London Classic – Fewer interesting games, please, I can’t cope

12/5/2011 – "I'm submitting a formal complaint to the players," says tournament commentator John Saunders, "the games are far too interesting. They should be rationed to only one exciting game per round, as it is not fair to chess journalists." John annotated two games from the second round, Short-Kramnik and Nakamura-Aronian. He also explains how the scoring and tiebreak systems work.

ChessBase 14 Download ChessBase 14 Download

Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. Start your personal success story with ChessBase 14 and enjoy your chess even more!


Along with the ChessBase 14 program you can access the Live Database of 8 million games, and receive three months of free ChesssBase Account Premium membership and all of our online apps! Have a look today!

More...

London Chess Classic 2011

The 2011 London Chess Classic is taking place in the Olympia Conference Centre from Saturday, December 3rd until Monday, December 12th, starting at 14:00h London time each day (final round 12:00h). Time controls are classical forty moves in two hours, then twenty moves in one hour and thirty minutes for the rest of the game. A win is counted as three points, a draw as one, and a loss zero. Tiebreaks: 1) number of wins, 2) number of wins with black, 3) result of the individual game between the tied players. In the unlikely event that there is still a tie then: 4) 2 x 15'+2" games, and if necessary five) Armageddon game: 6'+2" vs 5'+2" with draw odds for black. If there is a tie involving more than two players then the Rapid games will be conducted as a double round all play all. The total prize fund is €160,000 before tax.

Round two – Fewer interesting games, please, I can’t cope

By John Saunders

Round 2: Sunday, December 4, 2011
David Howell
½ ½
Michael Adams 
Luke McShane
½ ½
Magnus Carlsen
Hikaru Nakamura
1-0
Levon Aronian
Nigel Short
0-1
Vladimir Kramnik 
Vishy Anand (bye) – assisting commentary

With two rounds played, it is time to talk about the scores. Here are the unofficial scores, straight from the arbiters, Albert Vasse and David Sedgwick:

No Name First name
score
games  
tiebreak  
rating
perf. 
1 Kramnik Vladimir
4
/2
Black win
2800
2921
2 Carlsen Magnus
4
2
White win
2826
2845
  Nakamura Hikaru
2
2
White win
2758
2994
4 Adams Michael
2
2
2734
2722
  McShane Luke J
2
2
2671
2814
6 Anand Viswanathan
1
1
2811
2734
7 Aronian Levon
1
2
2802
2522
  Howell David W L
1
2
2633
2587
9 Short Nigel D
0
1
2698
2065

We are using 3-1-0 scoring, in case you were wondering why players seem to have scored more points than those available to them (4.0/2 means 4 points out of 2 games played).

One other complication is that players have played different numbers of games, so the players having the bye at an early stage can appear further down the scoreboard than those who will have the bye later. I had a think about this anomaly some time ago and came up with a simple relatively scoring system based on the familiar ‘below/above par’ system used to show relative scores during a golf tournament. We already talk in terms of plus and minus scores in chess so it is very familiar. Here it is, in a nutshell: players get +2 for a win, –1 for a loss, draws don't count. It works exactly the same as the 3-1-0 scoring system but caters for the imbalanced number of games played in order to produce a more meaningful ongoing leader board, showing who is plus and minus and by how much.

Under this unofficial relative scoring system, the leader board is currently: 1 Kramnik +2 (on tie-break), 2-3 Carlsen, Nakamura +2, 4-6 Adams, Anand, McShane 0, 7-9 Aronian, Howell, Short –1. The only difference from the official leader board is to show the bye players doing a bit better: Anand bracketed with Adams and McShane, and Short level with Aronian and Howell instead last on his own (which seems a bit unfair). An alternative way to achieve the same effect would be to use the 3-1-0 scoring system as now but award the player receiving the bye one point.

