Wednesday, January 6, 2010

London Chess Classic

CHESS - 20/12/09

Diagram 1
Sunday December 20,2009
By Luke McShane

THE London Chess Classic was the strongest tournament to take place in the capital for a quarter of a century.

The unofficial world number one going into the event, 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen got off to a great start by beating his main competitor Vladimir Kramnik in the first round.

Carlsen notched up further wins against me and the Chinese player Ni Hua to take first place in the event, and secures his place at the top of the next ranking list.

Kramnik also scored three wins, but was unable to catch up with Magnus and took clear second place.

I started well by defeating Nigel Short in an eight hour 163 move marathon game, which must be my longest game ever.

But it was Michael Adams and David Howell who came top amongst the four English players. Both scored one win and six draws.

Diagram 2

A poor finish saw me finishing fifth, but I was delighted to receive the best game prize of the tournament for my victory over the American champion Hikaru Nakamura.

Interestingly, the tournament used a football style scoring system of three points for a win and one for a draw.

So the final standings were Carlsen 13, Kramnik 12, Howell and Adams 9, McShane 7, Ni Hua and Nakamura 6 and Nigel Short 5.

The event was expertly organised by Malcolm Pein, and every single game was fought to the end.

That made an excellent spectacle for the many visitors who watched in the often overflowing auditorium and packed the commentary room each day at the Kensington Olympia.

More than a million people followed the event online, and 2500 attended the event, including a dozen schools from as far afield as North Wales.

Additionally, the Chess in Schools and Communities charity has been set up to bring the game to a wider audience in the future.

There are plans afoot for a sequel next year, and even the possibility of the 2012 Fide World Championship coming to London.

Best Game Prize

Hikaru Nakamura - Luke McShane
(London, 2009)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0–0 6.Nf3 e5 7.0–0 Na6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 Qe8 10.c5 exd4 11.Nd5 Be6!? A few years ago I lost a couple of games in this sharp variation of the King's Indian, so I wanted to try out this rare move which I hoped would bring more success. 12.Be7 Bxd5 13.Bxf8 Qxf8 13...Kxf8!? was worth serious consideration.

After 14.exd5 Nxc5 15.Nxd4 Ne3! (I hadn't seen this possibility) 16.Ne6+!? Qxe6 17.dxe6 Nxd1 18.Rfxd1 fxe6 and Black has the easier game. 14.exd5 dxc5 15.Qb3 Rb8 A very tense position has arisen. Two pawns for the exchange is enough compensation on paper, but White has time to develop some initiative and the knight on a6 is looking silly.

I hoped that I would find time to round up the d5 pawn before he created counterplay. 16.Rfe1 Qd6 16...b5 was one of my key ideas over the next few moves, but it doesn't quite work here. 17.Bxb5 c6 18.dxc6 Nc7 19.a4 a6! was the idea, winning material, but White could play 18.Qa4! instead. 17.h3 Nf6 18.Bxa6 I was slightly relieved to see this. 18.a3 was critical, calmly locking out the knight on a6.

During the game I was frantically trying to calculate the consequences of 18...b5?! (18...Bh6! looks much more prudent, taking control of g5 and c1) 19.Bxb5 c6 20.dxc6 Nc7 21.a4 a6 22.Ne5 Qf8! (22...axb5 23.Qxf7+ Kh8 24.axb5 looked terribly dangerous, and later my computer confirmed my hunch that Black is losing here) 23.Nd7 Nxd7 24.cxd7 and I was struggling to fathom this position from a distance - Black is probably doing at least okay after 24...Qd8! (but not 24...axb5 25.axb5 Nxb5? 26.Qxb5! Rxb5 27.Ra8!! Qxa8 28.Re8+ Qxe8 29.dxe8Q+ Bf8 30.Qxb5 and White wins!).

18...Qxa6 19.Rac1 19.Ne5 Qd6 20.Nc6? looks tricky but runs into a counterpunch: 20...c4! 21.Qb5 a6! and White loses material. 19...Bf8 20.Ne5 Qb6?! If I had seen the possibility of 21.d6 I might have prevented it altogether. 20...Bd6 21.Qf3 Bxe5 22.Rxe5 Qd6 looks quite promising for Black. 21.Qf3?! Creating dangerous threats on the kingside (including the immediate threat of Nxf7 followed by Re1–e6), but this is very double-edged.

21.d6! was not a move I had noticed. 21...Qxb3 22.dxc7! That's the point. 22...Rc8 23.axb3 Nd5!? When Black will pick up the c7 pawn with a balanced game. 21...Qd6 22.g4 There's no time to waste, as I was threatening Kg8-g7 followed by Qd6xd5. 22...Bh6 23.Rc2 Re8!

Deflecting White's rook from the c-file. 23...Rf8 24.Nd3 b6 25.b4! was annoying, as 25...cxb4 is met by 26.Rc6! winning the knight on f6. 24.Rce2 Rf8 Covering f7 to prepare the capture on d5. 25.Nc4 25.Rc2!? was worth considering, for a surprising reason.

