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Caruana Breaks Spell, Beats Karjakin In London
Karjakin resigns his game with Caruana, the first decisive game in London. | Photo: Maria Emelianova

Caruana Breaks Spell, Beats Karjakin In London

After the first 19 games had ended in a draw, Fabiano Caruana broke the spell and beat Sergey Karjakin at the end of the fourth round of the London Chess Classic. The American player is automatically the sole leader with five rounds to go.

From looking at the opening positions, five more draws weren't very likely today. Still, one by one the games ended peacefully again, except for the very last one.

2017 London Chess Classic | Round 4 Results

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

Each day tournament director IM Malcolm Pein gives a small speech before the start of the round where he mentions all the good things done by Chess in Schools and Communities, and then he introduces the players on stage.

Today Pein added a bit to his usual story. He started quoting some of the early paragraphs of the FIDE Laws of Chess, such as 1.4: The objective of each player is to place the opponent’s king ‘under attack’ in such a way that the opponent has no legal move, and 1.4.1: The player who achieves this goal is said to have ‘checkmated’ the opponent’s king and to have won the game.

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Malcolm Pein talking to the spectators before the round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

After making sure to everyone that he was joking, Pein noted that the reason for all the draws in his tournament is simply that we're dealing with the best players in the world, that they tend to make very few mistakes, and that that's why we admire them. It's hard to disagree with that.

At the same time Caruana's win today came with a sigh of relief in the chess world. We can stop talking about the "draw problem." It's business as usual again. 

Nepomniachtchi, Karjakin and Caruana in London

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana waiting to start their game. The latter was the last to laugh. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana's win was partly based on (double) opening preparation. "I prepared it yesterday; I wanted to play it against Ian [Nepomniachtchi] but he didn't really give me a chance by playing 1.Nf3 on the first move. So I decided I might as well try it again today and see if it works out," he said. 

"So I looked at it for two nights, maybe not too deeply but with enough detail that I was confident that even if he knew something, he probably wouldn't remember all the details," said Caruana. "It is a very confusing position so if you don't really check your files before the game, it's possible that you forget everything that you wanted to play. And I think that was the case."

Karjakin: "I was surprised of course. I didn't review it. Basically any line but this would be better."

Sergey Karjakin vs Fabiano Caruana at the 2017 London Chess Classic

Excellent prep by Caruana in the Taimanov Sicilian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana was surprised about 25.Bg1, a move that removed all the pressure from his position. He said it went "from bad but complicated to nearly hopeless."

Chess.com's interview with Caruana.

When Wesley So was asked if he had advice for Karjakin, the American player replied: "Maybe it's time for Sergey to offer a draw before move 40!" 

"Of course it's unpleasant. Yesterday I could be clear first; now I'm clear last. But what to do," said Karjakin.

Dejan Bojkov Game of the Day Chess.com

Fabiano Caruana at the 2017 London Chess Classic

Caruana is in last place in the Grand Chess Tour but now in first place in London. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The round also included the big clash between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the runner-up in the overall Grand Chess Tour, and leader Magnus Carlsen. This encounter would have been critical, especially in case of a decisive result. 

"In case I had won or lost, definitely," MVL told Chess.com. "A draw still keeps every option open. A win would definitely have favored me quite a lot for the rest of the event but it wasn't to be."

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Magnus Carlsen at the 2017 London Chess Classic.

The Grand Chess Tour's top clash. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In a queenless middlegame resulting from a Giuoco Pianissimo, the Frenchman won a pawn but was playing with two knights vs two bishop. Perhaps that "but" in the previous sentence isn't fully justified since those bishops weren't really stronger.

"I was happy with the position," said Vachier-Lagrave. "First of all I'm a pawn up, of course that helps. But the point is, at least at first I get strong squares for the knights. Unfortunately I didn't make the best use of them when I went astray with this 29.Nb4, the knight going back to c5 that was not ideal, that didn't turn out well and might even have been risky at some point."

MVL explained that he should have put one knight on d4 and one on e3. "Then it really was going to be a long day. I thought it would be. I messed up a bit."

Carlsen: "Fortunately you get as many points for playing poorly and making a draw as for playing well and making a draw. That's a good thing."

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 2017 London Chess Classic

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was hoping to make his opponent suffer a bit longer today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Wesley So vs Michael Adams was interesting because of the opening: a main line Benko/Volga Gambit with colors reversed.

"I don't think White is better because in the Benko Gambit, Black is slightly worse and here White's a tempo up," So told Chess.com. "Mickey chose a very solid position with the king on g7 and h6 to prevent Ng5. I didn't see that many plans for me; after all Black is a pawn up."

Adams: "I used to play the Benko a long time ago but I never really had it from the white side, so it's not like I had experience there either. But I looked at it; I saw some games for Black. It's not clear how useful the extra tempo is." The English GM praised the plan e2-e3, something the Benko player usually doesn't have time for.

Chess.com's interview with Adams.

Wesley So vs Michael Adams at the 2017 London Chess Classic

A Volga/Benko with colors reversed in So vs Adams. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian played an Anti-Marshall which was almost identical to their game at the 2014 Candidates' Tournament. This time, Anand played the intermezzo 12.a4 which he thought was interesting. "I didn't go into much detail but somehow I felt White should have a little something here."
Aronian played in the same way as in the earlier game with …Nf6, which had looked good for white to Anand, but "at the board it turned out very hard to prove anything," he said.

Vishy Anand vs Levon Aronian, London 2017

Another 8.h3 Anti-Marshall between Anand and Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Hikaru Nakamura managed to surprise Ian Nepomniachtchi by going for the g3-Najdorf. His opponent then transposed the game into a Dragon. Black remained somewhat passive and Nakamura was enjoying a nice space advantage, but somehow he failed to get more out of it.

Hikaru Nakamura vs Ian Nepomniachtchi, London 2017

Naka and Nepo laugh as Malcolm Pein introduces Carlsen as "the greatest player, excuse me, the highest-rated player the world has ever seen." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Download Tournament PGN

2017 London Chess Classic, Round 4 Standings

2017 London Chess Classic, round 5 pairings

Fabiano Caruana vs Sergey Karjakin, London 2017

Caruana double checking if he made move 40... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Sergey Karjakin vs Fabiano Caruana, London 2017

...Karjakin realizing there's no escape... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Sergey Karjakin vs Fabiano Caruana, London 2017

...and resigning his game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Sergey Karjakin vs Fabiano Caruana, London 2017

A brief talk about the game, above the board... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Sergey Karjakin vs Fabiano Caruana, London 2017

...where the pieces are the silent witnesses. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Fabiano Caruana, Maurice Ashley, London 2017

We have a winner! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Maurice Ashley, caption contest

Maurice Ashley at the end of the show—caption contest! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


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