Lookback: The British K.O. and LCC Open

by André Schulz
12/22/2017 – In addition to the London Chess Classic, let's not forget the British Knockout Championships. Luke McShane beat David Howell in the final, but it took a tiebreak to do it. Video interview with both players. Plus, in the extremely strong London Classic Open, Gabriel Sargissian lead a trio on 7½ / 9. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Pieces, Pawns and Squares Pieces, Pawns and Squares

Treated themes: how to create weaknesses, how to conquer and exploit important squares, the powerful helping pawn, piece transfer to strongholds, coordination in the attack.


Luke McShane takes final vs David Howell

The British Knockout Champinoships are, as the name implies, played in the KO system with eight players. The best seven players of the British Isles were invited, plus one qualifier from a tournament in the 4NCL (the British League) — IM Allan Merry. The format is similar to the FIDE World Cup format. In the quarter-finals, two classic games (FIDE time control of 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move), in the semifinals four, and in the final eight games, including four games classical but also four rapid games at 15 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. Players eliminated in the quarterfinals received GBP 2,500 as prize money. If you made it to the semi-finals before being knocked out, you'd receive 5,000. The loser of the final won 10,000 pounds, the winner earned 20,000 pounds.

In the quarterfinals, Nigel Short, the 2016 winner, defeated Allan Merry 2 : 0, Mattew Sadler won by 1½ : ½ against Jonathan Rowson, David Howell defeated Jonathan Hawkins and Luke McShane elimated Gawain Jones, by the same margin.

Luke McShane and Nigel Short

McShane against Short | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In the semifinals, Nigel Short met Luke McShane. After two draws in classical and a further two draws in the 10 minute plus 2 second blitz games, McShane finally won the 'Armageddon' deciding game. The same story played out in the second semi-final, which saw David Howell needing to win the Armageddon game with White against Matthew Sadler.

Matthew Sadler and David Howell

Sadler and Howell earlier in their match | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The final between Luke McShane and David Howell was very tight. The first four games were played with classical time control, and the points counted double compared to the rapid chess games. After a draw in the first game, Howell won game two. The third game went to McShane, the fourth again to Howell, giving him a half-time lead of 5: 3 lead. But McShane came storming back in the rapid portion and equalized the lead with wins in the first and third rapid games. That sent the games to a blitz tiebreak, and there McShane dominated, winning both games to become the British Knockout Champion for 2017.

Afterwards we spoke with both players. David Howell related how his day got off to a bad start as he fell in the shower in the morning, which came to symbolise the way his rapid games would go.

McShane recommends examining his mating attack in the third rapid game, and points to his win in the classical portion (game three with black) as one he was quite pleased with.

He also weighed in on Google DeepMind's AlphaZero. "I was thrilled when I saw the news...I'm quite interested to see whether some new chess programs that are available to everybody arise out of the back of this, because that'll be really interesting."-

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Luke McShane

Triumph for McShane | Photo: Lennart Ootes

London Chess Classic FIDE Open

Top elite tournaments often include an open tournament as well, which attracts many chess enthusiasts and provides a festival atmosphere. The Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee is a long running example. The London Chess Classic extended the concept significantly with many additional events surrounding the world-class tournament.

While the top guys were on stage in the auditorium at the Olympiad Conference Center, there were plenty of amateurs playing next door in the open, but also many prominent grandmasters. Most of the almost 300 players unsurprisingly came from England — over 100. Of the players from other countries, India provided the largest contingent. No less than 23 players from the former British colony traveled to the Open of the London Chess Classic.

The 13-year-old Nihal Sarin, with his Elo rating of 2507, was one of the noteables. The Indian prodigy was hunting for norms in London. He has already collected one GM norm, and he still needs two for the title. In London, he narrowly missed the norm, although his score of 6½ points was quite good, placing him 22nd.

Behind India, France and Germany lined up the largest groups of 15 players each. But the French brought with them five grandmasters, the Germans only two: Alexander Donchenko and Florian Handke.

After four rounds with GM Hrant Melkumyan, from Armenia, Sarin and 22-year-old Uzbek GM Jahongir Vakhidov were the three undefeated players.

