London Classic – Round two commentary

12/10/2010 – Six decisive games so far, with all eight being exciting and entertaining. The Second London Chess Festival is giving the spectators their money's worth. Luke McShane is the sole leader after beating Nigel Short in a complicated tactical struggle. Two points behind him is America’s Hikaru Nakamura who scored a great win against former world champion Vladimir Kramnik. Round two commentary.

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London Chess Classic 2010

The tournament is an eight-player round-robin for seven rounds played at 40/2h + 20/1h + g/15'+30" using the Sofia Rules. Prizes: 1st 50,000 Euros, 2nd 25,000 Euros, 3rd 15,000 Euros, 4th 10,000 Euros, 5th 10,000 Euros, 6th 8,000 Euros plus seven daily Best Game prizes of 1,000 Euros voted on by the public. Tie Breaks: In order of priority. 1. Number of games with Black. 2. Number of games won with Black. 3. Number of games won. 4. Ranking based on the games between the tied players only.

Round 2: Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik 

0-1

 Hikaru Nakamura

David Howell 

½-½

 Viswanathan Anand

Magnus Carlsen 

1-0

 Michael Adams

Nigel Short 

0-1

 Luke McShane

Commentary on round two

By John Saunders

The Sicilian Dragon is one of the sharpest openings on a chess board and that was the chosen line for Luke McShane against Nigel Short - unusually so, because Luke is not a regular Dragon player. As always with this opening, it soon became highly tactical and mind-bendingly complicated. At one point Nigel appeared to be a couple of moves away from a big kingside mating attack but, when he came to calculate variations, he found Luke had counterstrokes against his major ideas. Looking at the game later with computers, it seemed that the obvious 22 Rxh5 might have succeeded had it been followed up correctly but, in time pressure, he tried 22 g5 and suddenly the tactics didn’t work. Luke found a way to exchange queens after which his extra pawn and superior position told. It was still an exciting spectacle as the two players raced passed pawns down the board, but there could only be one winner as Luke had more pawns. The win takes him into sole lead in the tournament with a maximum six out of six.

Short,Nigel (2680) - McShane,Luke (2645)
London Chess Classic 2nd London (2), 09.12.2010 [Saunders,J]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6.

White usually disdains this capture and plays 10.0-0-0 , thinking to get on with the traditional kingside offensive, but it is interesting to see what happens if he does play the obvious move. 10...fxe6 11.0-0-0 Rc8. Rather unusual. Most Black players prefer to stop White's next move with 11...Ne5 first. 12.Bc4. Completely logical. White seeks to exploit the weakness on the a2-g8 diagonal. 12...Qd7 13.Bb3 Na5 14.h4 Nc4. Superficially, 14...Nxb3+ to knock out the light-squared bishop in one, is tempting, but it is not clear then where Black's queenside counterplay is coming from. If he cannot conjure up something, he might simply get mated on the kingside. This is an occupational hazard of playing the Dragon, of course. As Nigel Short put it in the commentary room: "Dragon players don't really mind getting mated", though one could hear Dragon expert GM Chris Ward in the background saying "oh yes, they do!". 15.Qd3








15...Qc6. You might find your computer gets excited at the prospect of 15...Nxb2!? here, with the idea of 16.Kxb2 Nd5 17.exd5 Rxc3 18.Qxc3 Bxc3+ 19.Kxc3 Rxf3 20.dxe6 Qc6+ 21.Kd2 a5 , etc, but the two players were dismissive of this line, feeling that White's rook and two bishops were more than adequate compensation for the queen. 16.Ne2 Nd7 17.Nd4 Qa6 18.f4. 18.Nxe6? Bxb2+ 19.Kb1 Rxf3 20.Ng5 Rxe3! 21.Qxe3 Bf6 gives Black a very useful attack for the small material investment. Besides which, White doesn't want pawns, he wants to give mate. 18...e5 19.fxe5 Ndxe5 20.Qe2 Kh8. It would all too easy to fill up the page with analysis here but let's look at just one alternative: 20...d5!? 21.exd5 Nxg4 is another try if Black is afraid of being mated. However, White could continue with 22.Bg5!? , e.g. 22...Nf2 23.d6! Nxd1 24.Qe6+ Kh8 25.d7! and White seems to emerge with an advantage. 21.h5 gxh5








