The London Chess Classic – photographic impressions

12/25/2010 – We still can't get over what has been for us the tournament of the year. Apart from the super-exciting chess there was so much to see and so many interesting people to meet, that there are bound to be a few retrospective articles to appear on our pages. We start with some interesting pictures that did not make it to our daily reports. Big pictorial review.

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London Chess Festival

By John Saunders – pictures by John Nunn

In the age of digital cameras, large numbers of visual impressions are captured, and it seems a shame to let most of the material end on the cutting room floor. Here are some pictures we particularly liked and want to share with you.

What have I done? What did I play? In round six Nigel Short embarked on some 19th century romanticism – he played a King’s Gambit against fellow Englishman David Howell. In the spirit of the opening, both players disdained to defend pawns and attacked hard but eventually the pieces came off and the game was drawn.

Dominic Lawson writes for the Independent and the Sunday Times. He is the son of a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Nigel Lawson. Domnic was educated in Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, and is an avid chess fan, having written books on the subject. As a frequent guest in the VIP room he can always be counted on for an interesting and controversial discussion on a wide variety of subjects.

Ken Thompson turned up for the second half of the tournament, having travelled from balmy San José (where he works for Google) to icy cold London. He is a good friend of Fred Friedel and Vishy Anand, and was often spotted with the two at breakfast and dinner – the latter inevitably in the wonderful Japanese Noodle and Sushi Bar opposite the hotel: Hare & Tortoise.

Old friends: Frederic Friedel and Vishy Anand, who have known each other for many years now. Anand visited Friedel in the early days of ChessBase and chess software – there are some pictures in this report – and kept coming back for more. In London the two were inseparable – Frederic acting as some kind of a bodyguard for the World Champion.

Michael Adams is England's top grandmaster, today number 22 in the world, but at one stage the world number four player (in several lists from October 2000 to October 2002). He reached the final of the 1997 FIDE World Championship qualifier, losing to Anand in a sudden-death tiebreak for the chance to challenge Anatoly Karpov. In 2004 he reached the final match of the FIDE World Championship, losing to Rustam Kasimzhanov in rapid tie-breaks in Tripoli.

Tara MacGowran is the wife of Mickey Adams and accompanies the English number one to most of his chess tournaments. Tara occasionally contributes photos and off-board commentary on events to the chess press. Daughter of celebrated Irish actor Jack MacGowran, she herself was formerly an actress, playing lead roles in movies and major TV productions.

David Howell, son of Angeline (originally from Singapore) and Martin Howell. There are some nice pictures of the family, which includes sister Julia, in this report from the 2009 Chess Classic, where David did extremely well. This time London was not exactly a triumph – but then again he is just 20 and has his chess career ahead of him.

Now that's no easy task: get a picture of Hikaru Nakamura smiling. The top American GM is usually very concentrated and tends to keep a serious face. Hikaru has, to the disappointment of some, cut his hair short and abandoned the Johnny Depp look for which he seemed to be heading.


Hikaru in full concentration during a game


Vladimir Kramnik in a similar mood

A photographer in the audience: Dr Christian Sasse, a German-born physicist and astronomer, provided pictures for a number of reports on the London Chess Classic. Christian wields the latest Nikon hardware.


Vishy Anand in a serious mood at the start of one of his games


Adjusting his pieces in preparation for a battle against...


... his main rival in London: Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen

English GM Aaron Summerscale took part in the London Open and scored 6/9. Aaron, rated 2434, is less active as a player these days but well known as a chess teacher and coach, often working in tandem with his wife Claire.

IM Susan Lalic is a five-times winner of the British Women’s Championship five times and has competed at nine Olympiads. These days she and her husband IM Graeme Buckley spend most of their time teaching the game and organising tournaments.

English GM Neil McDonald, rated 2449, spends a lot of his time writing chess books these days but he was in the running for first place at the London Open. He finished 3rd= with 7/9.

GM Mark Hebden once rejoiced in the nickname of the “English butcher” as he carved his way through continental open tournaments. At 52 he remains a dedicated and popular professional player. He came tantalisingly close to sharing first place with Gawain Jones but in the end couldn’t quite win a 123-move last-round scrap with GM Simon Williams.

