London R1 – Carlsen explains his win against Kramnik

12/9/2009 – The London Chess Classic is breaking new ground in a number of areas. The games are being annotated live by two very entertaining experts, who explain everything to the visitors at the Olympia Centre, and at the same time to visitors on the Playchess server. After round one Magnus Carlsen provided his thoughts on the game, for the local guests and for a world-wide audience.

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...

C is for Carlsen

By John Saunders

The London Chess Classic started with a bang on Monday when Magnus Carlsen beat ex-world champion Vladimir Kramnik in the first round. It also featured a marathon game between English grandmasters Luke McShane and Nigel Short which ended in victory for McShane after an eye-watering 163 moves.

In front of an impressive 400+ audience, tournament director Malcolm Pein said a few opening words and then introduced the special guest who was to make the honorary first move, British Member of Parliament Dr Evan Harris. He had already played an extremely important role in getting the tournament on the road, explained Malcolm Pein. There had been problems getting Vladimir Kramnik a visa to come to the UK but Dr Harris had stepped into the breach and made it happen, so we all had reason to be extremely grateful to him. Incidentally, Dr Harris is no mean player himself, particularly in his youth when he was a competition player in his native Liverpool. I recall him giving a speech at a chess congress some 11 years ago. On that occasion he brought along a copy of one of John Nunn’s opening books because he wanted to argue the merits of one of the lines in the book. He knew John Nunn would be there, and the two Doctors conducted a most interesting discussion of the line during Dr Harris’s speech. Perhaps Dr Harris had misinterpreted the invitation to give an “opening speech”?! No matter, because it was probably the most stimulating speech I have ever witnessed at a chess congress. This was also a very good speech from Dr Harris during which he teased Magnus Carlsen that he was going to make his English debut with his own favourite opening, the Grob (that’s 1 g4).

But I digress (as usual). Carlsen’s win against Kramnik must rank as one of the highest quality games ever played in this country. After Evan Harris had played the ceremonial move 1 e4 on the board (I’m not sure why he didn’t carry through with his threat to play 1 g4, but no matter), Magnus retracted it and replaced it with 1 c4. The previous day he also selected the c-pawn at the drawing of lots and it had given him the number one, so perhaps he thought it would bring him luck. Another theory, voiced at the press conference, was that he might have played it because it is called the English Opening and this was his first tournament game in England. Or perhaps he played it simply because it was ‘C for Carlsen’. Some nice talking points there, but a fourth theory is almost certainly the most likely: he played it because Garry Kasparov thought it would be a good move against his old rival Vladimir Kramnik. Magnus more or less confirmed this after the game.


Press conference with Magnus Carlsen

Immediately after his game Magnus appeared in the commentary room for a press conference. Just like the live commentary by IM Lawrence Trent and GM Steven Gordon this too was conducted with Fritz 12 and streamed for a world-wide audience on the Playchess server.


Lawrence Trent interviews Magnus Carlsen, while the two move pieces on the board. The analysis is stored together with the audio and video feeds, and will be made available to chess fans at a later date.


The analysis was transcribed by John Saunders and his team, and incorporated in the annotated game below


Magnus speaking to the audience and explaining the game


The commentary room was packed with journalists and chess enthusiasts


Carlsen,Magnus (2801) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2772) [A29]
London Chess Classic London ENG (1), 08.12.2009 [John Saunders]

1.c4!? The English Opening - played in Magnus's first competition game in England. Did he play it because it was his first game here? Magnus said no, though he had thought about it later during the game, but said that Kasparov had recommended the line for psychological reason.This remark will surely send a shudder down the spines of Magnus's subsequent opponents. For the first few moves of every game, they are effectively playing a simultaneous display against the world's best ever player and his anointed successor. Scary. 1...Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5. This line of the English Opening is rather like a Sicilian Defence (1 e4 c5) with colours reversed. You might think it strange that White should play a Black defence rather than choosing something that promises an immediate initiative but, in the hands of an elite player like Magnus, it has the force of slow poison. And, of course, playing it with White gives him an extra move. 6.Bg2 Nb6 7.0-0 Be7 8.a3