22.g5? Both players were in severe time trouble by now. Here Nigel Short thought he must be winning on the kingside but found that his likeliest tries were flawed, e.g. 22.Rxh5!? Nxe3 23.Qxe3 (But perhaps 23.Qh2! would have won after all.) 23...Rf1! 24.Rh1 and now the implausible (24.Rxh7+ Kxh7 25.Qh3+ Bh6+ - check! - 26.g5 Nd3+!! is another stunning (lucky?) resource for Black) 24...Qd3!! comes to Black's rescue. 22...Ng4! 23.Bg1. An annoying necessity. 23.Rxh5 Ncxe3! 24.Rxh7+ Kxh7 25.Rh1+ comes close but 25...Kg6 and the black king is perfectly safe. 23...Nce3! Forcing the exchange of queens more or less guarantees that Black will not be mated on the kingside. 24.Qxa6 bxa6 25.Bxe3 Nxe3 26.Rd3 Bxd4 27.Rxd4 Rc5! The endgame is a very different story. Black is already a pawn up and has further white pawn weaknesses to target. 28.Rd3 Ng2! Indirectly defending the h-pawn with a fork on f4. Nigel had hoped for 28...Rf1+?? 29.Rxf1 Nxf1 30.Rf3 Nh2 31.Rf8+ Kg7 32.Rg8#. 29.Rg3 Nf4 30.Kd2 Re5 31.Re1 Kg7 32.Ke3 Kg6 33.c3 Rxg5 34.Rxg5+ Kxg5 35.Rg1+ Kh6 36.e5 dxe5 37.Ke4. Though Black has three sets of doubled pawns, his endgame advantage is secure. 37...Ng6 38.Bc4 a5 39.Kd5 Rf2 40.b4 axb4 41.cxb4 h4 42.a4 h3 43.a5 h2 44.Rh1 Kg5. I suspect Nigel might have resigned around here ordinarily but he sportingly plays on to a more clear-cut conclusion for the benefit of the big crowd watching. 45.b5 Kg4 46.b6 axb6 47.a6 Kg3 48.a7 Rf8 49.Kc6. Both advanced pawns can queen and 'buy' a rook but Black has a back-up supply of potential new queens, of course. 49...Nf4 50.Ra1 e4 51.Ba6 Nh3 52.Bb7 Ng1 0-1. [Click to replay]

Let’s try to think of presents we wouldn’t want for our birthday. In my case it would be a ticket to a Barry Manilow concert or the memoirs of some tedious politician. Hikaru Nakamura celebrated his 23rd birthday today and his ‘gift’ from the tournament was a Black pairing with Vladimir Kramnik. And his gift from Vlad? A Catalan Opening. Not unexpected, but I’m guessing that Hikaru’s thought when he saw the ex-world champion prod his pawn to g3 was not so much “Ooh, a Catalan - just what I always wanted!” than “what have I done to deserve this?” Vlad’s Catalan is so good that he ‘lent’ it to Vishy Anand to help him defeat Veselin Topalov in their world championship match earlier this year (now that really was a gift you’d want to have).


Chief Arbiter Albert Vasse starts the clock at the start of the game Kramnik v Nakamura

But that is not at all the story of the game. Vlad soon transposed into a Nimzo-Indian and seemed to getting a spatial advantage, but on move 12 he unexpectedly gave up a piece for some play. Blunder or sacrifice? If the latter, how much play did he expect to get from it? It did require Hikaru to compromise his king safety but still looked a pretty good deal for him. So maybe this was Vlad’s real gift to his youthful opponent. There were a few tactics as the players reached the time trouble and Nakamura’s king had to flee up the board. But it all held together somehow and Hikaru had the perfect birthday gift after all - a win with Black against Kramnik. Add that to his rugged draw with Black against Vishy Anand in the first round and he has made a remarkable start to the tournament.

