A couple of years ago, Nakamura tweeted: “I am the only person who is going to be able to stop Sauron. I do feel at the moment that I am the biggest threat to Carlsen.” However, likening Carlsen to Tolkien’s dark lord with the all-seeing eye may have betrayed more than intended. Certainly, his attempts to ascend Mount Doom have been beset by troubles.
And there seems to be no respite for Nakamura, because just when he perhaps had grand visions of snatching the inaugural Grand Chess Tour, his nemesis pops up to extended the agony to a round dozen by infliction yet another defeat, making the total in classical chess now 12 wins, 17 draws and no loses. But their London duel will be remembered by being a true epic of the modern era, going the distance of 78 moves and almost seven hours of play - and a large part of that was fittingly described by commentator Yasser Seirawan as being “Study Land”.
Carlsen had the advantage of two bishops verses two knights - the sort of ending he likes, as he tortured his rival for hours before finally grinding him down. Carlsen (white) dramatically delivered the coup de grace from the diagram opposite with a true study-like finish: 66.Bxb7 Nd3 67.Kxf6! Carlsen thought Nakamura had simply missed this possibility. 67…Nxf4 68.Ke5 Nfe2 69.f6? The clinical win was 69.c6!; and the finish more deserving of this epic ending. 69… a5 70.a4 Kf7 71.Bd5+ Kf8 72.Ke4! Now Carlsen is winning one of the knights, with Nakamura’s only way to defend removing them further from the action of the passed pawns. 72…Nc2 73.c6 Nc3+ 74.Ke5 Nxa4 75.Bb3 "Really cute,” thought Carlsen. 75…Nb6 76.Bxc2 a4 77.c7 Kf7 78.Bxa4 and Nakamura resigned.
And round seven finally saw the London Chess Classic coming to life, with not one but three wins, as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian respectively compounded the misery for veterans Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov with a brace of stunning, quick victories. And Vachier-Lagrave now takes the sole lead going into the penultimate round - and he’s stolen a march in the close race to take the tour title.
Caruana draw Giri
Anand 0-1 Vachier-Lagrave
Adams draw Grischuk
Aronian 1-0 Topalov
Carlsen 1-0 Nakamura
Round 7 Standings: 1. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) 4.5/7; 2-5. Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 4; 6-8. Fabiano Caruana (USA), Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 3.5; 9. Vishy Anand (India) 2.5; 10. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 1.5.
Levon Aronian - Veselin Topalov
7th London Classic 2015, (7)
English Opening, Nimzowitsch System
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 The Nimzowitsch System, named after Aaron Nimzowitsch, who won a best game prize at Dresden 1926 when he first deployed it to beat Akiba Rubinststein. And its the dynamic choice, as most English Opening players are not thrilled with the variation 5.g3 Nc6 6. Bg2 g6 (6...Nc7 is the messy Rubinstein Variation) 7.0-0 Bg7. And the natural 5.d4 allows, if nothing else, 5...Nxc3 6.bxc3 g6 leading to a Grünfeld. 5...Nb4 By far the most critical and important line here. 6.Bc4 Nd3+ 7.Ke2 Nf4+ 8.Kf1 Ne6 It's Back To The Future time for Yasser Seirawan doing the live commentary, as this line is a throwback to the 1980s and was one of his big favourites - so he must have felt right at home when he saw this line being played. 9.b4!? Also played here is 9.d3 and 9.h4!? - but the text is by far the most popular and adventurous. Even Yasser played this back in 1983; the only difference being he exchanged dark-squared bishops on the b2-g7 diagonal, whereas Aronian keeps his bishop on the board to help bolster his central forces. 9...cxb4 10.Nd5 g6 11.d4 Bg7 12.Be3 Nc6 13.Rc1 Bd7 14.Qd2 White is a pawn down - but just look at how co-ordinated and harmoniously centralised his pieces are, while Black's pieces are awkwardly developed. 14...Qa5 15.h4 Rc8 16.Bb3 Qb5+ 17.Kg1 h6 18.Kh2 g5 19.Rhd1 Kf8 20.Kg1! (See Diagram) Amazingly, after the game, Topalov said he'd missed this king manoeuvre of Kf1-g1-h2 (develop the rook on d1) and back to g1. It is kind of unusual, but Aronian is a past-master at coming up with original solutions. And now, with Aronian's rooks connected, he start to mount an attack on Topalov's creaking position. 20...Rd8 If 20...g4 21.Ne5! is overwhelming, as Black's position rapidly falls apart: 21...Nxe5 22.Rxc8+ Bxc8 23.dxe5 b6 24.Rc1 Bd7 25.Nc7! with a winning advantage. 21.hxg5 hxg5 22.Bxg5 Nxg5? Simply losing on the spot; Topalov had to humbly play 22...Ke8 or 22...Rc8 and try to batten down the hatches. But after the text, there now comes a clever piece of Aronian magic. 23.Qxg5! Threatening Rxc6 crashing through on e7. 23...Bh6 24.Qh4! Pinning the rook on h8...so... 24...Bg7 25.Qf4 Bh6 26.Ng5! Another winning idea was 26.Qh2 Bg7 27.Qc7! and Black's position is soon going to fold like a sheet of A4 at an origami contest. 26...Bxg5 27.Qxg5 1-0 The resignation looks a little premature but, Black's only defence to Rxc6 is: 27…Re8 and there follows 28.Rc4 followed by Rd3-f3 or g3 with no defence to the mating threats.