LONDON CHESS CLASSIC 2010: ROUND 3
Today was the big one – world number one plays world number two, right here in London town (we had to pinch ourselves that it was really happening). Note that I didn’t specify precisely which was which – Vishy is numero uno on the official November list but Magnus is no.1 on the unofficial but authoritative ‘live list’. Prior to today they had met nine times in 2010 with five of those at longplay chess (the other shorter stuff doesn’t really count to purists). This year Vishy leads 3-2 with one win (in Bilbao, with Black, two months ago to the day) and four draws. Linares 2009 was the last time Magnus beat Vishy in a longplay head-to-head. So Magnus needed a win to emphasise to the chess public that he is not just a serial conqueror of lesser names, while Vishy’s immediate problem was his position in the tournament: two draws are only worth two points under the 3-1-0 system and McShane was already on 6. Plenty to play for, then.
The game started with a fairly standard Ruy Lopez but Magnus emerged well from the opening. But, just when Carlsen seemed set to assume an advantage, he went drastically wrong with 24…Be4, which he himself described as a “huge oversight”. He still might have saved himself but committed a few more serious errors. Vishy himself might have converted well before the time control but for some errors of his own. Eventually it came down to a position where Vishy could play on and on and torture Magnus for many moves without risk to himself. White’s main advantage was his vastly superior king safety and his ability to target Magnus’s weak pawns. Carlsen tried a desperate last stand as Vishy’s pieces circled and tormented his depleted forces but in the end he couldn’t hold out. Despite a few flaws, this was a great win for Vishy, particularly in the final phase, and a good way to celebrate his 41st birthday on Saturday, but a severe psychological blow for the young man with designs on his crown. On the evidence of this game, Magnus still has a little way to go before he could hope to beat the likes of Vishy in a match. In some ways it was reminiscent of the game Spassky won against Fischer at the 1970 Siegen Olympiad. But we have also to bear in mind what Fischer did to Spassky in 1972.
London Chess Classic 2nd London (3), 10.12.2010
V. Anand – M. Carlsen
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0–0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 0–0 9 h3 Nb8
This retreat to the original square may look strange to the uninitiated but it is a standard way of handling the position and called the Breyer Variation. Vishy and Magnus have fought a few previous games in this variation.
10 d4 Nbd7 11 Nbd2 Bb7 12 Bc2 Re8 13 a4 Bf8 14 Bd3 c6
Another odd-looking move to those unfamiliar with the Ruy Lopez but the blocking of the bishop’s scope is only temporary.
15 b4 Rc8
A new move. Carlsen played 15…Nb6 against Anand in Christiansund, Bilbao and Nanjing.
16 axb5 cxb5 17 Bb2 d5
Otherwise White will play his pawn to d5 and close the position.
18 exd5 exd4 19 Rxe8 Qxe8 20 c4
White wants to get his dark-squared bishop back into the game.
20…bxc4 21 Nxc4?!
21 Bxc4 would lead to equality but the text is something of a gamble.
21…Nxd5 22 Nxd4 Nxb4
White has given up a pawn but it is far from clear whether he has much for it.
23 Nf5 Nxd3 24 Qxd3 Be4?
This is a miscalculation by Magnus and a very serious one. Later analysis seems to indicate that Black should try 24…Qe6! 25 Ncd6 Rc5! 26 Nxb7 Rxf5 and if White captures on a6, he has to reckon with 27…Qe1+ (if the rook captures) and 27…Qxa6 (if the queen captures) followed by 28…Rb5. It seems Black has an edge here.
25 Qd4! Bxf5?
Again Magnus plays an inferior move. 25…Qe6 26 Ncd6 Rb8 27 Re1 Bxf5! 28 Rxe6 Bxe6 is probably good enough to hold the balance.
26 Nd6 Qd8 27 Nxf5 f6?
A third mistake by the Norwegian in the space of a handful of moves. He’s evidently out of sorts and not in his ‘Pearl Spring’ form. 27…Qf6 28 Qxf6 Nxf6 29 Bxf6 gxf6 30 Rxa6 isn’t very pretty but should be good enough to hold.
28 Rd1 Rc2?
This desperate throw is further evidence of Magnus’s lack of form. 28…Rc7 is ugly but forced: 29 Qd5+ Kh8 30 Qf7 h6 31 Ba3 Qc8 32 Re1 Nc5 33 Qg6 Qd7 34 Re8 Rc8 35 Nxg7 Rxe8 36 Nxe8 Qd1+ 37 Kh2 Qd4 38 Bxc5 Qxc5 39 Qxf6+ and it is by no means certain that White would win.
29 Nh6+! gxh6 30 Qg4+ Bg7
30…Kh8 lasts longer but after 31 Rxd7 Qxd7 32 Bxf6+ Qg7 33 Bxg7+ Bxg7 34 Qd7! Black cannot get his rook and bishop working together to build a fortress.
31 Qe6+ Kh8 32 Rxd7 Qf8 33 Ba3?
White could have finished things off crisply with 33 Rf7! Qb8 (33…Qc8 34 Qe7 Rxb2 35 Rxg7 wins) 34 Re7! Rc8 35 Rxg7!
33…Qg8 34 Qxa6 Qe8
In time trouble Magnus makes another error. 34…Rc8 is more accurate.
35 Qa7 Qg8 36 Be7?!
Another win goes begging: 36 Bc5! cuts off the rook from joining the defence: 36…Re2 37 Be7 and Black has to give up the exchange to prevent Rd8.
36…Rc8 37 Qa6 Qe8 38 Ra7 Kg8!
