London Chess Classic, Day 1: It's not only the Super Tournament

by Sabrina Chevannes
12/10/2016 – See what happened on day 1: Children were allowed on stage to play on the seats of the superstars, the British Knockout saw GMs fighting to keep their seats and last year's winner of the Fide open has to try the Swiss Gambit: Report by Sabrina Chevannes...

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London Chess Classics / Day 1 at the Festival

With three decisive games in the main event, spectators at the London Chess Classic were really buzzing yesterday. Quite prepared for the usual solid performance by these guys, spectators were rewarded early on in the Nakamura-So game. 

Chess in Schools and Communities had 200 children running around throughout the morning, too. The kids got the chance to play on the stage and predict how the GM games would go. I bet Nakamura wished this boy’s prediction came true…

Every year, thousands of children come to Olympia for the chance to meet their chess heroes and take on children from other schools in a bit competition. These activities were only due to start on Monday, but due to such demand, CSC opened up another school day yesterday. 

The auditorium was packed out for the start of the main Classic event, as players from the Fide Open also attended, to get some inspiration for their event. This year, the event looks stronger than ever, with what looks like the majority of the French national team looking to win a share of the generous, increased prize fund. 

Etienne Bacrot


Laurent Fressinet

With the French being known for their great parties, I’m sure we will see some celebrations during the event, especially if their main man Maxime Vachier-Lagrave performs well. 

There weren’t too many upsets in the first round, but last year’s winner, Benjamin Bok, only managed to draw to England’s Tim Hebbes (2113). Perhaps he’s going for the Swiss Gambit…tactical start (!)

Meanwhile, in the British Knockout, the top four seeds were battling it out for a place in the final. The pressure was mounting up, as this round is essentially going to cost them £5000. It looked like the lower seeds in the two matches were going to come out victorious. 

When speaking to GM Jones and GM Howell about the match, they were having a serious case of déjà vu. 

Gawain Jones

"I’ve had the exact same line up as last year, where I beat Rowson in the quarters and played Howell in the semis. Last year, was a crazy 14-hour battle with David and the Armageddon game was painful. Hopefully things can go differently this year."
-    GM Gawain Jones

David Howell (r.)

"It’s like I’m going in reverse this year – my last 8 games in this competition have all been against the same player!"
-    GM David Howell

David won last year’s competition, beating GM Nick Pert 4-2 in the final. You can read my interview with him about it here. However, he has another potentially long battle against Gawain in the semis before he can think about the final. 

Grovelling disgusting

When speaking to Gawain after his game against David yesterday, he seemed rather relieved, as he felt he was under a lot of pressure. He actually used the word "grovelled" when describing how he obtained the draw. 

Meanwhile, listening to Luke and Nigel discuss their game, Luke was naturally gutted not to convert his position. Nigel described his position as "disgusting" and was pleased to hold with black and try his hand with the white pieces today. 

David Howell (r.)

Born in 1986 in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, England, Sabrina now lives in London where she is managing director of the London Academy of Chess and Education. With over 300 members of the academy, she has one of the largest following of students in the UK. Sabrina is a Women International Master and an active chess player.


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