London Chess Classic: Jones Scores With Bishop Sac
Gawain Jones was the only winner on the stage today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

London Chess Classic: Jones Scores With Bishop Sac

| 25 | Chess Event Coverage

With two more draws in the classical games, the Grand Chess Tour matches Nakamura-Vachier-Lagrave and Caruana-Aronian at the London Chess Classic will be decided tomorrow in the rapid and blitz games. Gawain Jones scored a nice victory against Luke McShane to take a six-point lead in the final of the British Knockout Championship.

Photographer Lennart Ootes shared a remarkable statistic with this author on Sunday: the player who will be crowned as the winner of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour tomorrow, will be someone who hasn't won a single classical game.

Before London, the only tournament with classical games in the Grand Chess Tour was the Sinquefield Cup in August, where Maxime Vachier-Lagrave drew all his games, and Hikaru Nakamura drew six and lost three. Here in London, all classical games were drawn.

We are living in a time when the status of classical chess is under pressure. World champion Magnus Carlsen is the main proponent of making rapid and blitz more important in the world championship. In a way, the Grand Chess Tour has become an example of an event where rapid and blitz have become the decisive parts.

Vachier-Lagrave vs Nakamura London Grand Chess Tour 2018

Either Nakamura or Vachier-Lagrave will win the 2018 Grand Chess Tour tomorrow without having won a classical game in the tour. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Today we saw two draws, but of a completely different nature. Whereas Aronian didn't even try against Caruana's Petroff and agreed to a draw on move 21, Vachier-Lagrave and Nakamura played until bare kings.

That Petroff between Aronian and Caruana was mostly interesting for how the Armenian grandmaster defended his strategy, and what Caruana's thoughts were. From the outside, it seemed clear that Aronian wanted to try his luck in the rapid and blitz, just like Carlsen had done a month ago. (Note that, with Caruana drawing his four classical games in London, Carlsen is keeping his number one status in the live ratings.)

Aronian-Caruana London Grand Chess Tour 2018

That was a very brief encounter between Aronian and Caruana today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana was first interviewed by Alejandro Ramirez, who asked: "Do you feel if everyone is just targeting your rapid and blitz?" Caruana replied: 

"Not really. I thought Levon probably wanted to get more out of the opening than he got. (...) But these are very ambitious players and if they have the white pieces they want to win. Especially since classical is so weighted in this event, that six points is pretty much an insurmountable lead. So nobody is playing for a draw here. It's just that sometimes you don't get so many chances with white."

Caruana London Grand Chess Tour 2018 VIP room Hodgson

Caruana in the VIP room, where GM Julian Hodgson gives commentary. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

However, Aronian admitted what was on everyone's mind—that he didn't really try today:

"I am usually not the guy to go for a short draw with white, but since it's a match, I thought to be practical. After all, I have a much higher rating in rapid and blitz than Fabiano, so mathematically it should be not a bad decision!" 

Aronian London Grand Chess Tour 2018

Aronian: "Mathematically it should be not a bad decision!" | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The Berlin endgame doesn't have a great reputation, but it was definitely more interesting than the Petroff today. Vachier-Lagrave managed to keep an edge against Nakamura as the players reached a double rook endgame where White had the possibility to create a passed pawn on the kingside, and Black didn't.

However, straight away Nakamura found a nice, temporary pawn sacrifice and was quickly OK again, especially as MVL probably missed a better way to play the endgame.

Nakamura London Grand Chess Tour 2018

Finding 31...g6! was excellent by Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

MVL was quite happy with how the opening went, as he could follow his preparation for a long time and his position was "very promising." However, he also said: "I am pretty disappointed with myself because I did what Levon did against me in game two: I just played too fast and missed a resource."

He was referring to a miscalculation almost at the end of the game, and said: "It's very possible that there was no win anywhere, that would maybe soften the feel, but it's no excuse for what I've done."

Vachier-Lagrave London Grand Chess Tour 2018

MVL wasn't happy with missing something in the rook endgame. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Online it's different, but with an actual board and pieces Nakamura didn't consider himself a favorite for tomorrow: "Over the board, lately he has been a bit better so I think it's a bit of a toss. I don't think you can really give the advantage to either player, unlike, say, a match a against Fabiano or even the match between Fabiano and Levon tomorrow. Levon should win."

MVL about his chances for tomorrow: "Pretty good, but I think Hikaru's chances are also pretty good!"

Nakamura Speelman Sunil mother London Grand Chess Tour 2018

Nakamura with his family and in between GM Jon Speelman. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

British Knockout

Gawain Jones has a very comfortable six-point lead as he goes into the rapid and blitz portion in the final of the British Knockout championship against Luke McShane. The youngest of the two Britons (Jones is 31, McShane 34) outplayed his opponent in a Tarrasch French and then got the chance to play a nice tactic:

Gawain Jones London Grand Chess Tour 2018

Another excellent game by Gawain Jones. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

David Howell and Michael Adams will play the rapid and blitz on equal terms, after their second game also ended in a draw.

Howell Adams British Knockout 2018

David Howell and Michael Adams are still tied. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The London Chess Classic takes place December 11-17 in London, with a rest day on December 14. You can follow the games, starting from 2 p.m. local time (9 a.m. Eastern, 6 a.m. Pacific), at our new page with commentary by GMs Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila, Alejandro Ramirez and WGM Jennifer Shahade.

Here you can replay the show from day five.

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