Magnus Carlsen bounced back from his first round defeat with a win against England number one Mickey Adams. It was deep, positional game, emerging from an English opening. For much of the game it seemed that Mickey stood well and Magnus’s play didn’t really impress but, short of time, Mickey embroiled his pieces in a kingside escapade that didn’t achieve much, whilst the Norwegian pieces took advantage on the opposite side of the board and won material. Faced with an enemy pawn about to queen, Mickey resigned.

Carlsen,Magnus (2802) - Adams,Michael (2723)
London Chess Classic 2nd London (2), 09.12.2010 [Saunders,J]
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bc5. 4...Bb4 and 4...d5 are more frequently seen but this is respectable. 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 0-0 7.d3 a6. 7...h6 , to prevent the pin of the f6 knight, is by far the commonest move here.

8.a3 Ba7 9.b4 Be6. Yasser Seirawan, in his video commentary on the Internet Chess Club, thought 9...Bf5 was a useful alternative, with a view to getting in e5-e4 for Black and, if 10.e4 to prevent it, then 10...Bg4 and Black will have a good home for his c6 knight on d4. 10.Nd2 Rb8. Yasser Seirawan preferred the more direct 10...d5 here, but the choice is not critical. This line of the English is quiet and strategic, contrasting with the ultra-sharp Short-McShane game going on alongside. 11.Rb1 Ne7 12.a4 Qd7 13.b5 Bh3 14.Ba3 h6 15.e3 Bxg2 16.Kxg2








16...Bc5. Very committal, but still not really classifiable as an error. 16...axb5 17.axb5 Bc5 would ensure that the resultant doubled pawn on c5 could be defended by the move b7-b6. 17.Bxc5 dxc5 18.Nf3 Qe6 Black threatens to undermine White's pawns with e5-e4 so Magnus decides he has to stop that happening with... 19.e4 c6 20.Qb3 Rbd8. Superficially, 20...cxb5 looks attractive, to undouble the pawns, but 21.cxb5 Qxb3 22.Rxb3 Ng6 23.Rc1 would leave Black's queenside pawns a little vulnerable to White's rooks. A player of Magnus's stratospheric ability would be quite capable of capitalising on such a small edge in the long run. 21.bxa6 bxa6 22.Qc2. Black's c5 pawn is now a long-term weakness but White's backward d3 pawn is a compensatory factor from Black's point of view. 22...Ng6. With the immediate threat of ...Nf4+! but White can easily stop this. 23.Ng1. In a sharp, tactical struggle this sort of retreat would be costly in terms of time but in this quiet, manoeuvring game it does not count as a concession. 23...Rb8 24.a5 Nd7 25.Na4 Qd6 26.Ne2 Qc7 27.Qc3. White has to defend a second pawn weakness. 27...Rfd8 28.Rxb8 Rxb8 29.f4








29...exf4!? Yasser Seirawan considered this the critical point of the whole game. He thought the text move was an error of judgement, preferring the idea 29...Rb7!? with the idea of Qb8 and an invasion along the b-file. But some analysis engines favour Adams's plan. 30.gxf4 Qd6 31.Kh1 Rb4 32.Qc2 Nh4. Another turning point. Black could try 32...Qc7 here, with the simple threat of taking the a5 pawn, but perhaps he was afraid of a white kingside attack should he concentrate his major pieces on the queen's flank. 33.Nac3 Qg6 34.Ng3








