Nunn the Wiser

by Sabrina Chevannes
12/14/2016 – One of the great things about the London Chess Classic is that it is not just a tournament for the elite, but a chess festival… a chesstival, if you wish. People of all backgrounds travel from far and wide to this event. Whether they are playing or just following the events, there is always something for them to do.

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London Chess Classic 2016 

Perhaps you are the type who just wants to sit in the quiet auditorium, soaking in the intense atmosphere of the players. Feeling their pain in real-time and watching every facial expression that can give away their thoughts on the position. 

Or maybe you want to enjoy the games, but hear from a chess legend at the same time. With the country’s best players bringing their insight into each of the games, you can view the Classic games in a whole new light. Plus, who knows just how much you can learn from them!

However, it’s not all about watching those guys in action, but there is ample opportunity to play yourself. In addition to the many other tournaments going on alongside the Classic, the Olympia Conference Centre is chessboards galore! The most popular, are of course, the giant chess sets. Kids and grown-ups alike battle their friends on these large sets, bringing the game to life even more. 

Whatever you choose to do at the London Chess Classic, you cannot help be swept up in the chess culture. Even the staff at Olympia provide great hospitality and service to all the guests of the event. 

Another great side event of the Classic took place last night – the simul with Grandmaster John Nunn. An absolute legend in the world of chess and science, an author of some of the most popular chess books, England international and genius. Need I say more? John is a regular fixture to the London Chess Classic events schedule and is no stranger to simultaneous displays. 

Each year, the Classic has held simultaneous displays with some big names in the business, including the late Viktor Korchnoi. Even I have given a simul at the event before! But of course, I cannot compare to these guys, whose knowledge and understanding of the game shine through with the pace at which they destroy their simul opponents. 

John Nunn took on 22 opponents last night and only dropped ½ a point! An incredible performance, considering he was multi-tasking and eating his dinner throughout some of the simul! No wonder most of his opponents had confused looks on their faces!

The British Knockout was heating up yesterday, with Nigel Short and David Howell battling it out for around 6 hours. Considering R2 lasted 20 minutes, we were anticipating a well-fought battle between these two players. Once again, it was another queenless middlegame in which David looked to have the advantage. 

However, it was at this moment that David chose to play the move Rad4, which looked like a blunder, as it was strongly met with 28…f4! He then had to defend a bishop for two pawns down for the rest of the game, but he was already a pawn up, so he ended up having three pawns for the piece in the end.

He may never have been in any danger, but Nigel was pushing nonetheless. The psychological battle between David and Nigel continues, though…
Just before the end, David offered Nigel a draw, as the position had been stagnant for a while. Nigel thought for about a minute and simply looked at David and said “Sorry, did you say something?!” After declining this offer, Nigel offered a draw himself just five moves later. Was this a ploy to throw David off? Or is Nigel’s age just simply catching up with him? Who knows…

Will Nigel be too tired again to fight today and repeat moves early on? Surely he will not “waste” another white? Perhaps David won’t agree to repeat and go for the kill today. There are only three games left, so if either want to avoid the rapid play offs, then a result needs to happen soon!

Meanwhile, things are starting to heat up in the FIDE Open section, and GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr is the sole leader of the event with a remarkable 5.5/6, just drawing with last year’s winner, Benjamin Bok. He is currently performing at 2804 and looks formidable, despite his size!

I caught up with another Indian Grandmaster and former winner, Abhijeet Gupta, to see how he was feeling before his game!

Me: Your fellow countryman is ahead of you at the moment…do you think you can catch him?
Abhijeet: Well, I’m looking to score +2 off the last 3 games, so I should be OK!

Of course!

You’re playing Erik Blomqvist today – are you happy with that pairing?
I think I will give you the answer after the game (smiles)

Well, you played a great game yesterday – does that inspire you for the rest of the tournament?
Yes, there were very few mistakes on my part in that game; so, if I can play like that for the rest of the tournament, the sky’s the limit!!

Check out Abhijeet’s great win against French Grandmaster Fabien Libisziewski:


Abhijeet won the London Chess Classic FIDE Open in 2011 and has won major titles such as the Commonwealth and Reykjavik this year already. So, he is a likely candidate for a strong finish. 

Currently the standings at the top look like this, so with that many people just ½ a point behind the leader, anything can happen!



Born in 1986 in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, England, Sabrina now lives in London where she is managing director of the London Academy of Chess and Education. With over 300 members of the academy, she has one of the largest following of students in the UK. Sabrina is a Women International Master and an active chess player.


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