Kramnik wins in London ahead of Nakamura and Carlsen

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Vladimir Kramnik won the 3rd London Chess Classic on Monday. The Russian grandmaster finished on 16 points, one more than Hikaru Nakamura who beat Mickey Adams in the final round. Magnus Carlsen finished third, one point behind Nakamura.

Kramnik receives the London Chess Classic trophy from the player who lost his world title to him in London in 2000: Garry Kasparov | All photos © Ray Morris-Hill for the official website except when mentioned otherwise


EventLondon Chess Classic 2011PGN via TWIC
DatesDecember 3rd-12th, 2011
LocationLondon, UK
System9-player round robin
PlayersCarlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams, Short, McShane, Howell
Rate of play2 hours for 40 moves followed by 1 hour for 20 moves followed by 15 minutes to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment from move 61
Prize fund€ 160,000
Tiebreak1. # games won. 2. # games won with Black. 3. Result of the game(s) between the tied players. Otherwise Armageddon.
NotesDraw offers only through the arbiter. 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw. The player who has a “bye” will assist the commentators during the round.

Videos by Macauley Peterson

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Vlad All Over

Report by John Saunders

Many congratulations to Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, who has won the third London Chess Classic. If you needed someone to save your life by getting a draw with White, Kramnik would be most people’s first choice. He was solidity personified against Levon Aronian, rapidly liquidating to a level bishop ending. That gave him the point he needed to take the trophy.

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.12"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Aronian, Levon"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D37"]
[WhiteElo "2800"]
[BlackElo "2802"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "63"]
[EventDate "2011.12.03"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. a3 {"One of
the main moves in this position. It looks harmless but it has lots of venom."
(Kramnik)} c5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. dxc5 Nxc5 11. Be2 Bf6 12. Be5 Bxe5
13. Nxe5 Re8 (13... Be6 14. Nf3 Qb6 15. Qd4 Rac8 16. O-O Nb3 17. Qxb6 axb6 18.
Rab1 Bf5 19. Rbd1 Rfd8 {Bacrot,E (2705)-Jakovenko,D (2716)/Poikovsky 2011}) 14.
Nf3 Qb6 15. Rc1 (15. Qd4 Re4 16. Qxd5 Be6) (15. b4 Ne4 16. Qd4 Qg6 17. O-O Bh3
18. Ne1 Rac8 {Kramnik}) 15... Ne6 16. Qd2 Rd8 17. Nd4 (17. O-O $5 {Kramnik
thought about} d4 18. Bc4 dxe3 19. Qxe3 Qxb2 (19... Qxe3 20. fxe3 Bd7 21. Ne5
Be8 22. Bxe6 fxe6 23. Rc7) 20. Ne5 Bd7 {and couldn't find anything special,
but in fact White has} 21. Rb1) 17... Bd7 $146 (17... Nxd4 18. Qxd4 Qxd4 19.
exd4 Be6 20. Kd2 (20. Rc7 Rdc8 21. Rxb7 Rc1+ 22. Bd1 Rc4 23. O-O Rxd4 24. Bf3
a5 25. Rd1 Rc4 26. h3 Rd8 {Huebner,R (2624)-Vaganian,R (2670)/Baden-Baden 2005}
) 20... Rdc8 21. Rc5 Kf8 22. Rhc1 b6 23. Rc7 {can be dangerous for Black
(Kramnik).}) 18. Nxe6 (18. Nf5 Ng5 $5 (18... d4 19. exd4 Bb5) 19. Ne7+ Kh8 20.
Nxd5 Qh6 {looked tricky to Kramnik, e.g.} 21. Nf4 Bc6) 18... Bxe6 19. Qd4 Qxd4
20. exd4 Kf8 21. Kd2 Rdc8 22. Rc5 Ke7 23. Rhc1 b6 $1 {"Very accurate."
(Kramnik)} (23... Kd6 24. Bb5 a6 25. Bd3 {is still slightly better for White.})
24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Rxc8 Bxc8 26. Bd3 h6 27. Ke3 g5 28. g3 f6 29. Bc2 Bd7 30. Bd3
Bc8 31. Bc2 Bd7 32. Bd3 1/2-1/2

Vladimir Kramnik after the game

Magnus Carlsen could still have shared the money (though not the trophy) with Vlad had he won with Black against Nigel Short in their now traditional last round encounter but he had rather worst of things. The game started with the Giuoco Pianissimo - ‘very quiet game’ - which most of us learn when we are beginners.