34...Nf6? Perhaps this is the true turning point of the game. The text move allows White to play e4-e5 with tempo and establish a knight on e4. But it looks better to leave the knight where it is, defending the c-pawn, and play 34...Qe6! instead. Black seems quite handily placed then, with useful replies to pawn pushes, e.g. 35.f5? Qd6! when White's progress stymied and Black is significantly better. 35.e5 Nh5?! Black could admit his previous mistake and play 35...Nd7 when he is not worse. 36.Nxh5 Qxh5 37.Ne4 Kh8? This is probably the fatal error. Black needs to play 37...Qf5 when 38.Qf2 Qh3 39.Re1 Rb3! seems to hold things together, e.g. 40.Nxc5 Rb2! 41.Qxb2 Qf3+ 42.Kg1 Qg4+ 43.Kf1 Qh3+ with perpetual check. 38.Qf2 Nf5 39.Nxc5. Not 39.Qxc5?? Qh3! and White suddenly has insoluble problems. 39...Qh3 40.Re1 Nh4 This makes things relatively easy for White but Black was probably losing anyway. 41.Qg3 Qxg3 42.hxg3 Nf3 43.Rf1. Black's forlorn hope is 43.Ra1?? Rb2! - a sneaky mating configuration beloved of all competition chessplayers. 43...Nd4 44.Kg2. Magnus's king is on its way to e4 where it will be safe and ready to support pawn advances. 44...Ne6 45.Nxa6 Ra4 46.f5 Ng5. There is no time for 46...Rxa5 because of 47.fxe6 Rxa6 48.exf7 and the pawn queens. 47.Nc7 Kg8. Black would like to play 47...Rxa5 but 48.e6! fxe6 49.fxe6 Re5 50.d4! and White will soon have two united passed pawns on their way to promotion. 48.a6 Kf8 49.Kf2. 49.Kf2 Ke7 50.Rb1 Kd7 51.Rb7 Kc8 52.e6 soon decides. 1-0. [Click to replay]

World champion Vishy Anand is getting good positions in London but can’t quite seem to put his opponents away. At one point, near the time control, it looked as though David Howell might succumb to a concerted attack by Vishy’s queen and rook. David had to surrender a pawn but gained just enough play to hold off the world champion and eventually regained the pawn. It was a splendid rearguard effort by the young Englishman and a psychological boost after his unhappy first round. A second draw is bad news for the world champion, however, as it only garners him a total of two points compared to three other competitors who have won one and lost one but score three points for their win.

Howell,David (2611) - Anand,Viswanathan (2804)
London Chess Classic 2nd London (2), 09.12.2010
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 g6 8.Nc3 Bg7 9.Be3 Nf6 10.h3 0-0 11.0-0 Rfc8 12.b3 a6 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.exd5 Nxd4 15.Bxd4 Bxd4 16.Qxd4 b5 17.Rfe1 bxc4 18.bxc4 Rc7 19.Qh4 Rac8 20.Re4 Qf5 21.Rae1 Qf6 22.Qg4 h5 23.Qe2 Qc3 24.Rxe7 Rxc4 25.Re3 Qf6 26.Qf3 Rf4 27.Qe2 Kg7 28.g3 Rf5 29.h4 Rc5 30.Rd3 Re5 31.Qd2 Rxe1+ 32.Qxe1 Rc2 33.a3 Qf5 34.Rd4 Qf3 35.a4 Re2 36.Qf1 Ra2 37.Qe1 a5 38.Rf4 Qxd5 39.Qc3+ Kg8 40.Rd4 Qe5 41.Kg2 Kg7 42.Qc4 Ra1 43.Rf4 d5 44.Qa6 Rd1 45.Qa7 Qe6 46.Kh2 d4 47.Rxd4 Rf1 48.Kg2 Ra1 49.Qxa5 Qc6+ 50.Qd5 Qxd5+ 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

