Wesley So leads the pack, Caruana on his heels with three rounds to go
The 2016 Grand Chess Tour 2016 reaches its climax as there are 3 round remaining in the London Chess Classic 2016. The calculations about the overall winner have already started, and it seems that Wesley so currently has the best chances to remain on the top. Since Caruana beat Nakamura in round six, he has practicaly stepped with one foot over the finishing line.
Because if Nakamura wants to win the Grand Chess Tour, he should finish first with So simultaneously finishing on the 4th place or lower (source: Chess.com article). Which is very unlikely to happen.
Therefore, it is very probable to expect another nice picture of Wesley So with a big cheque in his hands.
The remainder of this post will bring highlights of the rounds five and six together with detailed analysis of the games Adams - Topalov, and Caruana - Nakamura.
It seems like it has become customary that players lose part of their sharpness in the games before the rest day. London Chess Classic 2016 was no exception. Because four out of five games finished with the most frequent chess result.
However, it doesn't neccessarily mean that those draws were boring. It would be highly unjustful too refer to the games Nakamura - Kramnik and Maxime Vachier Lagrave - Caruana as boring.
And while Nakamura played for the win out of sheer tenacity (which is very laudable of course), his every attempt was diffused efficiently by Kramnik. The game followed a fashionable Bf4 Queen's gambit declined line, which left White slightly better after the opening. However, Kramnik neutralized White's play very precisely and managed to draw. This game is a very nice example of an excellent technical defence.
In contrast to that game, MVL - Caruana game saw some real fireworks over the board. In a popular Petroff line (a surprising opening choice for Caruana), MVL played too cautiously and allowed Caruana to advance in the centre. The latter built some serious advantage, but unfortunately for him, chose a safer, but drawing continuation in the critical moment of the game. Had he played the tension keeping - 24... Re8, it might have all turned out quite differently. As it was, the MVL escaped with a draw.
ADAMS - TOPALOV
The choice of the game of the round was not hard, considering it was the only decisive game. Furthermore, the excellent preparation by my personal favourite Adams is worth analyzing even without being biased like me. In a popular line of the 4 d3 Anti Berlin he played a great e5-Qg4 combination, which posed some questions for the Black side. Topalov, who seems to have the nightmare tournament, missed the best defence, and was left much worse after his chosen Qd3.
Nevertheless, it wasn't that easy for Adams as it might sound, because it seemed that his undeveloped queenside might create some worries for his king on the other side of the board. However, with series of great moves (c4! is especially pretty) he managed to dispell that optical illusion and convert his advantage to a full point.
The game analysis is below.
In contrast to round 5, round six was once again very "bloody". However, in contrast to what might be expected, the decisive results were not the consequence of the grandiose battles where players displayed serious preparation after the rest day.
On the contrary, it would appear that players were still somewhat "sleepy" during their games.
Why am I saying all that? Let's start with the Topalov - So game. Topalov, who seems to be the HERO OF THE BAD NEWS in this tournament, seemed to have a perfectly normal position. However, on move 18, he retreated his bishop on the wrong square, and suddenly So grabbed what can safely be called the winning initative.
Next, consider the Aronian - MVL game. After a quiet Italian opening Aronian didn't experience any problems, and started outplaying the Frenchman rather convincingly. When the Black's centre started looking seriously threatening, MVL sacrificed a piece halfly out of desperation. The sacrifice was possible to "REFUTE", but the best continuation was hard to find at the board. Therefore, Aronian decided to enter a position where he will be an exchange up, although only White has winning chances. Albeit very slight.
However, first Aronian played the incatious 34... Rd1, allowing the activation of White queen. And afterwards he proceeded with 36.. b6?? which turned out to be an outright blunder.
Therefore in two out of three decisive games the losing side selfdestructed. What about the third decisive game?
CARUANA - NAKAMURA
Luckily for the spectators, the Caruana - Nakamura game turned out to be the most beautiful game of the tournament. Since Nakamura was practicaly obliged to play for the win (once again, consider the Grand Chess Tour standings). Caruana said he noticed that : "Nakamura often plays the Najdorf when he wants to win with Black."
Therefore Caruana was prepared for the sharp battle and he himself chose one of the sharpest lines, with 6 Bg5. This time there was no fashionable Poisoned Pawn Variation, as Nakamura decided to deviate with 7... h6 first. Players played very fast for the first 15th moves, until Caruana unleashed the magical Qxf6 queen sacrifice.
The remainder of the game is a tremendous example of coordinated minor pieces dominating the queen. And although the sacrifice didn't lead to a forced win, in practical terms it was very hard to play the weaker side, and Nakamura went on to lose in the end.
The game analysis can be found below.
That's all for now. If you have any thoughts, comments about the games, the posts, or the blog overall, feel free to comment below 🙂