LCC-R3: Thank heavens for the Evans

by John Saunders
12/13/2014 – Perhaps as a gesture to the hosts Hikaru Nakamura played a "British opening" against Viswanathan Anand. His novelty on move nine did not set the pulse racing, and the game ended in a draw. The other two were Berlins: "not the most exciting of games", which is British understatement for "mind-numbingly tedious", as John Saunders puts it. Round three report.

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All quiet on the Olympia front

Round three report from London by John Saunders

Two Berlins and an Evans – start of round three in the London Chess Classic

Michael Adams
Vladimir Kramnik
Fabiano Caruana
Anish Giri
Hikaru Nakamura
Viswanathan Anand

In round three of the London Chess Classic all six players scored the full point. Everyone’s a winner! No, I’m kidding as usual, and taking a chance on some of you forgetting that the tournament uses three points for a win and one for a draw. All three games were drawn, hence one point apiece. The scores are now Kramnik and Giri 5, Adams 4, Anand 3, Caruana and Nakamura 2.

The third match game between Gawain Jones and Romain Edouard
was also a draw, so Gawain still leads, by 2-1.

All three tournament games began 1.e4, one heading for the wrong but romantic Evans Gambit and the other two for the right but repulsive Berlin Defence. Incidentally I was tickled by tournament director Malcolm Pein’s jocular threat to punish any latecomers amongst the super-GMs by forcing them to stand by the choice of first move by the children who come up on the stage to make the ceremonial first move. (Not sure how that would work with latecomers who had the black pieces but never mind.) He hasn’t had to carry through with this threat yet, though yesterday the players arrived en masse a smidgin late, having been detained in the VIP room by a particularly delicious birthday cake brought in by Sue Maroroa Jones to celebrate her hubby Gawain’s birthday. Maybe Malcolm could exploit the elite players’ sweet tooth to cure them of their Berlin fixation: “no more Berlins – or no more cake!”.

Hikaru Nakamura (above) is a young man with a sense of occasion. “The Evans Gambit is a British opening,” he told us in the commentary room. This is reminiscent of David Bronstein and Magnus Carlsen, both of whom began with the English Opening, 1.c4, on playing their first white games in prestigious English tournaments (Carlsen’s was here at the Classic, of course). And, as someone with Welsh blood coursing through his veins, I am pleased that Hikaru correctly said ‘British’ and not ‘English’ in reference to the gambit’s progenitor, Captain Wilfred Davies Evans (1790-1872), who was a Welshman, from Pembrokeshire.

There was a discussion of the merits of the Evans Gambit in the commentary room, with Peter Svidler joining the resident GMs via a skype link. The best Peter could say of the opening was that it was “better than the King’s Gambit”. It has surprise value at lower levels of the game, even against less exalted GMs, but when the custodian of the black pieces is someone as booked up as Vishy Anand, the element of surprise barely registers. Vishy chose a solid line (actually called the Conservative defence) where Black gives back the pawn to catch up with development. Hikaru unfurled a new move on move nine, but it didn’t set the pulse racing.

[Event "London Chess Classic"] [Site "Olympia, London"] [Date "2014.12.12"] [Round "3"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C52"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2793"] [Annotator "Saunders,John"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2014.12.10"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 {Trademark move of the Evans Gambit, of course. Captain Evans dreamt it up whilst commanding the Royal Mail steam packet on its regular run between Milford Haven in Wales and Waterford in Ireland in 1824.} Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 7. Qb3 Qd7 {This is known, in Tim Harding and Bernard's estimable work 'Play The Evans Gambit' (1997), as the Conservative Defence.} 8. dxe5 Bb6 ({Giving back the pawn in favour of a solid position and the threat of Na5.} 8... dxe5 {, retaining the gambit pawn, is often played, when White continues with 9.Ba3 or 9.0-0. Harding and Cafferty also mention 9.a4, though it hasn't had many outings and there are no games with it on the ChessBase database. 9.Ba3 is critical as it prevents kingside castling.}) 9. a4 $5 ({White mostly continues with} 9. Nbd2 {here, but this is a new move. However, it is high on Houdini's pick of moves in the position and frequently played in similar positions, so is unlikely to have come as much of a surprise to as well prepared a player as the 15th world champion. He took just five minutes to formulate a reply.}) 9... Na5 {Deciding that the elimination of the c4 bishop is more important than clinging onto an extra pawn.} 10. Qa2 Nxc4 11. Qxc4 Ne7 12. exd6 cxd6 13. O-O O-O 14. Qd3 Ng6 15. a5 Bc5 16. Be3 Re8 17. Nbd2 Bxe3 18. Qxe3 d5 {[diag] Black has equalised quite comfortably.} 19. Rfe1 dxe4 20. Nxe4 Qe7 21. Nd6 Qxe3 22. fxe3 Rd8 23. Red1 Rb8 24. Rd4 Be6 25. c4 b6 26. axb6 axb6 27. Ra7 {Here the rook on the seventh is really only a symbolic advantage. The game is slowly fizzling out.} h6 28. h3 Ra8 29. Rb7 Rdb8 30. Rc7 Ra5 31. Kh2 Rc5 32. Ra7 Kf8 33. g4 Ra5 34. Rc7 Rc5 35. Ra7 Ra5 36. Rc7 1/2-1/2

