Caruana wins London Classic, but Carlsen takes the Tour

by Macauley Peterson
12/12/2017 – Ian Nepomniachtchi made a quick draw with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in under 30 minutes giving him a share of first place. But he had to wait nearly six hours to find out that Fabiano Caruana had equaled his score. The pair played an exciting blitz duel, which ended with Caruana as the London Chess Classic champ, while Magnus Carlsen took the overall Grand Chess Tour. Games annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Round 9

At the start of the final round, organiser Malcolm Pein gave his usual pitch for Chess in Schools and Communities, the charity for which the London Chess Classic has been an annual showpiece since its inception eight years ago. The audience in the auditorium at the Olympia Conference Center was scant as it was noon on a normal Monday, and the myriad festival side events had all wrapped up the day before. That was the price for hosting the magnificant first round at the Google DeepMind headquarters, invited by the team that has brought us AlphaZero — a fair trade-off.

At the end of his remarks, however, Pein added a new line:

“Please don’t come back tomorrow. It’s horses.”

That's a reference to the Olympia Horse Show, which kicks off Tuesday, has traditionally been held in December, and long predates the London Classic. It may have been lost on the international webcast audience, but in some ways the last round resembled a horse race, with players neck and neck for both the tournament victory and the Grand Chess Tour prize.

When Ian Nepomniachtchi shook hands with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in less than 30 minutes after the start of Round 9, it was a calculated move to the pole position. The 27-year-old Russian knew he might have to face a playoff with Fabiano Caruana should the American manage to defeat Michael Adams. But at a minimun, he would have several hours to rest and prepare for such an eventuality. It might have been a brilliant move.

Ian Nepomniachtchi's immediate reaction following his ninth round draw

Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-½ Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez)

The English Opening Vol. 1

Williams main teaching method behind this set of two DVDs is to teach you some simple yet effective set ups, without the need to rely on memorising numerous complicated variations.

Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Malcolm Pein with his back to Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Lennart Ootes

But that was just the beginning of the story of Round 9. The rest of the day would take several unexpected turns before the last move was finally played a little over nine hours later.

Players and results

No. Name Rtg
1 Carlsen Magnus 2837
2 Aronian Levon 2805
3 Caruana Fabiano 2799
4 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2789
5 So Wesley 2788
6 Anand Viswanathan 2782
7 Nakamura Hikaru 2781
8 Karjakin Sergey 2760
9 Nepomniachtchi Ian 2729
10 Adams Michael 2715

Click or tap a player name in the starting list to access the Playerbase

Name Result Name
Nepomniachtchi Ian ½ - ½ Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Anand Viswanathan 0 - 1 So Wesley
Karjakin Sergey ½ - ½ Nakamura Hikaru
Caruana Fabiano 1 - 0 Adams Michael
Aronian Levon 0 - 1 Carlsen Magnus

The game that would have the least bearing on the tournament or Grand Chess Tour outcome was Sergey Karjakin vs. Hikaru Nakamura. Both would have been glad for a win, but practically speaking thet had little to play for.

Sergey Karjakin ½-½ Hikaru Nakamura (annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez)

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Hikaru Nakamura vs. Sergey Karjakin

Nakamura finished with nine draws. Karjakin seven, with two losses. | Photo: Pascal Simon

Karjakin was circumspect after the game. "Well of course it was very bad for me but strangely enough I made all draws with [black] and with White I was trying to do something."

He'll next play in the World Rapid and Blitz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, looking to defend his blitz title there.

Nakamura took a mild ribbing for his tournament of 100% draws, drawing parallels to Anish Giri, who has accomplished the same feat. Giri was on the ball in congratulating him:

Twists and turns

The next game to finish started slowly, and the players might have also headed for an early peaceful exit. Viswanathan Anand was celebrating his 48th birthday at the bottom of the tournament standings, and with white played a fairly bland variation of the Italian. Fortunately for So, it was one he had been recently working on for a forthcoming ChessBase DVD!

Wesley So's remarks right after beating Vishy Anand

Viswanathan Anand 0-1 Wesley So (annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez)

So added on the live webcast:

"I play well on my opponent’s birthday. Last year I beat Hikaru, and I think some other players. So it’s not a nice feeling to have to play on their birthday, when they want to celebrate and they put too much extra pressure."

Viswanathan Anand

A disappointed birthday boy — it was not Anand's day...or week | Photo: Pascal Simon

Anand opts to forget his chess troubles by doing some holiday shopping for his son Akhil.

The Magnus bounce

The World Champion, after a troubling performance yesterday, appeared once more to be on the brink of defeat with the black pieces against Levon Aronian. Carlsen was considerably worse in the middlegame, but it took just a couple of inaccuracies from Aronian for the World Champion to completely turn the tables. He went on to win, despite knowing that a draw would be enough to clinch first place in the Grand Chess Tour standings.

In fact, Aronian offered Carlsen a draw, right after the time control, which Magnus refused, as he was already much better in the position. It was the 11th time in 17 tries that Carlsen came back with a win immediately following a loss, since 2015.

Levon Aronian 0-1 Magnus Carlsen (annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez)

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.

Magnus Carlsen

A grizzled Carlsen comes out on top despite illness | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Here were his closing remarks following the game:

Magnus Carlsen in a substantially better mood today | Source: Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube

Carlsen was presented with the Grand Chess Tour trophy for the overall first place on the year, and netted a total prize for the series of more than USD $245,000.

Taking the Mickey

"Mickey has to be the most unlucky player in this entire tournament," Yasser Seirawan opined on the live webcast. "Think of all the things that have gone wrong — I mean including this game itself. I thought he made a very clever strategical pawn sacrifice. He had ample compensation, great activitiy, and that one miss Rf3 and suddenly he’s suffering and he’s suffering big time."

This game dragged on for six hours, as Caruana battled fatigue for a share of first place. All the while, Nepomniachtchi could sit in the hotel with his feet up, watching and waiting.

Fabiano Caruana 1-0 Michael Adams (annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez)

The English Opening Vol. 2

Williams main teaching method behind this set of two DVDs is to teach you some simple yet effective set ups, without the need to rely on memorising numerous complicated variations.

Caruana's clutch performance set up a blitz tiebreak match with Nepomniachtchi, from which the American eventually emerged victorious. We'll take a closer look at those games in a follow-up post tomorrow.

All Games of Round 9


Commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Cristian Chirila, with GM Maurice Ashley reporting from London | Source: Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube

Final standings

Click or tap to enlarge



Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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