When I arrived at the venue today, there was a frantic three-minute blitz game on a giant set going on in the foyer between (I think) Stephen Gordon and Lawrence Trent, refereed and commented on by Malcolm Pein. I say “I think” because it was hard to see who was playing through the hordes of spectators thronging the area. Don’t forget to mention this to anyone who tries to tell you that chess is not a spectator sport. The place was packed out all day today and yesterday. You could also mention the levels of physical stamina and dexterity required to shift all those giant chess pieces in double quick time. Mind you, Messrs Gordon and Trent might have regretted this later after their energy-sapping seven-hour session at the microphone.

As for the tournament proper: I’m not sure what happened in the time between the Tal Memorial (where there were only 10 decisive games out of 45) and the London Classic, but the top players are looking hungry for points again. In fact, I am going to submit a formal complaint to the players today – the games are far too interesting and I can't cope. They should be rationed to only one interesting game per round as it is not fair to chess journalists.

A rather more significant downside of having an early bye became apparent in Nigel Short’s game against Vladimir Kramnik. Having had to sit out round one, play an exhibition game against Boris Becker and supplement the commentary team, he joined the tournament a day later than his opponent and perhaps was not ‘warmed up’. He opted for a line of the Four Knights’ Defence which the watching GMs characterised as ‘notoriously drawn’. But it didn’t turn out that way. A couple of wrong turns and Nigel Short found himself in a dreadful fix, with one of his bishops entombed in a corner and with no prospect of stemming an eventual invasion of his position.

Most of us would want to see a few more moves before resigning but at the elite level it is the right time to surrender. For Vlad Kramnik it brought the first positive result after his winless run in Moscow, and also the position at the head of the table by virtue of it being a win with black.


Howell-Adams was a Ruy Lopez, anti-Marshall variation, in which Black gives up a pawn for long-term pressure. Mickey Adams duly obtained some good play for his pawn, having disarranged David Howell’s kingside pawns, blockaded his pawn advantage and created a passed a-pawn, but it proved not to be enough to win the game. It was a very interesting game but has been crowded out by two even more exciting encounters.

The other two games saw fierce, fluctuating battles involving the joint winners of the Tal Memorial tournament. In Moscow they proceeded to +2 scores to share first place without losing games, but in London they came under fierce pressure. One of them succumbed and the other... well... how did he escape?

In Nakamura-Aronian, it seemed for much of the game that the American grandmaster could be in trouble. The game became complicated just out of the opening, with Aronian giving up the exchange for two pawns and gaining some sort of advantage. But it was a far from stable advantage, and before long the time used up by the Armenian GM in trying to prove his superiority became a more important factor. Nakamura first blockaded the extra pawns, eventually reduced the pawn deficit to one and, in the flurry of moves leading up to the time control, surrounded Aronian’s remaining passed pawn. The exchange down, and with his pawn configuration weakened on both sides of the board, Aronian quickly succumbed to defeat. But it was a brave defeat and accepted with his customary good grace. Perhaps he tried a little too hard to win.

For Nakamura, after a miserable run in Moscow, it marked a new beginning and he was clearly much encouraged by his excellent performance. He tweeted after the game: “The single most important thing in life is to believe in yourself regardless of what everyone else says.” Like Kramnik, his win came after a disappointing result in Moscow. Things could be very different here in London.

Or they could be the same. Magnus Carlsen’s game looked incredibly grim against Luke McShane but somehow the world number one clung on and drew. Last year in the same round the same two players met and Luke won. So, with his draw, Magnus is doing better than last year, when he finished first anyway – a good omen for the Norwegian.

McShane played the Ruy Lopez and they entered a fashionable line where Black gives up a pawn for... something or other. This one should definitely be labelled “elite GMs only - not to be played by club chessplayers”. OK, you get to threaten mate in one, which is nice, but to the untitled eye Black simply emerges a pawn down, with a knight on a silly square, and with nothing much to show for it.

However, in fairness, there should also be a government warning on any advice I give about openings. I admit no responsibility for any losses sustained as a result of following my glib pronouncements in this series of reports. You follow my theoretical comments at your peril. (I think I might put this in tiny print somewhere on everything I write from now on.)