Danny Gormally finished 3rd= in the London Open with 7/9, starting with four straight wins and losing only to eventual joint winner Simon Williams. Originally from the south east, the 2470-rated grandmaster and chess book author now lives in the north east of England.

Simon Williams was in great form at Olympia, finishing first equal with Gawain Jones on 7½/9. He started with 6/6, including a win with Black over top seed GM Boris Avrukh but then losing to Gawain Jones. Simon is also a popular chess author, coach and blogger (his Ginger GM blog is well worth a visit).

Fiona Steil-Antoni is from Luxembourg and, despite being only 21, has already played five Olympiads for her country. She won an individual gold medal on board two at the 2006 Turin Women’s Olympiad.

Lateefah Messam-Sparks, 18, comes from Nottingham and won a chess scholarship at Wellington College, Berkshire, where she has been studying for her advanced level examinations.

Natasha Fairley comes from Auckland in New Zealand and has played three Olympiads for her home country. She is currently living in a famous chess town in the Netherlands – Groningen.

Dutch woman IM Arlette van Weersel, from Amsterdam, ran away with the Women’s Invitational tournament, scoring 8/9 for a TPR of 2385. She studied at the Johan Cruyff Institute for Sport Studies. Maybe the secret of her success is ‘total chess’.

English GM Gawain Jones shared first place in the London Open and beat his co-winner Simon Williams along the way. Gawain recently spent a long period in New Zealand but he and his girlfriend, New Zealand women’s Olympiad player Sue Maroroa, are currently based in London.

Grandmaster Julian Hodgson has four British Championship titles to his credit, but hasn’t been active as a player for the past decade, being otherwise occupied teaching chess in schools with his wife Lizette. Julian was nicknamed the ‘grandmaster of disaster’ but most of the disasters were suffered by his opponents as he crushed them with the Trompowsky Attack and various other off-beat systems for which he was justly famous. ‘Jules’ was the main commentator in the V.I.P. room at the London Classic.

GM Chris Ward won the British Championship in 1996 but is perhaps better known these days for his series of chess books for elementary and developing players, and his entertaining commentary at the London and Hastings congresses. Spectating is not a passive activity when Chris is around as he always like to involve his audience and exchange humorous banter with them.

GM Daniel King’s commentary career includes national TV coverage of the 1993 Kasparov-Short match and beyond, and including work for ESPN, BBC, Eurosport and Star TV, plus working as chief commentator at world championship and prestigious man-machine matches. He is a prolific and popular chess writer, with a regular Monday column in The Guardian G2 section (with Ronan Bennett), the monthly ‘How Good is Your Chess’ column in CHESS Magazine, plus a long list of chess books and articles in other publications.

Viktor Korchnoi was the guest of honour at the London Chess Classic. He played two simuls during the course of the event, scoring +20, =4, -1 (to Allan Beardsworth, a former England Olympiad team manager) on 9 December and +23, =3, -3 (to Tony Stewart, Gordon Scott and David Fowler) on 14 December. The rest of the time he following the games avidly, keeping up an entertaining banter with commentator Julian Hodgson in the V.I.P. room.

GM Genna Sosonko joined us in London for the second half of the event. Like Viktor Korchnoi, he was a notable defector from the Soviet Union in the 1970s and he too carved out an impressive chess career in the West. These days he writes for New In Chess, specialising in poignant pen pictures of the chess characters he remembers from his youth in the Soviet Union.

Garry Kasparov was with us for the last two rounds of play. Garry followed play closely and shared his views with the online and onsite audience in the commentary room. His arrival in the country caused a flurry of interest amongst the London-based general media and he was besieged with interview requests. His CNN interview was conducted at the venue.

Frederic Friedel with Marie Laure Germon, a French journalist who writes lead stories for Le Figaro and who married Vladimir Kramnik four years ago. The two have a daughter, Daria, who will be two in a few days. At the time Vladimir Kramnik gave Fred a surprise telephone call and interview. Marie Laure cannot attend many tournaments in which her husband plays, but she never misses the London Chess Classic.

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