Hrant Melkumyan

Hrant Melkumyan | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Melkumyan won his board one game against Sarin. Vakhidov took down Gawain Jones. In the sixth round, the two remaining on 100% faced each other to a draw, allowing the English grandmaster Jonathan Hawkins to catch up.

Hawkins lost in the seventh round to Melkumyan and Vakhidov conceded his first defeat against the 26-year-old Israeli Tamir Nabaty. So Melkumyain was alone in the lead with 6½ out of 7. Nabaty was the only player to score 6 points. Behind them followed a group of 18 players with 5½ points, in which including Handke and Donchenko were.

In round eight Melkumyan and Nabaty split the point after a long 79-move fight. Handke lost his game against Gabriel Sargissian, while Donchenko prevailed against Canadian IM Aman Hambleton.

Hrant Melkumyan went into the final round with 7 points and a half-point lead in front of a group of seven players. He met Alexander Motylev with the white pieces, but nine moves later, he shook hands with a draw and a share of first prize. On the adjacent board, his compatriot Sargissian defeated Hawkins in an interesting Catalan game.


Sargissian played 34.a5 and Hawkins resigned here as White's rook is too strong.

Sebastian Maze scored a victory against surprisingly strong 24-year-old Vietnamese women's grandmaster Vo Thi Kim Phung and so Sargissian, Melkumyan and Maze ended up equal on 7½ points. The tiebreak score favored Sargissian.

The young Uzbek Vakidov showed his class in the final round once again against Neil McDonald:


Leningrad Dutch

On some occasions it would yield you a perfect win, on others it could cause you "shameful" defeats. This DVD is intended in the first line to offer strategical guidance for Black, based on the examination of the most typical structures.


Alexander Donchenko played the final round match against Nabaty to a draw. The young German Grandmaster was thus eighth with a half point less than the leading trio. Florian Handke picked up a point by defeating Jovanka Houska and finished the tournament with 6½ points in 13th place, ahead of Nihal Sarin.

Vo Thi Kim Phung with her Elo rating of just 2380 started as the 61st of the seedling list in the tournament, yet finished with 6½ points in 22nd place finish.

Vo Thi Kim Phung | Source: us.24h.com.vn

She played score a performance of 2550 and will pick up over 40 Elo points. The reigning Asian Continental Champion is certainly one of the positive surprises of the tournament. She played against six grandmasters during the tournament, defeating two of them — Daniel Gormally and Jules Moussard — and lost only to Sebastian Maze after 115 moves.


Meet the Nimzo-Indian with 4.Qc2

Rustam Kasimdzhanov, the FIDE World Champion in 2004, is pre-destined to deal with the subject of the Nimzo-Indian with 4.Qc2, since he has been extremely successful with this opening both with White and with Black. The Usbek grandmaster has also gathered valuable experience on the subject when working as a second to world champion Anand. Right from his introduction, Kasimdzhanov emphasises that the Nimzo-Indian has a lot of advantages and that White is often left with a ruined pawn structure; that is precisely what the queen move avoids. Of course in his investigations the author offers much deeper insights into the opening. In over 4 hours of video Rustam Kasimdzhanov explains all the important ideas, strategies and tricks helped by sample games in which the white side is represented, e.g., by Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik and Ivanchuk as well as the author himself. Video running time: 3 hours 28 min.


Final standings (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Sargissian Gabriel 7,5
  Melkumyan Hrant 7,5
  Maze Sebastien 7,5
4 Motylev Alexander 7,0
  Nabaty Tamir 7,0
  Grandelius Nils 7,0
  Cornette Matthieu 7,0
  Donchenko Alexander 7,0
  Kotronias Vasilios 7,0
10 Jones Gawain 6,5
  Hawkins Jonathan 6,5
  Vishnu Prasanna V 6,5
  Handke Florian 6,5
  Nihal Sarin 6,5
  Stany G.A. 6,5
  Vakhidov Jahongir 6,5
  Gormally Daniel W 6,5
  Hambleton Aman 6,5
  Bartholomew John 6,5
  Wells Peter K 6,5
  Cherniaev Alexander 6,5
  Vo Thi Kim Phung 6,5
  Gumularz Szymon 6,5
24 Moussard Jules 6,0
  Le Roux Jean-Pierre 6,0

...287 Players

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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