London Grand Chess Tour Finals Start With Draws
The London Grand Chess Tour resumed on Saturday in Olympiad, Kensington. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

London Grand Chess Tour Finals Start With Draws

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

Both games Hikaru Nakamura vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Fabiano Caruana vs Levon Aronian, in the London Chess Classic finals for first and third place of the Grand Chess Tour, ended in draws on Saturday. The British Knockout Championship saw two draws as well.

After a rest day on Friday, used by the organizers and the St Louis crew to move the boards, pieces, cameras and other equipment to the traditional venue Olympia in Kensington, play resumed on Saturday with the final, the match for third place and the British Knockout.

London Grand Chess Tour

The  traditional view of the playing hall in London: Olympia. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Both Grand Chess Tour games were fairly interesting, but Nakamura vs Vachier-Lagrave was a much longer fight and Black had serious chances there.

Nakamura was ready for a full-blown main line against MVL's trusted Gruenfeld, but the French GM did manage to surprise his opponent relatively early, with the move 10...b6. Naka obviously knew it, but after a few natural moves he couldn't remember his preparation after 15...Qd6.

MVL had played this line against Karjakin in Stavanger this year as well. "I didn't remember I played this position, but I remembered it was very good for Black!" he said.

Vachier-Lagrave London Chess Classic 2018

MVL doing well in his pet 1.d4 opening, the Gruenfeld. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Due to a small miscalculation, Nakamura lost his opening advantage. In fact, his "position got pretty bad in a hurry," as he said himself.

By move 17, "I felt I sort of took over the initiative," said MVL, who ended up in an endgame with an extra pawn on the queenside. Only thanks to active counterplay on the kingside Nakamura managed to hold the draw.

"I just missed a couple of tactics," said Nakamura. "Normally that shouldn't happen, today it did unfortunately but luckily I still drew the game. I'll put it behind me, come back tomorrow and hopefully I'll play better."

Nakamura-Vachier-Lagrave London Chess Classic 2018

The Grand Chess Tour finals and the British Knockout on the same stage. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Like in his first two classical games in London, Levon Aronian got some pressure but couldn't turn it into a tangible advantage. He was a bit better out of the opening, despite the fact that Fabiano Caruana was slightly better prepared.

Aronian mentioned that he wasn't sure about his 10th move, even though Caruana had played that position before, against Karjakin last year!

Levon Aronian glasses London Chess Classic 2018

A slight memory lapse in preparation for Aronian, but it didn't matter much this time. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

How it went, Aronian got more than enough compensation for a pawn. Caruana decided to play it safe, give back the pawn and allow a perpetual.

"I felt it was a decent game because I didn't really remember what I had prepared," said Aronian. "It's good to come out of it on top."

Caruana-Aronian London Chess Classic 2018

A short but interesting draw in Caruana-Aronian. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

British Knockout

The final of the British Knockout championship between Luke McShane and Gawain Jones started with a fairly balanced draw. Whereas he used to play sharper openings such as the Dragon (about which he wrote a two-volume book as well!) Jones has built up a solid repertoire based on what the "big guys" play: the Italian. He seemed always comfortable in that first game.

Gawain Jones British Knockout 2018

Gawain Jones has been solid as a rock in London so far. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In the match for third place, Michael Adams once again got good chances, but failed to convert an endgame an exchange up vs David Howell. It looks like Adams missed very good winning chances on the infamous 40th move.

Michael Adams British Knockout 2018

Michael Adams has had trouble converting promising positions this week. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

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 four.

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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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