I haven’t played this since I was about eight,

said Nigel.

I haven’t scored with White in this event and I decided to play something incredibly boring. Magnus tried to inject some excitement into [the game] - but the excitement was all for White.

Nigel managed a picturesque d4-d5 thrust, which was a very useful pawn sacrifice, and the resultant activity saw him go from a pawn down to a pawn up. He was close to winning at one stage and Magnus admitted he

played a horrible series of moves

to get himself into difficulties.

However, it turned out to be what chess writers like to call a ‘symbolic advantage’ only. Nigel was a pawn up, but with all the pawns on one side of the board, and the world number one defending stoutly, his winning chances abated. He indulged in the ritual torture that all GMs practise against each other in such positions (it is part of the unwritten grandmaster’s code - your opponent tortures you when he or she gets the chance, so you are honour bound to do the same back to them). But it was unlikely to bear fruit against the world’s top rated player and a draw was the result.

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.12"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Short, Nigel D"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C50"]
[WhiteElo "2698"]
[BlackElo "2826"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "153"]
[EventDate "2011.12.03"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. Be3 Bb6 7. Bb3 Be6 8. O-O
O-O 9. h3 Re8 10. Bxb6 $146 (10. Ba4 h6 11. Ne2 Bd7 12. c4 Nb8 13. Bc2 c6 14.
Qd2 Bxe3 15. Qxe3 Na6 16. Rfd1 Nb4 17. Bb3 {Sakharov,Y-Kholmov,R/Alma-Ata 1968/
URS-ch}) 10... axb6 11. Ne2 h6 12. Ng3 d5 13. c3 b5 14. Re1 d4 15. Qc2 dxc3 16.
bxc3 Qd7 ({The problem of} 16... b4 {is} 17. Ba4) ({"I definitely should have
played} 16... Bxb3 17. axb3 Rxa1 18. Rxa1 b4 {which is relatively solid."
(Carlsen)}) 17. Rad1 Na5 18. d4 {Now White is clearly better.} exd4 19. cxd4
Nxb3 20. axb3 c6 {A critical moment in the game.} 21. d5 {Afterwards Short
wasn't sure whether this was good or premature.} (21. Ne5 Qe7 22. f4 Bxb3 23.
Qxb3 Ra3) 21... cxd5 22. e5 Nh7 23. Nd4 {"I thought I was going to win here.
It looked huge. But he defended very well. But it's not surprising, being the
number one in the world. They don't lie down and die." (Short)} f6 $1 24. Qd3
fxe5 $1 25. Nxe6 (25. Rxe5 Bf7 26. Rxe8+ Rxe8 27. Nxb5) 25... Qxe6 26. Qxd5 Nf6
27. Qxb5 Ra6 $1 {A move missed by Short.} 28. Qxb7 Rb6 29. Qc7 Rxb3 30. Rd6 Qf7
31. Qc5 (31. Qc6 Rbb8 32. Nf5 Qg6) 31... e4 32. Rc6 Rd3 33. Rc8 Rxc8 34. Qxc8+
Kh7 {Black is sufficiently coordinated to draw.} 35. Qf5+ Qg6 36. Qxg6+ Kxg6
37. Nxe4 Nxe4 38. Rxe4 Rd2 39. Re5 Kf6 40. Rh5 Kg6 41. g4 Ra2 42. Kg2 Kh7 43.
Rf5 Ra3 44. f3 Kg8 45. Kg3 Ra1 46. Rc5 Ra4 47. h4 Kf7 48. Rc7+ Kg8 49. g5 hxg5
50. hxg5 g6 51. Re7 Kf8 52. Re4 Ra5 53. Kg4 Kf7 54. Rb4 Kg7 55. Rb7+ Kg8 56.
Rb3 Kf7 57. f4 Ra4 58. Kf3 Kg7 59. Rb7+ Kf8 60. Rd7 Rb4 61. Ke3 Ra4 62. Rd4 Ra7
63. Rd6 Kg7 64. Ke4 Re7+ 65. Kd5 Rf7 66. Ke5 Rf5+ 67. Ke4 Rf7 68. Rc6 Re7+ 69.
Kd5 Rf7 70. Rc4 Rf5+ 71. Ke4 Rf7 72. Ke5 Rf5+ 73. Ke6 Kg8 74. Rc8+ Kg7 75. Rc7+
Kg8 76. Rc8+ Kg7 77. Rc7+ 1/2-1/2

Luke McShane faced the world champion Vishy Anand with White. Vishy played the Caro-Kann and the play was fairly balanced. A repetition led to early peace terms.