By about move 25, Luke McShane was simply a pawn up and cruising. And things became worse for Carlsen as he lashed out on the queenside just before the time control. By move 55 he had established a platform to finish the game in his favour. But, evidently not finding anything concrete, he became hesitant and backed off, allowing his wily opponent just enough play to get back into the game. The moment had passed for the English GM and a draw ensued.


Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian in the postgame analysis session


Discussing a possible line with IM Lawrence Trent...


... while Hikaru listens skeptically


Lawrence Trent, Vishy Anand and GM Stephen Gordon – these sessions can be
seen on the official web site and on Playchess

Photos: Pascal Simon, ChessBase


Andrew Martin annotates the London Chess Classic Round two Game of the Day


Vladimir Kramnik shows his win over Nigel Short


Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian analyse their game


Schedule and results

Round 1: Saturday, December 3, 2011
Vladimir Kramnik
½ ½
Hikaru Nakamura
Levon Aronian
½ ½
Luke McShane 
Magnus Carlsen
1-0
David Howell 
Michael Adams
½ ½
Vishy Anand 
Nigel Short (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 2: Sunday, December 4, 2011
David Howell
½ ½
Michael Adams 
Luke McShane
½ ½
Magnus Carlsen
Hikaru Nakamura
1-0
Levon Aronian
Nigel Short
0-1
Vladimir Kramnik 
Vishy Anand (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 3: Monsay, December 5, 2011
Levon Aronian
  Nigel Short 
Magnus Carlsen
  Hikaru Nakamura
Michael Adams
  Luke McShane 
Vishy Anand
  David Howell 
Vladimir Kramnik (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 4: Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Magnus Carlsen
  Vladimir Kramnik 
Michael Adams
  Nigel Short 
Vishy Anand
  Hikaru Nakamura
David Howell
  Luke McShane 
Levon Aronian (bye) – assisting commentary
Wednesday, December 7, 2011 Rest day
Round 5: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Hikaru Nakamura
  David Howell 
Nigel Short
  Vishy Anand 
Vladimir Kramnik
  Michael Adams 
Levon Aronian
  Magnus Carlsen
Luke McShane (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 6: Friday, December 9, 2011
Michael Adams
  Levon Aronian
Vishy Anand
  Vladimir Kramnik 
David Howell
  Nigel Short 
Luke McShane
  Hikaru Nakamura
Magnus Carlsen (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 7: Saturday, December 10, 2011
Nigel Short 
  Luke McShane 
Vladimir Kramnik 
  David Howell 
Levon Aronian
  Vishy Anand 
Magnus Carlsen
  Michael Adams 
Hikaru Nakamura (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 8: Sunday, December 11, 2011
Vishy Anand
  Magnus Carlsen
David Howell
  Levon Aronian
Luke McShane
  Vladimir Kramnik 
Hikaru Nakamura
  Nigel Short 
Michael Adams (bye) – assisting commentary
Round 9: Monday, December 12, 2011
Luke McShane
  Vishy Anand 
Hikaru Nakamura
  Michael Adams 
Nigel Short
  Magnus Carlsen
Vladimir Kramnik
  Levon Aronian
David Howell (bye) – assisting commentary

All games start at 2 p.m. or 14:00h British time = 15:00h CET, 17:00h Moscow, 7:30 p.m. Chennai, 22:00h Beijing, 01:00 a.m. Melbourne, 03:00 a.m. Auckland, 6 a.m. San José, 9 a.m. New York. You can check your location here. Naturally the games will be covered live on the official web site (below) and on Playchess. Stand by for further details on Saturday. The games of the final round start two hours earlier.


Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client and get immediate access. Or you can get our latest Fritz 13 program, which includes six months free premium membership to Playchess.

Links


Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


Discuss

Rules for reader comments

 
 

Not registered yet? Register