THE CATEGORY 22 SUPERTOURNAMENT IN LONDON STARTS WITH THREE BLOODSHEDS
After treating us with a tense Carlsen - Karjakin match, the end of the year 2016 brings another great event. The London Chess Classic 2016 is really a supertournament in the purest sense of that word. Out of the world top ten players by rating, only the heroes of the recently concluded match, that is Carlsen and Karjakin, are absent. And the remaining two players are also not that far away either (Source: Live Chess Ratings).
And all those who had High Hopes after seeing the complete lineup were certainly not dissapointed. Because the London chess classic 2016 - round 1 saw three decisive results. And more than 50 % of the decisive games is really a rarity in the tournaments of such a calibre.
Moreover, in the two of decisive games one player more or less didn't make it out of the opening. While in the third decisive games there were ups and downs and ups and downs more typical for players lower rated than 2700.
The somewhat lower standard of play compared to the recently concluded World Championship match can probably be explained by the aclimatization period, or as Aronian put it : "I am a slow starter".
And usually I don't like excuses in anything, but getting accustomed to the city with the bad breakfast, never ending rains and tea with milk is always rather challenging, no?
If you don't believe me, ask Dennis Farinna.
In the remainder of the post I will briefly comment the course of the every single game. After every round I will choose the game of the round and analyze it in greater detail.
Hint: Click on any move in the analysis and the pop-up board will appear.
HIKARU NAKAMURA - WESLEY SO
It can safely be said that the game of the teammates from the golden USA Olympic team finished even before it started. Since an uncharacteristic mistake on the move 13 of the topical Grünfeld variation led to a lost position for Nakamura. The tactic he missed was rather simple and many people joked that he has been playing too much bullet recently. It is true that such misscalculations are more typical for faster time controlls, but it can happen even to the best players in the world.
Which really gives hope to all us patzers out here.
FABIANO CARUANA - VISWANATHAN ANAND
The only game that payed tribute to the home team, since it started with the English opening.
However, "serving from the other side" didn't bring any tangible gains to the Italian American (or American Italian?!) and Vishy was able to equalize comfortably.
Consequently, he probably relaxed too early and decided to give his bishop for a knight, leaving Caruana with a bishop pair and prospects of an edge. For a long time Vishy manage to extinguish Caruana's active plans.
However, it is known since Carlsen - Anand matches that defending slightly weaker positions is not Anand's forte. And at one point it seemed that his position got dangerous when Caruana managed to carry out d4. The pawn mass on the kingside and in the centre looked threatening indeed, but the pawns were also far advanced, which made the White king looking not that secure.
Caruana probably missed the best moment to advance with the e5, and thus with active queen play Vishy managed to liquidate enough material and finally reach a very safe endgame. Therefore, a draw was agreed.
LEVON ARONIAN - MICHAEL ADAMS
Michael Adams has always been one of my favourite chess players. Because some of his annotations in New in Chess are full of typical British irony and cynism. And I get an impression that he is very sporting, a true chess gentleman. (The choice of the featured might be even more clear now).
On the other hand, I am not a great fan of Levon Aronian. And I don't have a very reasonable argument for that claim. I simply think he is sometimes too bitter after his bad results, and too unobjective (he always claims he has had some chances).
Therefore, for subjective people like me, the course of this game was rather painfull to watch. Because as Aronian himself admitted, he hasn't played very well. And Adams was almost never worse for the 32 moves of the Italian game.
Unfortunately, in the position where he should probably never lose he blundered an elementary double attack, and there was no going back. Not the best game from both of the players, but then again, "A good player is always lucky."
MAXIME VACHIER LAGRAVE - ANISH GIRI
Easily the candidate for the most boring game of the round. Although this time it was not purely Giri's fault. Because he chose the fighting Sicilian Najdorf as Black, an opening in which precisely MVL is considered to be the greatest expert as Black.
MVL responded with the currently very popular 6 h3, the so called "Keres Attack Deferred" variation. And he even gained slightly the more pleasant position with the pawn on d5 and activity on the queenside. However, Giri's action in the centre and the timely h4 equalized comfortably and players decided not to risk it and drew with the help of a threefold repetition.
VLADIMIR KRAMNIK - VESELIN TOPALOV
For the game of the round I decided to choose the Kramnik - Topalov game. Because this beautiful positional crush by the Garry Kasparov's executioner is so amazing that I am still shaking.
Unlike the hands of the players before or after the game. (LAUGHTER please)
If you are not familiar with this reference, these two players aren't on speaking terms since their controversial 2006 Elista Match. Because kids, accusing the World Champion of cheating in the toillete might make that Champion refuse to shake his hands with you in the future.
Anyway, in THIS game Kramnik once again displayed amazing preparation and virtually refuted the risky opening setup that Topalov chose. Or at least cast serious doubts on the early c5 in the Symmetrical Grünfeld.
As promised, the full analysis of the game is available below: