London Chess Classic: Magnus on tilt

by Macauley Peterson
12/11/2017 – Round 8 saw a startling blunder from the World Champion whose frustration following the game was palpable. We have analysis of that critical game by GM Tiger Hillarp-Persson. Ian Nepomniachtchi now leads the tournament alone, half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana, who drew his game. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is in third. | Photo: Pascal Simon

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Round 8

For the first few hours of Sunday's games, it looked like we could be heading for another day of peaceful results. Adams vs Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave vs Anand both ended in early draws, and the remaining games were level. Suddenly, a shock blunder from World Champion Magnus Carlsen flashed up on the screens, a variation which lead to Ian Nepomniachtchi being up a piece, and easily winning. Carlsen resigned just four moves later.

After the game, a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup with Grand Chess Tour commentator GM Maurice Ashley. These occur in the same conference room in which a live audience enjoys commentary during the round, and around 150 people were crowded into the room to hear from Carlsen.

A few moments before they were to go on air, Ashley casually reached over to adjust the collar on Carlsen's sport coat, which had become turned outward awkwardly. Magnus reacted by violently throwing his arms up in the air, silently but forcefully saying "don't touch me", and striking Ashley in the process. Maurice was, naturally, taken aback but just seconds later he received the queue that he was live.

Magnus was clearly in no mood to chat:

"I missed everything. There's not much else to say. I think I failed to predict a single of his moves, and then, well, you saw what happened."

Carlsen's brief explanation of his game Source: Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube

It will be interesting to see if Magnus will recover tomorrow. When asked for his thoughts on the last round pairing he replied, "I don't care at all." Black against Levon Aronian will be no easy task, with that attitude.

Magnus Carlsen 0-1 Ian Nepomniachtchi (annotated by Tiger Hillarp-Persson)
 

No need to fear the Slav Exchange Variation

The Slav is a magnificent opening, but for many players there is one little blot on its escutcheon - that is the Exchange Variation. Not only does Black apparently have no prospects of obtaining the full point, but since he has an extra tempo White may well make attempts to win the game. But if you know what you are doing, you can easily do two things as Black: equalise and break the symmetry.

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Standings after Round 8

Round 8 crosstable

Click or tap to expand

As you can see, Ian Nepomniachtchi is the new clear leader of the tournament. He downplayed Magnus' blunder, chalking it up to his health.

"Clearly Magnus is a little bit sick and surely this disrupts his play. It's hard when you have a sore throat and so on — I know from my experience that you cannot show your best level when you are also fighting some illness instead of fighting your opponent."

Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen

Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen, who's now back to an even score | Photo: Pascal Simon

Nepomniachtchi had not beaten Carlsen in a classical game since the 2011 Tata Steel Tournament. Both of their previous encounters this year were drawn.

While the game was still in progress, Fabiano Caruana made an insightful comment on Nepomniachtchi's style:

"Ian plays very quickly and sometimes it doesn't work out for him, but especially sometimes when he's in form it just works out amazingly well and when they get into the time trouble phase his opponent is the only one in time trouble and it seemed to also work in this game."

Caruana slips to second place after a draw with fellow American Hikaru Nakamura, who turned 30 years old on Saturday. The pair followed a well-trodden path in the Queen's Indian Defence, including the game Navara vs. Caruana, Tata Steel Chess 2016, which Fabiano lost. He deviated with 21...Ba6:

 

Previously 21...f6 was played. Nakamura sunk into a nearly 25 minute think before pushing 22.c6. Caruana immediately responded with 22...Rbc8 23.Rd7 Rfd8, fully equalising.

Hikaru Nakamura

Nakamura looks to end his 2017 on a high note on Monday, if he can | Photo: Pascal Simon

After the game Nakamura said, "I didn't have any major chances, but sometimes that's how it goes." He's drawn all eight of his games here in London.

Nakamura talks with Ashley after Round 8 Source: Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube


A strategic weapon against 1.d4: The Queen's Indian Defense

The Queen's Indian Defense is one of the most solid and rich openings against 1.d4. Together with the Nimzo-Indian and the Catalan it forms the so called "Classical Setup", which any player should know.

Victor Bologan has enjoyed the advantages of the Queen’s Indian defense for many years in open and in top tournament. He says: “The soul of the opening, the most important piece, is course the bishop on b7. Please remember this and keep it active.” Every chess enthusiast, from beginner to high level player, can profit from this DVD. Enrich your chess vocabulary, be open to new ideas: play the Queen’s Indian!

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Caruana said he was ready for a sharp game, "but he played a line in which I basically have to go for a very dull ending where I'm slightly worse."

Wesley So followed the lead of Anish Giri in a line Giri played against Sergey Karjakin in Bilbao, 2016, through move 21...Bc6:

 

You can play through the moves on the live diagram!

In that game, Giri played 22.Ba6 and black was at least equal after 22...bxa5 23.Qc2 Bb7 24.Rxa5 Bxa6 25.Rxa6. Instead So, who had played very quickly up until this point, opted for 22.axb6, prompting Karjakin to exchange 22...Nxc3 after 8 minutes of thought. This surprised So, who pondered his move for 15 minutes before recapturing with the queen. After a queen exchange five moves later, White has some minimal pressure in the endgame, but Karjakin defended smoothly. I expect an early draw from Wesley with black against Anand in the final round, but Karjakin vs. Nakamura could be interesting.

Wesley So

So remains with Nakamura on 50% | Photo: Pascal Simon


A strategic weapon against 1.d4: The Queen's Indian Defense

The Queen's Indian Defense is one of the most solid and rich openings against 1.d4. Together with the Nimzo-Indian and the Catalan it forms the so called "Classical Setup", which any player should know.

Victor Bologan has enjoyed the advantages of the Queen’s Indian defense for many years in open and in top tournament. He says: “The soul of the opening, the most important piece, is course the bishop on b7. Please remember this and keep it active.” Every chess enthusiast, from beginner to high level player, can profit from this DVD. Enrich your chess vocabulary, be open to new ideas: play the Queen’s Indian!

More...


One final bit of news came in the middle of today's round, as the organisers of the Grand Chess Tour announced in a press conference that all four venues would return in 2018, but London's contribution to the tour will be a four-player knockout semi-final and final to be held over six days in mid-December, roughly two weeks after the conclusion of the 2018 World Championship, which is also set for London.


Games of Round 8

 

Full commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Cristian Chirila, with GM Maurice Ashley reporting from London | Source: Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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kingfisher99 kingfisher99 12/11/2017 05:04
When magnus looses he acts as if he is the most unhappy person in the world.Such attitude is bad for sure.
boorchess boorchess 12/11/2017 04:21
Up next Ultimate Chess Fighting championship featuring Magnus "Wonderboy" Carlsen vs. the camera man.
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 12/11/2017 04:12
"Clearly Magnus is a little bit sick and surely this disrupts his play. It's hard when you have a sore throat and so on — I know from my experience that you cannot show your best level when you are also fighting some illness instead of fighting your opponent."

Naturally....‘It was old Burn, veteran British master of the ’90s, who was heard to remark plaintively towards the end of his long life that he had never had the satisfaction of beating a perfectly healthy opponent.’