London gets to see who will end the chess year on a high by winning Kasparov’s brainchild, the inaugural Grand Chess Tour, the amalgam of three elite tournaments in Stavanger in Norway, St. Louis in the USA, and the London Chess Classic in the UK, which combined have a $1m plus total prize fund. There’s also the added bonus that the top-three players (by Tour Points) will take home an additional $150,000.
Going into London, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria held a slender one-point lead at the top over the chasing pack in the standings - but with that pack including the likes of Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen, he was never going to have an easy path to the title. And the opening round proved this point, with Topalov being on the receiving end of a spectacular defeat to the in-form young Dutch star, Anish Giri, in what proved to be the only decisive game of the round.
And with all of the games of round two also being drawn, Giri - who recently qualified into next year’s candidates tournament, the winner going on to become Magnus Carlsen’s next title-challenger - holds the early lead by a half point, as he moves into contention for a shot at winning the series outright.
Standings: 1. Anish Giri (Netherlands), 1.5/2; 2-9. Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Vishy Anand (India), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Michael Adams (England), 1/2; 10. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), 0.5/2.
There’s live online commentary throughout at the official site from GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade throughout, with play starting each on the weekends at 14:00 local time (9am EST - 6am PST); and on weekdays at 16:00 (11am EST - 8am PST)
Veselin Topalov - Anish Giri
7th London Classic, (1)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d5 The rock-solid Schlecter/Slav had its heyday in the 1950s; especially in those big bouts between Mikhail Botvirnnik and Vasily Smyslov. 5.Qa4 Nfd7 6.cxd5 Nb6 7.Qd1 cxd5 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.e3 Bg7 10.Nge2 0–0 11.0–0 Re8 12.b3 e5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.h3 Bf5 15.Nd4 Bd3 16.Re1 Ba6 17.Qd2 Nd3 One of the most worrying things is to see an opponent’s knight finding an outpost in the heart of your end of the board - but here, Topalov calmly accesses he can easily deal with the problem. 18.Rd1 Bxd4 19.exd4 Qf6 "I think it's very interesting position and very hard for him to play over the board. Here I was very optimistic but he found a very strong way to play,” said Giri in his post game interview. 20.a4 Qxd4 21.a5 Nd7 22.Ra4 Qe5 23.Nxd5 Nxc1? The only bad move Giri played in the whole game; but not enough to give Topalov much of anything from the position, as his position begins to stray in time trouble. 24.Rxc1 Nf6 25.Nc7 Rad8 26.Qf4 g5 27.Qb4 Qb2 28.Raa1 Re2 29.Qc5 h6 30.Nxa6 bxa6 31.Rab1 Qd2 32.Bf3 Ne4 33.Qxa7? The start of all Topalov’s troubles - and made all the worse by his time trouble. Instead, 33.Bxe4 was considered to be roughly equal. 33…Nxf2! This leads to a decisive attack. 34.Bxe2 Nxh3+ 35.Kf1 Qd5! (See Diagram) Very strong, and missed by Topalov in his ensuing time scramble. 36.Bh5 There’s no escape - if 36. Ke1 Qh1 37. Bf1 Qf3! and the threat of …Qxg3+ is deadly. 36...Qh1+ 37.Ke2 Qg2+ 38.Ke1 Re8+ 39.Kd1 Nf2+ 40.Kc2 Ne4+ 0–1 White resigns, as mate is unavoidable after 41.Kd3 Qd2+ 42.Kc4 Rc8+ 43.Qc7 Rxc7 mate.