Carlsen wins again in London

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Carlsen wins again in LondonMagnus Carlsen repeated his 2009 success and won the 2nd London Chess Classic today after beating Nigel Short in the final round. With the other three games ending in a draw, the Norwegian finished two points ahead of McShane and Anand according to the football scoring system.

General info

The second London Chess Classic took place December 8-15 at the Olympiad Conference Centre on Hammersmith Road in Kensington, London. Besides the Classic itself there was a big open, a women's invitational, rapid and blitz events, simuls by Viktor Kortchnoi, lectures by GMs Boris Avrukh and Jacob Aagaard, and more. This wonderful fresh tradition in the capital of the United Kingdom anticipates a FIDE World Championship in 2012 and supports chess in schools and communities at the same time. In the top group Anand, Carlsen, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams, Short, McShane and Howell played. More info here.

Videos by Macauley Peterson

Round 7 report

With a big smile that revealed a mixture of satisfaction, relief and surprise, Magnus Carlsen entered the commentary room. He had just beaten Nigel Short in a superb, positional endgame and was still not fully realizing that he had just won his second consecutive London Chess Classic, finishing clear first despite losing two games in a 7-round event.


This unexpected success was of course a result of the controversial "football scoring system" used in the UK capital, applied by just one other tournament in the 2010 chess calendar: the Bilbao Grand Slam Masters Final. This systems yields 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw, in an attempt to stimulate players to fight for the full point.

Normally Carlsen would have finished shared first together with Vishy Anand and Luke McShane, as all had scored 4.5 points according to the classical system. A traditional tiebreaker, called the Sonneborn-Berger system, would actually have put Carlsen on a third place, behind Anand and McShane.

The football system is probably not the perfect system for a tournament that only lasts seven rounds, and as Mark Crowther of The Week in Chess pointed out, making things unnecessarily complicated. Adding a simple tiebreak rule "most wins" to the classical scoring system would also have done the trick.

But despite the debate about the scoring system, on Wednesday night Carlsen had enough reason to be satisfied: besides becoming the official winner in London the Norwegian also regained his number one spot in the live ratings (and therefore also in the upcoming January 1st FIDE rating list). And, he did so with a fine win in the last round, outplaying Nigel Short with the white pieces in a seemingly equal ending.

Anand vs Kramnik

Vishy Anand, who had drawn relatively quickly with Vladimir Kramnik in a Berlin Wall, condemned Short's ...Qxd1. The World Champion predicted big problems for the Englishman, and this came true rather quickly. Carlsen's lead in development started to tell, and an ongoing initiative eventually led to the fall of the important black pawn on a5, after things were more or less decided. It was the first time Short declined an invitation to explain his game to the public. The chess fans were not surprised, and felt sorry for the dreadful tournament the former World Championship contender had to go through.

Carlsen at the commentary

Carlsen at the commentary with IM Lawrence Trent (l.) and GM Stephen Gordon

Two other English players did enter the commentary room, after quite an interesting fight in the Sicilian Dragon: David Howell and Luke McShane. Like Short, who had failed to find a win earlier in the tournament against the same opponent in the same opening, Howell didn't manage to convert a winning position. However, at least he had the excuse that he allowed the three-move repetition with just seconds left on the clock.

Yet again Hikaru Nakamura was involved in the last game of a super tournament. He had bravely entered the Marshall, which as been on Mickey Adams' repertoire for many years, trying to win a typical ending with an extra pawn. But also in this game, as in so many before, the bishop pair proved to give enough compensation.


Around 14.15, after a lunch with a friend who lives in London, your reporter accidently bumped into Garry Kasparov outside the Olympia building, at a street corner. The former World Champion had just left his hotel room to head to the venue, and could already tell me that Anand and Kramnik had drawn their game moments ago. To my remark that the two players had played quite a few draws lately, he replied: "But this was a real fight." We walked to the venue together and there he had an interview with CNN, a book signing session, and another interview. Unfortunately Kasparov only shared his thoughts on the games in the VIP room, and didn't join the commentators, as most fans had hoped for.

Kasparov interview with CNN

Garry Kasparov interviewed by CNN in the Olympia foyer...

Kasparov book signing

...and then signing many of his books for chess fans

The open tournament ended in a shared victory for the young English GMs Simon Williams and Gawain Jones. Both were on 7 points after 8 rounds, both played with the black pieces in the last, both had a lost position at some point and both managed to save the draw, as Jones told your reporter later that night in the bar of the Hilton Olympia.

