Wild Chess As Bartel Beats Niemann, Tabatabaei Stuns Vitiugov
Tabatabaei has won three of his last four games to join Gukesh in second place. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Wild Chess As Bartel Beats Niemann, Tabatabaei Stuns Vitiugov

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

"The game could and should have gone differently," confessed GM Mateusz Bartel after GM Hans Niemann survived a huge attack only to blunder on the verge of victory. GM Amin Tabatabaei moved into joint second in the London Chess Classic 2023 with a brilliant win over GM Nikita Vitiugov, while Gukesh Dommaraju scraped a draw against 14-year-old IM Shreyas Royal. GM Michael Adams remains the sole leader with two rounds to go after a sharp draw against GM Andrei Volokitin.      

The London Chess Classic continues with round eight on Saturday, December 9, at 9:15 a.m. ET/15:15 CET/7:45 p.m. IST.

London Chess Classic Round 7 Results

Rating Title Player Result Title Player Rating
1 2661 GM Michael Adams ½-½ GM Andrei Volokitin 2659
2 2631 GM Luke McShane ½-½ GM Jules Moussard 2635
3 2438 IM Shreyas Royal ½-½ GM Gukesh D 2720
4 2692 GM Amin Tabatabaei 1-0 GM Nikita Vitiugov 2704
5 2667 GM Hans Niemann 0-1 GM Mateusz Bartel 2659

The super-GM London Chess Classic watch party on Twitter/X was put on hold on Friday, with GM Anish Giri announcing he was taking a day off. 

Meanwhile his partners in crime, GMs Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, were all in Toronto for the 2023 Champions Chess Tour Finals that begins Saturday. Together with the likes of GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Nodirbek Abdusattorov, they continued discussing the games in London, or did they?  

After that, things just got weird.

Once again, however, there was a huge amount to discuss from London, with both of the day's wins absolutely spectacular.

Tabatabaei 1-0 Vitiugov

After a bumpy start where he alternated wins and losses, Tabatabaei has been on fire in London, and he made it a run of 3.5/4 by outpreparing the famously well-prepared Vitiugov. Tabatabaei had barely used up any of his 90 minutes when Vitiugov's 18...Nc5? turned out to be a losing move. 

The Iranian grandmaster dug deep and found 19.Ng5!, with the knight later sacrificed on f7, and went on to win in real style. Vitiugov put up strong resistance, but it only allowed Tabatabaei to finish things off with a study-like endgame.

That clash is our Game of the Day, which has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

While that game was one-way traffic, the next was a rollercoaster that went off the rails.

Niemann 0-1 Bartel

Four-time Polish Champion Bartel still hasn't made a draw in this year's London Chess Classic, and his uncompromising chess has now been rewarded with four wins.

It's not only the games but that Bartel has been "doing a Hikaru" in London, playing his games and then coming back to the hotel to record recaps each day on his Polish YouTube Channel. 

Bartel's latest recap was almost 44 minutes long.

Bartel briefly touched on the cheating accusations against Niemann before saying he was sure the U.S. star's play was normal in London, with blunders as well as better and worse games. Bartel got a confidence boost at the start of the game from his opponent's condition:

I approached this game absolutely normally, and I had a small bonus because it turned out that Hans is simply unwell. For the whole game, it was visible that he was suffering, so you could say that put the wind in my sails, although, of course, I don’t wish anything bad on my opponent. 

Bartel mentioned coughing, but if Niemann was under the weather, it didn't stop him from playing aggressive chess and taking the "terribly risky decision" to grab a pawn on f7. Soon, a huge attack had begun.

Bartel confessed, however, that he lost control and that going on to sacrifice two knights, a bishop, and a queen had smacked of desperation. It all came down, however, to this position (you can also play through the whole game).

Bartel commented: "He can simply play 43.Kd1, which Hans did, and it’s over. It’s completely over. I can resign. In despair I played 43...Rcxc2, and I saw that I was just losing, in two ways."

Instead of finding either of those two ways, however, Niemann gave up his queen with 44.Qxc2?, lost all his advantage, and even went on to lose. Bartel summed up:

To call it a dramatic game would be an understatement. A good game? Very much not a good game! But it’s a point, and I’m happy about it. The seventh game without a draw. I don’t remember when I last had such a streak of so many games without a draw. What’s happening with me here in London is a beautiful story but exceptionally unstable. I’m happy to win, but I’m not happy with the style...

That win took Bartel to within a point of the lead, while Tabatabaei is up to second place, just half a point behind Adams, after the remaining games ended in draws. 

Three Fighting Draws

Three draws almost amount to a draw-fest at this year's London Chess Classic, but all the games were hard-fought. GM Luke McShane has had a tough event, losing all three games with Black and making draws with White. As he had White in round seven, he did indeed manage to hold GM Jules Moussard to a draw, though in top form, he might have won a pawn and then spent the next few hours torturing his opponent.

Volokitin's fatal flaw in London has been his time management, and when a new idea by Adams caused the Ukrainian to think for 39 minutes on move 10 before grabbing a pawn, it was easy to see how it could all go wrong. Instead, however, it was Adams who found himself needing to repeat moves to make a 28-move draw.

Royal came close to defeating one of the world's best players, Gukesh. Photo: Tao Bhokanandh, London Chess Classic.

That gave Gukesh a chance to catch Adams with a win, and that seemed a strong possibility since the Indian was facing tournament underdog Royal. As it happened, though, it was the 14-year-old who almost pulled off a sensational win.

That miss by Gukesh leaves him with an uphill struggle to get the sole first place he needs, particularly as Adams faces the bottom two in the final two rounds. The numbers don't look good.

Gukesh vs. Tabatabaei on Saturday will be a clash of the second-placed players, while Adams vs. McShane is a chance for Adams to get one hand on the trophy.

Standings After Round 7

How to watch the 2023 London Chess Classic

You can keep up with all the games and results of the tournament on our live events platform by following this link.

The 2023 London Chess Classic is a 10-player classical all-play-all tournament taking place in London during December 1-10. The players compete for a £15,000 (~$19,000) top prize, with games starting at 9:15 a.m. ET/15:15 CET/7:45 p.m. IST.

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