The only defensive resource, which also sets a trap.
39 Bxf6?? Bxf6 40 Qxf6 Rc1+ 41 Kh2 Qb8+ and the a7 rook is lost.
39…Kh8 40 Qa6 Kg8
Time control reached. Despite missing a couple of wins, White could still be winning though it is obviously going to be hard work.
41 Qe6+ Kh8 42 Kh2 Rc6
42…Ra8 43 Rxa8 Qxa8 44 Bxf6 Qb8+ 45 g3 Qf8 46 Bxg7+ Kxg7 was Sergey Shipov’s suggestion and White still has a lot of hard work to do to win. Now a long period of manoeuvring begins.
43 Qb3 Rc8 44 Bd6 Qg6 45 Qb7 Rd8 46 Bg3 Rg8 47 h4 Qf5 48 Qc7 Qd5 49 Ra5 Qe4 50 Qd7 Qc4 51 Qf5 Qc8 52 Qf3 Qd7 53 Bf4 Qf7 54 g3 Re8 55 Be3 Rg8 56 Ra6 Re8 57 Ra7 Re7 58 Qa8+ Qf8 59 Ra6 Re8 60 Qc6 Rc8 61 Qf3 Qf7 62 Ra7 Qe6 63 Qb7 Qg8 64 Bf4 Rd8 65 Qa6 Re8 66 Rc7 Ra8 67 Qc6 Re8 68 Be3 Rb8 69 Bd4
At long last it looks like something might be about to happen. Vishy is about to bring his pieces to bear on f6.
69…Rf8 70 Re7 Rf7 71 Re6! and White threatens 72 Rxf6!
70 Qc3 Re8 71 Rc6
Now the f6 pawn is lost. There was nothing to be done.
71…Qf7 72 Bxf6 Rf8
72…Kg8 73 Qb2 Rf8 74 Bxg7 Qxg7 75 Qd2 retains very good winning chances for White.
73 Bxg7+ Qxg7 74 Qe3 Qb2 75 Kg2 Qb7
Black could fight on with 75…h5 but Black’s will to fight on is ebbing away.
76 Qxh6 Qf7 77 Rc2 1–0
The two extra pawns will triumph eventually. A sad game for Carlsen who simply made too many errors, while Vishy dished out a stern lesson about what will be needed from him if he is to take him on at matchplay.
Anyone watching big-time chess for the first time in London today will have learned that the elite game can be highly attritional. If Vishy versus Magnus was tough, Vlad versus Luke was utter torture. Eventually, via Vlad’s favourite Berlin Wall (patented right here in Hammersmith), it came down to rook and bishop versus rook – the endgame dreaded by players, arbiters and chess journalists who fancy putting their feet up for the evening, dammit. A draw with best play, apart from a few specific positions, but always damnably hard to defend at the end of a long game. As British chess writer Bill Hartston once said (I’m probably misquoting): “other players make you suffer when they get the chance, so you have to make them suffer when you’ve got the upper hand.” Why do chessplayers put themselves through this punishment? Love of the game? More like because we are total masochists. Come on, FIDE – you like messing around with the rules of the game? Why don’t you declare rook and bishop versus rook to be a statutory DRAW so that some of us with lives to lead can go home, have something to eat and maybe reacquaint ourselves with our poor suffering spouses and children? Sorry – got a bit emotional there – I’ve calmed down now. Anyway, finally, at 9.37pm, 7 hours and 37 minutes after they started play, Vlad finally quit his winning attempts and stalemated his opponent – draw! Thus Luke remains the overnight leader going into round four and ensured that not one Englishman lowered his colours in this toughest of tough rounds of chess. No wonder the delighted home fans went on their way chanting ‘Enger-land, Enger-land, Enger-land!’.
David Howell once again showed his talent for brinksmanship, both on the board and on the clock. He defended a Fianchetto Grünfeld Defence, following a line played by Karpov and Kasparov in their ‘nostalgia match’ of 2009. David, who had not expected the opening played, ate up gigantic amounts of time on his clock trying to decide what to do around move 12, while Hikaru evidently thought he was playing an online bullet game. Only kidding – the real reason for his speed was that he had prepared the line in some depth. After around 25 moves played, David only had five minutes or so left while Hikaru had only used some 12-15 minutes altogether. However, David came up with a very nice ‘fortress’ plan to save the day; his rook, knight and king huddled together for safety whilst simultaneously protecting a couple of key pawns and preventing Hikaru’s king from entering the fray. Hikaru’s queen prodded and poked, and his king huffed and puffed, but the American couldn’t blow the Englishman’s house down.
Mickey Adams and Nigel Short have long been rivals for the title of English number one. Nigel pinched it from Mickey a year or so but Mickey raised his game and pinched it back again. Their game today was hard fought, with Nigel playing a g6 move in the Caro-Kann which has been played quite a lot by his fellow Greek residents Skembris and Nikolaidis (for those who didn’t know, Nigel lives in Athens and occasionally likes to refer to himself as an “olive farmer”). Mickey played the very plausible 11 e6 to break up Black’s structure and then start an attack rolling down the kingside. Some cagey shadow-boxing ensued. It was a tough game though not quite the grim struggle the other three games were. White had a long-lasting initiative but nothing came of it – draw agreed (slightly naughtily, without consulting an arbiter, but it was the deadest of dead draws).
Scores after round 3: Luke McShane 7/9, Vishy Anand, Hikaru Nakamura 5, Mickey Adams, Vladimir Kramnik 4, Magnus Carlsen 3, David Howell 2, Nigel Short 1. (Note, games are scored 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a loss)
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