Nakamura wins LCC Super Rapid Play

by John Saunders
12/8/2014 – In the final round of the London Chess Classic Super Rapid Hikaru Nakamura had the white pieces against Vishy Anand. They were the only players left who could win the £8,000 first prize. Hikaru opened with 1.b3 – and a fateful excursion to snaffle Hikaru’s h-pawn proved Anand's undoing. The American won first prize with an outstanding score of 9½/10. Report by John Saunders.

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Super Rapid Play Open rounds six to ten

Report by John Saunders

Hikaru Nakamura of the USA won the London Super Rapidplay Open with an outstanding score of 9½/10, having conceded just the one draw in the sixth round to Matthew Sadler. Second on his own, a full point behind Nakamura on 8½, was Anish Giri of the Netherlands. Ten players shared third place on 8 points: Fabiano Caruana (Italy), Vishy Anand (India), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Nigel Short, Nick Pert and Simon Williams (all England), Alex Lenderman and Daniel Naroditsky (both USA), Eric Hansen (Canada), and Alon Greenfeld (Israel).

It was a remarkable event, and needed a remarkable winner. It got one: on the Sunday Hikaru (photo above) was close to unplayable, with a powerful 4.0/4 finish including the scalps of four of his elite London Chess Classic rivals (note in all diaries: the Classic starts Wednesday). Mickey Adams, Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana and Vishy Anand all lowered their colours before Hikaru. Only Vladimir Kramnik escaped him, if only because he didn’t play him – although he did last year. Cast your mind back a year and you will recall that Vlad was Hikaru’s swindle victim in the semi-final of the 2013 London Classic Super 16. Hikaru went on to defeat Boris Gelfand in the final, so this is his second successive victory in this format of the game. Hikaru’s runaway rapidplay has added spice to this year’s Classic: you can be sure that all five of his rivals will be out for revenge.

Start of round six, with Nick Pert vs Vishy Anand (and Peter Wells vs Loek van Wely in the background)

With his two London triumphs, Hikaru unofficially joins a select band of super-GMs for whom the UK capital has proved a fertile ground for repeated successes and who perhaps deserve the title ‘London master’. Garry Kasparov can look back on one and a half world title matches won here (whilst no doubt trying to forget that it was also here that he ultimately relinquished his title); Vlad Kramnik has his victory over Garry here, plus a London Classic success; and it was in London that Magnus Carlsen became world number one, qualified for a world title and won three Classic titles. And those of us with longish memories will remember the young and largely unknown IM who came, saw and conquered at the final Lloyds Bank Masters in 1994. That was Alexander Morozevich and his score, in a spooky parallel with 2014, was 9½/10.

Let’s step back a minute and take a look at some stats. The PGN file of games played on the top ten boards, 100 in all, shows that only 17 of these top-end encounters ended in draws. 83% decisive games is enough to make any tournament organiser or armchair spectator salivate.

The titled player count shows that 34 GMs, 40 IMs and 30 with lower titles, took part, from 48 different countries, with 266 from England, followed by 16 from France and 14 from Norway. 405 players took part in total: 821 white wins, 234 draws and 757 black wins, making 1,812 in all and 87% decisive games.

To the play: the overnight leaders were Sadler, Nakamura, Caruana, Howell, Giri and Kramnik. In round six the top board game between Sadler and Nakamura was drawn.

The English GM (above left) had two extra pawns at one juncture but he failed to consolidate his advantage and allowed some resourceful counterplay.

David Howell (above right) tried erecting a Berlin Wall to keep out Fabiano Caruana (left) but the Italian-American super-GM used an exchange sacrifice to undermine its foundations. It may not have been fatal but for Howell’s perennial enemy, the clock. A more celebrated Berlin Wall builder was on the next board, but he was facing a much weirder edifice, put up by an avant-garde Dutch architect for a niche market... (a niche market – see what I did there? Oh, please yourselves).

