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London Calling

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The London Chess Classic begins Tuesday at 1400 GMT local time, 9am ET. It's a short event with an impressive field that has been fully matched, and this is an an extreme rarity, by the preparation that has gone into promoting the event. England's top four players take on four international stars. It's just seven rounds, so anything can happen. The field: Carlsen, Kramnik, Nakamura, Ni Hua, Short, Adams, Howell, McShane.

The draw is up and it's got to be considered favorable for the unofficial world #1 Magnus Carlsen, who apparently needs +3 here to make that official on the January list. (It seems he'd lose a crucial point and end up behind Topalov if he scores +2. But I'm not 100% sure of this.) He has white against his two main rivals, at least according to Elo, Kramnik and Nakamura. The super-clash against the former world champion comes without delay to open the tournament. Cool. Round 1: Carlsen-Kramnik, Howell-Adams, McShane-Short, Nakamura-Ni Hua. A decisive result in that one would likely have a major impact on the final configuration of the podium. Kramnik had Carlsen on the ropes with black in Moscow last month, also a round one encounter. The teen had a measure of payback by beating Kramnik in both games en route to his stunning World Blitz win.

Many interesting narratives here apart from the seeing Carlsen and Kramnik in action again so soon after the Tal Memorial, where Kramnik took first and Carlsen second. US champion Nakamura just beat Carlsen in a Norwegian blitz event and wants to come back strong from his disaster at the NH Tournament. Short has been enjoying a Renaissance and comes in as the UK #1 after a long absence from that slot. The man who had that title the entire time, Mickey Adams, hasn't played many top events lately and hasn't impressed when he has. Perhaps the home turf can see him return to top-ten form. Ni Hua is the sort of player usually described as "dangerous," which means he can beat anyone on a given day but isn't expected to challenge for the top spot. But with only seven games, +2 should mean a share for first and he's certainly capable of that.

Howell and McShane are clear outsiders who don't really have an elite track record to analyze. Howell, 19 and the reigning British champion, finished in last place at a Cat. 15 in September and lost his last three games at the World Jr. in October. McShane, a former prodigy himself who was semi-retired at school for a while, doesn't play that frequently but has turned in some nice performances in team play this year, including wins over Volokitin, Cheparinov, and van Wely. He plays sharply and tends to have plenty of losses with his wins, an organizer's dream.

I'll be doing some ICC Chess.FM coverage during a few rounds. There's some complementary action there with the organization so I expect we'll have player access when convenient, which always adds a lot.




I believe +2 is enough for official "world #1" - his "live rating" would be below Topalov's, but they would both be rounded off to 2805, and Carlsen would take #1 on the "most games" tiebreak (just like Kramnik in Jan 2008 and Jan 1996).

Let's see how Nigel being David's coach works out in such Short tournament.

"Round 1: Carlsen-Kramnik"

Doesn't get any better.

Magnus played a friendly game, with aanotations and some opening video bids here http://videos.chessdom.com/london-chess-classic-day-1

The live games are at http://www.londonchessclassic.com/live/dgt.htm and also the arena http://livechess.chessdom.com/site/

Looks like Mig has his choic of bylines today. Either Nakamura didn't get the "England" memo (two Scotch's and an English in the other games) or "If it's not 'Scotch-ish', it's crap!"

Magnus likes the Dragon so much he decides to play it with White too :P

I admire MC very much, but the report on chessbase arguably goes a little far. 16 out of 21 pictures inlude Carlsen.


But _please_ not too many games with the London system in the coming rounds .... !

If Leko was White against Kramnik, then after
17)... Nf5-d6 18) Nd2-e4 Nd6-e8 Leko would have found 19) Ne4-d2! Ne8-d6 20) Nd2-e4 Draw.

