London Chess Classic, Rd. 8: Wesley So wins Grand Chess Tour 2016

by Johannes Fischer
12/17/2016 – Round 8 of the London Chess Classic was relatively quiet. The most exciting game was Veselin Topalov vs Vishy Anand, in which Anand came up with a stunning novelty and later profited from a blunder by Topalov to score the only win of the round. Wesley So will be happy about the quiet round. He drew with Black against Fabiano Caruana and with this draw he is certain to win the Grand Chess Tour 2016 - the biggest triumph of So's career. Report and games.

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London Chess Classic 2016, Rd. 8

Hikaru Nakamura - Levon Aronian

That was quick. Nakamura and Aronian played a harmless line of the Ragozin Defence without much vigour and after 27 moves they agreed to a draw in a completely equal ending.

Hikaru Nakamura

Fabiano Caruana - Wesley So

Caruana vs So, the duel of the second against the first, the American number one against the American number two, was the top encounter of round eight - and it had the potential to decide the tournament.

But before the game could start there were problems to overcome.

The little girl who was to make the first move could at first
not reach the d-pawn she wanted to play...

... but she finally managed. Though Caruana still opened with 1.e4.

The game itself was less exciting than the little drama before. In a Berlin with 4.d3 So equalized easily and though Caruana tried to squeeze chances out of the position Black was never in danger and after 37 moves the game was drawn.

With this draw So kept his lead and will start the ninth and final round half-a-point ahead of his rivals. With this draw Wesley So also won the Grand Chess Tour 2016! But he remained humble:


Wesley So - Winner of the Grand Chess Tour 2016

Veselin Topalov - Vishy Anand

Daniel King shows the encounter Topalov v Anand

Veselin Topalov is in terrible shape in London and everything seems to go wrong for him. In round 8 Vishy Anand surprised him with a novelty in a line of the Queen's Gambit Declined with Bf4, an opening line Anand had discussed with Magnus Carlsen during their World Championship match in Sochi 2014. Maybe Anand had discovered the stunning 12...b5!? during his preparations for Carlsen: 

V. Topalov - V. Anand, position after 12...b5!?

After this novelty Topalov defended well and managed to find his way through the complications - but then made two careless moves and threw the game away.

V. Topalov - V. Anand, position after 30...Rxf2

Topalov now played 31.h4? (Better is 31.Rd5 with an approximately equal position) and after 31...Bc2 was in immediate trouble. He could have avoided the worst by playing 32.Rd8+ Kg7 33.Qc4 after which Black's position is better though not immediately won, but instead Topalov blundered with 32.Qc3. After 32...Qb5 Black threatened mate with 33...Qa4# against which White has no adequate answer. White still tried 33.Qc6 but resigned after 33...Rxf3+.


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Michael Adams

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, too, seems to be in bad shape in London. Which showed in his game against Michael Adams. In a Berlin Defence with 4.d3 Adams equalized easily with Black and gradually took over the initiative. Vachier-Lagrave decided to bail out by liquidating into an endgame with a pawn down. This policy paid off - Adams could not convert his material advantage and Vachier-Lagrave saved the draw.

Vladimir Kramnik - Anish Giri

In most of his games Vladimir Kramnik opens with 1.d4 but against Giri he tried 1.e4. Giri countered with a Sicilian Najdorf and though White's victories with 6.Bg5 in the games Caruana - Nakamura and Nakamura - Vachier-Lagrave in the London Chess Classic might have tempted Kramnik to attack with the bishop move he decided to go for 6.g3. This led to a balanced positional game in which Black tried to get something on the kingside whereas White tried to make progress on the queenside. With 29.c4 Kramnik provoked Giri to play a tactical sequence that led to an endgame in which White had a piece for three - and at a certain point even four - pawns. But Kramnik knew what he was doing and drew without too much trouble.

Vladimir Kramnik

Results of round 8

Board Title Name Country ELO Result Title Name Country ELO
1 GM Hikaru Nakamura
2779 ½ - ½ GM Levon Aronian
2 GM Vladimir Kramnik
2809 ½ - ½ GM Anish Giri
3 GM Maxime Vachier Lagrave
2804 ½ - ½ GM Michael Adams
4 GM Veselin Topalov
2760 0 - 1 GM Viswanathan Anand
5 GM Fabiano Caruana
2823 ½ - ½ GM Wesley So

Games of round 1 to 8



Standings after round eight

Live video round 8


Tournament page London Chess Classic...

Grand Chess Tour...

London Chess Conference...

Johannes Fischer 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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