London R2: Kramnik and Carlsen analysed

12/11/2009 – After their games in round two of the London Chess Classic most of the players once again congregated to the commentary room to explain what had just transpired to the audience in London and visitors of the Playchess server. This time it was Nigel Short, David Howell, Vladimir Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen and Luke McShane who shared their impressions. Report by John Saunders.

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Round two report

By John Saunders

Round 2: Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vladimir Kramnik 

1-0

 Ni Hua

Michael Adams 

½-½

 Hikaru Nakamura

Nigel Short 

½-½

 David Howell

Magnus Carlsen 

1-0

 Luke McShane

After two games played, Magnus Carlsen is already three points clear of the field, on the 3-1-0 scoring system employed here. After the ‘Pearl Spring’ (the tournament in China where Carlsen scored a runaway success) comes the ‘London Winter’. Which means rain, of course, but so far no water has fallen on Magnus Carlsen’s parade.

No.
Player
wins
draws
losses
points
Perf.
1
 Magnus Carlsen
2
0
0
6
3429
2
 Vladimir Kramnik
1
0
1
3
2733
3
 Luke McShane
1
0
1
3
2754
4
 Hikaru Nakamura
0
2
0
2
2682
5
 Michael Adams
0
2
0
2
2656
6
 David Howell
0
2
0
2
2703
7
 Nigel Short
0
1
1
1
2413
8
 Ni Hua
0
1
1
1
2551
 
Scoring System:
3 - Points per win
1 - Point per draw
0 - Points per loss

Let’s look at the games in the order in which they finished. All the games were hard-fought and provided good entertainment to another large and appreciative audience. The first players to take their places in the Commentary Room were Nigel Short and David Howell after drawing a 44-move game which started with Petroff’s Defence.


Lawrence Trent, David Howell, Nigel Short and Stephen Gordon comment for visitors
in London and for a world-wide Playchess audience

This opening, named after Alexander Dmitreyvich Petroff (1794-1867), the best Russian player of his day, is popular with super-grandmasters hoping for a solid draw with Black but very unpopular with chess spectators who always fear they are going to see a lifeless grandmaster draw. Not so in this tournament, of course, as we are adhering to the so-called Sofia Rules. Do you need these rules explained again? Yes, so do I and so do the players, it seems.


The lively exchanges have been recorded and will be made available later

Nigel Short told us at the press conference that, at some point during the game, David Howell offered him a draw. Nigel wasn’t quite sure whether this was strictly legal and, after the game finished asked the arbiter what the procedure was. Arbiter Albert Vasse advised him that it was legal to offer a draw but not legal to accept without consulting the arbiter who (with expert advice) would pronounce it sufficiently dead for a draw to be agreed. It is useful to have that explained in clear English as I’m sure we are all a bit vague about the rights and wrongs of it. One other comment from Nigel drew a big laugh from the audience at the beginning of the commentary session: he said it was the first time in his career that he had been completely exhausted after only one game of a tournament (a wry reference to his 163-move marathon of the previous day, of course).

Whatever the motivating factor or Nigel Short’s generally positive approach to the game, this was quite a spicy encounter where White might have won had he found a few key moves at the right time (that is more or less Short’s comment, paraphrased). It featured a sufficiently imbalanced pawn structure and piece configuration to give computer engines a few problems in making a convincing assessment – often a good sign of interesting chess. Nigel had a strong positional advantage at one point but it seemed to fizzle out around moves 30-34.

Short,Nigel (2707) - Howell,David (2597) [C42]
London Chess Classic London ENG (2), 09.12.2009
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Re1 Bg4 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 0-0 11.Bf4 Qd7 12.Rb1 Bd6 13.Bxd6 cxd6 14.h3 Bh5 15.Rb5 Ne7 16.Qb1 b6 17.Nd2 Bg6 18.a4 Rac8 19.Qb2 Rfe8 20.Bf1 Qc7 21.c4 dxc4 22.Nxc4 Nc6 23.Ra1 Re4 24.c3 Rce8 25.Qd2 h6 26.a5 Nxa5 27.Nxa5 bxa5 28.Rbxa5 R8e7

