London Classic: Volokitin co-leader, Bartel and Tabatabaei bounce back

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/3/2023 – Three decisive results in round 2 of the London Chess Classic left three players tied for first place with 1½ points each. Andrei Volokitin joined round-1 winners Dommaraju Gukesh and Michael Adams in the lead of the event after beating underdog Shreyas Royal with the white pieces. Meanwhile, Mateusz Bartel and Amin Tabatabaei bounced back from their losses on Friday and returned to a fifty-percent score. Gukesh barely escaped with a draw in his game against Nikita Vitiugov. | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

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Three co-leaders

Five out of ten games have so far finished decisively at the London Chess Classic, all favouring the player with the white pieces. After Gukesh D. and Michael Adams got off to winning starts on Friday, Andrei Volokitin joined them in the lead by beating underdog Shreyas Royal in the second round.

The two players who suffered defeats on opening day, meanwhile, bounced back and returned to a fifty-percent score, as Mateusz Bartel beat Jules Moussard and Amin Tabatabaei got the better of Luke McShane.

Co-leaders Gukesh and Volokitin will face each other in round 3, while Adams will play white against Hans Niemann. Niemann, who arrived in London right after dominating a round-robin event in Zagreb, drew his first two encounters of the event. As for the distrusting posts on social media regarding his performance in Croatia, the 20-year-old replied true to his style:

Bartel had replied to a post on social media in which Anish Giri joked about his mishandling of the French Defence in round 1 by reflecting, “Life is not about the result, it’s about [having] an adventure”. In line with this approach, he entered a line with an early 6.g4 in his round-2 encounter against Jules Moussard.

This g2-g4 push has been tried before, but only in a few grandmaster games. Moussard castled kingside, while Bartel kept his king in the centre throughout the struggle.

Bartel played for a kingside attack from start to finish, and found a good-looking bishop sacrifice to break through on move 28.

After playing 28.Bxe5 White was left with only five minutes on the clock, but the move is winning — the idea is that 28...fxe5 fails to 29.Rxe6, when 29...Rxf3 quickly loses to 30.Rxe8+ Kg7 31.Rg8+, queening the h-pawn.

Moussard replied by 28...Rxh7, and resigned the game after 29.Rxf6 Qh1+ 30.Ke2

Even after trading queens, White’s attack is devastating. The king in the centre remained much safer than its counterpart on the kingside throughout!

Mateusz Bartel, Jules Moussard

Mateusz Bartel and Jules Moussard | Photo: Tao Bhokanandh

Vitiugov ½ - ½ Gukesh

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Standings - Round 2

All games


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.