Olympia Conference Centre, Kensington, London


Classic Round 2: 11 December 2014


So to round two, with Britain’s Mickey Adams at the top of the table as the only winner in the first round. No distractions today, just straight down to business, with the only blonde mop-tops in sight being the children deputed to make the elite players first moves.


Today the number of decisive results doubled, as Vladimir Kramnik played what at least one of the spectating GMs described as ‘the perfect game’ to defeat Hikaru Nakamura, and Anish Giri opened his Olympia account at the expense of the overnight leader. Birthday celebrant Vishy Anand had another fairly uneventful draw, this time with Fabiano Caruana. Round 2 Scores: Giri, Kramnik 4, Adams 3, Anand 2, Caruana, Nakamura 1.





Let’s get the draw out of the way first. It lasted around 2 hours and 17 moves before a repetition brought it to the gentlest of conclusions. Having nothing to say about it, I’ll leave you with a nice picture of the players and move on.


Vlad doesn't fall for Kid-ology



Kramnik-Nakamura was a much more red-blooded affair. The US number one never shirks a challenge and was prepared to punt a King’s Indian Defence. He won a zinger of a game with the KID at the Classic against another world champion, Vishy Anand, a year or two ago so it’s been good to him. It is an opening much beloved of amateurs and lower-echelon professionals but, apart from the adventurous Hikaru and a couple of others, the 2700+ boys tend to give it a wide berth. Pressed by commentator Daniel King after the game to give his general opinion of the opening, Big Vlad more or less owned up to his view of it as unsound. “I admit I am always happy to see a King's Indian” was his eminently tweetable sound bite. That said, Vlad was less contemptuous than another VK – Viktor Korchnoi – tends to be when asked about the KID. Incidentally, Garry Kasparov himself used to be a KID-ologist but some bad experiences at the young Vlad’s hands in the mid-1990s saw him remove it from his repertoire.


Vlad also told us that the line he had chosen against it was something he had had “in his pocket” for some time. Commentator Chris Ward cheekily asked if he had any more such ideas tucked away in his pocket but received only the trademark Vlad smile (and an audience laugh) by way of reply. Petrosian is alleged to have said of the line played in the game, which is named after him, that it was the line he used to feed his family.




Round 2

V.Kramnik (2769) - H.Nakamura (2775)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Nf3 e5 7.d5 The signature move of the Petrosian variation. Sometimes it transposes into the line beginning 7.0-0 but otherwise it has some of its own peculiarities. 7...a5 8.Bg5 h6 9.Be3 A bit unusual. The standard line is 9.Bh4 Na6 10.Nd2 Qe8 11.0-0 as in, for example, Nakamura-Bacrot, Biel 2012, which was won by White. Hikaru is evidently happy to play both sides of the opening. 9...Ng4 10.Bd2 Not seen at elite level before, though Kramnik had used it himself in a simul 13 years previously. 10...f5 11.h3 Nf6 12.exf5 gxf5 13.Qc1!? (diagram)





Kramnik exits the book, having used virtually no time on his clock, so presumably this was the start of the idea ‘in his pocket’. Black is more or less obliged to play his next move otherwise g2–g4 is coming, with a meaty kingside offensive in view. Hikaru was playing quite quickly too so he may have studied the position before. 13...f4 14.g3 e4 Hikaru decides to play the logical move and see what is up Vlad’s sleeve (or in his pocket, I should say). 15.Nh4 e3 16.fxe3 Played more or less instantly, to let his opponent know he had seen it before. 16...fxg3 17.Ng6 Rf7 18.Qc2 At this stage, Vlad’s clock showed him having 1 hour 44 minutes left, which was 4 minutes more than he started with. 18...Nfd7?! Hikaru had taken 40+ minutes longer than Vlad; not in itself a problem, since Vlad had been playing extremely quickly, of course. However, this move impedes his development and takes away a kingside defender. 18...Na6 might have been an improvement: 19.0-0-0 b5!? 20.Nxb5 Nb4 21.Bxb4 axb4 and both sides have chances. 19.0-0-0 Ne5 20.Rhf1! Played to secure control of the important f5 square and get rid of one of Black’s best defenders. Vlad was starting to take his time but he was already looking very good. 20...Rxf1 20...Nbd7 21.Rxf7 Kxf7 22.Nxe5+ Nxe5 23.Rg1 Qh4 24.Be1 Qxh3 25.Rxg3 Qf5 26.e4 is not unlike the game in some respects, including being advantageous for White. 21.Rxf1 Bxh3 22.Rg1 The storm clouds are looming round the black king. 22...Qf6 23.Rxg3 Nxg6 Black would like to play 23...Bf5 - but White would like him to play it even more: 24.Qxf5! Qxf5 25.Ne7+ wins; 23...Qf2!? 24.Rxh3 Qg1+ 25.Bd1 Qxg6 26.Qxg6 Nxg6 27.Nb5! is a crafty computer move, answering 27...Na6 with 28.Bxa5, etc. 24.Rxg6 Qf7 25.Rg3 Bf5 26.e4 Bg6 The VIP room grandmasters, led by Julian Hodgson and Nigel Short, had long since despaired of Hikaru’s position, which remains hopelessly undeveloped, apart from the kingside weakness. 27.Bg4 Qf1+ 28.Nd1 Be5 29.Bh3 Qf6 30.Rg1 Kh7 31.Bf5! White prepares a platform on g6 from where the rook will eventually menace the h6–pawn. 31...Bxf5 32.exf5 Nd7 33.Rg6 Qf7 34.Rxh6+ Kg8 35.Rg6+ Kf8 36.Nf2 b5 A token gesture of defiance which White ignores. 37.Ng4 bxc4 38.Qxc4 Qxf5





