London Grand Chess Tour Semis To Be Decided Tomorrow
Another day of draws at Google headquarters. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

London Grand Chess Tour Semis To Be Decided Tomorrow

| 34 | Chess Event Coverage

With two draws again on the second day of the London Chess Classic, both semifinals—Levon Aronian vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura vs Fabiano Caruana—will be decided in the rapid and blitz segment on Thursday.

Last month's world championship saw 12 draws in the classical portion. It is generally believed that this scenario is typical of modern chess, where computers have not only boosted the preparation of players to enormous heights, but also made them stronger defenders.

The first two days of the London Chess Classic haven't been much different, with the exception that Vachier-Lagrave hasn't shown top-notch prep so far, and his opponent Aronian failed to make the most of his chances.

Because, like yesterday, it was the Armenian grandmaster who got close to winning.

Levon Aronian London Chess Classic 2018

Levon Aronian leaving the battlefield, again after pressing his opponent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

He surprised his opponent in a sharp line of the English with the move 9.d4. "It’s kind of an innocent-looking line but you can play it sometimes," Aronian said. "He played precisely and then the position is generally close to equality, but visually it’s better for White."

"I couldn’t remember this line because I rechecked a bit of everything but definitely not this d4. I should have, it’s my fault," MVL lamented.

He admitted he was "suffering" in the endgame after he had missed White's setup with f3 and Be3.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave London Chess Classic 2018

MVL interviewed by Alejandro Ramirez. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Both players thought that Black was close to lost around move 25, but with 25...Nb4 Vachier-Lagrave managed to confuse his opponent. "Not that it’s a great idea, but at least he gets to jump around a little bit," said Aronian.

An important moment was the following, with yet again Aronian missing a tactic. MVL had seen it.

Position after 27...Na2.

Aronian played the natural move 28.Ra1 very quickly, where 28.Rc2! was more promising. After 28...Kxe6 29.b3 Rd8 White can wait even longer with 30.Ke2!? and at first sight this looks better for White than the game. (However, as Dejan Bojkov points out, the difference isn't that big.)

"Embarrassing," said Aronian when he was shown the rook move. "I've been very inaccurate in my play."

"He rushed. It was almost like he was impatient to win," said commentator Yasser Seirawan.

Vachier-Lagrave Aronian London Chess Classic 2018

A chat between the players afterward. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The all-American game between Nakamura and Caruana was nothing more than a damp squib, to be honest. "Fabiano has basically proven that the Petroff is completely fine," said Nakamura, and that summarized things aptly. The game lasted about an hour.

The players went for a topical line that was also seen in the world championship match last month, but it was Caruana who deviated first, with 9...c6. For 17 moves the game Giri-Karjakin, Leuven 2018 was followed, but by the time Nakamura played a new move the endgame was already very close to equal.

Hikaru Nakamura London Chess Classic 2018

Nakamura waiting to be interviewed after the game; Caruana is on the right side of the image. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

"I hoped for something a little less dry," said Caruana. "It’s not really my job to create excitement with Black, is it? I mean, with White I would try, of course."

And with a little joke, he noted that there was room for more excitement: "It’s opposite-side castling. It’s pretty much a Dragon!"

"I was hoping I could get something but Fabiano pretty much played all the best moves," said Nakamura.

Nakamura feels confident for tomorrow, and suggested that preparation should play less of a role: "Fabiano is coming off the match where he had a lot of time to prepare so you’re not really expecting to get much out of the opening certainly. Obviously in rapid things are a little bit different. I like my chances but we’ll see how it goes."

Fabiano Caruana London Chess Classic 2018Caruana's Petroff is still as solid as a rock. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

On Thursday, the players will play two rapid games and four blitz games. The two winners will enter the final on Saturday were they will battle it out for a total prize fund of $200,000 while the other two players will play for the third place and a $100,000 prize fund.

British Knockout

The British Knockout Championship had a more exciting second day, with one decisive game and another close-to-decisive one.

Gawain Jones managed to beat the slight rating favorite David Howell, who now needs to try and win several games more than his opponent tomorrow as the same points system as in the Grand Chess Tour is used:

  • In the classical games, a win scores six points, a draw three points and a loss zero points.
  • In the rapid games, a win scores four points, a draw two points and a loss zero points.
  • In the blitz games, a win scores two points, a draw one point and a loss zero points.

Jones got rewarded for his enterprising play today. His bishop sacrifice on h6 was one Mikhail Tal could have played: perhaps not fully correct, but leading to enough complications for the opponent to lose track at some point. 

It's a good opportunity to mention one of the best chess quotes that exists, from Tal, the eighth world champion: "You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one."

Gawain Jones British Knockout 2018

Sacrificial play gave Gawain Jones a win. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Michael Adams came very close to beating Luke McShane today, but after 6.5 hours he had to give up his winning attempts. That must have been a big disappointment for the 47-year-old GM, who basically outplayed his opponent in the opening and reached a technically winning endgame on move 26.

However, it was never easy and McShane deserves credit for what was a heroic defense:

Michael Adams British Knockout 2018A disappointing draw for Michael Adams. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

David Smerdon London Chess Classic

Australian GM David Smerdon, now a researcher, is in London for the London Chess Conference, where he is involved in a project called Chess in Prisons. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Kasimdzhanov Caruana London

Caruana and his second Rustam Kasimdzhanov caught playing blitz. | 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 two.

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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.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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