Olympia Conference Centre, Kensington, London

 

Round 8 Report - Matthew Lunn

 

Excitement at the 4th London Chess Classic reached fever pitch during Round 8 as Vladimir Kramnik and Mickey Adams looked to be doing very well against Gawain Jones and Levon Aronian, respectively. This was extremely significant: if they both won their games, then they and Carlsen would be able to challenge for the title, intensifying the importance of the Adams – Kramnik clash in Round 9.

 

Annotations are by Grandmaster David Howell.

 

 

Kramnik, V - Jones, G

 

1.Nf3 c5 2.b3 An interesting attempt to avoid Gawain's habitual kingside fianchetto and steer the game into less well explored territory. 2...d5 [2...g6 might have been possible nonetheless, for example: 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.Bxf6 exf6 5.c4 d5 and Black is fine.] 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bb2 e6 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.0–0 0–0 8.c4 By transposition, we have arrived in a line of the Reti; Kramnik must have been happy to get Gawain thinking for himself in positions in which he does not have much experience. 8...b6 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.cxd5 exd5 [10...Nxd5 is an important option: 11.Nxd5 Qxd5 (11...exd5 12.d4 is similar to the game, with a small White advantage.) 12.d4 and the onus is on Black to simplify and equalise, which is not so easy.] 11.d4 Ne4 12.dxc5 Nxc3 13.Bxc3 bxc5 14.Qe2 Re8 15.Rfd1 Bf8 16.Qb5 Very direct from Kramnik. [16.Rd2 was also possible, and Black's hanging pawns are clearly more of a weakness than a strength] 16...Qb6 The move that Black wants to play, but Kramnik makes this look like a bad decision. [In hindsight, 16...Rb8 would have been a better try, but it is unlikely Gawain would have been comfortable with his position.] 17.Qxb6 axb6

 

 

18.Rxd5! Nd4 [18...Nb4 is met by the calm 19.Rd2] 19.Nxd4 Bxd5 20.Bxd5 cxd4 21.Bxd4 So after a forcing variation Kramnik has given up the exchange, but his two pawns and powerful bishop pair more than compensate for this. White has pawn majorities on both sides of the board and Jones is now powerless to prevent the slow improvement of his opponent's position. 21...Ra5 22.e4 Bc5 23.Bc3 [23.Bxc5?! would be a step in the wrong direction for White. In general the bishops work together as a pair, exerting pressure on some important diagonals. 23...Rxc5 24.b4 Rc2 25.a4 Re7 26.a5 Ra7 and White's winning chances are greatly reduced compared to the game.] 23...Ra3 24.Bb2 Ra7 25.a4 Rc7 26.Ra2 h6 27.Kg2 Kh7 28.f4 f6 29.Kf3 Rd7

 

 

30.a5! Kramnik takes the opportunity to activate his rook and create a passed pawn on the queenside. 30...bxa5 31.Rxa5 Rc8 32.Rb5 Rd6 33.Rb7 Rb6 34.Rf7 Rf8 35.Rc7 Bd6 36.Rd7 Ra6 37.Bd4 Bb8 38.Bc5 Re8 39.Kg4 Ra2 40.h4 Rc8 41.b4 Ra3 42.h5 Black's king is caught in a net and he can only await his fate. 42...Rc3 43.Bd4 R3c7 44.Rxc7 Bxc7 45.Kf5 Bd6 46.b5 Rc1 47.b6 Bb8 48.Ke6 Rh1 49.Bc5 with no way to prevent Bd6, Black resigned. An extremely smooth and impressive game by Kramnik. After a favourable opening he never lost control and it is surprisingly hard to find any improvements for Jones after move 16. The latter part of the game was particularly instructive. 1–0

 

 

Final position in Kramnik – Jones.

