News release Sunday 15th December
Hikaru Nakamura of the USA and Boris Gelfand
of Israel have qualified as finalists of the Super Sixteen
Rapid at the London Chess Classic after an exciting
afternoon's play at the Olympia Conference Centre, and the
most dramatic of conclusions. The final two-game match
between them follows at 1730 UK time this evening.
Match result: Gelfand 1½-½ Adams
Boris started with a joke, as the young
ceremonial move-maker pushed Boris's pawn to e4. Malcolm
asked him what he thought of it. Boris: "It's the best
move." Malcolm: "Are you going to play it?" Boris: "Not
today!" In fact, he went for a Catalan set-up against Mickey
Adams. The game was 'book' until 14.Nxc5 was played instead
of 14.Bf4. Despite Boris's two bishops, analysis engines
seemed to favour Black, perhaps because White had yet to
find a home for his king and because he had a weak pawn on
c3. Boris's 18.Bxc5 allowed Mickey's rook to reach the
seventh. He seemed well set but then made a serious error
Gelfand - Adams After 24.Ne5
Mickey, in a good position, played 24...Nd7?
allowing Boris the startling castling move 25.0-0-0!!, which
Nigel Short had already spotted in a similar position which
was being debated in the VIP Room. It sets up a double
attack, on the b2 rook and the d7 knight. I used the phrase
'startling castling' deliberately as it is the title of a
chess book by Robert Timmer. Julian Hodgson extolled the
praises of this book, describing it as 'a perfect read in
the bathroom'. (Chess & Bridge are currently offering it at
a bargain price of £5.)
Mickey managed to cut his losses to the
exchange for a pawn and chances came and went, but Mickey
finally blundered when he played 46...Kf6, allowing 47.Rd4
Mickey started patriotically with the
English Attack of the Najdorf Sicilian, needing a win to
force a play-off. But of course Boris's opening knowledge is
encyclopaedic and he wasn't intimidated by Anglo-aggression.
Things soon looked rather ominous as Boris freed his
position with ...b4 and ...d5. 21.Ne3 may have been a
mistake as Boris played 21...Qa5, piling on the pressure
along the d-file. In order to defend d4, Mickey had to let
his a-pawn drop. Soon a second pawn fell and, rather than
strain himself trying to win, Boris traded his pawns in for
a simple playable position with zero risk of losing.
Match results: Kramnik ½-1½ Nakamura
Vladimir Kramnik, with White, kicked off his
semi-final match with Hikaru Nakamura by playing a double
fianchetto English Opening. You could call it a reversed
Sicilian. "Kramnik has played like Kottnauer," said Nigel
Short in the VIP Room. "This is what Kottnauer advised me to
do about 40 years ago." I'm guessing most younger readers
won't know the name Cenek Kottnauer but he was a very fine
player who emigrated to Britain from Czechoslovakia many
years ago and became one of the country's best players, who
was also responsible for coaching some of England's finest
talents. Glad to hear Nigel name-czech him...
Things started to happen when Vlad went in
for the risky 23.e5, when Hikaru simply took the proffered
pawn on f4. But Hikaru's answer to 24.e6, namely 24...Qb5,
was not approved by the massed ranks of GMs in the VIP room
(they thought 24...Qd8 was significantly better). Kramnik
grabbed his pawn back and then the pieces started to
disappear from the board. Julian Hodgson predicted a draw,
and he wasn't wrong as it came down to a knight and pawn
ending, with Hikaru a not very useful pawn up. In the end
the players amused the crowd by playing a stalemate.
Hikaru opened 1.d4 and the players went into
a QGD/Grünfeld hybrid. Vlad took the opportunity to swap
queens, settling for a fairly sedate middlegame. However, it
soon livened up again when White allowed him a sneaky tactic
with 16...Nb4, gaining him the exchange for a pawn, although
White's position, with the two bishops, remained very solid.
The late endgame was quite tactical and Hikaru missed
various chances to make things difficult for Vlad, who
exchanged off a pair of bishops and reached a position where
his rook counted for rather more than Hikaru's knight.
However, Hikaru clung on and created just enough play to
make Vlad think. Vlad was probably still winning when he
reached this position...
Nakamura - Kramnik, Game 2 after 42.d7
Here Vlad played 42...Kf7 and was surprised
by 43.Nc5! Bf8 44.Ba5 Be7 45.Bb6 and Black has no good way
to make progress. Really, he should settle for a draw but he
continued to press for a win, with calamitous consequences.
First, he gave up a piece for the powerful white d-pawn.
Even then he may have had a lost position but he then
blundered catastrophically, after which there was no doubt
Nakamura - Kramnik, Game after 64.Nf3
This could still be a draw after a move such
as 64...Rd6, but Vlad played 64...Re7+?!, which was answered
by 65.Ne5+. This is already extremely unpleasant, and
perhaps objectively lost, but he followed it with the
hideous 65...Kf6, which allows the pin 66.Bd8, winning
immediately and eliminating Black from the tournament.
Vlad's sudden collapse sent shockwaves round the building as
only two results (Kramnik win/draw) had seemed possible only
a couple of minutes before it happened.
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please go to our
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