London Classic: Adams gets lucky break, continues to lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/8/2023 – Michael Adams still has a half-point lead at the London Chess Classic after his round-6 opponent, Jules Moussard, blundered the game away from a winning position. Gukesh, Amin Tabatabaei and Andrei Volokitin also scored full points. In the longest game of the day, Nikita Vitiugov failed to make the most of a big advantage against underdog Shreyas Royal. With three rounds to go, Gukesh stands in sole second place. | Photo: John Upham

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One-move blunders

Only Michael Adams remains undefeated after six exciting rounds at the London Chess Classic. The Englishman, however, was inches away from losing his round-6 encounter against Jules Moussard.

Playing white, Moussard got a clear advantage in a position with queens, rooks and bishops of opposite colours. Despite the material balance, the French grandmaster counted with a nice tactical shot on move 31, which he played almost instantly.

31.Bxf7+ wins by force! However, after 31...Rxf7, Moussard hastily continued with 32.Qe6, which allows 32...Be7, and Black is simply a piece up.

Importantly, after 33.Rb8+ Black now has 33...Bf8 (the bishop on e7 has many functions), and in case of 34.Rb7 there follows 34...Qf6, with a counterattack against the f2-pawn.

In the first diagrammed position, White wins by force with 31.f4 Qg4 32.Rb8+ Rf8 33.Qd5+ (diagram), surely an easy-to-find variation for any grandmaster in the world.

A huge miss for Moussard, who had defeated Nikita Vitiugov and Gukesh — two 2700+ rated players — in previous rounds.

Jules Moussard, Michael Adams

Jules Moussard and Michael Adams | Photo: Tao Bhokanandh

Gukesh also saw a blunder by his opponent putting an end to his game. Unlike in the aforementioned game, though, the position was balanced when Luke McShane suddenly entered a losing tactical sequence.

Not surprisingly, a double-edged position emerged in this battle of creative fighters. As it happens in this sort of struggles, though, both players found themselves in time trouble shortly before reaching move 40. Gukesh had a bit over 3 minutes on his clock, while McShane had less than 90 seconds available to play four more moves (there is a 30-second increment since the first move in London).

36...Kf7 would keep the balance, defending the e6-pawn while keeping the tension. McShane’s forcing 36...Nxf4, on the other hand, allows 37.exf4 Qe8 38.Rxd8 Bxd8 39.Qd4

Checkmate is threatened on g7, and since 39...Qe7 fails to 40.Bg5, Black is forced to play 39...e5. Gukesh’s precise 40.Qd5+ got him 30 extra minutes on the clock — in what is already a clearly winning position.

McShane resigned after 40...Kh8 41.fxe5

Besides the cornered king, White is a pawn down (plus the e-pawn is incredibly weak) and his pieces are much more passive than his opponent’s. It was, indeed, time to throw in the towel.

Gukesh, Luke McShane

Gukesh defeated Luke McShane | Photo: Tao Bhokanandh

It was yet another eventful round in London. Amin Tabatabaei defeated Mateusz Bartel with the black pieces (Bartel has yet to sign a draw in the event), Shreyas Royal escaped with a draw in what was the longest game of the round against Nikita Vitiugov, and Andrei Volokitin obtained a remarkable win over Hans Niemann.

Niemann played the Berlin Defence for a third time in the event — he had safely held draws against Tabatabaei and McShane — and saw his Ukrainian opponent first getting a positional plus and then finding a number of strong tactical ideas to convert his advantage into a win.

25...Rg6 is a clever way to make the defensive task easier for Black — if White decides to grab the exchange. Even after 26.Nxg6, White is better, but Volokitin’s 26.Rg1 is even stronger.

Niemann kept trying to create practical problems for his opponent, but soon found himself unable to continue fighting for survival. Resignation came in the following position.

Both Niemann and Volokitin now stand 1½ points behind the leader. Niemann will play white against Bartel in round 7, while Volokitin will get the black pieces against Adams in the rematch of the solidarity encounter they played at the U.K. Parliament back in March.

Andrei Volokitin, Hans Niemann

Organizer Malcolm Pein following the game between Andrei Volokitin and Hans Niemann | Photo: Tao Bhokanandh

Standings - Round 6

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.