World champ Vishy Anand has won two in a row to move into a tie for the lead at the London Classic. Luke McShane, winner of his first two, has held on with two draws to keep his surprising share of the lead. On the other hand, McShane just won an event a few days before this one and Anand hasn't won a classical tournament since Linares 2008, nearly three years. That's a bizarre stat even considering he's won a pair world championship matches during that span. His tournament record since that Linares win: Bilbao 08, -2; Linares 09, even; Tal Memorial 09, +1; Corus 10, +2; Bilbao 10, +1; Nanjing 10, +2. Not horrible, of course, but it shows it's not just that he's falling behind someone on a hot streak putting up a huge score. Three years without a +3 result is startling even if it's just six events. And while WCh match preparation takes energy and occasionally requires keeping your best new stuff under wraps, there is usually a bonus later when you get to use all the WCh prep you did in tournaments. Is Anand our new Mr. +2?
Going into London I would have considered +3 clear first and +2 a good shot at equal first. It's a short event and too strong for anyone to run away with. Losses by favorites Kramnik and Carlsen confirmed that theory. The two leaders are the only undefeated players in the field now that Nakamura fell to Carlsen in today's fourth round. Kramnik notched his second win to move back into contention. Nakamura, Carlsen, and Adams are all on even scores. Howell is on -2 and saved from the cellar by Short, who lost with white again today, to Anand.
By the way, this tournament is using the "3-1-0" scoring system that nearly always does nothing but serve as a tiebreak at best and a distraction at worst. I can't really bring myself to relay the standings this way, and not just because ChessBase tables don't show them. I don't mind Carlsen being listed as ahead of Nakamura by dint of his two wins and two losses against one and one. Again, it's basically a tiebreaker that rewards decisive games, which I'm okay with. In an event this short it's unlikely to be of significance. Just don't tell me someone at, say, Corus, who went +5 -5 =3 should finish ahead of someone who went +2 =11. I'm for anti-short-draw rules and banning draw offers because chessplayers should play chess the way woodchucks should chuck wood. But I'm not for trying to manipulate HOW the chessplayers play chess. If you think someone is boring, don't invite him.
I haven't had much time to go over the games or read much of the analysis out there, I'm sure you're glad to hear. I'm still marveling that Kramnik missed a beautiful draw in his endgame against Nakamura in round two. (41.Kg2! in case this is, tragically, your only news source.) Anand's win against Carlsen in the third round was the big news, an oversight by the Norwegian allowing Anand to fracture his pawn structure and torture him for hours. Howell managed to escape Nakamura's deep Grunfeld prep with speed and pluck and a blockade, but wasn't as lucky against Kramnik today. 38..Ke5 is a good example of harmful activity when hanging back would have given better chances. Nobody likes to suffer passively, but learning to be pragmatic and put up tough defense when called for is a hallmark of the greats. Kramnik, for example, turned an iron stomach for inferior positions into a world championship title.
An even score from blacks against Anand, Kramnik, and Carlsen sounds like the result of a lifetime, but Hikaru Nakamura is not interested in the ambitions of other men and is no doubt disappointed with his loss to Carlsen today. Nakamura's English-Dutch Defense ended up with the usual weak pawn misery and he had to battle to hold the balance until things fell apart in time trouble. 4 vs 3 on the same side might have been defensible, but Carlsen found a desperado shot on g6 and 4 vs 2 with a weak black pawn on the other side was too much. As for Short's third loss, not much to be said. His strategy of getting slightly inferior positions out of the opening with white followed by getting mated hasn't paid dividends yet.
The leaders meet on Sunday. Round 5: Adams-Kramnik, Anand-McShane, Nakamura-Short, Howell-Carlsen.