Caruana Tops London; Carlsen Wins Grand Chess Tour
Caruana congratulated by the tournament director Malcolm Pein. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Caruana Tops London; Carlsen Wins Grand Chess Tour

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Dec 11, 2017, 12:51 PM |
125 | Chess Event Coverage

Fabiano Caruana won the London Chess Classic after beating Ian Nepomniachtchi in a playoff. Both players had finished on 6/9. Magnus Carlsen, who beat Levon Aronian in the final round, became the overall winner of the 2017 Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi went for a very quick draw against MVL today; the game lasted just 19 moves and 22 minutes. Eventually Fabiano Caruana ground down Michael Adams to finish shared first, after Wesley So had beaten Vishy Anand on his birthday.

2017 London Chess Classic | Round 9 Results

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

"When you're half a point ahead, the best strategy is not to lose at least, and of course I am not very happy with what I did today," said Nepomniachtchi. "I think no one really liked it. Me neither."

Ian Nepomniachtchi was rather honest after the first game of the round had finished in no time. He also gave the Grand Chess Tour more ammunition to defend its format change for next year: we won't see another silly quick draw like this on a day that decides everything.

Nepo added: "At some point it could be a long game, which should end in a draw anyway and then, in case Fabi wins, at least I will have some rest before the tiebreak. At least a bit more rest than him. That's perhaps not the most brilliant strategy, but I didn't have any other."

Ian Nepomniachtchi, London 2017

Nepomniachtchi: "Perhaps not the most brilliant strategy but I didn't have any other." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Playing Black, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was less to blame but he tried to defend himself anyway. "First of all I wasn't sure what Ian's intentions were in this game," said MVL. "You know, Fabiano could catch him...so [I didnt' know] if he would play with the intention of forcing a draw, like what happened in the game.

"And that's the problem with my narrow repertoire: I could play something to create off-balance, but it's not that easy. For instance, let's say if I play the King's Indian, after ...e5 there's dxe5, queen exchange and it's an easy draw.

"I felt like I should play what I know, and if he forces a draw well then it's bad luck. There's no easy guideline."

Vachier-Lagrave vs Nepomniachtchi, London 2017

After this one was over, several scenarios were still possible, as the official Twitter account stated:

The next game to finish had little influence though. After eight consecutive draws, Wesley So finished his tournament with a win vs Vishy Anand. The Indian legend, who was celebrating his 48th birthday, seemed fatigued as he was struggling toward the finish line.

Black was fine out of the opening, a Giuoco Pianissimo, and slowly but surely started outplaying his opponent. Last year So defeated Nakamura on his birthday, and this year he did it to Anand, saying, "it's not a nice feeling for a chess player to have to play on their birthday."

Anand's collapse in this game came surprisingly quickly. The Indian legend skipped the talk with Ashley and went Christmas shopping instead.


Then, Magnus Carlsen. How would he fare after his loss and his tense post-game interview? Well, initially it wasn't great. Again. 

Levon Aronian got a promising endgame that arose from an English, where White had the bishop pair, and Black's pawn center could easily be attacked. However, getting closer to the time control Aronian chose a creative path ("I thought I had to deliver the decisive blow at once."—Aronian) which forced his opponent to find some difficult defensive moves.

Carlsen found them, took control of the game and decided the Grand Chess Tour in his favor.

Magnus Carlsen vs Levon Aronian, London 2017

Another topsy-turvy game for Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

"I blundered a couple of moves and then...I don't know what happened to me," said Aronian, who felt for too long that he couldn't be worse in the endgame. "A really unpractical decision not to take on d6. Embarrassing."

Carlsen: "Frankly I thought before the game that I needed to win. I didn't check the standings, but I just assumed I needed to win. Then I found out right before the game that it wasn't really so, but that didn't really change my mindset; I wanted to get a game. And he also was happy to get a game."

Both players were clearly avoiding the main lines. "Then I went terribly astray very quickly," said Carlsen. "13...Bd6 was just absolutely awful. I missed his plan with Nc3 and a4. Then it just really stinks."

Magnus Carlsen, London 2017

Carlsen was close to lost today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

"He was probably incredibly frustrated that he wasn't winning so he decided not to take the draw when he should have. That was my good fortune in this game."

