Olympia Conference Centre, Kensington, London


Super Rapidplay Open ~ Day 1 (Rounds 1-5)


At the halfway stage of the London Super Rapidplay Open, the six overnight leaders on 5/5 are Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Fabiano Caruana (Italy), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Matthew Sadler and David Howell (both of England). Just behind on 4½ are Vishy Anand and Mickey Adams of the elite group, plus Simon Williamsand Nick Pert of England and Eric Hansen of Canada. The final five rounds will be played on Sunday 7 December, starting at 12 noon UK time.


The Super Six - Hikaru Nakamura, Michael Adams, Vishy Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana

and Anish Giri.

Photo © Ray Morris-Hill


Some of the names on the leader board already indicate that this is the open rapidplay to end all open rapidplays. A reminder of the star names turning out...






Classical Rating

Classical Ranking

Rapid Rating

Rapid Ranking


Fabiano Caruana








Viswanathan Anand








Hikaru Nakamura








Vladimir Kramnik








Anish Giri








Michael Adams








Those are the sort of names you don’t see every day in an open competition. But for the immensely strong Qatar International – which only finished on Thursday and featured both Kramnik and Giri – you could justifiably call it unique. But in this high-stakes global Swiss tournament poker game, the London Super Rapidplay Open ‘saw’ Qatar’s Kramnik and Giri, and ‘raised’ them Caruana, Anand, Nakamura and Adams. I think that counts as a bit more than a ‘full house’.


Given that the London Chess Classic is as much about the development of children’s chess as it is about super-GMs, the tournament started with another novelty: pairings of the super-elite players (who will start playing their own closed Classic event on Wednesday) and six under 18 players from the host nation. Of course, nobody expected any shock results, with rating differences of around 1,000 points in some cases; it was just a once-in-a-lifetime chance for promising juniors to sample the atmosphere of big-time chess, rather like the way children accompany adult players onto the pitch to take part in the formalities before the start of a big international soccer match.



Theodore Slade, Hikaru Nakamura, William Golding, Mickey Adams, Rishul Karia, Vishy Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Naomi Wei, Fabiano Caruana, Richard Zhu, Anish Giri, Alexander Jamieson

Photo © John Saunders


Naturally the super-GMs didn’t get where they are today without being able to dispatch sub-2000-rated players and most of the games were pretty effortless on their part. One player, Theo Slade, aged 14, who comes from the same part of the world as England’s number one player, played a steady Adams-like game to reach a minor piece endgame against Hikaru Nakamura with material equality. Not at all a bad effort but the American had the advantage of the two bishops and delivered a master class in how to exploit this positional advantage.


Elsewhere round one pairings were as per normal. There were no major surprises in the first round, except that Danny Gormally was unable to grind out a rook and knight versus rook against an English amateur, Tony Stewart.


With GMs of the strength of Jon Speelman and Jonathan Parker lurking as low down as board 40 and beyond, the second round was also a massive win for the higher rated. The only concessions of significance were Nigel Short’s draw with Johan Salomon of Norway, while Russian GM Alex Cherniaev lost to Astrit Zymberi, an untitled 40-year-old Albanian, rated 2116.



Vishy Anand

Photo © Ray Morris-Hill


Daniel Prill, a young German player rated 2193, seemed to be fine against Vishy Anand going into a rook and pawn endgame but then this happened...




D. Prill - V.Anand


Position after 42...Rb5


Equal, says Houdini, but Black has a little bit of pressure against the pawns on b2 and d5. 43.Rf2 (43.fxg5 fxg5 44.Rf2 Rb3+ 45.Kc4 is OK if you are able to calculate that the white king is safe up the board.) 43...Rb3+ 44.Kc4?? (Oops. White could still be OK after 44.Ke4 with a bit of care.) 44...Kd6 0‑1 (Suddenly the game is over. White can’t prevent 45...b5 mate.)


The disparity in rating continued into round three, with Mark Hebden becoming the second GM casualty to the Viking raiders managed by Simen Agdestein and inspired by Magnus Carlsen (though, as far as I know, these chessboard marauders don’t arrive on British shores in long boats or sport horned helmets as they did a millennium or so ago). The victorious Norwegian in this case was Kristian Stuvik Holm.










There were distinct chances of some major casualties in this round, with Fabiano Caruana and Mickey Adams fleetingly at the mercy of IMs Ali Mortazavi and James Cobb respectively.