Now for the first of our two Berlins (East Berlin?)... not the most exciting of games. (For overseas readers, that is British understatement for ‘mind-numbingly tedious’, by the way.) The hour or so I spent going through it is time I will never get back, which is particularly sad as my sands of time are running quite low as it is. I would recommend just browsing the comments but otherwise just skipping it altogether, unless you are using it as an excuse to avoid doing your fair share of household chores.

[Event "London Chess Classic"] [Site "Olympia, London"] [Date "2014.12.12"] [Round "3"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Giri, Anish"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2829"] [BlackElo "2768"] [Annotator "Saunders,John"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2014.12.10"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3 Ke8 10. Ne2 {Not the most frequently played move but used occasionally by such names as Ruslan Ponomariov and the late Vugar Gashimov.} b6 11. Rd1 Bb7 12. b3 {New territory.} Rc8 {[diag] A mysterious rook move: to be honest, I haven't the foggiest idea what Black has in mind here. The move hovers between being Houdini's fourth and seventh favourite move, so the electronic monster evidently sees a modicum of merit in it.} 13. Bb2 Be7 14. Ned4 ({It's always tempting to lurch forward with a move such as} 14. g4 {in such positions, but here it would run into} c5 $1 {when the attack on the f3 knight is hard to meet.}) 14... Nxd4 15. Nxd4 {I looked at this position for a moment or two, wondering why Black didn't play 15...0-0 before the penny dropped. Black's 8th and 9th moves are relevant.} Rg8 {This rook move to a closed file makes more sense as the g7-pawn will be attacked after White's next move.} 16. Nf5 c5 17. c4 Be4 18. Ng3 (18. Nd6+ $5 cxd6 19. exd6 Bxd6 20. Rxd6 Rd8 {looks solid enough for Black.}) 18... Bg6 19. f4 h5 20. f5 h4 21. fxg6 hxg3 22. gxf7+ Kxf7 23. hxg3 Ke6 {White has an extra pawn but it is doubled and not capable of being undoubled. White has an infinitesimal initiative but without realistic prospects of making inroads.} 24. Kf2 Rcd8 25. Ke2 Rxd1 26. Rxd1 Rh8 27. Bc3 c6 28. Bd2 Re8 {Apparently today was the day for putting rooks on funny squares. Maybe Anish was doing it to win a bet with a friend. Either that or he had subsided into a catatonic stupor. I know I have.} 29. Rh1 Kxe5 30. Bc3+ Kf5 31. Kf3 Kg6 32. Rd1 Rd8 33. Rxd8 Bxd8 {Not opposite-coloured bishops but still irredeemably drawn.} 34. Be5 Kf7 35. Kf4 a6 36. Bb8 Ke6 37. g4 b5 38. Be5 g6 39. Ke4 Be7 40. Bf4 Bf8 41. Be3 Bd6 42. Bf4 Bf8 43. Be3 Bd6 44. Bf4 Bf8 1/2-1/2

And now for something completely the same. Well, to be fair, it isn’t. This Berlin defence game has a bit more going for it, and one glorious, fleeting, patriotic moment when it looked like Mickey might beat Vlad in the London Borough of Hammersmith for the first time. Not that that record is anything to be ashamed of. Vlad has only lost two classical games in this part of London and this is now his sixth Classic. This was only their fifth classical game here. Bear in mind that Garry Kasparov played Vlad 15 times in Hammersmith and scored +0, =13, -2.

