael Adams.

Nakamura not winning his game was bad news for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who otherwise would have become the virtual leader of the Grand Chess Tour with three rounds to go. As it went, Friday's results were like this:

2017 London Chess Classic | Round 6 Results

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

Nakamura made it an exciting game from the very start by playing 8.h4, revived by Alexander Morozevich in recent years but originally invented by the creative Dutch grandmaster John van der Wiel.

Carlsen was slightly worse in an endgame where he had three pawns for a piece, and even more so when he lost two of the three. It was objectively lost at some point, but despite suffering from a nasty cold today, the world champ managed to survive.

Magnus Carlsen has a cold, London 2017

Carlsen was quite under the weather today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

"I thought I played a pretty good game," said Nakamura. "It should have been really straightforward until I played this really stupid move — Bxa4 on move 37. I already thought the game was pretty much over at this point. I just shouldn’t take.

"I should just play 37. Nf5+ and 38. Nd4 and I think it should just be very easy to win. Just technically it’s over."

Nakamura judged correctly that it was still winning later on. "You know, it wasn’t easy, and I kind of just couldn't find the right way…I just started seeing some ghosts there and unfortunately I think it's too late."

Hikaru Nakamura, London 2017

Nakamura: "It wasn’t easy, and I kind of just couldn't find the right way." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The American player, who missed out on giving himself a nice birthday gift (he is turning 30 on Saturday), said that the endgame reminded him of a game between Vladimir Kramnik and Carlsen.

"This is like the exact same thing that Kramnik had against Magnus in I think 2013 or 2012. Some endgame where I think Vlad was just up a clear piece, completely winning. And then Magnus defended very well and Vlad messed it all up. Obviously I'm disappointed but it reminds me a lot of that game."

Carlsen, who was wearing a turtleneck for first time and who spoke with a sore voice, said: "I thought it was very interesting from the opening. Obviously I was quite pleased to play a complicated position seeing as that I needed to win some games. I think he played very well and he evaluated the resulting position better than I did."

"I missed this 27th move Bd3, which was kind of a pity because otherwise I should be quite all right with the king coming to b6 and so on."

27.Bd3! was missed by Carlsen.

"And then it was awful of course. I think he did very well at the start to contain my counterplay and pick up some pawns."

After the time control the experts were predicting a win for White. After making his 40th move Carlsen stood up, and his chair fell behind him on the floor. In the end, this wasn't a sign of worse things to come.

"It's not as easy at it looks perhaps in the game," Carlsen said. "There isn’t any forced win, or at least any forced win is quite long probably. As long as there’s no forced win it’s often hard to choose what plan to go for, especially as many things look winning. You cannot be absolutely sure which one is and which one isn’t."

"I think he got tired at some point and simply chose the wrong plan and allowed me too much counterplay."

That moment was move 59, when Ra3 was the only move.

Instead, Nakamura played 59.Rxf5 when 59...Re8 was the only drawing move. Carlsen found it.

"When I got 59…Re8 after he took my pawn, then I thought, 'Well, now it’s a pretty clear draw.' Although since he went for it I thought I might be missing something but I couldn’t for the life of me see what it is."

Magnus Carlsen, London 2017

"He allowed me too much counterplay." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen continued: "Earlier on I didn’t think too much about the result. I was just trying to resist as well as I could. In such positions you sort of have to say, 'OK, if he plays perfectly, he wins, but I’ve gotta fight as long as possible.'"

The game ended with a rare scene for the world champion: he stopped the clock, called the arbiter and claimed a draw as the same position was about to appear for the third time. The game had in fact seen a threefold repetition earlier as well.

Carlsen checking his scoresheet, London 2017

Carlsen checking his scoresheet before claiming. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Dejan Bojkov Game of the Day Chess.com

Carlsen vs Nakamura, London 2017

Carlsen claiming the draw, with chief arbiter Albert Vasse approaching. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, an expert of the Scotch himself, watched the first part of the above game with interest. Meanwhile, at his own board he was looking at an equal middlegame vs Michael Adams.

Nepo wasn't happy with his knight ending up on a8 where it hardly had any legal moves, and was lucky to have 34...Ra8.

Here Black played 34...Ra8!

With 36.c4 Adams offered a draw, but by that point Nepomniachtchi was slightly better and the 3-vs-4 rook endgame wasn't as easily drawn as the one Adams had vs Vachier-Lagrave in round three.

Chess.com's interview with Nepomniachtchi.

"E and f vs g, it can be tricky sometimes," said Nepo. "It's not like you can make any move. At some point you should play precisely.

"I think Michael was doing great but when he went with his rook to the h-file, in the most passive position, then it might be already lost."

Adams vs Nepomniachtchi, London 2017

Adams playing 6.a4 vs the Najdorf. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Adams: "I just made some very bad decisions in time trouble; I could have forced a draw when it was time to do it but instead I went for it and then I ended up in this rook-and-pawn ending. Maybe I could draw with increment but with delay I realized actually it was very difficult because I had to start playing fast because my time was running out."

The time control in London is 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 60 minutes for the remainder of the game with a 30-second delay per move from move one. That last bit is quite different from most other tournaments, which use increment—the clock will add the seconds.

"I had similar ending before," said Adams, "and if White can get the right setup... OK I was very silly to move my rook off the back rank but the problem was that delay is really very different and I didn't realize this; I should have played faster."

Adams resigns vs Nepomniachtchi, London 2017

Adams resigning the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Despite his loss, Adams kept his spirits high. About his game with Carlsen tomorrow he said: "It's an easy pairing; we'll see what happens!"

You can find a video on this game by Dejan Bojkov here.

Nepomniachtchi vs Adams, London 2017

Nepomniachtchi suddenly finds himself in clear second place. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

These two games provided most of today's drama. Early in the day, Viswanathan Anand and Sergey Karjakin, the two tail-enders, had drawn in no time. As it turned out, Karjakin had analyzed more or less everything at home.

"I have a lot of notes about it and probably I was just trying to remember all my work and Vishy just repeated moves. I have no reasons to continue because I am not better at all."

Anand: "I must admit he caught me a bit with Qa6. Obviously this is not the only line in the English I had to check so my work was a bit distributed. But Qa6 caught me offguard."

Anand vs Karjakin, London 2017

Anand got caught in some excellent prep by Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Very interesting was Wesley So vs Levon Aronian, an 8.a4 Anti-Marshall that got wild when Aronian took on f2 with his bishop. The Armenian GM is such an expert in such positions that it could have been part of his homework, but Aronian claimed that he didn't prepare it. 

"I was actually not aware of this line," said Aronian. "During the game Bxf2 felt interesting. I felt: what happens if I take and play Nd4?"

When the evaluation bar went up, he added: "You can see that the computer gives White a big advantage. That's normally the proof. Not that I need the proof that I'm a creative player!"

Aronian wasn't happy with his decision on move 30, where putting the queen on c2 seemed promising although after the game, when analyzing it blindfold, Aronian thought it was also a draw.

Aronian vs So, London 2017

An excellent fight between So and Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Fabiano Caruana was a Petroff where the U.S. grandmaster once again made a very solid impression. Caruana maintained his lead but now has Nepomniachtchi just behind him.

Caruana, London 2017

Fabiano Caruana still leads after six rounds. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

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Grand Chess Tour, Round 6 Standings

London Chess Classic, Round 7 Pairings


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