Luke McShane played with the (admittedly, heartbreaking) round 8 game against Kramnik still in his mind

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.12"]
[Round "9"]
[White "McShane, Luke J"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B11"]
[WhiteElo "2671"]
[BlackElo "2811"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "50"]
[EventDate "2011.12.03"]

{At the start of the press conference McShane admitted that his play was
influenced by what happened in the previous round.} 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3
Bg4 4. h3 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 e6 6. g3 Nf6 7. Bg2 Nbd7 8. Qe2 dxe4 9. Nxe4 Nxe4 10.
Qxe4 g6 $6 {Inaccurate according to Anand as now White can play d4 in one move.
} ({After} 10... Nf6 $1 11. Qe2 {White needs to lose a move to get d4 in
(Anand).}) 11. O-O $6 ({Anand said here White should have played} 11. d4) 11...
Bg7 12. d4 O-O 13. Rd1 $146 (13. Be3 Nf6 14. Qd3 Nd5 15. Bd2 a5 16. Rad1 Qb6
17. c4 Nb4 18. Qb3 Bxd4 19. Bc3 Bc5 20. Bf6 {Hector,J (2528)-Schandorff,L
(2551)/Reykjavik 2001}) 13... a5 14. a4 $6 ({Here Anand thought} 14. c4 {to be
better because now Black gets the 'fortress' he wants.}) 14... Nf6 15. Qe2 Nd5
{The black setup is directed to dominate White's dark-squared bishop. (Anand)}
16. h4 Re8 17. c3 Qb6 18. Bf3 (18. h5 e5) 18... h6 (18... e5 19. dxe5 Rxe5 20.
Qc2 Rae8 21. Bd2 Re2 22. Bxe2 Rxe2 23. Rf1 Bh6 24. Rad1 Bxd2 25. Rxd2 Ne3 {was
a fun drawing line shown by Anand}) 19. Kg2 Rad8 20. Qc4 Rd7 21. Rb1 Red8 22.
Bd2 Qc7 23. Be1 Qb6 24. Bd2 Qc7 25. Be1 Qb6 1/2-1/2

The game of the day was Hikaru Nakamura versus Mickey Adams and was earmarked as such from the moment that Hikaru played the King’s Gambit. As with the previous outing in the tournament for this museum piece of an opening (when Nigel Short played it against Luke McShane), initial exuberance soon gave way to caution and tentativeness as Hikaru tucked his king away on h1 and allowed a c4 counter-thrust. A pleasantly piratical game ensued, with White launching a pawn assault on the queenside as Mickey Adams pointed his bishops at the white kingside.

Nakamura took risks to create complications, but came out victorious in the end

Watching in the VIP room was a fascinating experience as the super-GMs who had finished their games were joined by Garry Kasparov and other former greats of the game. GMs Julian Hodgson and Stuart Conquest were the commentators there but for once they were heavily outgunned by the audience. Black seemed to hold sway for much of the game but eventually the great pendulum swung in White’s direction.

Commentating GMs Julian Hodgson (l.) and Stuart Conquest | Photo © John Saunders

Garry Kasparov it was who first spotted the change in wind direction:

38 Rfe1 and now it looks better for White.

A blunder followed and White duly triumphed, taking Hikaru Nakamura to clear second in the table and condemning poor Mickey Adams to last place. Credit to both players, though, for providing the last round audience with a feast of chess entertainment.

