London, Rd. 7: The Nakamura Show

by Marco Baldauf
12/16/2016 – The man of the day was once again Hikaru Nakamura. After his devastating loss in the round before, he didn't hesitate to opt for the ultrasharp 6.Bg5 in the Najdorf and destroyed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in exemplary fashion - as shown by Georg Meier in his notes. By the way, it was the same line, Nakamura went to rack and ruin with Black the day before. The other four games ended in a draw, Wesley So remains in the lead, Fabiano Caruana is trailing him by half a point. Mehr...

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London Chess Classic 2016, Rd. 7

Hikaru Nakamura - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave / Notes by Georg Meier


Georg Meier's commentary will also be in the next ChessBase Magazine #176, together with all the games of the London Chess Classic, a lot of them annotated - and much more. ChessBase Magazine #175, the current issue, also contains a wealth of material and annotated games by Vladimir Kramnik, Wesley So, David Navara, Pavel Eljanov, Simon Williams, Daniel King any many other exclusive authors.  Have a look!

Nakamura v MVL by Daniel King

Photos: Lennart Ootes

After yesterday's win against Veselin Topalov, Wesley So was on incredible 4.5/6 before this round - his closest rival Fabiano Caruana was trailing him with 4.0/6, on sole third place was already Vladimir Kramnik with 3.5/6. So's strategy for today's game against Kramnik was to risk nothing and try little. One could argue, So wasted a White, but actually this result brought him one step closer towards winning the London Chess Classic 2016. This very pragmatic approach strongly reminds of his game against Caruana in the 8th round of the Sinquefield Cup 2016, where So also chose a highly solid opening line with White and the game ended in a quick draw. Well, the end of the story is best-known, So kept his lead and won the tournament by drawing convincingly against MVL with black in the last round.

Having the black pieces, Vladimir Kramnik just played his normal chess and didn't see any reason to risk a lot. Tomorrow, he will have White against Giri and already announced that he definitely will risk something to preserve at least some chances to fight for the title in the last round. In the post-game interview with Maurice Ashley, Kramnik praised So as the one who played the best chess in 2016, even better than Carlsen. For the former World Champion from Russia, So "is a very very serious challenger for Magnus in the years to come".

Royal praise by Vladimir Kramnik, "This year, Wesley So is playing the best chess - actually in the world."


In the shortest game of the day, Vishy Anand had almost no problems to keep the balance against Levon Aronian. After his unnecessary loss against MVL in yesterday's round, the Armenian dropped to 50% and didn't seem to be able to start another attack on the tournaments' leaders.

Anand refrained from his main weapon 4...Nbd7 and instead surprised with the rare 6...c5 in the QGD, a line he didn't play for the last 14 years.


With 8.Bd3 Aronian chose a solid sideline and it seemed as he got a little something but Anand was alerted and neutralized his opponent's initiative with 18...Kf7!

Position after 18.Rxd6: Black has the response 18...Kf7!, the point being that after 19.Bxc6 he has the intermediate move 19...Ke7! securing equality.

A surprising opening choice combined with accurate play from move 14 to 19 secured the draw for Vishy Anand.


The most exciting game was played between Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. After the hugh blow of yesterday's round, Nakamura opted for the Najdorf again - but having the white pieces this time.

Nakamura repeated the Bg5-line, the line in which he got blown off the board by Caruana only 24 hours ago.

After MVL's 17...h5, Nakamura didn't need to be asked twice and went for 18.Nf5!: "I didn't see any reason that it was loosing on the spot ... so why not take a chance."

Black's king was trapped in the middle of the board while White had a lot of activity and a disturbing passed pawn on the h-line. However, it wasn't that clear until Nakamura uncorked the move of the game:

Position after 23...Kf8: Black's position momentarily holds due to tricks connected with Nxe4-Qxc2+, so Nakamura sidestepped this motiv by calmly playing 24.Ka1.

As a sidenote it has to be mentioned that 24.h6 followed by h7 and then Ka1 was even stronger - however, Nakamura once again gave a striking example of his virtuosity while MVL still has a very tough time in London. As does the Najdorf, only 1.0/5 was scored with the evergreen among the Sicilians.

Rough times for MVL and his pet line.

Had nothing to loose today and scored a fantastic third win in the tournament: Hikaru Nakamura.


Sole second before this round was Fabiano Caruana. Against Michael Adams, he was confronted with the English Opening and got into an uncomfortable position:

Position after 21.a4 - Caruana is undoubtedly slightly worse but defended accurately ...

...and was able to liquidate into a drawn opposite coloured bishop ending.

Adams is now on 3.0/7. After a poor start his form became better and better and in the last couple of games, he clearly prooved that he can compete in this tough tournament. Caruana is still trailing So with half a point, tomorrow is the big encounter, which probably will determine the champion of the London Chess Classic 2016!


The longest fight took place between Anish Giri and Veselin Topalov. In a very closed position from the QGD, Giri tried to press for a long time but in the end, he couldn't force a way trough Black's solid defense. After three losses in a row, this result must come as a bit of a relief for Topalov, who nevertheless is still clear last in the standings.

Still no win for Giri in London.


Results of round 7

Round 7, starting 4 pm, London time


Levon Aronian


Viswanathan Anand


Anish Giri


Veselin Topalov


Wesley So


Vladimir Kramnik


Michael Adams


Fabiano Caruana


Hikaru Nakamura


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Today's games


Games - rounds 1 to 7


Standings after round 7

Rg. Title Name Country ELO 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts. Perf. TB.
1 GM Wesley So
2794     ½ 1 ½ ½ ½   1 1 5.0 / 7 2935  
2 GM Fabiano Caruana
2823     ½ 1 ½ ½   ½ ½ 1 4.5 / 7 2882  
3 GM Vladimir Kramnik
2809 ½ ½   ½ ½     ½ ½ 1 4.0 / 7 2834 12.50
4 GM Hikaru Nakamura
2779 0 0 ½     1 ½ 1   1 4.0 / 7 2841 11.25
5 GM Levon Aronian
2785 ½ ½ ½     ½ ½ 0 1   3.5 / 7 2789 13.25
6 GM Viswanathan Anand
2779 ½ ½   0 ½   ½ 1 ½   3.5 / 7 2786 12.75
7 GM Anish Giri
2771 ½     ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ ½ 3.5 / 7 2778 11.50
8 GM Maxime Vachier Lagrave
2804   ½ ½ 0 1 0 ½     ½ 3.0 / 7 2737 10.00
9 GM Michael Adams
2748 0 ½ ½   0 ½ ½     1 3.0 / 7 2739 8.75
10 GM Veselin Topalov
2760 0 0 0 0     ½ ½ 0   1.0 / 7 2479  

Tournament page London Chess Classic...

Grand Chess Tour...

London Chess Conference...

Marco Baldauf, born 1990, has been playing since he was eight. In 2000 and 2002 he became German Junior Champion, in 2014 he became International Master. He plays for SF Berlin in the Bundesliga.


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