In this round six picture you see, from left to right, Luke McShane, Anish Giri vs Vladimir Kramnik,
Simen Agdestein vs Andreas Hagen, Michael Adams vs Eric Hansen, Mark Hebden vs Petter Haugli

[Event "London Chess Classic Rapidplay"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.12.07"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Giri, Anish"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C47"] [Annotator "Saunders,John"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:06:11"] [BlackClock "0:03:02"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. h3 {Unusual but not yet entirely off the radar.} Bb4 5. Bd3 $5 {What on earth...? Now we really are in uncharted territory. Parking your bishop in a space usually reserved for the d-pawn in open games usually leads to positional chaos and a lot of other larger vehicles stuck honking their horns to be let out. Of course, such sallies become more playable in rapidplay chess as the opponent has zero time in which to conduct a serious opening appraisal. The database tells me it has been played by three unknowns called Svensk, Muller and Rewers. So should we call it the Svensk-Muller-Rewers variation (and are there any other triple-barrelled opening names)? Or perhaps Giri's Folly? Well, maybe not the latter because he used it three times in this tournament to score 2½/3 against Kramnik, Caruana and Adams. Not a score to be sneezed at.} O-O (5... d6 6. a3 Ba5 7. b4 Bb6 8. Na4 O-O 9. O-O d5 10. exd5 Qxd5 11. Re1 Bd4 12. Nxd4 exd4 13. Bf1 Bf5 14. d3 a5 15. Bf4 axb4 16. axb4 b5 $2 17. Nc5 {gave White a bit of initiative in Giri-Adams, round 9, but 16...Qb5!? looks better for Black.}) 6. O-O d6 7. a3 ({In round seven, perhaps fearing an improvement developed in the 20-minute break between rounds, Giri varied with} 7. Re1 Ne7 8. Ne2 d5 9. Ng3 dxe4 10. Nxe4 Ng6 11. Nxf6+ Qxf6 12. c3 Bd6 13. Be4 {and drew in a fairly sedate 29 moves against Caruana.}) 7... Bxc3 {To my rheumy eye, it looks slightly odd to unblock the c1-h6 diagonal. Houdini also prefers to leave the Denver clamp in place and retreat the bishop to a5 or c5.} 8. dxc3 { Now it's just equal and, if truth be told, a bit boring. I'll wake you up when it gets interesting again.} Ne7 9. a4 h6 10. a5 Ng6 11. c4 Be6 12. Be3 Nd7 13. b4 Nf4 14. Re1 Qf6 15. Bf1 g5 (15... Qg6 {, more or less forcing} 16. Bxf4 exf4 {, feels more natural for Black.}) 16. Kh2 Kh8 17. g3 {[diag]} Nxh3 $2 ({If any other player had played this, one would diagnose 'rush of blood' to the head but the former world champion is almost immune from such afflictions.} 17... Ng6 {is OK, but perhaps it was a case of 'having played A (...g5), you have to play B'.}) 18. Bxh3 g4 19. Bg2 gxf3 20. Bxf3 Bxc4 {OK, Black has won a pawn but take a look at the h6-pawn. It doesn't look long for this world, does it?} 21. Kg2 Kg7 22. Rh1 Rh8 23. Rh4 ({Houdini prefers} 23. Rh5 $5 {, to stop the h6-pawn being jettisoned on h5 and to fix the target square as h6, suitably backed up with Qd2 and Rah1.}) 23... Nf8 $2 ({Separating the rooks and making it hard for the a8-rook to join in the defence of the kingside.} 23... h5 $1 24. Qd2 Qe6 25. Rah1 Nf6 26. Bxh5 {minimises White's edge after} Nxh5 27. Rxh5 Rxh5 28. Rxh5 Rh8 29. Rxh8 Kxh8 30. Bxa7 d5 {, etc.}) 24. Qd2 Ne6 {[diag]} 25. Qc3 $1 {I wonder if Kramnik missed this. It looks like Ng5 is the key to the black defence, blocking the bishop attack on h6, but this subtle intermezzo ties the knight to the defence of the c7-pawn.} Bb5 26. Rah1 Kf8 27. Bg4 $1 {Much better than simply capturing on h6. White ramps up the pressure against c7. It must have been galling for Black to see this bishop, once ludicrously placed on d3, now playing such a key role in the attack.} Bc6 ( 27... h5 {is now the best of a bad job, but} 28. Rxh5 Rxh5 29. Rxh5 Rc8 30. Bxa7 {is pretty hopeless.}) 28. Bxe6 Qxe6 29. b5 $1 Bxb5 30. Rxh6 Rxh6 31. Rxh6 {Attacking the queen and threatening a deadly skewer of the rook via h8. There is no defence.} Qg4 32. f3 ({An unnecessary precaution as there is no perpetual after} 32. Rh8+ Kg7 33. Rxa8 Qxe4+ 34. f3 {, etc. But the text wins anyway.}) 32... Qg7 33. Qxc7 a6 34. Qxd6+ Kg8 35. Rh5 1-0