If you learnt your chess from an old chess book, you might be surprised to see some of Magnus's opening moves. He is playing a very restrained opening, not yet trying to extend himself into his opponent's position. Somechessplayers often like to use the word 'prophylaxis' to describe this sort of strategy but don't let them bamboozle you with their fancy terminology. In plain English it is "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" - high-class manoeuvring, combined with a policy of restraint while trying to identify possible weaknesses in the opponent's position. Some chess positions demand that you go at your opponent from off but this is not one of them. It takes years of practice to know which is which - that, or a brain the size of a planet, which is what Magnus has, of course. 8...0-0 9.b4 Be6 10.Rb1 f6 11.d3 a5 12.b5 Nd4 13.Nd2 Qc8. The end of Carlsen's theoretical knowledge - so we have perhaps reached the limit of Garry Kasparov's direct influence on the game. From now on, Magnus is on his own. 14.e3 Nf5 15.Qc2 We are just beginning to see a glimmer of the pressure that Magnus is about to bring to bear on the c-file. It all looks very nebulous at club-player level but, at the elite level, the merest hint of a weakness can ultimately prove fatal. 15...Rd8 16.Bb2 a4 17.Rfc1 Nd6 18.Nde4 Ne8 19.Qe2. Note for theorists: this is where the game departs from a known path - 19 Ne2 has been played before. Note to computer engine junkies: some (not all) analysis engines may tell you that Black is better here. But don't believe it - it is not the sort of position that chess engines are particularly good at. 19...Bf8 20.f4 exf4. "The principled move," said Carlsen. I'm never quite sure what grandmasters mean when they describe a move as "principled". I suspect it might mean something like "I could try explaining it to you but I suspect it would go way over your head and would only waste your time and mine." Incidentally, I once heard Garry Kasparov say exactly that to a questioner at a press conference. It was at least an honest answer, if a trifle tactless. Magnus prefers to use the tactful approach and it suits his style better. 21.gxf4 Qd7 22.d4








Most of us ordinary mortals would have rejected this on sight as it allows the dangerous looking 22...Bc4 but Magnus has looked further. 22...c6. At this point in the press conference, Lawrence Trent mentioned several lines which the commentators had been looking at and admitted that 22...c6 had not been one of them. Magnus blithely responded: "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" This elicited some laughter from the audience and also from a rueful Lawrence. "Leading with your chin," commented Malcolm Pein, watching the press conference. 22...Bc4 23.Qe1 Bd3 24.Nc5! is a promising rook for bishop sacrifice for White. 23.Nc5 Bxc5 24.dxc5 Nc4 25.Rd1 Qc7 26.Bc1. At first sight you might think the c4 knight is "dominating" the c1 bishop but the point is that it cannot permanently establish itself on c4. Magnus knows that, sooner or later, he will shift the knight and when it goes, he might be able to take the a-pawn. General principles don't apply to chess gods. But, for any children reading this, don't try it at home - not yet, anyway. 26...Na5. Kramnik decides to run away before he is pushed away. "It's hard to suggest another move for Black," said Carlsen. 27.bxc6 bxc6 28.Nxa4!








Despite some apparent danger of Kramnik taking over the initiative, Carlsen dares to take the pawn - a brave and correct decision. 28...Rxd1+. "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" said Carlsen. 29.Qxd1 Remember the old adage about "a knight on the rim is dim"? Notice that all three knights are on the edge of the board here. But Magnus' knight is the least 'dim' of the three, though he wasn't entirely happy to have it there. 29...Rd8 30.Qc2 Qf7 31.Nc3. Around here, grandmaster opinion in the press room was that Kramnik would have to do something pretty quick if he was to get any compensation for the lost pawn. 31...Qh5. Not best, said Carlsen, adding that Kramnik had missed something obvious. Oh... what was I saying about Magnus being tactful? Just as well that Vlad was nowhere to be seen (only winners are obliged to face the press and audience after games). 32.Ne2! Bf5. You and I might be tempted to play 32...Bg4 but then 33.Nd4 consolidates White's position and cuts off the black rook's influence along the d-file. 33.e4 Bg4 34.Ng3 Qf7 35.Bf1








Two bishops on their original squares! Magnus mentioned this at the press conference and thought that they were well placed there. Again, to children reading, please don't try this at home. Magnus can do it because he is Magnus. 35...Be6 36.Qc3 Ra8 37.Rb4. The constrictor grip tightens: Magnus deprives the knight of the c4 square. 37...Qd7 38.f5 Bf7 39.Bf4. Only now, 39 moves into the game, does Magnus start gaining space. Patience is one of the grandmaster's key weapons. 39...Qd1 40.Kf2 Nb3. Now Black loses material. 40...Qd8 was the last chance. 41.Be2 Qb1 42.Bc4 Rxa3 43.Ne2. After 43.Ne2 the game might go 43...h6 44.Bxf7+ Kxf7 45.Qc4+ Kf8 46.Rb7 and mate will follow. If Kramnik tries anything else with rook or queen instead of h7-h6, then he will lose the knight and it will be all over. 1-0. [Click to replay]


Understandably, this game between the two top seeds grabbed most of the attention of the audience, and there was a large exodus of people to see Magnus being interviewed next door. That still left three other games, of course. We had seen a Norwegian play the English Opening, so what would the English players (all paired against each other) play? They went for a Double Scotch… no, they didn’t adjourn to the bar (the so-called ‘Sofia rules’ prohibit draw offers at this tournament – peace negotiations have to be made via the arbiter), they both started their games with the Scotch Opening (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4). Howell-Adams was quite a lively encounter but eventually came down to a very drawish double rook endgame. [Click to replay]

