London Chess Classic: Rest of the World beats England

by André Schulz
12/12/2021 – This year, the main event of the London Chess Classic was the match between England and the Rest of the World, with each team consisting of three players. Before the final round, the squads were tied at 7½ points each. In a very hard-fought final round, the Rest of the World won the match. Boris Gelfand and Nikita Vitiugov provided the winning points.

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Three on three

The main event of the London Chess Classic 2021, which took place at the Cavendish Centre, was a match between a strong English squad consisting of Michael Adams, Luke McShane and Gawain Jones and an international selection including Boris Gelfand, Nikita Vitiugov and Maxime Lagarde. The match was a double-round Scheveningen contest, with each player facing every representative of the opposing team twice. The winner was decided by board points. Before the final round on Thursday, the teams were tied at 7½ points.

The final day of play saw hard-fought games on all three boards. In the end, all three games were decisive.

Maxime Lagarde sacrificed a pawn on the queenside against Michael Adams in Benko-Gambit style out of a Reti opening, but never got to recover it. The compensation was neutralized by Michael Adams and the point finally went to Black.

Boris Gelfand and Gawain Jones had an exciting battle in the King’s Indian Defence. Gelfand gained the upper hand with White in the queenless middlegame, but Jones still conjured mate threats out of nowhere at the end.

 

The position arose from the main variation of the King’s Indian Defence. By exchanging queens, White managed to slow down his opponent’s attack. The Dragon and King’s Indian expert, however, still tried to attack in this tense position.

25...f3?! [The machine considers that after 25...Nc2 26.Ra2 Nb4 27.Bxb4 cxb4 28.Rxb4 Be7 29.Nxc8 Rxc8 30.Rba4 Bd8= the game is balanced.]

26.Ra2 Bd7?! Giving up the b7-pawn to attack on the c6-g2 diagonal. [Better was 26...Be7 27.Nxc8 Rxc8 28.Rab2 Rc7 and White is more active.]

27.Rxb7 Rxb7 28.Nxb7 Bc6 29.Nxc5

 

29...Rb8 Threatening mate.

30.gxf3 [30.Rb2 was also good.]

30...Nxf3+ 31.Kg2 Nh4+ 32.Kg3 Kh6 To avoid attacks along the long diagonal.

33.a6 The a-pawn will decide the game in White’s favour.

33...Be7 34.Ne6 Bxe4 35.Bxe5 Rg8 [35...Rc8 36.Bg7+ Kh5 37.Be2+ and Black gets mated.]

36.Ng5 Kxg5 37.Bxg8 Nf5+ 38.Kh3 Bd3 Caution!

 

39.Bd5 White prevents the mate from f1.

39...Bf1+ 40.Bg2 Bc4 41.a7 Game over. 1–0

Equally exciting was the game between Nikita Vitiugov and Luke McShane. After the opening, the former English prodigy had a promising position with a pawn majority on the queenside, but he did not manage to get the pawns moving.

 

White had sacrificed a queenside pawn out of a Queen’s Indian Defence and gained and exchange on the kingside. Since there are no open lines, being an exchange down is not so relevant here, though, while the black pawn majority can play a big role if it can get moving.

20...Nd5 [20...Nb4!? 21.h4 h5 22.Bf3 Nbd5 is the machine suggestion. Unlike in the game, here the pawns can start advancing.]

21.h4 h5 22.Bf3 Bxh4 The pawn was unprotected and is captured. Now, however, the h-file is also open for a white attack and, moreover, the enterprise costs time.

23.Nc5 Qd6 24.Ne4 Qd7 25.Nc5 Qd6 26.Ne4 Qd8 Black avoids the triple repetition and plays for a win.
 

 

27.Nc5 Clears the e4-square for the bishop. White will build up an attacking battery with his next moves.

27...Ke7 28.Be4 Bf6 29.Qf3 Rb6? [A better version of the black idea was 29...Qd6 30.Bxg6 Nxd4 31.exd4 Bxd4 32.Rd1 Qxc5 33.Bxf7 Bxf2 34.Rg5 Qe3 with equal chances.]
 

 

30.Bxg6 Nxd4 [30...fxg6 31.Rxg6 is not playable.]

31.exd4 Bxd4 32.Bxf7 Bxc5 33.Qxh5 [Strong was 33.Rg8 Qd6 34.Bxe6 Qxf4 35.Bxd5]

33...Nf6 34.Qxc5+ Kxf7 Threatening Qd3 with perpetual check.

35.Rg3 Rb8 [More resistance offered 35...Nd5]

36.Qa7+ Ke8 37.Re1 Qd6 38.Rxe6+ Qxe6 39.Re3 Rb6 40.Qxb6 1–0


Final results

12th LCC ENG v ROW 
  Teams 1 2 3 4 5 6 Points
1 Rest of World 2 ½ 2 2 1 2
2 England 1 1 1 2 1

All games

 

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.

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