Allowing a pretty finish. 39.Rg8+! Ke7 39...Kxg8 40.Nh6+, of course. 40.Bg5+ Bf6 41.Qe2+ 1-0


After his excellent first round, Mickey Adams’ game against Anish Giri came as a bit of a disappointment to the home fans. He may have been caught out by a new move in the Catalan which left him behind in development and with a rather cramped game. He was more or less obliged to give up a pawn to unravel, with some hope of reaching a possible drawn endgame but the resourceful young Dutchman outplayed him rather effectively. It was all a bit like Wimbledon before Andy Murray. I wasn’t in the auditorium so I don’t know if any of the fans shouted out “c’mon, Tim!” out of sheer force of habit. An excellently played game by Anish Giri: this win takes him three places up the live rating list to 7th, just ahead of Kramnik and Nakamura. He’s now within ten points of the next man ahead of him, Vishy Anand, so his performance in London will be critical to where he is on the January 2015 rating list.




Round 2

A.Giri (2768) - M.Adams (2745)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bb4+ 5.Nd2 0-0 6.Ngf3 dxc4 7.Qc2 c5 Quite a lot of joshing goes on in the VIP Room, particularly between Julian Hodgson and Nigel Short, but today we had an interloper quietly signing books at the back of the room and only looking up occasionally at what was on the big screen. Some of the GMs were joking about ways of hanging onto the gambit pawn on c5, including 7...b5 8.a4, etc. Julian Hodgson was of the ‘pawn grab party’ and the interloper, Garry Kasparov, pricked up his ears at some of the comments. “Why don’t you try 8...c6?” suggested the 13th world champion, and Julian dutifully followed his lead... 9.axb5 cxb5 and then Julian asked “what’s the trick. Doesn’t White just play...?” “Yes, 10.Ng5!” interrupted Kasparov, with a playful grin on his face. “That’s the trick!” Black’s just losing: he would like to protect the rook that is attacked on the long diagonal by blocking with his f6 knight but it can’t move as it would allow mate on h7. 8.dxc5 c3 9.bxc3 Bxc5 10.0-0 Qc7 11.Ne4! A new move, which may well have been suggested by a computer (since Houdini flags it up as clearly best). 11...Nxe4 If 11...Be7, Black has to reckon with something like 12.Bf4 Qa5 13.Bd6 when he is under pressure. 12.Qxe4 Nd7 13.Bf4 Bd6 14.Bxd6 Qxd6 15.Rfd1 Qc7 16.Qb4 Nf6 17.Nd4 a6 18.Nb3! White has a sizeable advantage as he is much better developed and poised to attack the b7–pawn several times. 18...a5 I think many of us would have played 18...Rb8 and maybe it’s not too bad. But White will get pressure after 19.Qc5 Qxc5 20.Nxc5 b6 21.Rab1 e5 22.Rd6 and suchlike. Julian Hodgson was all for sacrificing a pawn for some freedom with 18...Nd5!? 19.Bxd5 exd5 20.Rxd5 Re8 and putting his faith in reaching a rook endgame a pawn down but with reasonable drawing chances. 19.Qc5 Qb8 A very grovelly solution but maybe not as bad as it looks. 20.Rab1 b6 21.Qd6 Nd5 Now more or less the Hodgson plan, previously alluded to. 22.Qxb8 Rxb8 23.Bxd5 exd5 24.Nxa5 24.Rxd5 Be6 25.Rd6 Rfc8 gives Black reasonable prospects of holding. 24...Bf5 25.Nc6 Bxb1 26.Nxb8 Bxa2 27.Nd7 Re8 28.Nxb6 Rxe2 29.c4 Kf8 30.Rxd5