It's just a Berlin! Anish Giri (right) and Romain Edouard curious Kramnik-Adams

[Event "London Chess Classic"] [Site "Olympia, London"] [Date "2014.12.12"] [Round "3"] [White "Adams, Michael"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2745"] [BlackElo "2769"] [Annotator "Saunders,John"] [PlyCount "107"] [EventDate "2014.12.10"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 Ke8 10. Nc3 h5 11. Bf4 Be7 12. Rad1 Be6 13. Ng5 Rh6 14. g3 Bc4 $5 ({A new move. It has a one-move threat but otherwise leaves the bishop rather uncomfortably posted.} 14... Bxg5 15. Bxg5 Rg6 16. h4 f6 17. exf6 gxf6 { was played in the seventh game of the Carlsen-Anand match in Sochi, which was drawn. Carlsen had a knight for two pawns but was unable to exploit his material advantage.}) 15. Rfe1 Rg6 16. Nce4 Rd8 17. Rxd8+ Bxd8 18. b3 Bd5 19. c4 Bxg5 20. Nxg5 Be6 21. Kg2 c5 22. Nxe6 Rxe6 23. Rd1 Nd4 24. g4 hxg4 25. hxg4 Ra6 26. Rd2 Ra3 {Getting ready to chisel away at the b3 pawn with a5 and a4.} 27. Be3 a5 ({The downside to Black's slightly off-the-wall rook manoeuvre is that it leaves the piece unable to deal with problems in other sectors. If now } 27... Ne6 {White continues} 28. f4 {and it is clear that White is going to advance his kingside pawns rapidly and get a useful attack. So he simply allows the capture, though it means he is saddled with rather a vulnerable d-pawn.}) 28. Bxd4 cxd4 29. Kf3 a4 30. Rb2 axb3 31. axb3 Ra1 32. Ke4 Rd1 { Everything hangs together for Black but it looks a little perilous.} 33. b4 Ke7 34. Rb3 {Here Kramnik sank into a long think. Forty-six minutes, to be exact. He must have been worried about something. His position does look tricky, though analysis engines don't detect anything too problematic as yet.} b6 35. b5 $1 {Covering Black's threat to support his passed d-pawn with ...c5.} Rg1 36. Rg3 Rf1 $6 ({Clearly not} 36... Rxg3 $2 37. fxg3 {as the d4 pawn will drop off.}) (36... Rc1 $5 37. Kxd4 (37. Kd5 $5 Rd1 38. f4 d3 {also seems to hold things together}) 37... Rf1 {and the black rook can shuttle between checks and threats to capture pawns in order to hold the balance.}) 37. f4 {White now seems to be better coordinated and not far off being able to snaffle the d-pawn.} g5 38. f5 Rf4+ 39. Kd5 Kd7 {[diag]} 40. c5 $2 ({With more than six minutes left for his final move before the time control, Mickey uses four of them and makes a mistake. Instead} 40. f6 $1 {leads to a winning position. For example,} Rf1 (40... d3 41. Rxd3 Rxg4 42. e6+ $1 fxe6+ 43. Ke5+ Ke8 44. Kxe6 Re4+ 45. Kf5 {wins}) 41. Rh3 Rc1 42. Rh7 Ke8 43. Rh8+ Kd7 44. Rf8 d3 45. Rxf7+ Ke8 46. Rxc7 d2 47. Ke6 $1 {wins. Not easy but Nigel Short on commentary thought that White might have found it in the time available.}) 40... bxc5 41. Kxc5 Re4 42. Kd5 Re3 43. Rg2 d3 44. Rd2 Rg3 45. Rd1 (45. e6+ fxe6+ 46. fxe6+ Ke7 47. Rf2 Rxg4 48. Rf7+ {is nothing special.}) 45... Rxg4 46. Rxd3 Rf4 47. f6 Rf1 48. e6+ Ke8 (48... fxe6+ $2 49. Ke5+ Ke8 50. Kxe6 {gives White some winning chances.}) 49. exf7+ Kxf7 50. Rc3 Rf5+ 51. Kc6 g4 52. Rg3 Rg5 53. Kxc7 Rxb5 54. Rxg4 1/2-1/2

Tradition scoring cross table

If music be the food of chess

One last anecdote before I stagger off to bed. Music and chess have always gone together, all the way back to Philidor, and music has often played a part at the Classic. We’ve had concert performers Alf Wilhelm Lundberg and Jason Kouchak play for us on guitar and piano at opening ceremonies, and members of the team, such as Daniel King and Nigel Short play the guitar. Daniel also plays the double bass in gigs around SW London and has been part of the backing band for chess-loving jazz singer Nette Robinson, whose chess-related art is displayed along the way to the auditorium.

Now the children are getting in on the act. I understand that, during the ‘Chris and Dan Show’ (as Chris Ward and Daniel King’s sessions with schools are known), the Melcombe Primary School choir, trained by Jason Kouchak, sang three songs: Every Move You Make (by keen chessplayer Sting), Silent Night and the CSC anthem Moving Forward. Well done, Melcombe, keep up the music and the chess.

Maybe we could round off the tournament with a rendition of White Christmas? That would be nice. Although I’ve just remembered who composed it... Irving Berlin. Oh dear, I’m starting to have second thoughts...

Important reminder: the Saturday and Sunday rounds start
two hours earlier than the previous three, at 2 p.m. UK time.

Photos by Ray Morris-Hill, John Saunders


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

In 1999 John Saunders gave up his job as an IT professional to become full-time editor/webmaster of 'British Chess Magazine'. During the 2000s he was also webmaster and magazine editor for the English Chess Federation, and regular webmaster and photo-reporter at Isle of Man and Gibraltar tournaments. In 2010 he became editor of the leading UK monthly 'CHESS' Magazine, retiring in 2012 but remaining its associate editor and regular contributor.


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