There was a game for nostalgia addicts on board seven, with Speelman and Short reprising their Candidates’ rivalry of the 1980s/90s. End to end stuff, as soccer commentators like to say, but finally ending in a draw.

Round seven, and we already know that Giri and Caruana drew, thus bringing to an end each other’s 100% score. Nakamura and McShane caught up with them, beating Adams and Agdestein respectively. Mickey loosened his position around moves 18-23 and Hikaru took full advantage.

Luke (above left) seemed to make steady progress to victory against Simen but perhaps the Norwegian GM could have found a perpetual check had he more time. Actually, the game contained another sweet little tactical point which only a GM with plenty of time on his clock (or a computer with a couple of nano-seconds to spare) could find. I’ll set it as a puzzle.

McShane,Luke J - Agdestein,Simen [C09]
London Chess Classic Rapidplay (7.4), 07.12.2014

Black to play
White has just played 28.Nf3xd4 to capture a pawn.
His opponent replied 28...Ne5 but what had both players missed?

As is standard at the London Classic, spectators will of course be able to enjoy the action on the official website.

Round 8: Nakamura-Giri was a long, featureless, manoeuvring game until beyond move 70, with White still having around 4 minutes left to Black’s 3½ minutes. But then a small error, 74...h5?, allowed Hikaru to win the d-pawn. Anish probably thought he could have won Hikaru’s f-pawn but he must have realised then that it would have left his king in a mating net. He spotted that one but promptly fell for another trick and was lost. Luke’s loss was the result of an injudicious pawn snatch.