English attack (by the English players) would be more fun

Knockout Performance
Some of the best performance in KO format

2000-Winner(World cup)
2002-Winner(World cup)

2005-Final(World cup)
2007-Quarterfinal(World cup)
2009-Final(World cup)

2000-semifinal(World cup)
2005-Quarterfinal(World cup)
2009-Final(World cup)

2007-Final(World cup)

2007-Pre-quarterfinal(World cup)

2002-Final(World cup)

2007-semifinal(World cup)
2009-semifinal(World cup)

2002-Quarterfinal(World cup)
2005-Pre-quarterfinal(World cup)
2009-semifinal(World cup)

Kramnik is a great player, but I hope he loses several times to Carlsen to stop this "Carlsen's very strong but still lacks a little something" kind of talk :)

Anybody has a link to images of the player's poster-portraits? (If published)

Like this (but complete):

Thanks beforehand

Kramnik lost twice against Carlsen in the Tal Memorial blitz - for some people this is enough ,:)

The 2 British players with White opened with 1.e4. I love it.

I think Nakamura's at least got a draw.

Kramnik found Rybka's 31...Qh5, and also 26...Na5 - but after the knight moved he followed it up with the highly dubious bxc6. I can't see him playing Rybka's weird 32...Kf8 if Carlsen plays 32. Ne2, but if he does and draws I hereby award him the brilliancy prize for the tournament :) Or at least the game of the day...

But predictably he missed the king move and it's probably won for Carlsen now.

Wonder why Kramnik played 32 ... Bf5 ...

Seems to me Kramnik just wasted three tempi with Bf5, Bg4, Qe7. In the mean time Carlsen has sucessfully brought his knight from the a4 to the more active location on g3.

So Kramnik is not Chinese ... ,:)

Off topic.

Interesting reading:


(feel free to skip the first note)

The Chesspro commentator suggested that maybe Kramnik planned the bishop move to provoke e4 and weaken d4 (the knight can't jump there) and then return the bishop to e6... but Rb4 refutes that idea. I agree it didn't really seem to make much sense. Maybe there's a subtle trap we missed and Kramnik's already desperate... Anyone know why 32...Kf8 drew!?

and now, after 35 ... Be6, Black's Queen/Bishop are back to where they were on move 30th !!.
As if Black had not made a move since the 30th move !!!

I think you want to play 39...Nb3 and not 40...Nb3! But the position was utterly lost anyway (an extra pawn and much better placed pieces), so better to get it over with.

It's great that all the games are going 40+ moves.

Excellent. Now Vlad will presumably fight like crazy to prove himself for the rest of the tournament (quite likely he was going to do that anyway, but now we can be sure!); and Naka will want to show what he can do too. Blood spatters ahead!!

In the mean time Nakanura-Hua is an interesting Rook endgame. It could be a draw even though looks like White should win (these freaking rook end games are tricky and hard to play)

I don't own an engine, but with accurate endgame play I think Nakamura can win.

actually, after 43 ..Re7 I am leaning toward a draw, on the account that if White takes either Black's H pawn or B pawn.
Black will take White's E pawn, and we will be left with the infamous R vs R + f+h pawns, and with Black's active king it should be a draw.

Carlsen very impressively crunches Kramnik in the type of Catalan-ish position Vlady is known to favor.

+1 for Carlsen - flushes away my Kramnik prediction in Rd 1! Oh well. I don't see anyone else challenging the square-jawed blonde.

Naka missed something around move 40, where he calculated endlessly - wonder what happened?

We'll see. I think your opinion will change like a roaming wind. I'm glad Carlsen won. Adams was unable to win with Black.

Very impressive old man's game by Carlsen. He's not just tactics like most youth (cough, Naka.)

Kramnik played very strangely today maybe he wasn't feeling too well. He seemed to play below his strength. Just a guess.

"I think your opinion will change like a roaming wind"

yes it will :-)). I am just an amateur trying to understand grandmaster play :-))

McShane is too passive with White and they both need to be more attacking when they're 50+ moves in!

ah, they just draw. I guess my evaluation is correct this time.

You were right. I was wrong. If someone analyses the game after 39 moves in Fritz, I still think Nakamura had the win.

"McShane is too passive with White and they both need to be more attacking when they're 50+ moves in!"

They should just draw if they're just going to shuffle the pieces around on their side and not actually play chess.

"You were right. I was wrong"

Only because lately I have been working through Smyslov/Levenfish's Rook Endgame book :-)). They are freaking complicated !!. Agree that at 39th move the position looks like it should be a win for White.

impressive stuff by carlsen. judging from computer analysis he played perfectly, not a single minor mistake in very complicated positions...

