Grischuk Beats Anand, Joins Leaders In London

Grischuk Beats Anand, Joins Leaders In London

| 51 | Chess Event Coverage

In what is becoming a roller-coaster tournament for Viswanathan Anand, the Indian lost to Alexander Grischuk on Thursday. The Russian GM joined the leaders on 3.5/6 at the London Chess Classic.

This report is about opening theory, about avoiding it and about remembering. It seems that top-level chess these days sees more extremes, with games that have 30 moves of theory, and games that leave the beaten track very early.

An example of the latter was Grischuk vs Anand. The game started with 1.c4 e5, and already there White side-stepped major theory with the move 2.d3!?. A remarkable choice in the same spirit as e.g. 2.a3: to treat the English as a Sicilian with an extra tempo.

“That's why 1...e5 is an accurate move! It's a Najdorf a tempo up!” joked Grischuk afterward in the commentary. In an interview with Jennifer Shahade for the Grand Chess Tour he added a more serious motif: “He's prepared too good to play something principled against him.”

Grischuk and Anand shortly before starting their game. | Photo Ray Morris-Hill.

Grischuk had wanted to play the modest move for long. “For some reason everyone started 1...Nf6 against me so I never had a chance to use it.”

The game turned into some king of Grand Prix Attack with colors reversed and the Russian was happy to get a playable position out of the opening, even without an advantage for White. That advantage came later, but it's not easy to pinpoint where.

Alexander Grischuk joined the leaders on Thursday. | Photo Ray Morris-Hill.

Still, Black kept his drawing chances in the rook ending. An important moment was move 51 where Grischuk suggested 51...d3 instead of 51...Kd3, but after extensive analysis by our annotator GM Robert Hess, we see that Anand could barely salvage a draw.

And then there was the other side of the opening spectrum: hard-core theory in the Berlin Defense. Vachier-Lagrave and Caruana played yet another Berlin ending and if we don't count the move repetitions, only a few unique moves were played.

It seems that especially this week the Berlin is criticized heavily, especially on Twitter. Here's an example from Nigel Short, and below a brief interview with Fabiano Caruana, who admitted: “It's a good opening but I think I've grown tired of this.”

There was one interesting moment though, when MVL played the nice move 26.Red1. “Only interesting for me!” said the Frenchman, since Black cannot take the knight there. The point of White's play was not easy to see.


But sometimes there's a lot of theory and the players are not fully aware of it. For example the game Nakamura vs Aronian, an Open Catalan where Black developed his rook “like a rookie:” Ra8-a6-b6.

Sure, Nakamura knew this variation (it had been played before by Julio Granda Zuniga) but he wasn't expecting it. “I should have been better prepared for it,” he said.

Nakamura playing the Catalan vs Aronian. | Photo Ray Morris-Hill.

He felt the position was relatively balanced, but at some point he was "just moving pieces" as he said, “and that's never a good idea, a good plan.” He wasn't aware that his 18.Na2 was new, and he wasn't sure it was good. 

Below is a brief interview with Nakamura, who also talks about playing or not playing on his birthday.

Speaking of not remembering the theory exactly: something like that was the case for Carlsen too. Giri played 1.e4 against him, the Norwegian played the Closed Ruy Lopez (so not the Berlin) hinting at the Marshall, and then his opponent went for 8.d4 d6 9.c3 allowing 9...Bg4.

It's a variation that normally goes 7...d6 8.c3 0-0 9.d4 (instead of 9.h3) and, among other world champions, Carlsen played it himself — in 2005 and 2006. He said: “That's 10 years ago, it says something about how old I am already!”

A decade later, Carlsen sat on the other side of the board in this Ruy Lopez. | Photo Ray Morris-Hill.

Not fully aware of the ins and outs, Carlsen decided to “play by common sense” and that worked out fine. The press conference after the game should not be missed!


The last game not mentioned yet is Topalov-Adams, which followed a line that was very popular not so long ago: 5.Bf5 0-0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5 in the Queen's Gambit Declined. Even though dozens of games have now been played there, Adams was confused: “This pawn structure is very strange somehow.”

Not all commentators liked his plan with 20...e5 but Adams himself thought it was OK for Black. But then he “made a bit of a mess of it.”

Adams: “I made a bit of a mess of it.” | Photo Ray Morris-Hill.

The Englishman lost an exchange and people feared for his life, but Topalov didn't play accurately enough and then missed a brilliant defensive move by Adams.


Four players have only played draws so far: Adams, Aronian, Carlsen and Caruana. Out of the 30 games played, 25 have ended peacefully. How does a tournament like this develop? Carlsen had an interesting take on it:

“In such tournaments a lot depends on the pace that's set early on. From the start it didn't seem like anybody was running away with the tournament so anyone could play it more safely. A lot of people thought they would still be in it with plus one, 50 percent or even minus one close to the end. That's why people are not taking so many chances.