[Event "London Chess Classic Rapidplay"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.12.07"] [Round "8.2"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "McShane, Luke J"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [Annotator "Saunders,John"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:05:47"] [BlackClock "0:00:45"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 Bd7 10. Rd1 Kc8 11. g4 Ne7 12. Ng5 Be8 13. f4 f5 14. exf6 gxf6 15. Ne6 Bd7 16. Nxf8 Rxf8 17. f5 h5 18. Kf2 Rg8 19. Rg1 b6 20. Nd2 Kb7 21. Ne4 Raf8 22. Bd2 c5 23. Rae1 Nc6 24. Bc3 Nd4 25. Bxd4 cxd4 26. Kf3 c5 27. Kf4 hxg4 28. hxg4 Kc7 29. Rh1 Rf7 30. Rh6 Re8 31. Rf1 Ref8 32. Ng3 Bc6 33. Nh5 Bd5 34. Re1 {[diag]} Bxa2 $2 ({A decidedly warm pawn, but the refutation of this capture requires a more subtle touch than is usual.} 34... a5 35. b3 {leaves White with the better game but his edge is by no means decisive.}) 35. Ra1 $1 ( {This is not one of those hackneyed trap-the-bishop-in-the-corner scenarios, as per the famous Fischer blunder against Spassky in game one of their title match. Black would have been delighted to see} 35. b3 $2 d3 $1 {and Black would have the advantage.}) 35... Bd5 36. Rxa7+ Bb7 37. Rxf6 $1 Rxf6 38. Nxf6 Rxf6 39. g5 {Now it becomes clear that Black's mistake was in allowing his bishop to become pinned on b7, thus not allowing it to come to the rescue on the kingside. The black rook can't cope with the advancing passed pawns on its own. White needs to find a precise line to exploit his winning advantage but the world number two is up to the task.} Rf8 40. g6 c4 (40... Kb8 41. g7 Rd8 42. Rxb7+ Kxb7 43. f6 {is a relatively straightforward win.}) 41. g7 Rd8 42. f6 d3 43. cxd3 cxd3 44. f7 d2 45. Ra1 d1=Q 46. Rxd1 Rxd1 47. f8=Q Bd5 48. Ke5 Ba2 49. g8=Q Bxg8 50. Qxg8 Re1+ 51. Kd5 Rd1+ 52. Ke4 Re1+ 53. Kd5 Rd1+ 54. Kc4 Rc1+ 55. Kb4 Rc5 56. Qa8 Re5 57. Ka4 Re1 58. Qa7+ Kc6 59. Qb8 Re4+ 60. b4 1-0

In Round 9, Fabiano Caruana had white against Hikaru Nakamura, with both on the leading score of 7½/8. Another manoeuvring game ensued and it was very hard to judge who had the advantage till around move 40, when it started to looked as if Hikaru’s pieces had a bit more scope. But clock times were rather more significant: at move 40 Fabiano had 1 minute 33 seconds left to Hikaru’s 8 minutes and 34 seconds. Even allowing for the ten-second increment, that is too big a difference. Looking back, it seems as if Fabiano’s extravagant think of almost five minutes on the 18.c5 advance may have cost him dearly in the long run. On such trifles do titles depend. The blunder came on move 47, but even if he had found a better move, I still wouldn’t have given much for his chances. Rapidplay is as much about the clock as what happens on the board and Hikaru’s careful management of his time, allied to his canny manoeuvring, won him this game.

[Event "London Chess Classic Rapidplay"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.12.07"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B30"] [Annotator "Saunders,John"] [PlyCount "96"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:00:15"] [BlackClock "0:06:12"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. O-O Nge7 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Ng6 7. Be2 Bc5 8. Nb3 Bb6 9. c4 d6 10. Nc3 a6 11. Kh1 e5 12. Nd5 Ba7 13. Bg4 O-O 14. Bxc8 Rxc8 15. Be3 Bxe3 16. Nxe3 Nge7 17. Rc1 a5 18. c5 $2 {The question mark is not for the move, which is OK, but the five-minute think which led up to it.} dxc5 19. Nxc5 Nd4 20. Qd3 Qd6 21. Nb3 a4 22. Nxd4 Qxd4 23. Qb1 Qd2 24. Rcd1 Qb4 25. Rd7 Nc6 26. a3 Qb3 27. Rd3 Qb6 28. Nd5 Qb5 {Black's excursion with his queen may not look as though it achieved very much but it soaked up another five minutes from White's clock. At this stage White had 6 minutes left to Black's 15 - a perilous state of affairs.} 29. Rc1 Rcd8 30. b4 Nd4 31. Rc5 Qe8 {Black, with his large time advantage, is happy to let White have a small initiative as if to say "c'mon, show me what you've got".} 32. Qd1 f5 {Now Black steps up the pressure again.} 33. exf5 Rxf5 34. f3 Rf8 35. Nc3 b6 36. Rc7 b5 37. Rc5 Rc8 38. Ne4 Rxc5 39. Nxc5 Qf7 {White is gradually running out of steam and Black starts to get on top.} 40. h3 Qf5 41. Re3 h6 42. Qd2 Rd8 43. Re4 Kh7 44. Qf2 { White now had less than a minute left.} Rd5 45. Kh2 Nb3 $1 {[diag]} 46. Nxb3 $2 ({White had an agonising 30-second think over this. He must have distrusted the ending after} 46. Rg4 Nxc5 47. bxc5 {, etc, but the text is worse.}) 46... axb3 47. Qe3 $2 ({A big blunder but the writing is on the wall after} 47. Qb2 Rd3 $1 {anyway, as it turns out, since} 48. Rxe5 Qf4+ {is a disaster and most other lines are dismal.}) 47... b2 48. Qe1 Rd4 $1 (48... Rd4 {The threat is} 49. -- Rxe4 50. fxe4 Qf4+ {and 51...Qc1, winning.}) 0-1