[Event "3rd London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2011.12.12"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Adams, Michael"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C36"]
[WhiteElo "2758"]
[BlackElo "2734"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2011.12.03"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 {"I felt a little bit inspired by Nigel I must admit. I felt
like taking a chance really."} exf4 3. Nf3 d5 ({Nakamura was a little bit
surprised about this, because Adams usually plays} 3... Ne7 {which, in this
game, transposes to the game with} 4. Bc4 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5) 4. exd5 Nf6 5. Bc4
Nxd5 6. O-O Be6 {"Probably the best move." (Nakamura)} 7. Bb3 c5 {Again
probably the best.} 8. Kh1 {"Has to be wrong, but I was just trying to create
complications." (Nakamura)} ({"After} 8. d4 cxd4 9. Nxd4 (9. Qxd4 Nc6 10. Ba4
Rc8 11. c4 Nb6 12. Qxd8+ Kxd8 13. Bxc6 Rxc6 14. b3 Bd6 {Black may be better
here but at least equal." (Nakamura)}) 9... Bc5 10. Kh1 Bxd4 11. Qxd4 O-O 12.
Rd1 Nc6 13. Qc5 (13. Qe4 Nf6) 13... Qe7 {and Black is better (Nakamura).}) 8...
Nc6 $146 (8... Be7 9. d4 O-O 10. c4 Ne3 11. Bxe3 fxe3 12. d5 Bg4 13. Qd3 Nd7
14. Bc2 g6 15. Qxe3 {Fier,A (2471)-Saralegui Cassan,M (2196)/Turin 2006}) 9. d4
c4 10. Ba4 Bd6 11. b3 c3 12. Qd3 O-O 13. Bxc6 bxc6 14. Nxc3 Re8 15. Nxd5 Bxd5
16. c4 Be4 {"Mickey has got to be better here. He just didn't up with the
correct plain." (Nakamura)} 17. Qc3 a5 18. a3 f6 19. Bb2 Ra7 20. Rad1 Rae7 21.
b4 axb4 22. axb4 Kh8 23. Qb3 Rb7 24. Bc3 Qb8 25. b5 cxb5 26. c5 b4 27. Bd2 (27.
Be1 Bf8 28. Bd2 Ra7 29. d5 Ra3) 27... Bf8 28. Rde1 g5 29. Qc4 g4 $6 (29... Qc8
30. d5 Bxf3 31. Rxe8 Bxg2+ 32. Kxg2 Qxe8 33. c6) (29... b3) 30. Nh4 (30. Ne5
Bxg2+ 31. Kxg2 fxe5 32. dxe5 f3+ 33. Kh1) 30... f3 31. d5 $2 {"A blunder."
(Nakamura)} (31. gxf3 gxf3) 31... fxg2+ 32. Nxg2 Bf3 {Missed by Nakamura.} 33.
Kg1 {"I should just be losing." (Nakamura)} Rc8 34. c6 Rb5 (34... Bd6 35. Nf4
b3) 35. Nf4 (35. Rxf3 gxf3 36. Nf4 Bd6) 35... Bc5+ 36. Be3 Bxe3+ (36... Qb6 37.
Bxc5 Rxc5 38. Qd4 {and now both players overlooked} R5xc6 $1 $19) 37. Rxe3 Qb6
38. Rfe1 b3 ({Nakamura couldn't really find anything for Black in this
position during the post-mortem but most tenacious seems to be} 38... Ra5 $1 {
and now} 39. Kf1 Ra1 $1 {and things remain messy. (Needless to say it was
Houdini who came up with this...)}) 39. Qc3 Rf8 40. Ne6 b2 41. c7 1-0

So that’s the third London Chess Classic over and done with. The end of a chess tournament is always a melancholic affair, as the organisers pack up the equipment and take down score tables, the winners lug home their trophies, the unsuccessful slink away to lick their wounds, and old chess friends part company for the dreary-seeming ‘real world’.

Just as I myself was getting ready to leave for home, I saw something I had never seen before on such occasions: a young man sitting playing a guitar on a bench just outside the commentary room. And playing quite beautifully, too. I love playing the guitar but I cannot play like this talented young man. I stood and listened to him giving this impromptu concert, all on his own outside the now deserted commentary room. Presently, Nigel Short happened to be passing and he too, as a guitar aficionado, stopped and marvelled at the music coming from the young man’s unusual eight-stringed instrument.

Fantastic!

exclaimed the grandmaster.

