Carlsen wins London Chess Classic

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Kramnik and Ni Hua win in round 6 LondonMagnus Carlsen won the London Chess Classic yesterday with a score of 13 out of 7: three wins, four draws and no losses. His +3 was enough to officially become the youngest world's number one player ever on the next FIDE rating list.

The London Chess Classic took place December 8-15 in Kensington, Londen. Venue was the Olympia Conference Centre. The time control was 2 hours for 40 moves, then 1 hour for 20 moves and then 15 minutes plus 30 seconds increment to finish the games. Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Nigel Short, Michael Adams, Ni Hua, Luke McShane and David Howell played.

Round 7 report by John Saunders

For many years now there has been a unique and rather touching tradition that the people of Norway make an annual Christmas gift to Britain of a 20-metre high Norwegian spruce tree, which is put up in Trafalgar Square and festooned with Christmas decorations. This year the Norwegian tree was sent to London as usual and can be seen in all its glory in the famous square, but Norway also thoughtfully sent another present – not as tall but every bit as impressive to anyone who appreciates top-quality chess. 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen came, saw and conquered at the London Chess Classic and, in the process, launched himself to the top of the official world chess ratings. Nobody has ever achieved this at a younger age.

So, “Magnus venit, vidit, vicit” (I knew all that school Latin would come in handy one day)... but, before we get too carried away with all this hyperbole, we must give credit to his last-round opponent, Nigel Short, who gave him a terrific run for his money and provided excellent entertainment for the chess fans at the Olympia Conference Centre.

London Chess Classic

Let’s take things chronologically. The first game to finish was Nakamura-Kramnik, in which both players made strenuous efforts to win. Ex-world champion Vladimir Kramnik, needing a win to give himself a realistic chance of the first prize, gave up a rook for a bishop and pawns, and some threats against White’s king but the American stood firm and the players eventually repeated the position for a draw. Both players will be slightly disappointed with their final results in London but they both deserve great credit for their part in making the tournament a roaring success and entertaining the audience in the commentary room.

London Chess Classic

Three-time Chinese champion Ni Hua played the Ruy Lopez opening against England’s top-rated teenager David Howell. The young man from Seaford in Sussex played an excellent game. First he made an energetic pawn sacrifice to block up Ni Hua’s bishop in the corner of the board and then attacked the weakened white defences in the centre. Ni Hua used too much time at the critical juncture and made some mistakes as his time ebbed away. David Howell made no mistake and launched a lethal counter-attack. As the lowest-rated player in the field as well as the least experienced, David’s final score of one win, six draws and no losses, and third place after the two megastars, was a superb achievement. Asked afterwards where this result ranked in his chess career, David had no hesitation in pronouncing it his best ever.

London Chess Classic

England’s Michael Adams too had an excellent last round, making the same final score as David Howell and remaining unbeaten. His game against Luke McShane started as a classic Adams squeeze: he applied gradual pressure to the weak spots in his opponent’s position, to the point where Luke could barely move. But Luke then demonstrated why he is such a dangerous fighter. His ingenious attempts to wriggle out of trouble brought about an exceedingly complicated position, but Adams somehow defused all the counterplay and won. This will be great fillip to Adams and should help to narrow the rating gap between him and England’s number one, Nigel Short. For McShane, there was tangible consolation in the shape of the tournament brilliancy prize of 10,000 euros, given for his win against Hikaru Nakamura in round five.

London Chess Classic

That just left Magnus Carlsen’s crucial game against Nigel Short. It lasted around five and a half hours and was a game of considerable fluctuations. Once Kramnik had agreed a draw, Carlsen only needed a draw to secure the first prize. However, the tournament rules precluded the agreeing of a draw in a position with life in it, so the two players got on with the job of playing the game through to its logical conclusion. After a fairly equal opening, Nigel Short made a mistake around move 25, and Carlsen seemed to be on the verge of victory. As with many sports stars on the brink of victory (e.g. a tennis player needing to serve out for a grand slam title or a golfer needing a straightforward putt for an open championship), nerves played their part. Magnus sometimes plays chess like a machine but he is human like the rest of us.

London Chess Classic

The game swung in favour of Short as they reached a queen and pawns endgames where Nigel had checkmating threats and even the chance of having two queens operating together on the board. It was an enthralling finish for the spectators but Carlsen recovered his equanimity and picked his way through a minefield of tricks laid for him by the former world title challenger. At the end of the game, just the two kings were left on the board – and there can be no better proof of a game fought to the bitter end.

Games round 7 with notes by John Saunders



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ChessVibes LiveYou can still replay GM Dimitri Reinderman's live commentary of the 7th round in London. We've been covering the World Cup and the London Chess Classic for free; starting from 2010 our live commentary will be subscription-based. You'll find more info here.

That is not quite the end of the story. At the gala prizegiving, held at Simpsons in the Strand in the evening, where the trophy and winner’s cheque for 25,000 euros were presented to the tournament winner, and the 10,000 euros prize for the tournament’s brilliancy prize awarded to Luke McShane for his round five win against Hikaru Nakamura, tournament director Malcolm Pein announced that there would be another London tournament (dates not yet fixed) in 2010 and also that it was the intention to hold a world chess championship match in London in 2012.

Videos





London Chess Classic 2009 | Results

London Chess Classic

London Chess Classic 2009 | Final Standings (football system)

London Chess Classic

London Chess Classic 2009 | Final Standings (regular system)

London Chess Classic



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