30 Nov

The London Clash

Songs may come and go through my revolving door of favourites but London Calling by The Clash came in and never went out the other side. And this iconic 1979 punk anthem by Joe Strummer asks the central question of just who had lost, and who had won. And London will soon be calling again, and we’ll be the one’s asking who had lost and who had won - but this time the battle won’t be on the streets, it will be over the chessboard.


The 7th London Chess Classic begins in Kensington Olympia this coming Friday and will end on Sunday 13 December. This will be the third and final leg of the inaugural 2015 Chess Grand Tour that also included events in Stavanger, Norway and St Louis, USA. With a total prize fund of $1m plus on offer, all three events feature a core of nine elite players: Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Vishy Anand (India), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia), and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France).

Each event also has a ‘wildcard’ entry. In Norway, there was GM Jon Ludvig Hammer; in St Louis, it was GM Wesley So; and not unsurprisingly in London, the popular UK No.1, Michael Adams completes the field by being the wildcard. Adams is a highly-experienced player, as witness today’s game from the recent European Team Championship in Reykjavik, as he demolished Levon Aronian.

The top-three players (by Tour Points) will take home an additional bonus of $150,000. Currently, Topalov, on 17 points, holds a slender 1-point lead at the top over Nakamura, on 16 points, with Aronian on 15 points and Carlsen 14 points - so there’s still everything to play for in the final event. The full tour standings are available here.

The pairings have already been announced for the London Chess Classic, thanks to the aid of some schoolchildren taking part in one of the classroom programs offered by the Chess in Schools and Communities ( CSC) charity. Last week Tournament Director Malcolm Pein went to Marion Richardson Primary School in Tower Hamlets and invited children from the school’s year five chess class to choose the envelopes that determined the pairing numbers.

The opening round pairing will be: Topalov vs Giri; Grischuk vs Nakamura; Vachier-Lagrave vs Carlsen; Caruana vs Aronian; and Anand vs Adams. There will be live online commentary from GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade throughout, with play starting each day at 16:00 local time (11am EST - 8am PST).

Michael Adams - Levon Aronian
European Team Ch., (4)
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 Yet another Berlin "Wall" Defence at elite level for us to annotate in this column - and from memory, I think around a half dozen or so in the last six months alone. It's amazing how chess theory has gone full-circle at the elite level: once it was big mainline Sicilians, such as the Najdorf, and then in 2000, during his successful title match against Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik brought the Berlin back into vogue after nearly a century in the wilderness at elite level. 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Ne2 Be7 12.Bg5 Be6 13.Nf4 Bd5 14.Nxd5 cxd5 15.Rad1 c6 16.Rfe1 h4 17.Rd3 Rh5?! Awkward, as it creates problems later Aronian wished he didn't have. Adams himself felt this was inaccurate, suggesting that 17...Bxg5 18.Nxg5 Ke7 was the way to go for Aronian. 18.Bxe7 Kxe7 19.Red1 Rd8 20.c4 d4 21.b4 b6 22.Kf1 c5 It seems 21...b6 followed by ...c5 has at least solved the problem of the d-pawn but it has left Black vulnerable to attack from the side. In hindsight, it might have been more prudent waiting first with 21...Ke6 and then if 22.Kf1 Rd7 23.a3 g6 24.Nxd4+ Nxd4 25.Rxd4 Rxd4 26.Rxd4 c5! and Black looks to have found hope, as this seems to make the rook and pawn ending easier to defend. 23.bxc5 bxc5 24.Ra3 Rd7 25.Ne1 Rh6 Aronian wanted to play 25...f6 but was frightened off by 26.Nd3 fxe5 27.Re1 Nd6 28.Nxe5 - but in his analysis he'd missed that 28...Rc7 29.Ra6 Rh6! was defending, and this therefore was the way to play it. But now he shows Adams a glimore of light, which the Englishman ruthlessly hones in on.  26.Nd3 Rc6 27.Rb1 Rdc7 If 27...g5 28.Rb5 Rdc7 29.Raa5 and c5 falls - but this was better than allowing the White knight to reach the superb strategic outpost on d5. 28.Nf4! (See Diagram) With the knight heading to d5 and the rook heading to b8 and then e8, Aronian gets all tied up in knots now trying to salvage the game. 28...Rd7 29.Rb8 g5 30.Nd5+ Ke6 31.Re8+ Ne7 32.Ke2 Rb6 33.Kd3! Adams calmly ignores the exchange for now, rightly figuring out that he can prolong the torture for a few moves as he betters his position. 33...Rb2 34.Ra6+ Rb6 35.Nxb6 axb6 36.Rxb6+ Kxe5 37.Rc6 Kf5 38.Rxc5+ Kf6 39.Rb8 Ng6 40.Rb6+ Ke7 41.Rxg5 Nf4+ 42.Ke4 1-0 Despite the d-pawn being far up the board, there's no salvation: 42...d3 43.Kxf4 d2 44.Re5+ Kf8 45.Rb1 d1Q 46.Rxd1 Rxd1 47.Re4 is easily winning. 

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