That meant that Hikaru was on 8½/9 going into the final round. Vishy Anand was the only player within half a point of him, having beaten one of the last of the English aspirants to the top prize, David Howell, in a long game (the other home contender was Matthew Sadler, who drew with Kramnik in round nine).

In the final round Hikaru had the white pieces against Vishy, these two being the only players left who could win the £8,000 first prize. Hikaru opened with 1.b3 – exactly as he had done in the first round against Theo Slade. I don’t know if it was intentional but this topping and tailing of the competition was a nice ironic touch. Vishy didn’t allow the time disparity to get too big as did Fabiano, but a fateful excursion with his rook to snaffle Hikaru’s h-pawn proved his undoing. Of course, he needed a win to take the first prize, so we have to commend him for trying. But the endgame soon proved to be a disaster and Hikaru didn’t need the safety net of a draw but could win much as he pleased.

And so the winner, with a score of 9½/10, was Hikaru Nakamura

Well, what a fantastic event! And we still have the Classic itself to look forward to on Wednesday. You’ll be hearing from me again very soon...

Solution to the McShane-Agdestein puzzle

[Event "London Chess Classic Rapidplay"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.12.07"] [Round "7.4"] [White "McShane, Luke J"] [Black "Agdestein, Simen"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C09"] [Annotator "Saunders,John"] [PlyCount "99"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:01:23"] [BlackClock "0:00:24"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. Ngf3 Nc6 5. exd5 exd5 6. Bb5 Bd6 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. O-O Nge7 9. Nb3 Bd6 10. Bg5 O-O 11. Bh4 Qb6 12. Be2 a5 13. a4 Nf5 14. Bg5 h6 15. Bd2 d4 16. Bc4 Be6 17. Bxe6 fxe6 18. Qe2 e5 19. Rae1 Rae8 20. Qd3 Kh8 21. Re2 Qc7 22. Rfe1 b6 23. c3 Qf7 24. cxd4 Nfxd4 25. Nbxd4 exd4 26. Rxe8 Rxe8 27. Rxe8+ Qxe8 28. Nxd4 {[#]White has just played 28.Nxd4 to capture a pawn. His opponent replied} Ne5 {but what had both players missed?} (28... Qd8 $3 {would have been a devilish trick. Any move of the knight, including 29.Nxc6, allows 29...Bxh2+ winning the loose queen. If White defends the knight with a bishop, Black simply attacks it with his own bishop and wins it. The best the computer can find is} 29. Qe4 Nxd4 30. Bxh6 $5 {but} Bc5 {leaves Black a safe piece up.} ) ({note that} 28... Qd7 $2 {doesn't work as White would then have} 29. Qf5 $1 {, turning the tables.}) 29. Qc2 Bc5 30. Bc3 Qd7 31. Qe4 Qxa4 32. h3 Bd6 33. f4 Qd1+ 34. Kh2 Qd3 35. Qf5 Qe3 36. Nc2 Qf2 37. Bxe5 Bxe5 38. Qc8+ Kh7 39. fxe5 Qf4+ 40. Kg1 Qc1+ 41. Kf2 Qd2+ 42. Kf3 Qd5+ 43. Kf4 g5+ 44. Kf5 Qf7+ 45. Ke4 Qf4+ 46. Kd5 Qf7+ 47. Qe6 Qf2 48. Qd7+ Kg6 49. Qc6+ Kh5 50. Ke6 1-0