The highlight of the day for your reporter was Nigel Short’s wonderful anecdote about a game he played last week in Saint Louis, Missouri, against GM Ray Robson (see the video, Round 2.4, around 52 minutes in). Returning from the rest room, Nigel looked up at the demo board as he returned to the board and thought his opponent had played Kg8. He sat down and soon played Kf2 in reply. His opponent’s reply was unexpected. Not a chess move but the words “it’s my move!”. The young US GM hadn’t played Kg8 or indeed anything else. Nigel’s aberration was the result of a demo board error (the king was actually on h8). Is Nigel’s unwitting attempt to play two consecutive moves unprecedented, I wonder? Later, Nigel teased Dragon expert GM Chris Ward: “Chris is one of these guys who plays Rxc3 in every position in which it is legal!” but the earlier revelation provided Chris with the perfect riposte: “Yes, but only when it is my turn!”. I know it is easy to spend other people’s money but I do think there should be a special prize for the best performance by a player in the commentary room. At the moment Nigel is winning this hands down.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2791) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2741)
London Chess Classic 2nd London (2), 09.12.2010
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.g3 c5 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 d6 7.d4 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Qe7 9.dxc5 dxc5 10.Ne5 Qc7 11.Bf4 Nh5 12.Qd2 g5 13.Bxg5 Qxe5 14.Rad1 f6 15.Bh6 Ng7 16.Bf4 Qh5 17.Bd6 Re8 18.Qf4 Nd7 19.g4 Qf7 20.Rd3 e5 21.Qh6 Qg6 22.Qxg6 hxg6 23.Be4 Kf7 24.f4 exf4 25.Bd5+ Ne6 26.Bxf4 Nb6 27.Be5 Nxd5 28.cxd5 Nf8 29.Rxf6+ Kg8 30.Bd6 Kg7 31.Rf4 g5 32.Rf2 b6 33.Rdf3 Ng6 34.Rf7+ Kh6 35.h3 Ba6 36.R2f6 Bxe2 37.Be7 Bc4 38.Rd6 Bxd5 39.Bxg5+ Kxg5 40.Rxd5+ Kh4 41.Rf3 Re5 42.Rxe5 Nxe5 43.Rf5 Nd3 44.Kh2 Rh8 45.a4 Rh6 46.Kg2 a5 47.Kf3 Nb2 48.Kf4 Nxa4 49.c4 Nc3 50.Ke3 a4 51.Kd3 Nd1 52.Rf8 Kxh3 53.g5 Rd6+ 54.Ke4 Kg4 0-1. [Click to replay]

Photos by John Saunders


Standings after round two

Nr
Sd
Name Rating Fed
Score
TPR   Birthday Tiebreak
1
7
McShane, Luke J 2645 ENG
6
3476   1984  
2
4
Nakamura, Hikaru 2741 USA
4
2991   1987  
3
3
Kramnik, Vladimir 2791 RUS
3
2711   1975 wins with black
4
2
Carlsen, Magnus 2802 NOR
3
2684   1990 win versus Adams
5
5
Adams, Michael 2723 ENG
3
2707   1971 loss versus Carlsen
6
1
Anand, Viswanathan 2804 IND
2
2676   1969  
7
8
Howell, David W L 2611 ENG
1
2571   1990  
8
6
Short, Nigel D 2680 ENG
0
1983   1965  

Traditional cross table


Pairings of the London Chess Classic

Round 1: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Nigel Short 
0-1
 Vladimir Kramnik
Luke McShane 
1-0
 Magnus Carlsen
Michael Adams 
1-0
 David Howell
Viswanathan Anand 
½-½
 Hikaru Nakamura
Round 2: Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik 

0-1

 Hikaru Nakamura

David Howell 

½-½

 Viswanathan Anand

Magnus Carlsen 

1-0

 Michael Adams

Nigel Short 

0-1

 Luke McShane

Round 3: Friday, December 10, 2010

Luke McShane 

-

 Vladimir Kramnik

Michael Adams 

-

 Nigel Short

Viswanathan Anand 

-

 Magnus Carlsen

Hikaru Nakamura 

-

 David Howell

Games – Report
Round 4: Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik 

-

 David Howell

Magnus Carlsen 

-

 Hikaru Nakamura

Nigel Short 

-

 Viswanathan Anand

Luke McShane 

-

 Michael Adams

Games – Report
Round 5: Sunday, December 12, 2010

Michael Adams 

-

 Vladimir Kramnik

Viswanathan Anand 

-

 Luke McShane

Hikaru Nakamura 

-

 Nigel Short

David Howell 

-

 Magnus Carlsen

Games – Report

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rest day

Round 6: Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik 

-

 Magnus Carlsen

Nigel Short 

-

 David Howell

Luke McShane 

-

 Hikaru Nakamura

Michael Adams 

-

 Viswanathan Anand

Games – Report
Round 7: Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Viswanathan Anand 

-

 Vladimir Kramnik

Hikaru Nakamura 

-

 Michael Adams

David Howell 

-

 Luke McShane

Magnus Carlsen 

-

 Nigel Short

Games – Report

Remaining tournament schedule

Friday December 10th Classic Round 3 14:00
Saturday December 11th Classic Round 4 14:00
Sunday December 12th Classic Round 5 14:00
Monday December 13th Free day  
Tuesday December 14th Classic Round 6 14:00
Wednesday December 15th Classic Round 7 12:00

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