London Classic Rd9: Kramnik wins! Nakamura is second, and Carlsen third

12/12/2011 – Although it was almost certain that Kramnik would win the title, needing only to draw with Aronian, which he did, pundits expected Carlsen to overcome Short and take second. Life had its own plans, as did Nakamura, since Carlsen could not break the Englishman, while the American shocked Adams with a King's Gambit, and won in a volatile position to take clear second. Report and postgame videos.

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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 then 5) an 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 nine

Round 9: Monday, December 12, 2011
Luke McShane
½-½
Vishy Anand 
Hikaru Nakamura
1-0
Michael Adams 
Nigel Short
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Vladimir Kramnik
½-½
Levon Aronian
David Howell (bye) – assisting commentary


Topping off a great year and some fresh chess: Vladimir Kramnik

The London Chess Classic was the culmination of an unexpected change in direction by Vladimir Kramnik, and a successful one. This is a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one. After the Candidates Matches, which had one of the most abysmally high draw rates in history, it was hard to believe that the ultrasafe approach by the ex-world champion could maintain him in the absolute elite for long. As if confirming this, Karjakin suddenly appeared ahead in the FIDE rating list as top Russian, while Kramnik's rating was eroding away. The guard was changing and that was that. Or so one expected.

 
Kramnik discusses the game against Aronian

In Dortmund, a different Vladimir appeared, and not because of some new haircut or fancy shoes, rather it was a risk-taking Kramnik, willing to gamble on an unclear position to achieve his goal. It was as if he had studied Sklansky's Theory of Poker, and decided that even though he might lose more games this way, he might also win even more, and thus come out ahead in the deal. Inevitably he tempered this somewhat, but the end result is still that he not only crushed the field in Dortmund, but took the London Chess Classic ahead of his peers, and confirmed his re-entry in the 2800 club after years just outside, staring through the windows.

For Nakamura, the London tournament was also a form of redemption. Atfer winning Wijk aan Zee in blistering fashion, he had been unable to maintain the consistency necessary to pursue his ambitions, and even came within an inch of losing his status as top American after an unexpected revival by Gata Kamsky. After a disappointing loss to Carlsen, Hikaru bounced back with a very nervy King's Indian win against the World Champion, and in the last round took his fate into his hands by placing his chips on a King's Gambit against Michael Adams, ultimately coming out on top in a volatile position. Note that his season is not over as he is in the roster of Reggio Emilia due to start in a couple of weeks.


Nakamura discusses his choice of the King's Gambit inspired by Short, to which
GM Ward quipped, "to clarify this, you're not happy with some of the openings maybe
one or two other coaches (Kasparov) have been giving you, so instead you're following
Nigel's openings."

Even though Magnus Carlsen cannot be happy with his third place finish, his 'modest' 2875 performance still acquired him a few extra Elo points and one can expect him to be at 2835 in the next list, his personal best, and more importantly over 25 Elo ahead of the next best (Aronian).

Luke McShane once more had a fantastic run at the London Classic, and must still be kicking himself after letting adrenaline get the better of him in his game against Kramnik in the penultimate round. Sadly, his work as a trader forces him to make hard choices on his tournament participations, and he told the commentators that he had been obliged to decline next year's Wijk aan Zee.


McShane and Anand discuss their game as well as other things  

Vishy Anand was frank in his appraisal during the post-mortem, describing his end of season as disastrous, and made no excuses about it. With his match against Gelfand due in May, he will now be focusing all his energy and training towards his title defense.

Levon Aronian also failed to shine and though he quickly re-established his balance, after his second round loss to Nakamura, by beating Nigel Short in the third, it was his only victory in the tournament. Nevertheless, in the next rating list, expect to see him in the number two spot.

As to the rest of the English contingent, Short, Howell, and Adams, it was a train wreck they will seek to forget as soon as possible. Nigel Short was the only one of the three to score a win, and even so it was against his compatriot Adams, though he came very close to winning against Carlsen in the last round.

 
Short and Carlsen discuss their game which Carlsen came close to losing


Final standings (London scoring)

Final standings (traditional scoring)

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

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