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LCC update: Press conference, Finding Nepo, Twitter game

11/30/2012 – Friday was the opening of the 4th London Chess Classic, the strongest ever event in Britain. It started with some informal games, a press conference where it was revealed that Magnus Carlsen's second Ian Nepomniachtchi would be granted a visa – and more relevantly: how to pronounce his name. It ended with a Twitter game. Remember: the games start on Saturday at 2 p.m. local time.
 

Finding Nepo

News Release by John Saunders

November 30 marked the opening of the 4th London Chess Classic, which succeeds last year’s tournament as the strongest ever tournament in Britain. Note, I’ve not described it as an opening ceremony as it was a generally informal affair. Anyone who comes to London looking for pomp and ceremony should go to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace; the London Chess Classic is a more relaxed affair.

The press conference was a tad later than we promised – apologies to those of you watching online – as Magnus Carlsen and Judit Polgar were whisked off for a photo-shoot at the London Eye and it took time to get them back to Olympia through the London traffic. Meanwhile, the other top GMs, back at Olympia, were limbering up with a practice game on the giant chess board in the foyer at the venue.

Levon Aronian (above) took White against his girlfriend Ariane Caoili. You might think, given the rating differential, he could at least have given his girlfriend the white pieces – I, of course, could not comment.

Nigel Short helped even up the odds by joining Ariane’s team (picture above), while a couple of kibitzers took the mickey. That wasn’t a clue – Mickey Adams wasn’t one of them – but if Carlsberg did kibitzers, it would probably have been these guys – current world champion Vishy Anand and his immediate predecessor Vladimir Kramnik. Later, and not for the first time this afternoon, there was a communications mix-up on the black side of the chessboard, with a gigantic white queen thumping down on g6 to put an end to this mega-skittles game.

By that time Magnus and Judit had arrived from their photo-shoot and we moved to the press conference, with all nine competitors at the table with tournament director Malcolm Pein chairing. The press conference was streamed live to the vast internet audience. (You can still view it on our website.) Malcolm told us that in excess of 360,000 people watched the tournament online in 2011, and that we were hoping to exceed that in 2012.

Malcolm told us about the success of the Chess in Schools and Communities charity which runs in parallel with the London Chess Classic, and which now funds chess teachers at 176 primary schools in England and Wales in 30 different areas of the UK, which we’re very proud of. This year we are encouraging the online audience to donate a small sum – one dollar/euro/pound per viewer – to the tournament to fund the charity and help ensure the continuation of the tournament itself. We’ll be providing details of ways to do this during subsequent live broadcasts and on the website.

We then moved to questions, from the online audience as well as the people in the room. The first came from an Internet questioner with a Scandinavian name. Sitting on the immediate right of Magnus Carlsen (above), Malcolm was a little self-conscious about reading out the questioner’s name. After a tentative try at pronouncing it, he turned to the world number one for help. “Could he be a Norwegian with a name like that?” With immaculate comic timing, Magnus shot back: “Not the way you pronounce it!”. That brought the house down. A third career possibility for Magnus: after chess super-GM and fashion model... stand-up comedian?

Seconds out

As was revealed in the Norwegian press a couple of days ago, there had been problems getting Magnus’s Russian second a visa to enter the UK and Magnus faced the prospect of working on his own in London and only being able to contact his second via internet telephony. This was not the first time Britain’s slightly fraught diplomatic relationship with Russia had caused the tournament problems.


"Yann NepOMniashee" – that is how you pronounce it

Malcolm was on the point of naming the Russian GM in question but he then remembered what had happened when he had tried to pronounce the Norwegian name. Instead of having a stab at pronouncing Ian Nepomniachtchi’s name, he turned to Magnus and said “I’m going to have pronunciation problems with Ian’s name, aren’t I? Do you know how to say that one?” A cunning attempt to turn the tables on Magnus, but the young man wasn’t falling for that trick. After a slight hesitation, he answered “I don’t know!” to another ripple of laughter. Malcolm had a valiant go at it but passed the microphone to Vlad Kramnik for a definitive Russian pronunciation. “I can do it better,” said Vlad. I can’t render the Kramnik pronunciation in print but it was something like ‘Nepomniashee’, with a very slight accentuation of the ‘om’ syllable, with the voice falling away on the subsequent syllables. More importantly, the visa story had a happy ending: Malcolm had used his diplomacy to persuade the Russians to issue Ian Nepomniachtchi with a visa and he should arrive on Saturday to start work with the world number one.

The Twitter Game

The players now proceeded to play a game against all-comers on Twitter, with the Classic competitors playing moves in a fixed sequence. Reverse alphabetical order was used, which meant that Judit Polgar had the honour of playing 1.d4 for the Classic stars on the giant chess set. I’m not entirely sure how seriously the players on Twitter were taking this, but it is fair to say that the Classic competitors treated it as a harmless bit of fun and took the opportunity to tease each other about their choices of move. It is reassuring to see that super-GMs are no different to ordinary club chessplayers in this respect. Once the game was utterly won, they showed a more sadistic side of their nature, spinning the game out for a few moves rather like a cat playing with a mouse.

The game was marred by a communications foul-up when a horrible blunder (15...e5??) submitted via Twitter failed to be weeded out by the somewhat haphazard system we were using to relay data and choose the world’s move (although, as a Twitterer pointed out, at least the blunder proved we weren’t cheating and using a chess engine). Maybe a brilliant chess computer programmer, like Mark Uniacke of Hiarcs, could design us a chessplaying engine/Twitter interface to remedy this technical problem and make it easier to handle the feed?