He missed 28. Rb4, which might have made the difference between a win and a draw, but I agree apart from that he did nothing wrong. Kramnik's play was very uneven - an interesting opening and some very good moves, but a whole series of quickly played and dubious moves: 22...c6, 24...Nc4, 27...bxc6, 28...Rxd1, 32...Bf5 and so on. The good news is he kept the same policy of playing sharply and taking risks with black - maybe not so wise against Carlsen, but it should bring good results in the tournament overall.

I guess we'll find out what the players thought as they have to appear for press conferences after the game.

McShane is playing himself into shape, in one game!

Well , you have to remember that Sofia & Bilbao rules are in place , so it is only logical that this will be a fighting tournament.

"I admire MC very much, but the report on chessbase arguably goes a little far. 16 out of 21 pictures inlude Carlsen."

While Karpov looks, and sounds, not unlike Peter Lorre, and Gelfand has a great face for the radio, Carlsen could easily be confused with Matt Damon.

Amazing, 159 moves and almost 8 hours.

What. Damon's good looking. Magnus looks goofy.

I want to see a picture of the post-game handshake between McShane and Short.

Bit of a dilemma for those choosing the game of the round prize!

Oh, 163 even. Funny that he played on until Bxh6. If that's what he did.

Short resigned on move 163 (with bare king against king, queen, bishop and knight), I guess a rather unique GM game - concerning number of moves and final position. For a long time, it looked like a caricature of Sofia-Bilbao rules. And I wonder if McShane can put up a fight tomorrow (black against Carlsen!).

On Carlsen-Kramnik, Daniel King (live coverage on Playchess, available for everyone via the tournament page) had some Carlsen quotes from the press conference:
"Carlsen said ... he didn't have much advantage from the opening, but 'at least the position we reached was rich in possibilities, and that's what I wanted", and
"Today Kasparov told me that Kramnik might be uncomfortable in the kind of position that arose. I think he was right."
The tournament page mentions "Video of Carlsen's post mortem analysis to appear tomorrow".

BTW I wonder how many spectators stayed till the end of McShane-Short. Peter Doggers on Chessvibes just 'signed off' saying "Thanks all for watching, I am finally off to dinner" - hope he (as well as the GMs!) will still get something to eat ... .

Short has never been tortured like this in his entire chess life I believe.
So frustrating. Kudos to McShane for "Carlsening" him out though.

Short has never been tortured like this in his entire chess life I believe.
So frustrating. Kudos to McShane for "Carlsening" him out though.

I don't think it was exclusively an act from McShane torturing Short. I think the problem is that Short is too emotional and wanted to play on in an already lost position just as a sign of disgust ... especially because he was "humilliated", he lost to a "seemingly inferior and underprepared player" like McShane. Short is not the most polite person on Earth, and he shows that ugly aspect specially with his fellow Englishmen.

And Nakamura played the endgame againt Ni Hua like playing internet blitz!! Usually, to convert the advantage in the endgame he had, was a matter of strategy, technique and patience. But Nakamura lacked all of these qualities and decided to simplify the position giving the exchange back; when a player is impatient and want to convert quickly an endgame advantage, the mistake of simplifying the position too soon, hoping to keep the advantage after exchanging pieces is a typical one among amateurs. I am almost sure no SuperGM (well, perhaps Radjabov and Mamedyarov) would have planned that exchange sac at that point.

He wasn't in such a deep time trouble so, he could played a lot better than he did. Instead, he gave half a point. Hopefully, he gets a lesson from this, because those details are the ones who prevent him to become a top player in classical chess.

Thanks for the link, Thomas. I thought the main site was just encouraging you to sign up to Playchess rather than offering the coverage for free!

Carlsen apparently said that Kramnik's ...Qh5 "was not a great move - I think he missed something".

The latter part must be true given how Kramnik played, but it looks like his instincts were right. The computer's weird ...Kf8 oddly solves all white's problems (the position's fascinating to study).

If white tries to play 33.Nd4 (blocking the d file, hitting c6 and so on) black can just take it with the rook and then play 34...Bf5, forking the white queen and rook. With the king on g8 the white queen could escape with a check on a2.