30...Bb1 30...Ke7 feels better. Then 31.Rd1 Rb2 32.Nd5+ Kd6!? and the black king gets in position to block the passed pawn. 31.Rd8+ Ke7 32.Rd1 Bc2 32...Be4 looks more natural, tying the rook to the back rank and getting ready to blockade on c6. 33.Nc8+ Kf6 34.Rd6+ Kg5 Black has not much more than a minute left (plus increments) for the next six moves. 35.Kf1 Re8 36.Rd5+ Kf6 37.Nd6 Ra8 38.Ke2 Ra1?! This allows a decisive sequence from White. Instead maybe 38...Ba4 though Black has a hard fight ahead of him. 39.Ne8+ Kg6 39...Ke7 40.Nxg7 loses a second pawn. 40.Rd6+ f6 41.Rd7 The g-pawn must fall. 41...Kh6 42.Nxg7 Ra2 43.Ke3 Ra5 44.Re7 Rc5 45.Kd4 Re5 46.Rxe5 fxe5+ 47.Kc3 1-0


The second game of the challenge match between Gawain Jones and Romain Edouard, so Gawain is one up after two games. At the end Romain rather surprisingly baled out for a draw in a position where he stood a good chance of winning. An unexpected half-point birthday present for Gawain, who shares a birthday with Vishy Anand.





Classic Challenge, Game 2

R.Edouard (2659) - G.Jones

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 10.Qe1 e5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Bc4 Be6 14.Kb1 14.Ne4 Qc7 15.Bc5 Rfd8 16.g4 is the most popular line, but has seemingly fallen out of favour in recent years. 14...Rb8 15.Ne4 f5!? 15...Qc7 16.Bc5 Rfd8 transposes to the main line, but Gawain Jones typically decides to lash out. 16.Ng5 Bc8 17.h4 h6 18.Ne4 Be6 18...fxe4 19.fxe4 Rf4!? is a rather crafty computer idea: then 20.Bc1 (20.Bxf4?! exf4 21.Bb3 Qf6 leads to trouble on the queenside for White) 20...Qb6 21.Bb3 a5 looks interesting. 19.Nc5 Bf7 20.Na6 Rb7 21.Bb3 Qf6 22.Nc5 Re7 23.c3 Rfe8 24.Qd2 Nxe3 25.Qxe3 Bxb3 26.axb3 Rf7 27.Rd2 Rd8 28.Rxd8+ Qxd8 29.h5!? gxh5 30.Rxh5 Qd6 31.Rh1 Qg6 32.Qe2 Re7 33.Re1 Qd6 34.b4 Qg6 35.Ka1 Kh7 White had 6 minutes left to Black’s 25, but White retains an edge, based on the influential knight and Black’s vulnerable hanging pawns. 36.g4 fxg4 37.fxg4 Rf7 38.Nd3 Rd7 39.Nc5 Rf7 The usual repetition ruse to reach the time control. 40.Rh1 Kg8 41.Qc4 Kh7? A slip by Black, not ascribable to time trouble. 41...Qd6 holds the fort though no doubt White would have continued to probe. 42.g5! Rf4 43.Qe2 e4 43...Qxg5? still fails to 44.Ne6, etc. 44.gxh6 Bf8 44...Bxh6? courts trouble after 45.Ka2! when White can take his time amplifying the pin on the h-file. 45.Qe3 Qg5 46.Qd4 Bxc5 47.bxc5 e3 48.Qd7+ Kh8





49.Qe8+ A point down in the match and Romain bales out for a draw. Surprising as he can play for the win with 49.Qxc6 e2 50.Re1, etc. It looks a little tricky but it should be winnable with care. 49...Kh7 50.Qd7+ Kh8 51.Qe8+ Kh7 52.Qd7+ ½-½



Annotated games from rounds 1-2




Photos © John Saunders

John Saunders | Press Officer


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