29.f3. Offered an engine-generated alternative in the commentary room, 29 f4!?, Nigel dismissed it: “Oh, that’s just a computer move – that’s not the way I play chess.” 29...R4e6 30.h4 h5 31.c4 Rd7 32.d5 Ree7 33.Qd4 Qb8 34.Rb5 Rb7 35.Kf2 Rec7 36.Raa5 Rxb5 37.Rxb5 Rb7 38.Rxb7 Qxb7 39.c5 dxc5 40.Qxc5 Qb2+ 41.Ke3 Qe5+ 42.Kf2 Qb2+ 43.Ke3 Qe5+ 44.Kf2 Qb2+ ½-½. A very interesting game, though, and perhaps one that shows the Petroff has a little more bite than we think. [Click to replay]


Kramnik,Vladimir (2772) - Ni Hua (2665) D15
London Chess Classic London ENG (2), 09.12.2009 [John Saunders]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.Nf3 b5 6.b3 Bg4 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 e5!? Play gets lively very quickly in this variation. 9.dxe5 Bb4 10.Bd2 Bxc3 11.Bxc3 Ne4 12.Bb4 bxc4 13.Qg4 c5 14.f3. Of course, I could give you a hundred variations from Fritz but let's take a deep breath and trust that the grandmasters have correctly figured out the tactics around here. 14...cxb4 15.fxe4








Pause for breath. I think we should call this something pleasantly Anglo-Saxon like the 'Pawn Brawl Variation' rather than using its current name in order to attract the attention of street-fighting chessplayers. We are coming to the end of a bruising fist fight between the little guys in the centre of the board. It actually looks quite an entertaining line for club players to have a go at but you would need to read up on the nuances of it before rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in. Nice to see Vladimir Kramnik ready to rumble in this way. Incidentally, he turned up with visible designer stubble today after his defeat of the day before. It recalls to mind the old story (probably apocryphal) that Anatoly Karpov didn't wash his hair until after a defeat. I'm wondering if Vlad has decided he isn't going to shave until he next tastes blood. 15...0-0 16.exd5 cxb3. I don't know about you but I couldn't have lived one more move seeing those two big pawns in the centre and would have played the reflex 16...Qxd5 ; however, 17.Bxc4 Qxe5 18.0-0!? Qxe3+ 19.Kh1 and White gets good compensation for the sacrificed pawn. 17.Qd4 Nd7 18.axb3 Qg5. Black's plan is based on a long sequence of moves which both of them had worked out but which has a sting in the tail in favour of White. 19.Qf4 Qxe5 20.Qxe5 Nxe5 21.Bxa6 Rfc8 22.Kd2 Rc3 23.Rhb1 f5 24.Ra4 Rc5








I suspect Ni Hua had seen it all to here but now White has a key move to maintain his material edge. 25.e4! fxe4 25...Rd8 would allow White consolidate with 26.Rxb4 fxe4 27.Bc4 and reach a comfortably winning ending. 26.Ke3 Rc2. Black would like to play 26...Rxd5 but then 27.Bb7! Rd3+ 28.Kxe4 Re8 29.Ra8! would ensure White's ultimate victory.; 26...Rc3+ 27.Kxe4 Re8 28.Kd4 also retains an extra pawn. 27.Bd3! A neat way to simplify the position. 27...Rxa4 28.Bxc2 Ra2 29.Bxe4








That more or less concludes the major business of the game. Kramnik thought he was winning comfortably here but admitted his finish may not have been the most efficient. 29...Kf7 30.Rc1 Kf6 31.Rc2 Ra1. Exchanging the rooks with 31...Rxc2 32.Bxc2 wouldn't offer much hope. One general principle that even super-GMs tend to adhere to is that you should try to keep at least one rook on the board if you are trying to defend an endgame a pawn down. Minor piece endgames tend to be easier for the player with the advantage to convert (except for opposite bishop endings, of course). 32.Kd4 Rd1+ 33.Kc5 h5 34.Rf2+ Ke7 35.Re2 Nd7+ 36.Kc6 Rc1+ 37.Bc2+ Kd8 38.Kd6 Nf6 39.Ke6 h4 40.d6 Rf1 41.Re5 Rf2. 41...Ne8 is more stubborn. 42.Bf5 g6 43.Bxg6 Nd7 44.Rg5 Rf6+ 45.Kd5 Nb6+ 46.Kc6 Nc8. White is not too bothered about the fate of the d-pawn because he knows Black's other two pawns are ripe for the plucking. 47.Kc5 Nxd6 48.Bd3. 48.Bd3 Black has no convincing continuation, e.g. 48...Nf7 49.Rh5 Rf4 50.Bc4 and the knight doesn't have a good square: 50...Ke8 51.Bxf7+ Kxf7 1-0. [Click to replay]


Vladimir Kramnik, Lawrence Trent, Stephen Gordon and Malcolm Pein...


