This year, instead of involving the players themselves in the draw at the opening ceremony, the honour of conducting the draw was bestowed upon Liverpool’s Sacred Heart Primary School as a reward for the boom in chess which the school has experienced since coaches working for the Chess in Schools and Communities charity introduced the game there a year ago.
This innovation highlights the status of the London Classic as the flagship of the charity, and helps to emphasise the link between the two.
With it come two significant fringe benefits: spectators can now buy tickets with specific pairings in mind, well ahead of the tournament; and, of course, the players themselves will know for certain which colour they will have against each opponent and when, so that they have an extra three weeks to plan their preparation more specifically. And perhaps plan their evening entertainment!
Last year Magnus Carlsen managed to fit in a Premiership football match during the tournament – let’s hope the draw will allow the elite players to book tickets for whatever takes their fancy.
World champion Vishy Anand drew number one, which meant he gets to sit out the first round. The pairing which catches the eye is McShane-Carlsen: the same round and same colours as 2010, when Luke won, and same colours as last year, when they met in round two and drew. After that, Luke has to look forward to Black against a well-rested world champ on the following day.
But Luke knows all about tough starts as last year his diary for consecutive days in December read something like “Office: clear in-tray and set answering machine message… Olympia: play world number two… Olympia: play world number one”.
Gawain Jones makes his Classic debut with White against Mickey Adams, while Judit Polgar starts with Black against Vlad Kramnik. Aronian meets Nakamura, and he will be keen to avenge his loss to the American last year – this time the Liverpool schoolchildren have given him the advantage of the white pieces!
Nakamura, for his part, will be glad to see he has White against Carlsen in round seven – after three straight Blacks against him in London.
Last rounds are always eagerly awaited, too. The Liverpool children have done a marvellous job here, serving up a humdinger of a last-round pairing between world number one Magnus Carlsen, playing White, and world champion Vishy Anand on 10 December.
Malcolm Pein, Chief Executive of CSC and London Classic director, who was on hand in Liverpool to conduct the draw, added: “We’re well on track to introduce chess into 1,000 schools around the UK in the next five years and the success of Sacred Heart serves to remind us of the scheme’s importance. We would encourage chess players of all ages and levels, children and parents, to visit the London Chess Classic 2012 and discover all that chess has to offer.”
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– GM Susan Polgar