London Chess Classic – the Simpson's simul

12/29/2010 – It's an age-old tradition – well, it happened for a second time. After the London Chess Classic the players and many prominent personalities from the capital's high society gather in the famous Simpson's-in-the-Strand for the closing ceremony, a sumptuous dinner and an evening of chess. The latter means they play consultation games against the Classic GMs. It's great fun for all involved.

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The Simul at Simpson's

Simpson's-in-the-Strand is one of London's oldest traditional English restaurants, which was known as the Grand Cigar Divan when it opened in 1828. It developed from a smoking room to a coffee house, and finally achieved dual fame for its traditional English food, particularly roast meats and as the most important venue in Britain for chess in the nineteenth century.

In the 19th century Simpson's was the Wimbledon of chess. Almost all the top players visited the restaurant, including Wilhelm Steinitz, Paul Morphy, Emanuel Lasker, Johannes Zukertort (who had a fatal stroke while playing there), and Siegbert Tarrasch. It was in Simpson's in 1851 that one of the world's great games, the famous "Immortal Game", was played between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky.


The Grand Divan, where Anderssen won his "Immortal Game" against Kieseritzky


The entrance of Simpsons-in-the-Strand in London today


Dinner after the London Chess Classic 2010 with over a dozen tables

Each table has a chessboard, and during dinner the participants of the Classic move around, one at a time, to play against the guests at the table.


World Champion Viswanathan Anand opens with 1.d4 on one of the tables


Here David Howell makes his move at the sponsor's table, which includes GMs Garry Kasparov and David Norwood. Kasparov restricted his advice to an occasional smile or nod of the head. In the background on the right Malcolm Pein comments on the games.


Hikaru Nakamura makes his move


On table two Ken Thompson (of Unix and C fame) thankfully recorded the moves

Ken was with journalists from the BBC and other London media organisations, and essentially played the following game by himself – "with some help from GM Raymond Keene, who kept me from making any terrible blunders." In the following gamescore he has noted which master made which move (VA = Vishy Anand, HN = Hikaru Nakamura, NS = Nigel Short... You can guess the rest).

Chess Classic GMs - Keene, Thompson [B00]
Simpson's Simul, 15.12.2010
1.e4 VA 1...Nc6 2.f4 HN 2...d5 3.e5 NS 3...Bf5 4.Nf3 DH 4...e6 5.Bb5 LM 5...Nge7 6.d3 MA 6...a6 7.Ba4 VK 7...b5 8.Bb3 HN 8...Na5 9.Be3 NS 9...Nec6 10.Nbd2 LM 10...Be7 11.0-0 NS 11...0-0 12.a3 MC 12...Qd7 13.Qe1 DH 13...Rae8 14.Qf2 NS 14...Nb7 15.Ba2 VA 15...h6 16.Nb3 MA 16...f6 17.Qg3 LM 17...fxe5 18.fxe5 DH 18...Kh8 19.Rae1 VA 19...Bh7 20.Bb1 MC 20...Rf7 21.c3 MA 21...Ref8 22.d4 HN 22...Bxb1 23.Rxb1 NS 23...Nba5 24.Nc1 MC 24...Nc4 25.Qe1 DH 25...N6a5 26.Nd3 MC 26...Nxe3 27.Qxe3 DH 27...Nc4 28.Qe2 LM 28...a5 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

The table that lasted the longest and the game that generated the greatest interest was one that is described very nicely in Michael Adams' new chess blog:

Simpson’s Simul Swindle

One of the nice touches at the London Classic is the simultaneous display that accompanies the closing dinner: all the participants give a tandem simul making one move each in turn, which leads to a happy kind of chaos.

The event is quite competitive as several of the boards (each having four players consulting) have on their team a GM, including Speelman, King, Rowson, Norwood, Watson, Keene and several other handy players; last year the tournament participants had a fairly heavy loss. Chess players are quite competitive, and this year we were paying a bit more attention (whilst making sure not to miss out on their Yorkshire pud and glasses of claret). Malcolm Pein gave a running commentary on the mic; eventually he announced that the score was even at 8 all with just 1 game remaining.

At this stage Magnus took over the game, a not unwelcome development that I wouldn’t have minded availing myself of on a few other occasions. Still the game seemed destined for a draw as there were only queens and a few pawns remaining, the Black players were the presidents of three federations: CJ de Mooi of the ECF, Tomas Sielicki of the Polish Federation, Viktor Kapustin of the Ukraine Federation and Frederic Friedel of ChessBase fame, who had put up stiff resistance in a Stonewall Dutch.

Magnus has just nudged his king forward to h4, a move which contained a rather vicious trap.

Chess Classic Participants - CJ DeMooi et al
Simpsons LCC Simul, 2010.12.15

1...Qg6. After 1...Kg6 perpetual check would be inevitable, although the queen move leaves Black's king gasping for air it is spectacularly unfortunate that it loses immediately. 2.Qe5. This centralization is amazingly powerful, it's highly surprising that with so little material remaining the threat of g4-g5+ can't be adequately met, for example: 2...Qg8 [2...Qb6 3.Qg5#] 3.Qf6+ Qg6 4.g5# 1-0. [Click to replay]


Michael Adams, England's perennial number one, with Garry Kasparov

Photos by Ray Morris-Hill, Frederic Friedel

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