 

That game finished some time before Aronian – Adams, just as Black was attempting to generate winning chances:

 

Aronian, L - Adams, M

 

 

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Bg4 4.0–0 Nd7 5.d3 e6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.e4 Ne7 8.Re1 0–0 9.d4 a5 10.a4 Rc8 11.c3 Bh5 12.Qe2 Re8 13.Qf1 Bb8 14.b3 dxe4 15.Nxe4 Nd5 16.Bb2 e5 17.Ned2 Bxf3 18.Bxf3 exd4 19.Rxe8+ Qxe8 20.cxd4

 

 

Aronian's opening and middlegame play was described as 'vegetarian chess' by Nigel Short in the VIP room. It is certainly hard to imagine White fighting for the advantage with his bishop on b2 hampered by his isolated queen's pawn. 20...Bd6 21.Re1 Qd8 22.Nc4 Bb4 23.Re2 N7f6 24.Qc1 Qc7 25.Kg2 Rd8 26.Qc2 h6 27.Ne3 Bf8 28.Nf5 Qd7 29.Re5 g6 30.Nh4?! Surely a step in the wrong direction; White's knight is now offside and Black soon seizes the initiative. [30.Ne3 Bd6 31.Nxd5 Nxd5 32.Re2 Bb4 looks dead equal.] 30...Bg7 31.Ba3 Nb4! White now struggles to defend his d-pawn. 32.Qe2 [32.Bxb4 axb4 33.Re1 Nd5 gives Black a decent positional advantage.(33...Qxd4 34.Rd1 Qb6 is similar to the game.) ] 32...Qxd4 33.Re7 Rd7 34.Rxd7 Qxd7 35.Bxb4 axb4 36.Qd1

 

 

After accepting the loss of his d-pawn, Aronian now sets about constructing a defence. It is difficult for Black to make a passed pawn on the queenside, and despite Adams' best efforts to improve his pieces and make some progress, he fails to break through. 36...Nd5 37.Be2 Bf6 38.Nf3 Kg7 39.Qd2 Bc3 40.Qc2 Qg4 41.Qc1 Qe4 42.Qd1 Bf6 43.Bc4 Nb6 44.Bf1 Bc3 45.h3 Qe7 46.Bd3 Qe6 47.Bf1 Bf6 48.Qc2 Qd5 49.Bd3 Bc3 50.h4 Qe6 51.h5 g5 52.Bf5 Qd5 53.Be4 Qd6 54.Bd3 Qd5 55.Be4 Qd6 56.Bd3 Nd7 57.Bc4 Nf6 58.Qe2 b6 59.Nh2 b5! After some lengthy build-up, Black finds the moment to try and create something more substantial. 60.axb5 cxb5 61.Bxb5 Qd5+ 62.Kg1 Qxb3 63.Bc4 Qb1+ [63...Qa4!? is a computer improvement, but it feels unnatural to put the queen on a seemingly strange square.] 64.Nf1 Qe1 65.Qxe1 Bxe1 66.Ne3

 

 

Aronian is just in time to create some counterplay of his own, and Black's b-pawn is never fast enough to cause any real problems. 66...Ne4 67.Nf5+ Kf8 68.Nxh6 Bxf2+ 69.Kg2 Nd6 70.Bd3 Bd4 71.Nf5 Nxf5 72.Bxf5 Kg7 73.Bc2 g4 74.Bf5 b3 75.Bxg4 Kh6 76.Bf5 Kxh5 77.g4+ Kg5 78.Kf3 b2 79.Bb1 Be5 80.Bc2 Bd4 81.Bb1 Be5 82.Bc2 Bd4 Solid rearguard action from Aronian, but Adams might feel he had chances to press harder for the win. ½–½

 

As an English chess enthusiast, it has been really gratifying to see Mickey play such so terrifically against world-class opposition this tournament. We can hope that his success at the London Chess Classic will pre-empt a speedy ascent up the rating list in 2013!