Williams, Raoof and Jones

GM Simon Williams, organizer Adam Raoof and GM Gawain Jones, who on Thursday travelled to Warsaw, Poland to participate in the European rapid and blitz championships this weekend

Like last year, the players of the Classic enjoyed a dinner at Simpons-in-the-Strand, where the prize giving took place (and where most chess journalists were not invited and therefore again could forget about a photo of the winner with the trophy).


The exclusive dinner later that night...

Carlsen with the winner's trophy

...where Magnus Carlsen received the winner's trophy from Garry Kasparov

McShane at the dinner simul

Even during dinner some sort of simul was held with the participants - here McShane...

Anand at the dinner simul

...a first move by the World Champ...

Carlsen at the dinner simul

...and Magnus Carlsen also joining (and Macauley Peterson filming)

Korchnoi and his wife

Guests of honour: Viktor and Petra Korchnoi

Kasparov with Adams

Mickey Adams chatting with Garry Kasparov

Except for the Russian Championship this was it for 2010 as far as super tournaments are concerned. Next on the agenda is the Tata tournament, which has its first round on January 15th.

Final report by tournament press chief John Saunders

Magnus Carlsen clinched first place and the 50,000 euros first prize in the 2010 London Chess Classic at Olympia on Wednesday with a consummate positional win against England’s Nigel Short. Theirs was the second game to finish but the tie-break ensured that Magnus would take first regardless of other results. Vishy Anand and Vlad Kramnik drew their game and the two results should also see Magnus Carlsen Carlsen reclaim his place at the top of the official rating list in January 2011. His mentor Garry Kasparov was present at the venue to comment on the games of the final round and see his protégé win the tournament for the second successive year.

The London Chess Classic has been another resounding success on all fronts. It provides a fitting finale to the annual world chess circuit as the top players jockey for supremacy on the rating list. The technology brought to bear on the event is simply awesome: chess fans worldwide are able to see as much of the action and post-match commentary as the lucky people in the building, both in real-time and after the event. The players realise they are more under the spotlight than ever and respond with uncompromising play on the stage and some entertaining cut and thrust in the commentary room. The whole thing is a virtuous circle which showcases chess as the superlative leisure activity that we know it to be. The big winner here, as last year, was chess itself, so hats off to Malcolm Pein and his organising team for all their hard work.

So Magnus did it again. It wasn’t the triumphal procession of last year or comparable to his Fischer-like victories in a number of other super-tournaments. He had to pick himself up off the canvas a couple of times and was more than a shade lucky not to lose a third game, against Vlad Kramnik, but his never-say-die spirit saw him through. This ability to win tournaments from the front or from behind, in good form or not so good, makes him the supreme tournament player of the moment. Rating Change: +1.6

Vishy Anand’s very presence was a signal honour to the tournament and he lived up to his reputation a great ambassador for the game as well as a superb player. His high point was the defeat of Magnus Carlsen, which was a reminder to the young man that is one thing to win tournaments but quite another to win head-to-head games against elite players - which is something Carlsen will have to do consistently in order to take Vishy’s world crown. Vishy was very solid but his failure to put away a couple of highly advantageous positions in the early rounds probably cost him first place. It was great having Vishy in London. He should play here again... maybe a match this time... and 2012 seems a good year to hold it. Rating Change: +1.5

Luke McShane was the individual success story of the tournament. In the UK we’ve long known he is a player of prodigious talent - now the world knows it. Luke’s rating trajectory would surely have taken him past 2700 some years ago but for the time taken out to study at Oxford and embark on a financial career. During the last year he has refocused on chess and he is now rapidly closing on the 2700 mark. Luke’s brilliant first-round demolition of Magnus Carlsen demonstrated that he can beat anyone on his day, and he also showed he can hang in there and battle his way to a draw in bad positions. He and the world champion were both unbeaten at Olympia. On the January 2011 rating list (subject to confirmation) he should move above Nigel Short for the first time, becoming the first Englishman to break the Adams/Short duopoly for nearly 20 years. Rating Change: +18.6

Vlad Kramnik was below his best at Olympia, but only slightly. His uncharacteristic loss to Nakamura might have shaken a lesser man but he played steadily and consistently thereafter. His dry humour and relaxed charm made him a popular figure in the commentary room. Vlad loves London, and London loves Vlad. Rating Change: -2.1

Hikaru Nakamura had a tough draw, with Black against the top three players, but started excellently with a draw and a win against Anand and Kramnik respectively. Unfortunately Carlsen in round four proved a bigger obstacle. He really needed to capitalise on his good positions against the two younger Englishmen but the win eluded him on both occasions. Overall, though, this was a good and encouraging event for the young American who has a lot of fans in the UK, and his reward is to see his name amongst the top ten on the live world rating list. Rating Change: +3.2.

