London R5: Nakamura shines as England goes down in flames

12/8/2011 – Hikaru Nakamura’s game plan seemed to be to aim for steady pressure, allowing David Howell’s habitual time trouble to take its toll. Nigel Short was doing reasonably well against Vishy Anand until he slipped into time trouble and played "a move of criminal stupidity," (Nigel after the game). Mickey Adams succumbed to his third straight defeat against Vlad Kramnik. Commentary by John Saunders.

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London Chess Classic 2011

The 2011 London Chess Classic is taking place in the Olympia Conference Centre from Saturday, December 3rd until Monday, December 12th, starting at 14:00h London time each day (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 then 5) an 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. The total prize fund is €160,000 before tax.

Nakamura Shines as England Goes Down in Flames

Round five report by John Saunders

Round 5: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Hikaru Nakamura
1-0
David Howell 
Nigel Short
0-1
Vishy Anand 
Vladimir Kramnik
1-0
Michael Adams 
Levon Aronian
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Luke McShane (bye) – assisting commentary

With their star striker on the bench, England went down 0-3 in this crucial round. No, this isn’t football and I’m not predicting the first round of next year’s European Team Championship (with Wayne Rooney hors de combat). This was the main feature of the fifth round of the London Chess Classic. England’s leading contender Luke McShane was in the commentary room watching as his English colleagues were being shot down in flames.

The principal beneficiary of the bloodshed was Hikaru Nakamura (above), who beat David Howell to take over the sole lead. If Hikaru weren’t such a pleasant young fellow, I’d cast him as the Giant in the traditional Christmas pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk, with his traditional cry of “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman”. And, don’t forget, he has three more Englishmen to come. Yesterday’s game started with a distinctly pantomime flavour. As usual, there were large numbers of schoolchildren in the auditorium to watch the start of play, and when tournament director Malcolm Pein opened with his customary “Good Afternoon, everyone”, quite unprompted the children all chorused “good afternoon” in reply. It was a delightful moment and Malcolm couldn’t resist giving it a reprise, with the children again responding with gusto.

Hikaru Nakamura’s game plan seemed to be to play within himself and aim for steady pressure, allowing David Howell’s habitual time trouble to take its toll. This is more or less what happened.

The round featured the meeting of the two young men who sit atop the unofficial live chess rating list. Levon Aronian (above) had white against Magnus Carlsen. It was a Chebanenko Slav, with Levon quickly diverging from the line he had used against Luke McShane. He obtained a big edge, overlooking a chance to subject his opponent to a strong bind, but nerves seemed to play a part on both sides and Magnus was ultimately able to draw the game. Something of a let-off for Carlsen, while Aronian’s finishing is not as sharp as we have come to expect.

Nigel Short (above) played a slightly offbeat line against Vishy Anand’s Sicilian. GMs in the VIP room shook their heads at this choice of opening, opining that you have to play ‘real openings’ to retain a white initiative against world-class players. Nevertheless, Nigel seemed to be doing reasonably well until he slipped into time trouble after spending rather too long on his 25th move and then blundering on move 34: “a move of criminal stupidity,” as he himself characterised it in the commentary room.

This win was the world champion’s first in a long time – nine rounds in Moscow and five here. But it is not unprecedented for a great champion, for example Kasparov’s unsuccessful defence of his title in 2000 in which he failed to win a game.

Mickey Adams (above) succumbed to his third straight defeat against Vlad Kramnik. GM Stuart Conquest on Twitter (@stuthefox) commented sympathetically: “Adams has now lost three in a row: a terrible strain for any player. Let’s hope he can show his best chess vs Aronian tomorrow.” Of course, playing Kramnik as Black is bad news anyway; he is as relentless as inquisitor as Carlsen.

It was Vlad’s famous recipe: Kramnik à la Catalan. Stir gently for about 20-30 moves and then apply some minority attack seasoning to taste. However, the electronic master chef Rybka points out that he overcooked it slightly on move 28, where Black could have played 28...Nc7, threatening to snap off the rook. Engine analysis suggests the outcome would be fairly equal. What Mickey played was much worse: he shed a pawn within a few moves. Vlad applied steady heat and he was soon done to a turn.