Ng3 to attack the queen doesn't work as black exchanges queens on d1 and has enough piece activity to win the pawn back.

34. Rb4, the winning move if Kramnik plays 33...Be6 after 32...Bf5. 33. e4 doesn't work because black can play Bb3 & if white takes with the rook it doesn't work as, again, there's no queen check from b3, so the e2 knight falls.

If Kramnik had managed to work all that out at the board and play the counter intuitive ...Kf8 it really would have been worthy of a brilliancy prize - but obviously he couldn't quite put everything together.

I don't think I'll try to post analysis in future :) That should be "solves all BLACK's problems". I mean 32...Kf8 as a follow-up to 31...Qh5. I also meant to say that white actually has quite a tricky position as some of his pieces are overloaded - e.g. the queen is defending the c5 pawn, the d1 square and the knight on e2. That's why black can get away with just moving his king for a move (but not losing something like 5 tempos the way Kramnik did in the game!).

"I don't think it was exclusively an act from McShane torturing Short."

No, no. I'm wondering why Short kept playing for so long after he was lost. It looked like his only hope was to trade his two pieces for McShane's two pawns and count on McShane not being able to force the checkmate with B + N in time trouble--a long shot since they were playing with an increment.

Yes, the tournament was decided by the draw, just like in cricket. Carlsen gets 4 whites, just like he got 5 in the Tal, and also against his only rivals. The Bulgarian lottery can't even beat that. Three straight #1 draws for Carlsen, at a 1 in 480 chance. Maybe his rating is probably also 3 deviations too large.

Except Carlsen, the top seeds were not that impressive.

Except for Adams/Nakamura (draw?), Day 2 appears to be a day where White is the favorite.

Evidently this won't be a boring tournament. Carlsen handled Kramnik nicely, McShane rose to the occassion (sad about that one actually, I am pulling for Nigel), Nakamura threw away a win and Adams almost chucked one against Howell. Certainly exciting chess! Good mix of players on the organizer's part.

Yes, Carlsen handled Kramnik nicely, but is a bit unfair all the help that Carlsen is getting from Kasparov. And of course he knows everything about Kramnik. Is much more easy when you know how your opponent will react. Carlsen is getting vital information, escalates the rankings and Kasparov must be gloating like an ape, nice.

"but is a bit unfair all the help that Carlsen is getting from Kasparov"

Unfair! I love it.

Perhaps Gary's "help" will actually retard Carlsen's natural development... Soon perhaps we will see Carlsen laugh off Kasparov, as too weak and no longer relevant. (Note the comments from some young GMs on the low level of play re. Kasp-Karp)

In a recent article, a player mentioned that before the Tal blitz, Carlsen had organized a strong online blitz tournament for training. Are details of this available? Who played? What result?

"but is a bit unfair all the help that Carlsen is getting from Kasparov. And of course he knows everything about Kramnik..."

If he knew everything, he could beat Kramnik himself in their match.
C'mon guys, you are giving too much credit to Kasparov.
Of course it has been useful for Carlsen, but Magnus was a giant for himself long before starting to work with Kasparov.

Gary likes being the king maker if not the king. He picked Kramnik, now he has chosen Carlsen.

Interesting, apparently you can think like a computer - take this as a compliment! ,:) Can you also explain why it had to be 32.-Kf8 rather than 32.-Kh8 ? Is there a back rank mate in some variation? [Written in a hurry without actually looking at the position again, have to leave in a minute ...]

OK, that does it. Go write "I may not calculate chances without having my hypotheses named a priori" on the board 480 times.

Kasparov, knew it. He was unable though, of beating one of the finest performances in the history of chess matches. Kramnik was too strong for him, that's all.

Whatever, I think that is clearly an advantage to know beforehand every nuance about your opponent playing style. Something that you can only acquire with years of playing with someone. Thus, unfair.

Kramnik wouldn't be over worried about Gazza's prep - If he couldn't out prepare Vlad himself he's hardly likely to be able to tell Magnus how to do it. Carlsen was very impressive yesterday but in Tal & Dortmund Vlad won the day. Interesting duels ahead...........