Guitarist Alf Wilhelm Lundberg | Photo © John Saunders

The young man was Alf Wilhelm Lundberg, from Norway, and you too can listen to some of his music at his website - I asked him what he was doing there. He told me he happened to be in England and had stopped by to see his famous compatriot Magnus Carlsen but he had missed him - the world number one had already departed. He’s a chessplayer too, incidentally. Norway - great chessplayers and great guitarists. Sounds like my sort of country.

On that note, I must close. Dear reader, I hope I have been able to bring to life some of the thrills, incidents and excitement of a wonderful tournament with you. It has been a great privilege to write for you. I wish you all the compliments of the season - may Caïssa go with you in 2012 and may your errors not be of the double question mark variety.

Big Vlad: the winner in London this year

To this report by John Saunders, we'd like to add a few quotes. For example, here's Vishy Anand's answer to a question from the audience: 'How does this tournament fit in your preparation for the match against Gelfand?'

This whole season since Sao Paulo has been a disaster. Somehow it never got going, I never got the positions I wanted to play. I kind of have to forget about it. I'm looking forward to training for the match and I hope with a tough opponent, the motivaton will come back.

Anand then complimented McShane for his fine play.

Especially in some tricky positions in the early rounds he acquitted himself beautifully.

Tournament winner Vladimir Kramnik explained that he wasn't sure about his strategy before the game.

If I had won I would have been number two in the world. But I really wanted to win the tournament so I decided to play solidly. I was still pretty tired after the Tal Memorial. I didn't bring a second but during the first half my wife and my daughter joined me. This gave me energy, a boost of positive emotions.

Round 9 (final) standings

No.NameRtgScore/gameTiebreakPerf
1Kramnik,V280016.0/8 2932
2Nakamura,H275815.0/8 2884
3Carlsen,M282614.0/8 2875
4McShane,L267113.0/8 2846
5Anand,V28119.0/81 black win2740
6Aronian,L28029.0/81 white win2741
7Short,N26986.0/8 2617
8Howell,D26334.0/8 2572
9Adams,M27343.0/8 2492

Round 9 standings (classical)

 

London Chess Classic 2011 | Schedule & results

Round 103.12.1115:00 CET Round 204.12.1115:00 CET
Kramnik½-½Nakamura Howell½-½Adams
Aronian½-½McShane McShane½-½Carlsen
Carlsen1-0Howell Nakamura1-0Aronian
Adams½-½Anand Short0-1Kramnik
ShortbyeAssisting the commentary AnandbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 305.12.1115:00 CET Round 406.12.1117:00 CET
Aronian1-0Short Carlsen½-½Kramnik
Carlsen1-0Nakamura Adams0-1Short
Adams0-1McShane Anand0-1Nakamura
Anand½-½Howell Howell0-1McShane
KramnikbyeAssisting the commentary AronianbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 508.12.1115:00 CET Round 609.12.1115:00 CET
Nakamura1-0Howell Adams½-½Aronian
Short0-1Anand Anand½-½Kramnik
Kramnik1-0Adams Howell½-½Short
Aronian½-½Carlsen McShane½-½Nakamura
McShanebyeAssisting the commentary CarlsenbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 710.12.1115:00 CET Round 811.12.1115:00 CET
Short0-1McShane Anand½-½Carlsen
Kramnik1-0Howell Howell½-½Aronian
Aronian½-½Anand McShane0-1Kramnik
Carlsen1-0Adams Nakamura½-½Short
NakamurabyeAssisting the commentary AdamsbyeAssisting the commentary
Round 912.12.1113:00 CET    
McShane½-½Anand    
Nakamura1-0Adams    
Short½-½Carlsen    
Kramnik½-½Aronian    
HowellbyeAssisting the commentary    


At the closing ceremony, held on Monday night at Simpson's in the Strand, many celebrities were present...

...and the players played the traditional simuls during dinner - here Vishy Anand

Levon Aronian - and at the table GM Danny King

Vladimir Kramnik - and we notice GM Jonathan Rowson

Mickey Adams with on his right IM Lawrence Trent

Magnus Carlsen making a move

Luke McShane pondering...

...and David Howell, who seems to have forgotten his preparation!?

Hikaru Nakamura found two chess queens...

...while Vladimir Kramnik had someone special next to him as well, when receiving the trophy!

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