... analysing the game against Ni Hua for the public


It is amazing for everyone who witnessed it in London and on Playchess how adept
Vladimir is with the computer and with what speed he rattles off complicated variations


Carlsen,Magnus (2801) - McShane,Luke (2615) E94
London Chess Classic London ENG (2), 09.12.2009 [John Saunders]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Na6. A slightly off-beat way of playing the King's Indian Defence, but not bad. 8.Re1 Qe8 9.Bf1 Many players would have chosen 9 Be3 but, as in his previous game, Magnus quite likes putting his bishops back on their original squares in a manoeuvring game. 9...c6 10.Rb1. As a 12-year-old, Magnus played 10.d5 in the 2002 Gausdal tournament and won a long game. 10...Bg4 11.d5 c5








The typical closed structure of a King's Indian Defence game. White's game will hinge around a pawn advance on the queenside, while Black will look to mobilise on the kingside whilst keeping a careful on White's queenside play. 12.Be2 Kh8 13.a3 Bd7 14.b4 b6 15.Bg5 Ng8 16.Nb5 f6 17.Bh4 Qe7. This opening can be very hard on dark-squared bishops. For example, 17...g5 would force the h4 bishop back to g3 where it is hemmed in. The snag is that it does much the same thing to Black's own bishop. If you were to suggest such a move to a top player, they would probably tell you it was "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg". By that, they mean that it doesn't fit in with the general strategy of theopening. 18.Nd2 Nh6 19.Nf1 Rfc8 20.Ne3 Nc7 21.bxc5 Nxb5 22.cxb5 Rxc5 23.f3 Rac8 24.Bd3 Qf8 25.Bf2 f5. One of the signature moves for Black in a number of King's Indian Defence variations. Sometimes it presages an exchange on e4, followed by pressure on e4 or occupation of f4 by a minor piece, but rather more often it is followed by f5-f4 and then an advance of the g and h pawns to start a full-scale kingside attack. 26.a4 R5c7 27.h3 Bf6 28.Qd2 Bg5 29.a5 fxe4. Here, 29...f4?! would only serve to undermine Black's kingside counterplay. Magnus had already taken the precaution of playing h2-h3 to restrain a possible advance on that side of the board. 30.fxe4 Nf7 31.axb6 axb6 32.Qe2 Rb7. Bearing in mind that White's knight is about to come to c4 with pressure on b6, one's mind turns momentarily to 32...Bxe3 but after 33.Bxe3 Rb7 34.Rf1 the dark squares will be a nightmare for Black. A case of the cure being more lethal than the disease. 33.Nc4 Qd8 34.Rf1 Kg7 35.Kh1 Be8 36.Qb2 Nh6








37.Bxb6! Luke McShane said he had missed this but there is probably not much he could have done. 37...Qe7 37...Rxb6 38.Qf2 threatens mate with Qf8 and also the rook on b6, so White would emerge with a healthy material advantage. 38.Qf2 Rcb8 39.Rb3 Ng8 40.Be2 Nf6 41.Bf3. I've been racking my brains to think of something intelligent to say about Carlsen's manoeuvre Bd3-e2-f3, where it seems worse placed than it had been on d3, but I have to give up. Perhaps White was concerned about the black knight entering the fray via h5 and this stops it happening. 41...Rxb6!? 1-0. [Click to replay]


Magnus Carlsen joins Lawrence Trent and Malcolm Pein in the commentary room


After a while he is joined by Luke McShane in our "Playchess studio"

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 

1-0

 Ni Hua

Michael Adams 

½-½

 Hikaru Nakamura

Nigel Short 

½-½

 David Howell

Magnus Carlsen 

1-0

 Luke McShane

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

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