 

The game of the day was surely the explosive conflict between Vishy Anand and Hikaru Nakamura, which exemplified how even the strongest players in the world are liable to make serious miscalculations:

 

Anand, V - Nakamura, H

 

 

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be6 9.Bxf6 Anand takes a positional approach. [9.f4 has been more popular in the past, and is a line I have analysed myself. After 9...Nbd7 10.f5 Bc4 11.Ng3 Qc7 the position hangs in the balance.] 9...Qxf6 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Nec3 Nd7 12.Bc4 g6 13.a4 Bh6 14.a5 Rc8 15.Ba2 0–0 16.0–0 Kg7

 

 

17.b4!? White protects a5, and takes away the c5-square from Black's pieces. However, this is also double-edged due to the looseness of the c3-knight. 17...Rc6 18.Qd3 Qg5 19.Rfd1 Rfc8 20.Bb3 White defends c2 and hints at ideas like Ba4 20...f5?! A critical moment. Nakamura plays this desirable pawn break, but at this exact moment it turns out to be premature. [20...Nf6 would have been safer.] 21.exf5! Anand doesn't miss his chance. 21...gxf5 22.Ne2 [22.f4 was also worth considering: 22...exf4 23.Ne2 Ne5 24.Ndxf4! And the tactics all work in White's favour.] 22...f4 23.Ndxf4!? Anand begins to play very forcingly. [In the commentary room, I was attracted to 23.Nec3 with the simple aim of dominating the central light squares.] 23...Bxb3 24.h4 Qg4 Black's only safe square for his queen. [24...Bxc2 25.hxg5 Bxd3 26.gxh6+ Kxh6 27.Nxd3 leaves White material ahead.] 25.f3 Bxc2 26.fxg4 Bxd3 27.Nxh5+ Kg8 28.Rxd3 The dust has settled and White is temporarily a pawn up. His cluster of kingside pawns also help his chances of a successful attack on Black's king. Nakamura was already running short of time, but he succeeds in posing Anand some technical problems. 28...Bf8 29.Kh2! Rc4 30.Kh3 Rxb4 31.Rf3 Rc2 32.Nc3 [32.Raf1! was actually possible here: 32...Rxe2 33.Rf7 and Nakamura would have struggled to protect his king in the run-up to the time control.] 32...e4 33.Rg3 Rd2 34.Re1 d5 35.Nf4 Rbd4 [35...Bd6 36.Ncxd5 Rbd4 was also interesting.] 36.Ncxd5 Rxd5 37.Nxd5 Rxd5 38.Rxe4 Rxa5 39.g5 Ra3 40.Re8 Rxg3+ 41.Kxg3 we have arrived at another material imbalance. White's further advanced pawns and active rook give him good chances of converting. 41...b5 42.Rd8 Nc5 43.Rb8 Kf7 44.g6+ This was criticised by some spectators afterwards, but it looks like White still has the win in sight. [44.Rb6! might have been simpler.] 44...Kg7 45.Kg4 b4

 

 

46.h5?! [46.Rxb4 is not an easy move to make, allowing Black to get rid of the g6-pawn, but would ease White's task significantly. 46...Kxg6 47.Rb8 should be very unpleasant for Black] 46...b3 47.Kf5 Bd6! Suddenly Nakamura has created some counterplay! 48.Rb4?! [48.Rb6 Bc7 is the most obvious continuation. 49.Rc6?? (49.Rb4 Ba5 50.Rb8 Bc3 (50...Bc7?? 51.h6+! wins for White) ) 49...Ba5! and Black's b-pawn will queen with check (which is important)] 48...a5 49.Rb6 [49.Rh4 Kh6 looks good for Black] 49...a4! Black is now winning. 50.Rxd6 b2 [50...a3! is surprising, but wins on the spot. White is too late to push his own pawns and again it is important that Black often queens on b1 with check.] 51.Rb6 a3 52.Kg5 Ne4+ 53.Kf4 a2 54.Rb7+ Kf8 55.Rxb2 a1Q 56.Rb8+ Ke7 57.Kxe4

 

 