“Also you could have had more scores if Fabiano played 46.Qg6 [against Grischuk]. It has to do something with the players but sometimes you can tell early in the tournament whether it's going to be bloody or not.”

The London Chess Classic: Not exactly bloody so far. | Photo Ray Morris-Hill.


2015 London Chess Classic | Pairings & Results

Round 1 04.12.15 16:00 GMT   Round 2 05.12.15 14:00 GMT
Topalov 0-1 Giri   Giri ½-½ Adams
Grischuk ½-½ Nakamura   Aronian ½-½ Anand
Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Carlsen   Carlsen ½-½ Caruana
Caruana ½-½ Aronian   Nakamura ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave
Anand ½-½ Adams   Topalov ½-½ Grischuk
Round 3 06.12.15 14:00 GMT   Round 4 07.12.15 16:00 GMT
Grischuk ½-½ Giri   Giri ½-½ Aronian
Vachier-Lagrave 1-0 Topalov   Carlsen ½-½ Adams
Caruana ½-½ Nakamura   Nakamura 1-0 Anand
Anand ½-½ Carlsen   Topalov ½-½ Caruana
Adams ½-½ Aronian   Grischuk ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave
Round 5 08.12.15 16:00 GMT   Round 6 10.12.15 16:00 GMT
Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Giri   Giri ½-½ Carlsen
Caruana ½-½ Grischuk   Nakamura ½-½ Aronian
Anand 1-0 Topalov   Topalov ½-½ Adams
Adams ½-½ Nakamura   Grischuk 1-0 Anand
Aronian ½-½  Carlsen   Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Caruana
Round 7 11.12.15 16:00 GMT   Round 8 12.12.15 14:00 GMT
Caruana - Giri   Giri - Nakamura
Anand - Vachier-Lagrave   Topalov - Carlsen
Adams - Grischuk   Grischuk - Aronian
Aronian - Topalov   Vachier-Lagrave - Adams
Carlsen - Nakamura   Caruana - Anand
Round 9 13.12.15 14:00 GMT        
Anand - Giri        
Adams - Caruana        
Aronian - Vachier-Lagrave        
Carlsen - Grischuk        
Nakamura - Topalov        


2015 London Chess Classic | Round 6 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Nakamura 2793 2830 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½     ½ ½ ½ 1   3.5/6 10.50
2 Grischuk 2750 2846 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½     ½   1 ½ 3.5/6 10.00
3 Vachier-Lagrave 2765 2851 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½   ½     1 3.5/6 9.75
4 Giri 2778 2840   ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½   ½   1 3.5/6 9.50
5 Carlsen 2850 2777     ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ ½   3.0/6 9.25
6 Aronian 2781 2792 ½     ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½   3.0/6 9.25
7 Caruana 2787 2790 ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png     ½ 3.0/6 9.00
8 Adams 2744 2801 ½     ½ ½ ½   phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 3.0/6 8.50
9 Anand 2803 2729 0 0     ½ ½   ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 2.5/6  
10 Topalov 2803 2581   ½ 0 0     ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/6  


Virtual Standings Grand Chess Tour

# Title Name Rating Fed Points London Virtual
1 GM Hikaru Nakamura 2802 USA 16 12 28
2 GM Levon Aronian 2780 ARM 15 5,5* 20,5
3 GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2723 FRA 12 8 20
4 GM Anish Giri 2773 NED 13 7 20
5 GM Magnus Carlsen 2876 NOR 14 5,5* 19,5
6 GM Alexander Grischuk 2781 RUS 8 10 18
7 GM Veselin Topalov 2798 BUL 17 1 18
8 GM Viswanathan Anand 2804 IND 12 2 14
9 GM Fabiano Caruana 2805 ITA 9 4 13
10 GM Adams Michael 2744 ENG 0 3 3
11 GM Jon Ludvig Hammer 2677 NOR 1 0 1
12 GM Wesley So 2779 USA 1 0 1

*At the moment Carlsen and Aronian's tiebreaks are exactly the same.

Image courtesy of Spectrum Studios.

The London Chess Classic takes place in Kensington Olympia, London and runs until Monday, December 14. December 9 is a rest day. You can watch live streaming commentary daily at with GMs Jan Gustafsson and Daniel King. phpfCo1l0.png


More from PeterDoggers
Aleksandar Matanovic (1930-2023)

Aleksandar Matanovic (1930-2023)

Row Over Freak Storm Mars Dutch Women's Championship; Roebers (17) Wins 1st Title

Row Over Freak Storm Mars Dutch Women's Championship; Roebers (17) Wins 1st Title