After 25...Nxd5 26.Nc4 Qd8 27.Na5! White regains a pawn due to a pretty knight maneouvre: 27...b6? 28.Nc6 Qd6 29.Qxd5! Qxd5 30.Ne7+ Kg7 31.Nxd5. 25...Qxd5 A triumph - finally the pawn drops off! 26.Qxf6 Bg7! An important intermezzo. After 26...Qxc4 27.Re8 White seeks counterplay by Qf6-d8 followed by Re8xf8 and Re1–e8. 27...Qd5 28.Rxf8+ Bxf8 29.Re8 threatens Qf6-e7, and after 29...Qd6 30.Qxd6 cxd6 31.Ra8 the pawn harvest begins. 27.Qh4?! 27.Qf4 Qxc4 28.Re8 was better, I thought.

From f4 the c7 pawn comes under attack and the d-pawn is temporarily pinned. 28...Qd5 29.Qxc7 d3 should still be promising for Black. 27...Qxc4 28.Re8 Qd5 29.Rxf8+ Bxf8 30.Re8 Kg7 31.g5 Or 31.Qd8 Qxd8 32.Rxd8 a5. In the very worst case I saw that Bf8-d6 and b7-b6 would protect all the pawns, so all the winning chances are with Black. 31...Qd6 32.Kf1 32.Qh6+ Kg8 just leads to a dead end. 32...b5 The game of Space Invaders begins. 33.Ke1 c4 34.Qe4 c5 35.h4!?

With the clock running down, I thought this was connected with the obscure idea of h4-h5 and f2-f4-f5-f6+, but the simpler idea is Qe4-f3-f6+. The immediate 35.Qf3 was well met by Be7, hitting the g5 pawn. 35.f4!? preparing to recapture on e5 with the pawn, was also interesting. 35...c3 36.bxc3 dxc3 37.Qe5+ Qxe5+ 38.Rxe5 a5 39.Kd1 39.Re8 a4 40.Ra8 might have been tougher but neither side had much time to think before move forty. 39...a4 40.a3!? b4 41.Kc2 Having made the time control I had a very long think. 41...f5 and 41...h5 both came to mind, but I settled on 41...h6!

Softening up the g5 square gives the bishop more scope sometimes, but this move comes with a more subtle idea as well. 42.Rd5? (see diagram 1) Apparently the losing move. 42.Re8 was better, and then I couldn't see a win for Black. 42...hxg5 43.hxg5 Bd6 44.Ra8 b3+ 45.Kxc3 Be5+ 46.Kd2 (46.Kd3? c4+! 47.Kxc4 b2 wins as b8 is covered by the bishop) 46...c4 47.Rxa4 c3+ 48.Kc1 Bd6 49.Kb1 and now White threatens Ra4-c4, so Black has to take a draw with 49...c2+ 50.Kb2 Be5+ 51.Kc1 Bd6 when neither side can make progress.

42...hxg5 43.hxg5 Kh7! The hidden idea behind 41...h6! 44.Rd7?! 44.axb4 cxb4 45.Rb5 keeps chances alive for White by forestalling Bf8-g7, but the pawns are very strong.(45.Ra5? meets with a pretty refutation though: 45...b3+ 46.Kxc3 Bb4+! 47.Kxb4 b2 and the pawn promotes) 44...Bg7! 45.Rxf7 b3+ 46.Kb1 46.Kc1 Kg8 47.Ra7 Bd4 48.Rxa4 Kf7! is winning in the same way as the game. 46...Kg8

The knowledge that any slip could even mean losing the game kept me on my toes. The other idea I looked at was 46...c4?? 47.Ra7 c2+ 48.Kc1 c3 49.Rxa4 Bf8 and I thought that with the rook tied down I could play Bf8x-c5xf2, and eventually threaten mate on both a3 and e3. Unfortunately, 50.Rb4! and after 50...Bxb4 51.axb4 there isn't time to catch the nimble passed pawn. 47.Ra7 Bd4! 48.Rxa4 Kf7! With the support of the king one of the pawns can be forced home. 48...Bxf2 was too slow.

After 49.Rc4! Black is in serious danger, but may be able to salvage a draw with 49...Bd4 50.a4 c2+ (50...Kf7? 51.a5 Ke6 52.a6 Kd5 53.Rxd4+ and White promotes in time) 51.Kc1 Be3+ 52.Kb2 Bd2! 53.Rxc5 Kf7 54.a5 c1=Q+ 55.Rxc1 Bxa5 56.Kxb3 Bd2 and the weak g5 pawn makes it hard to progress. 49.Ra6 49.Rxd4 cxd4 50.a4 d3 and the king can't hold up all three pawns any more. 49...Be5! Preparing c3-c2+ and Be5-f4+ so the rook must retreat. 50.Ra4 Ke6 51.Rh4 Kd5 52.a4 c4 53.Rh1 c2+ 54.Kc1 c3 55.Rh4 Bd6 (see diagram 2) A pretty finish. Mate follows on a3.


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