We add one more position that tickled our tactical fantasy:

[Event "6th London Classic Super Rapid"] [Site "London"] [Date "2014.12.07"] [Round "10"] [White "Williams, Simon K"] [Black "Van Wely, Loek"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2443"] [BlackElo "2667"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1bq1rk1/p4pp1/1p2pn2/4R1Bp/3p4/2PB3Q/P4PPP/R5K1 w - - 0 16"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "ENG"] 16. Bh7+ $1 {Beautiful and slightly unexpected. Bh7 is anything but new, however it usually involves capturing a pawn.} Kxh7 17. Bxf6 Qxf6 {4 Forced since capturing with the pawn would lead to mate double quick.} 18. Rxh5+ Qh6 19. Rxh6+ gxh6 20. Qd3+ Kg8 21. Qxd4 {79} Ba6 22. Rd1 {Williams is a talented attacker and makes no mistakes here.} Rac8 {100} 23. Qf6 Be2 24. Rd2 {60} Bh5 25. Qxh6 Bg6 26. h4 Rxc3 {82} 27. h5 Bf5 28. Qf6 Rc4 29. f3 Kh7 30. Rd7 Rc1+ 31. Kh2 Rc2 32. h6 1-0

All photos by John Saunders

Top final standings (after ten rounds)

Rk. Sd. It. Name Rtg  Pts
1 1 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2905 9.5
2 12 GM Giri Anish 2674 8.5
3 2 GM Caruana Fabiano 2858 8.0
3 GM Anand Viswanathan 2809 8.0
5 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2785 8.0
7 GM Short Nigel D 2740 8.0
11 GM Lenderman Aleksandr 2680 8.0
15 GM Hansen Eric 2658 8.0
19 GM Naroditsky Daniel 2620 8.0
20 GM Pert Nicholas 2620 8.0
27 GM Greenfeld Alon 2541 8.0
45 GM Williams Simon K 2448 8.0
13 4 GM Adams Michael 2808 7.5
6 GM Sadler Matthew D 2770 7.5
8 GM Agdestein Simen 2718 7.5
13 GM McShane Luke J 2673 7.5
26 GM Cherniaev Alexander 2553 7.5
28 IM Adair James R 2538 7.5
33 GM Chirila Ioan-Cristian 2503 7.5
38 IM Dourerassou Jonathan 2481 7.5
64 IM Trent Lawrence 2388 7.5

Elite Event Schedule

Date Event Time Notes
6-7 Dec. Super Rapidplay 12.00 10 rounds, featuring the Super Six and many other GMs. The Super Six will compete against Chess in Schools and Communities schoolchildren in the first round.
8 Dec. Pro-Am &
TBC The Super Six will take part in Pro-Am and Pro-Business events to be held in the Auditorium. Times and names of guest celebrities to follow.
9 Dec. Super Six Blitz Tournament 18.15 The elite group of six players will take part in a blitz tournament. Start time 18.15.
10-14 Dec. Super Six Classic 16.00* * For rounds 1-3; rounds 4-5 start at 14.00.


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

In 1999 John Saunders gave up his job as an IT professional to become full-time editor/webmaster of 'British Chess Magazine'. During the 2000s he was also webmaster and magazine editor for the English Chess Federation, and regular webmaster and photo-reporter at Isle of Man and Gibraltar tournaments. In 2010 he became editor of the leading UK monthly 'CHESS' Magazine, retiring in 2012 but remaining its associate editor and regular contributor.


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