London Classic: Two draws to kick off semis

by Johannes Fischer
12/11/2018 – The 10th London Chess Classic is underway with the semifinal played at the headquarters of Google's DeepMind. Demis Hassibis (pictured in the background) joined tournament director Malcolm Pein and a schoolgirl — learning chess under the Chess in Schools and Communities umbrella — on stage at the start of the first classical game. Yesterday, at the London Pro-Biz Cup, chess-loving business people or celebrities joined grandmasters taking turns in a tandem chess team tournament. Garry Kasparov was among the professionals, but it was the team of Roiko Vujatovic and David Howell that won. | Photos: Lennart Ootes

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For Caruana, a 16th consecutive classical draw

Less than two weeks ago, on November 28, Fabiano Caruana suffered a narrow defeat in a rapid tiebreak against Magnus Carlsen. Now, after a short trip home to St. Louis, he's back in London to play in the 10th annual London Chess Classic. Caruana drew White in the first of two classical games. On many people's minds was the fact that a classical victory would net him, at least temporarily, the number one spot on the world rankings — currently there are just 4 Elo points between Caruana and Carlsen.

But the other question, of course, was whether the exhausting competition a fortnight ago would still be too raw a wound. Or would the hard work and training redound to his benefit, even with very little downtime to recuperate?

Caruana and Nakamura

Caruana starts his first tournament game since losing the World Championship match | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

In the opening game of the semifinal match against Nakamura, there was apparently little feeling of fatigue from Caruana. A Queen's Gambit Declined with Bf4 appeared on the board, a line Caruana had played against Carlsen twice, albeit from the black side both times. How would he fare in the same variation with the white pieces against a well-rested opponent?

Nakamura did not seem inclined to find out how well Caruana was prepared in the main lines and chose a rarely played system in which Caruana then brought out the first new move — the natural 9.Bg3

 

The dark-squared bishops were soon exchanged on g3, opening the h-file which Caruana could use as an avenue of attack, in conjunction with launching his g-pawn up the board — ultimately sacrificing it on g6.

 

Here, Black's best was to counter on the queenside with 22...c5 — the only move to prevent Caruana from transferring his d-rook to the h-file. After 22...Nf8 23.Rd3! Caruana had a great position. There was just one problem: the clock. With 12 minutes and 17 moves left to play to reach move 40, anything was possible. Indeed, Caruana's search for a knockout blow allowed his remaining time to drift dangerously low and, coupled with calm and tenacious defence by Nakamura, the advantage quickly dwindled to zero.

A relaxed Nakamura | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Caruana sacrificed pawns left and right pawns to put the black king under pressure, but as exciting as that looked, the engine evaluation barely budged — compensation was there but not more. Nakamura thwarted all threats from Caruana and after 51 moves the game ended in a draw. Carlsen remains the world number one for at least another day.

 

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Vachier-Lagrave vs Levon Aronian

Vachier-Lagrave and Aronian played an interesting game but ended in a draw as well. 'MVL' tried 1.e4, which Aronian answered with 1...e5, inviting the Frenchman to a theoretical discussion in the Marshall Gambit. With 8.a4, he refused, but that did not prevent Aronian from seizing the initiative soon after the opening phase.

Aronian's pieces were very active and this eventually led him to pick up an exchange. But Vachier-Lagrave defended stubbornly and after 42 moves and endgame with bishop and two pawns against a rook appeared. Of course, White could play on without risk, but after 74 moves, the pair began repeating moves bringing this first round to a close.

 

Tomorrow, the second classical game of the semifinal will be played, followed on Thursday, December 13th by rapid and blitz chess. All games count for points and will be played, even in case one player is eliminated.

Friday will be a rest day in London with the final match (and the consolation match for third place) beginning on Saturday.

GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Cristian Chirila and GM Alejandro Ramirez


Pro-Biz Cup: Vujatovic/Howell win

by Andre Schulz

The program of the London Chess Classic also includes a celebrity charity tournament, the Pro-Biz Cup, in which the chess-inclined business folk and celebrities are each accompanied by a strong player, taking turns in a tandem team match. The venue was also the DeepMind headquarters near King's Cross in central London. The tournament is a fundraiser, with the proceeds benefitting the Chess in Schools and Communities charity run by London Chess Classic founder Malcolm Pein.

Malcolm Pein opened the event

The teams

This event has been run before, but this time there were ten teams competing. Let's have a look at the 20 players:

Pair 1

  • Fabiano Caruana, World Championship Challenger
  • Chris Flowers, Chairman and CEO of J. C. Flowers & Co. LLC, a financial services firm

Caruana / Flowers

Pair 2

  • Matthew Sadler, two-time British Champion
  • Demis Hassabis, CEO and Co-Founder of DeepMind

Pair 3 

  • Garry Kasparov, 13th World Champion
  • Terry Chapman, entrepreneur and former Chairman and CEO of Terence Chapman Group PLC

Kasparov and Chapman

Kasparov/Chapman

Pair 4

  • David Howell, England No. 2
  • Rajko Vujatovic, model risk consultant, FIDE Master, three-time gold medallist in the World Diving Chess Championships 

Pair 5

  • Levon Aronian, Semifinalist Grand Chess Tour 2018
  • Justin Baptie, Managing Director of Insight Strategic Associates, a firm of accountants dealing with the SME and HNW market 

Pair 6

  • Mickey Adams, England No. 1 and reigning British Champion
  • Natasha Regan, a Director at RPC Consulting and Women’s International Master

Pair 7

  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Grand Chess Tour semifinalist 2018
  • Gilles Betthaeuser, President of global real estate company Colliers International for France, Belgium, Spain, Morocco and Switzerland

Pair 8

  • Gawain Jones, two-time British Champion
  • Nigel Povah, an advisor to US firm PSI and an International Master

 Pair 9

  • Hikaru Nakamura, Semifinalist in the Grand Chess Tour 2018
  • Karina Vazirova, Head of Product and Implementations at ClauseMatch, a London-based RegTech firm, and a Women’s International Master 

Pair 10

  • Ali Mortazavi, former CEO of Silence Therapeutics and an International Master
  • Shreyas Royal, 9, currently the top English Under 12 and ranked second in the world for his age

The stage at DeepMind

For the third time, the winner of the Pro-Biz Cup (on tiebreak) was Rajko Vujatovic, supported this year by GM David Howell. Afterwards, Howell said, "we had a call earlier this week and he told me all these opening plans he's had...I was just the wingman".

Rajko Vujatovic, GM David Howell. 

Final standings

 

All games

 

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson

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Johannes was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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turok turok 12/12/2018 09:30
boring boring boring
Keshava Keshava 12/12/2018 07:27
I think that this is the golden age of chess!
Philip Feeley Philip Feeley 12/12/2018 05:03
I don't get the final standings table. Was it 9 rounds or not? If not, how did they win? And how was the tiebreak decided? From the table it was still even.
Justjeff Justjeff 12/12/2018 01:15
So Chapman and Kasparov on the same side of the board this time! I remember following the odds match in 2001 with great interest.
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