"Thus, unfair."

Which simply adds to all the other unfair advantages Carlsen has had through-out his career:

1) Born in a country with a rich chess culture

2) Access to the best training methods, chess schools and trainsers around in his local environment

3) Backed by a rich chess federation who's backed Carlsen with thousands and thousands of Euro's over the years

4) No exposure in the media in his younger years, making it possible to develope as a chess player without anyone being able to analyze his games and his style as he's progressed

5) Special treatment from any organizer around, because his father is rich and constitues an automatic but anonymous sponsor to all elite events, whether it's Corus, Linares or Tal Memorial

6) Last, but not least, he was guided by The Force from around move 20 yesterday, being in constant, telepathic contact with the Maestro himself, allowing him to outplay Kramnik from an otherwise perfectly balanced position

For what it's worth; I can guarantee that talent and aquired abilities have little or nothing to do with Carlsen's success and the resulting cooperation with Kasparov.

So yeah, it's deeply unfair to everybody else. Regarding the Kramnik - Carlsen record, the impact of Kasparov is clear and obvious.

Prior to Kasparov:
+1 -1 =2 (Kramnik white in all 4 games)

After Kasparov:
+1 -1 =2 (Carlsen 3 whites, Kramnik 1 white)

As we can see, from being a total underdog against Kramnik, without a single white win, Carlsen now clearly has got Kramnik's number, winning 1/3 white games. (It's quite insignificant that the black score has gone from 2/4 to 0/1 so please regard that minor detail.)

Chess is really very, very unfair. I wish someone did something about it. ;o)

"so please regard that minor detail."

disregard, even.

Plus I don't think Kramnik ever got any help or support at all from Kasparov when _he_ was a youngster.


No, I think he's done everything on his own, from day one. Besides he's from Russia. Have you ever heard of any strong players from that country?

If he just could've enjoyed the chess culture and associated facilities of Norway!

"Have you ever heard of any strong players from that country?".
Well no. But I heard there is a new training program there, and there is a young man called Botvinnik who seems to be fairly strong, we might see more of him in the future.

Tee hee I just played through McShane-Short, Short must have been positively fuming in the seat. Yes indeed "do not hurry" in the endgame but this really looks like White was just trying to needle his opponent. A grudge game? Can't believe all those repeated waiting moves were for real. In any case, flippin hilarious.
And congrats McS, it worked!!

"Can you also explain why it had to be 32.-Kf8 rather than 32.-Kh8 ? Is there a back rank mate in some variation?"

Probably the back rank mate threat's a problem, but also in the Ng3 line with exchanges on d1 white at some point takes on c6 & it makes a big difference if the knight on e8's unprotected by the king.

I think Shipov should be frogmarched back from Siberia to give a more authoritative verdict :)

"OK, that does it. Go write "I may not calculate chances without having my hypotheses named a priori" on the board 480 times."

Isn't his hypotheses pretty obvious? "If you get any other number than 1, then the color distribution will be perfectly fair and even. If you get number 1, it's unfair." That's a pretty straightforward hypothesis. It's also wrong, but that's a different story.

As a footnote to 32...Kf8 - there's an analysis of the game on Shipov's site, by Andrey Terekhov:

"32.Ne2 Bf5?? A fatal loss of time
[Rybka claims that after the inhuman 32...Kf8!! there's a mathematically exact draw on the board! Those wanting to verify that bold claim can check it out on their own :) Explaining precisely why it works isn't possible in a few words - the position deserves separate investigation. For now I'll just note that the hidden sense of the move 32...Kf8 is that in some variations black has the ability to play Bb3, not fearing it being taken with check. What can we say about this? For some reason or other it seems to me that no contemporary chess player would be up to playing the move even with sufficient time for reflection, and therefore I'd file the remark that the move 32...Kf8 would allow black to save the game under the category of "pure knowledge", of no interest to anyone except, perhaps, true enthusiasts of advanced chess.

That's probably got more than a grain of truth to it, but I don't think it would actually be that hard to find if you kept calculating lines and found that the king on g8 stops them from working. It does look crazy, though, and it's not something that's going to jump out at you during time trouble :)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 8, 2009 1:41 AM.

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