Carlsen noted that he was lacking energy throughout the tournament. "My game is terrible at this point. There is no energy, no confidence, nothing at all," he told Chess.com.

Dejan Bojkov, Game of the Day

Carlsen didn't think his cold played a huge role during the tournament, as was suggested here yesterday. "I've played well when I've been ill before, but the problem was that I didn't have any energy from the start of the tournament. That was more of a factor."

Magnus Carlsen Wins Grand Chess Tour

Carlsen with the Grand Chess Tour trophy. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

"Basically I was just playing most of the games move-by-move. I had no clue about plans or anything I can go for. There was just nothing.

"I think I probably need to take more precaution when playing tournaments during winter. It's easy to get sort of down when it's dark outside. It makes it more difficult to find the energy to play."


Chess.com's interview with a very tired Carlsen.

And then, at the end of the round, Fabiano Caruana did what he he had to do to force a playoff. Despite getting an "Irish pawn center" vs Michael Adams, Caruana got an advantage but only after Adams seemed to be playing for a win with 32...Rd5. "At some point I was ready to take a draw. I was just repeating moves," said Caruana.

White's 37.Rf3 was a beautiful move to liquidate to an endgame with a extra pawn. Perhaps Adams could have defended that a bit better, but in the end Caruana pulled it through.

Fabiano Caruana vs Michael Adams, London 2017

Carlsen leaving the stage with a win and checking on Caruana-Adams. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Shortly before the tiebreak, Carlsen was honored on stage for his Grand Chess Tour victory. The champion was more energetic again, and praised this year's events, which had a lot of drama. He noted that MVL's win at the Sinquefield Cup was fully deserved.

It was good to hear that Carlsen wasn't ruling out the possibility of playing in next year's tour (despite his world title match in November!) and also that he hadn't lost his typical humor. He thanked everyone, "including those who can't stand me."

2017 London Chess Classic | Playoff Results

Fed Name G1 G2 G3 G4 Score
Fabiano Caruana ½ ½ ½ 1
Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ ½ ½ 0


The playoff started with two games of 10 minutes and five seconds delay, which both ended in a draw. In the first game of five minutes and three seconds delay, it looked like Caruana was going to strike first as Nepomniachtchi blundered a piece in the opening. However, the American player used too much time on the clock and allowed his opponent to escape with a draw.

Caruana - Nepomniachtchi, London 2017 playoff tiebreak

Nepomniachtchi escaped after dropping a piece in the opening. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

"I don't think I put too much pressure on myself," said a down-to-earth Caruana about this one. "He also resisted extremely well in that game. He constantly posed many problems; he played very quickly. I let my time get too low and that was pretty much the end of it. But I wasn't getting too upset. After playing for six hours I was basically too tired too feel any pressure, which probably turned out to be a good thing."

What also might have helped him lose any remaining pressure was a fun blitz match going on in the VIP room between Lawrence Trent playing three minutes to one for MVL, which Caruana enjoyed watching in the half-hour free time he got.

Vachier-Lagrave vs Trent, London

MVL vs Trent, with Tania Sachdev, Caruana and his girlfriend watching. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The second blitz game was just crazy, with the black king running all the way to d4. White was winning there, but it wasn't easy and even more so as both players were playing with their last few seconds on the clock. A discovered check on move 66 was the knockout blow for Nepo.

Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana, winner of the 2017 London Chess Classic. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana won his first super-tournament since Dortmund 2015 and his first super-tournament with Carlsen in it since his legendary 2014 Sinquefield Cup. It was also his first win in London, which he said gave him "huge pleasure."

How he will celebrate? "I'll go out tonight. I haven't really had a chance to see London," Caruana told Chess.com.

Chess.com's interview with Caruana.

The two players in the playoff only played for the trophy; they shared the prize money and both got $62,500. With $245,427 Carlsen won the biggest amount in this tour. Vachier-Lagrave was the only other player to earn over $200,000. Third in terms of prize money was Nepomniachtchi.

2017 London Chess Classic Final Standings

2017 Grand Chess Tour Final Standings

In a tournament that started with 19 draws before the first decisive game in round four, eventually only one player finished on nine draws: Nakamura.


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