On Friday 9 December, Hikaru Nakamura celebrates his 24th birthday. Many happy returns! His present is Black against a well-rested Luke McShane. Hikaru has celebrated his previous birthdays in London with black against Mickey Adams in 2009 (a draw) and black against Vlad Kramnik in 2010 (a win), so he should be pretty confident.

However, home fans will be looking to Luke to make amends for the English ‘Black Thursday’ and ruin Hikaru’s birthday. The US/UK ‘special relationship’ has been put on hold for the day. Home fans have had quite a lot to cheer them in the Open, incidentally.

Top English woman player IM Jovanka Houska (above) shares the lead on 5½/6 with GMs Peter Wells and Abhijeet Gupta from India. Jovanka has beaten GM Matthieu Cornette of France and highly-rated Indian IM Sahaj Grover, as well as drawing with in-form English GM Gawain Jones (and she was pressing hard for an endgame win in that game too). Jovanka’s performance rating is currently an eye-watering 2762 – and she has a very realistic chance of a GM norm.

After all the heavyweight chess, here’s some light entertainment from the FIDE Open.

IM Andrew Martin's Game of the Day

Maximise the video replay to follow the commentary more easily...


Standings after four rounds (London scoring)

Standings after four rounds (traditional scoring)

Schedule and results

Round 1: Saturday, December 3, 2011
Vladimir Kramnik
½-½
Hikaru Nakamura
Levon Aronian
½-½
Luke McShane 
Magnus Carlsen
1-0
David Howell 
Michael Adams
½-½
Vishy Anand 
Nigel Short (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 2: Sunday, December 4, 2011
David Howell
½-½
Michael Adams 
Luke McShane
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Hikaru Nakamura
1-0
Levon Aronian
Nigel Short
0-1
Vladimir Kramnik 
Vishy Anand (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 3: Monday, December 5, 2011
Levon Aronian
1-0
Nigel Short 
Magnus Carlsen
1-0
Hikaru Nakamura
Michael Adams
0-1
Luke McShane 
Vishy Anand
½-½
David Howell 
Vladimir Kramnik (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 4: Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Magnus Carlsen
½-½
Vladimir Kramnik 
Michael Adams
0-1
Nigel Short 
Vishy Anand
0-1
Hikaru Nakamura
David Howell
0-1
Luke McShane 
Levon Aronian (bye) – assisting commentary
Wednesday, December 7, 2011 Rest day
Round 5: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Hikaru Nakamura
1-0
David Howell 
Nigel Short
0-1
Vishy Anand 
Vladimir Kramnik
1-0
Michael Adams 
Levon Aronian
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Luke McShane (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 6: Friday, December 9, 2011
Michael Adams
  Levon Aronian
Vishy Anand
  Vladimir Kramnik 
David Howell
  Nigel Short 
Luke McShane
  Hikaru Nakamura
Magnus Carlsen (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 7: Saturday, December 10, 2011
Nigel Short 
  Luke McShane 
Vladimir Kramnik 
  David Howell 
Levon Aronian
  Vishy Anand 
Magnus Carlsen
  Michael Adams 
Hikaru Nakamura (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 8: Sunday, December 11, 2011
Vishy Anand
  Magnus Carlsen
David Howell
  Levon Aronian
Luke McShane
  Vladimir Kramnik 
Hikaru Nakamura
  Nigel Short 
Michael Adams (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 9: Monday, December 12, 2011
Luke McShane
  Vishy Anand 
Hikaru Nakamura
  Michael Adams 
Nigel Short
  Magnus Carlsen
Vladimir Kramnik
  Levon Aronian
David Howell (bye) – assisting commentary

All games 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 (sorry Murray!), 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. Stand by for further details on Saturday. The games of the final round start two hours earlier.


Links

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