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.11.30"] [Round "?"] [White "London Chess Classic"] [Black "Twittersphere"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A45"] [PlyCount "43"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 e6 3. e4 h6 4. Bxf6 Qxf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Qd3 d6 7. O-O-O O-O 8. Nf3 Nd7 9. Kb1 a6 10. g4 b5 11. g5 hxg5 12. Rg1 g4 13. Rxg4 e5 14. Nd5 Qe6 15. Rh4 Ba5 16. Ng5 Qe8 17. Qh3 g6 18. Rh8+ Kg7 19. Rh7+ Kg8 20. Nf6+ Nxf6 21. Qh6 Nxh7 22. Qxh7# 1-0

Nigel Short, like former British prime minister Gordon Brown before him, had promised to ‘save the world’, but the position after 15...e5 proved to be beyond even his chessboard lifesaving skills. Actually, it was probably a timely mistake as it allowed the super-GMs to escape and get some rest before the coming fray. The real fun starts tomorrow Saturday and you can follow all the action at the official website.

Photos by John Saunders, Ray Morris-Hill


Tournament Information

The 2012 London Chess Classic will take place in the Olympia Conference Centre from Saturday, December 1st until Monday, December 10th. Games start each day in general at 14:00h London time, except for round four (16:00h) and the final round (12:00h). Time controls are classical forty moves in two hours, then twenty moves in one hour and thirty minutes for the rest of the game. A win is counted as three points, a draw as one, and a loss zero. Tiebreaks: 1) number of wins, 2) number of wins with black, 3) result of the individual game between the tied players. In the unlikely event that there is still a tie then: 4) 2 x 15'+2" games, and if necessary 5) Armageddon game: 6'+2" vs 5'+2" with draw odds for black. If there is a tie involving more than two players then the Rapid games will be conducted as a double round all play all.

There are nine players, including the three top-ranked in the world, make for a rating average of 2751. The player rested during each round will provide commentary on the games in progress.

Name Title
Country
Rating
W-rank
Born
Carlsen, Magnus Super-Grandmaster
NOR
2848
1
30.11.1990
Aronian, Levon Super-Grandmaster
ARM
2815
2
06.10.1982
Kramnik, Vladimir Ex-World Champion
RUS
2795
3
25.06.1975
Anand, Viswanathan World Champion
IND
2775
6
11.12.1969
Nakamura, Hikaru Super-Grandmaster, US Nr. two
USA
2755
13
09.12.1987
McShane, Luke Super-Grandmaster
ENG
2710
29
07.01.1984
Adams, Michael Super-Grandmaster
ENG
2710
32
17.11.1971
Polgar, Judit Super-GM, strongest female ever
HUN
2705
43
23.07.1976
Jones,Gawain Grandmaster
ENG
2644
112
11.12.1987

Pairings

Round 1: Saturday, Dec. 1st, 2012, 14:00h
Luke McShane
  Magnus Carlsen
Levon Aronian
  Hikaru Nakamura
Vladimir Kramnik
  Judit Polgar
Gawain Jones
  Michael Adams
Vishy Anand (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 2: Sunday, Dec. 2nd, 2012, 14:00h
Judit Polgar
  Gawain Jones 
Hikaru Nakamura
  Vladimir Kramnik
Magnus Carlsen
  Levon Aronian
Vishy Anand
  Luke McShane 
Michael Adams (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 3: Monday, Dec. 3rd, 2012, 14:00h
Levon Aronian
  Vishy Anand
Vladimir Kramnik
  Magnus Carlsen
Gawain Jones
  Hikaru Nakamura
Michael Adams
  Judit Polgar
Luke McShane (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 4: Tuesday, Dec. 4th, 2012, 16:00h
Hikaru Nakamura
  Michael Adams
Magnus Carlsen
  Gawain Jones
Vishy Anand
  Vladimir Kramnik
Luke McShane
  Levon Aronian
Judit Polgar (bye) – assisting commentary
Wednesday, Dec. 5th, 2012 Rest day
Round 5: Thursday, Dec. 6th, 2012, 14:00h
Vladimir Kramnik
  Luke McShane
Gawain Jones
  Vishy Anand
Michael Adams
  Magnus Carlsen
Judit Polgar
  Hikaru Nakamura
Levon Aronian (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 6: Friday, Dec. 7th, 2012, 14:00h
Magnus Carlsen
  Judit Polgar
Vishy Anand
  Michael Adams
Luke McShane
  Gawain Jones 
Levon Aronian
  Vladimir Kramnik
Hikaru Nakamura (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 7: Saturday, Dec. 8th, 2012, 14:00h
Gawain Jones 
  Levon Aronian
Michael Adams 
  Luke McShane
Judit Polgar
  Vishy Anand
Hikaru Nakamura
  Magnus Carlsen
Vladimir Kramnik (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 8: Sunday, Dec. 9th, 2012, 14:00h
Vishy Anand
  Hikaru Nakamura
Luke McShane
  Judit Polgar
Levon Aronian
  Michael Adams
Vladimir Kramnik
  Gawain Jones 
Magnus Carlsen (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 9: Monday, Dec. 10th, 2012, 12:00h
Michael Adams
  Vladimir Kramnik
Judit Polgar
  Levon Aronian 
Hikaru Nakamura
  Luke McShane
Magnus Carlsen
  Vishy Anand
Gawain Jones (bye) – assisting commentary

The games – except for rounds four and nine – start at 2 p.m. or 14:00h British time = 15:00h CET, 17:00h Moscow, 7:30 p.m. Chennai, 22:00h Beijing, 01:00 a.m. Melbourne, 03:00 a.m. Auckland, 6 a.m. San José, 9 a.m. New York. You can check your location here. Naturally the games will be covered live on the official web site (below) and on Playchess. The games of round four begin two hours later, those of the final round two hours earlier.


Links

The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client and get immediate access. Or you can get our latest Fritz 13 program, which includes six months free premium membership to Playchess.

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