Mickey Adams started well with a comfortable win against David Howell but came unstuck against Magnus Carlsen in the next. His other five games were drawn but Mickey seemed to play pretty well in all of them. Overall it was a par performance for a consistent world top twenty player. Rating Change: +0.2.

David Howell was the revelation of the inaugural 2009 Classic but he found things much tougher this year, perhaps because he is now a university student with other pressing claims on his time. But his back-to-the-wall draws with Anand and Nakamura were impressive and he so nearly held off Magnus Carlsen at his best. Overall it was a hard work-out but he came through it pretty well, with only minimal damage to his rating. Rating Change: -2.8.

Nigel Short’s tournament probably hinged on his second round game against Luke McShane when he failed to find the win against his opponent’s Sicilian Dragon and then subsided to defeat. Both of them might have had very different tournaments had White won that game. A tactical miscalculation also cost him his fourth round game against Anand and thereafter he looked out of sorts. Nigel may be suffering from a crisis of confidence but it would unwise to write him off as he has bounced back from such crises before. He was as ebullient as ever in the commentary room and provided the audience with great entertainment. Rating Change: -20.2.

The first game to finish was the pairing of the current world champion Vishy Anand and his great predecessor Vlad Kramnik. Vlad’s own great predecessor Garry Kasparov was present in the building to see how his successors fared. Garry witnessed a Berlin Defence, which was his own nemesis in London in 2000. Vishy too was unable to overcome it. Vlad played 10...h5 in a position where he had previously played 10...Be7 or 10...b6. Vishy carried a token edge into the middlegame but it came down to an opposite-coloured bishop endgame where his extra pawn was of no consequence.

Nigel Short faced leader Magnus Carlsen with the black pieces and his plan seemed to be to play the French defence and swap off some material to try and stop the rampant Norwegian in his tracks. Unfortunately, exchanges did not relieve the pressure as Magnus restrained Nigel’s queenside development and occupied strong points. Magnus gave up the two bishops to round up Nigel’s a-pawn and it soon subsided into a straightforward technical win as Nigel’s various tricks were defused. In the VIP room Garry Kasparov correctly predicted Magnus’s plan of 27 Rb5 and 28 a5 and then said “this is a technical win - let’s look at another game!”

David Howell and Luke McShane are the heirs apparent of English chess and they played a full-blooded Sicilian Dragon - one of the wildest openings in the canon. Game followed theory until Luke’s 17...Be6 (17...e5 has been played before). David seemed to have much the best of it of the early part of the game and it appeared his attack was crashing through when he played 33 Rxd5. But next move he hesitated and demurred to play 34 Rxh7+ Kg8 and White has the improbable 35 Rf7!! and all the tactics seem to work. Luke then missed his defence and David once more had the chance to win had he played 38 Rxh7+ and 39 Rhe7 which surely wins. Instead the game was drawn by repetition. A watching Garry Kasparov made a wicked observation: “Is Howell a member of Amnesty International?” So the game was drawn and Luke McShane had improbably remained unbeaten in the tournament.

The game between Hikaru Nakamura and Mickey Adams went right down to the kings - a most appropriate end to a fighting tournament. Mickey played his favourite Marshall Attack and Hikaru exited the ‘book’ when he played 17 a4. It is very possible that Hikaru could have improved on move 21 when he allowed a discovered attack on his queen. The queens came off and Mickey retained some compensation for his sacrificed pawn in the shape of the two bishops and pressure against Hikaru’s hanging pawns. Eventually he managed to equalise material and draw the game.

Games round 7

Game viewer by ChessTempo

London Chess Classic 2010 | Pairings & results
London Chess Classic 2010 | Pairings

London Chess Classic 2010 | Round 7 standings
London Chess Classic 2010 | Pairings

Carlsen talking to his business manager Espen Agdestein

Yet another tournament victory for Magnus Carlsen

Photos by Ray Morris-Hill and John Saunders


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