Qe1+ [57...Qa4+ apparently forces the win of White's rook, but this is far from easy for a human to calculate. For example: 58.Kf5 Qc2+ 59.Kg5 Qd2+ 60.Kf5 Qd5+ 61.Kg4 Qxg2+ 62.Kf5 Qh3+ 63.Ke4 Qg4+ 64.Kd5 Qe6+ 65.Kc5 Qd6+] 58.Kf3 Qc3+ [58...Qd1+ was a better try.] 59.Kg4 Qd4+ 60.Kh3 Now Anand builds a fortress and Black is unable to make any progress. 60...Qd3+ 61.Kh4 Qe4+ 62.g4 Qe1+ 63.Kh3 Qe3+ 64.Kh4 Qe1+ 65.Kh3 Qe3+ An exciting game! ½–½

 

McShane – Polgar demonstrated the remarkable incisiveness that the Hungarian is famed for, as she pounced on a couple of opening errors and achieved a terrific middlegame position:

 

McShane, L - Polgar, J

 

 

1.c4 g6 2.g3 Bg7 3.Bg2 c5 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 b6 6.0–0 Bb7 7.d3 Nf6 8.Bg5!? h6 9.Bd2 d5 10.Qc1 Very creative from Luke, preventing Black from castling, but somehow it feels that White is taking some liberties and it is hard to claim that such an opening will be enough for an advantage. 10...Rc8 11.Rb1 Qd7 12.b3 McShane continues his slow strategy. [Judit had assumed that White should play 12.cxd5 with rough equality.] 12...d4 Black finally breaks the central tension, and Judit seemed very content with the outcome of her opening. 13.Nb5 h5 14.b4 cxb4 15.Bxb4 a6 16.Na3 Nxb4 17.Rxb4

 

 

Nd5! Maybe Luke had missed this idea when he played 14.b4 - Black now establishes a strong knight on c3. 18.Rb3 Nc3 19.Qd2 Bxf3!? Not at all obvious, but this is actually a very good move. With opposite coloured bishops the initiative is always important - and here Judit plays very energetically to put Luke under pressure. 20.Bxf3 h4!? [20...b5 was also possible.] 21.g4?! In hindsight, this is probably too meek - now Black has clear weaknesses to attack and White is unable to gain any activity. [the brave 21.Rxb6 was dismissed on general grounds by the players, who thought that Black's attack was too dangerous. Play could continue: 21...hxg3 22.hxg3 Qh3 23.Ra1! (23.Re1 Bh6 24.Qb2 Be3! would end the game.) 23...Bh6 24.Qe1 and White has chances of defending.] 21...b5 22.h3 0–0 23.cxb5 [23.e3 was possibly better, but still unpleasant for White.] 23...axb5 24.Nc2 Rc5 25.Ne1 Bf6 26.Ng2 This knight has been a problem piece for a long time, but it is hardly well-placed on g2. 26...Bg5 27.Qb2 Rfc8 28.Kh1 Qd6

 

 

29.Ra3? A blunder in a depressing position. Polgar now wins the exchange and maintains her initiative. 29...Na4 30.Rxa4 bxa4 31.Ne1 Rc1 32.Qb7 Rb8 33.Qa7 Bd2 Not McShane's finest hour, but an impressive game from Polgar nonetheless. 0–1

 

A nice victory for Judit to secure her first win of the tournament.

 

Rankings after Round 8

 

  

Pts

Games

1.

Magnus Carlsen  

17

7

2.

Vladimir Kramnik

15

7

3.

Michael Adams

12

7

4.

Hikaru Nakamura

10

7

5.

Viswanathan Anand

8

7

6.

Levon Aronian

7

7

7.

Luke McShane

5

7

 

Judit Polgar

5

7

9.

Gawain Jones

3

8

 

As a reminder, the prize fund is as follows:

 

1st: €50,000

2nd: €25,000

3rd: €20,000

4th: €15,000

5th: €10,000

6th: €10,000

 

There is also a winners’ pool of €21,000 for each game won. So far there have been 18 decisive games, which means that, if there are no decisive games in round 9, a participant will receive €1,166 for each of their victories.

 

Games from this round 

 

 

© SC

 

© 2012 London Chess Classic

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