J.Cobb - M.Adams   A.Mortazavi - F.Caruana


54.Kxf5? (Throwing away the win, though it’s not easy to see at a rapidplay time control: 54.h5! Nxc3!? (54...b4 55.Ra5+ Kb6 56.cxb4 wins) 55.Rxc3 b4 56.Rc1! b3 57.Ke3!+–) 54...Nxc3 55.Rxc3 b4 56.Rc1 c3 57.Ke4 Kc4 58.Ke3?? (Throwing away the draw. 58.Rg1! saves White. If 58...b3 59.Rxg7 b2 60.Rc7+ Kb5 (60...Kb3 61.Rb7+ Kc4 is a draw) 61.Rb7+ and the black king cannot try to stop the checks by advancing his king with 61...Kc6?? as he loses after 62.Kd3 Kxb7 63.Kc2 and the h-pawn cannot be stopped.) 58...b3 59.Rg1 b2 0‑1  

Under heavy kingside pressure, the world number two goes wrong. 35...Rd4? (35...Qd4 36.Qg5 Rde8 is some sort of defence, though it’s still tricky.) 36.Qe7 e4 37.Rg3 Qf4 38.Rf1?? (White is seeing ghosts. Just the natural 38.fxg6! hxg6 and now the obvious tactic 39.Rxg6+! turns out to be crushing after 39...Kxg6 and now simply 40.Qxf8 when Black has nothing. Maybe White wasted time trying to make the double check 40.Bxe4+ work, against which Black plays 40...Kh5 when Black is winning.) 38...Qd6 (Black now has things back under control.) 39.Qh4 (39.Qxd6 Rxd6 40.fxg6 fxg6 41.Rxf8 Kxf8 42.Bxe4 wins a piece but at the price of too many pawns.) 39...e3 40.Qh5 Qxg3! 41.f6+ Kh8 42.Qh6 Qxg2+! 43.Kxg2 Rg8 44.Kf3 Re4 45.Rd1 Ree8 46.Re1 Re6 47.Rxe3 Rxf6+ 48.Ke2 Bd3+ 0‑1



Round four saw the first half points conceded by the London Classic’s aristocracy. Vishy Anand was held by the appropriately-named Jacek Stopa, an IM from Poland, while Mickey Adams was the one who had to do the stopping, fighting his way to a draw against Jahongir Vakhidov, a 2560-rated GM from Uzbekistan. Further down the board order, Loek Van Wely was beaten by someone rated 222 points below himself. But this hardly rated as a surprise as the player in question was a former Candidates’ semi-finalist who was once ranked fourth in the world, namely Jon Speelman. Jon is what I like to call a ‘super-grandmaster emeritus’. He’s still got it – and is quite prepared to use it, too.



The packed Playing Hall during Round 3 of the Super Rapidplay Open | More images from Day 1

Photo © Ray Morris-Hill


However, the centrepiece of round four was undoubtedly Hikaru Nakamura’s lucky escape from the clutches of English IM James Adair after the American had lost a piece to a schoolboy error in the opening. James seemed to be cruising to victory with his extra piece but he then lost concentration and let slip first the win and then the draw. I suppose this underlines what a lottery rapidplay chess can be. One can only have the deepest sympathy for the young Englishman.



Round five, and the big guns were starting to point menacingly in each others’ directions. This was a remarkable round for the host nation, with players on the top six boards facing (in most cases) world-class opposition. This could be the nearest thing we ever see to an ‘England versus the Rest of the World’ match. With Nakamura, Kramnik, Caruana and Giri forming the nucleus of the ‘world team’, the hosts were never going to get out alive, but wins from Messrs Sadler and Howell against lesser-known names ensured the ‘match’ was only lost by 2-4. Elsewhere, Simon Williams, who himself had conceded a draw to well-known English organiser Adams Raoof in an earlier round, turned giant-killer himself, beating Alex Lenderman, who outrates him by some 200 points.


There was a real buzz around Olympia today, with 400 players taking part in this stellar tournament, many of them young children who had scarcely played a tournament before in their lives. Those of us very long in the tooth can remember when 1,000 players turned out in London-based weekenders, back in the heady days of the Fischer boom, and this came close to that. It shows we are heading in the right direction. Incidentally, even our overworked tournament director Malcolm Pein somehow found time to play three of the five rounds.



Annotated games from this report


Sunday should see a tense denouement to this fascinating competition. Do follow the action on our website, and remember that there will be live chess all the way through next week, with live commentary from Wednesday when the Classic proper starts.


As is standard at the London Classic, spectators will of course be able to enjoy the action on the official website.


For information on the event, please e-mail us at [email protected]



John Saunders | Press Officer


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