The other all-English game, McShane-Short, we’ll come back to after considering the next game to finish between the representatives of two world super-powers – Hikaru Nakamura (USA) versus Ni Hua (China). Hikaru came out of the opening pretty well and eventually converted his advantage into something tangible – a rook for bishop and pawn. But the pawn was a good one, lodged in the heart of the American side of the board. Hikaru returned the exchange (i.e. gave up rook for the bishop) to eliminate the nasty pawn and grandmaster opinion suggested he might yet win. But it was hard to figure out and some resourceful play by Ni Hua held the draw. [Click to replay]

Now for the marathon men… McShane-Short came down to a fairly arid position where Luke had some play against Nigel’s doubled pawns. It went on … and on… and on. Luke eventually encircled the double pawns and, on move 98, captured one of them. Even then, the game was not over – it was not clear how Luke could exploit his pawn advantage. The game seemed to go round in circles, as Luke played a few quick moves to gain time on his clock. I should explain that the time control after the first 60 moves, the players received 15 minutes plus an increment of 30 seconds per move, so Luke was trying to play a few quick moves so that he would have four or five minutes to think about the critical decisions. The next phase was for Luke to pitch camp on d5 with his knight – this took another 18 moves to achieve. Next, to get in b3-b4 – that took another 17 moves of manoeuvring.

The game reached the eight hour of play. By this time, by the way, the watching audience had dwindled by quite a lot (I counted 11 at one point). Arbiters were slumped in their chairs, dreaming of their dinner. The gentlemen of the press seemed to have turned their attention to their favourite online poker site. On the board, it was rather like watching a determined mountaineer slog up Everest. Eventually, around move 145, it was apparent that Luke was close to planting his flag on the summit. Cynics in the press room speculated that Nigel was only playing on in the hope that his opponent’s mobile phone might ring, but news later filtered back from the arbiters that Nigel was intent on a summit of his own – his longest ever game. This happened somewhere beyond move 160. Even at the end, there was some hope that Luke might let Nigel take his queen so that Luke could show us how to mate with bishop and knight. [Click to replay]

Around 10 p.m., with the janitor jangling the keys to the building outside, the game ended. The press room packed their bags, having rechristened the English number one “Nigel Long” in commemoration of this memorable achievement. As regards Luke McShane, acquisition of the three points (remember, we are using the 3–1–0 scoring system) comes at a price. Following his seven hours 36 minutes game today, he must face Magnus Carlsen with Black tomorrow. After Everest, the North Face of the Eiger…

Photos by Frederic Friedel in London

Schedule and results

Round 1: Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Magnus Carlsen 
1-0
 Vladimir Kramnik
Luke McShane 
1-0
 Nigel Short
David Howell 
½-½
 Michael Adams
Hikaru Nakamura 
½-½
 Ni Hua
Round 2: Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vladimir Kramnik 

-

 Ni Hua

Michael Adams 

-

 Hikaru Nakamura

Nigel Short 

-

 David Howell

Magnus Carlsen 

-

 Luke McShane

Games – Report
Round 3: Thuesday, December 10, 2009

Luke McShane 

-

 Vladimir Kramnik

David Howell 

-

 Magnus Carlsen

Hikaru Nakamura 

-

 Nigel Short

Ni Hua 

-

 Michael Adams

Games – Report

Friday, December 12, 2009

Rest day

Round 4: Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vladimir Kramnik 

-

 Michael Adams

Nigel Short 

-

 Ni Hua

Magnus Carlsen 

-

 Hikaru Nakamura

Luke McShane 

-

 David Howell

Games – Report
Round 5: Sunday, December 13, 2009

David Howell 

-

Vladimir Kramnik

Hikaru Nakamura 

-

Luke McShane

Ni Hua 

-

Magnus Carlsen

Michael Adams 

-

Nigel Short

Games – Report
Round 6: Monday, December 14, 2009

Vladimir Kramnik 

-

Nigel Short

Magnus Carlsen 

-

Michael Adams

Luke McShane 

-

Ni Hua

David Howell 

-

Hikaru Nakamura

Games – Report
Round 7: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hikaru Nakamura 

-

 Vladimir Kramnik

Ni Hua 

-

 David Howell

Michael Adams 

-

 Luke McShane

Nigel Short 

-

 Magnus Carlsen

Games – Report

Tournament Schedule

Monday 7th December Press Conference + blindfold display  

Tuesday

8th December

Round 1

2.00pm

Wednesday 

9th December

Round 2

2.00pm

Thursday

10th December

Round 3

2.00pm

Friday 11th December Rest day and Community / School events  

Saturday

12th December

Round 4

2.00pm

Sunday

13th December

Round 5

2.00pm

Monday

14th December

Round 6

2.00pm

Tuesday

15th December

Round 7

12.00pm


Links

The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!


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


Discuss

Rules for reader comments

 
 

Not registered yet? Register