Caruana Narrowly Misses #1 Spot

Round-up Day 1 | 11 December 2018


  • World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana is held to a draw by Hikaru Nakamura in the first semi-final game of the London Chess Classic, the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour, despite coming close to a decisive kingside attack on multiple occasions.

  • The result leaves Caruana still just short of World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s No. 1 spot on the live ratings.

  • Levon Aronian presses Maxime Vachier-Lagrave immediately after a queen swap, but the Frenchman soon reaches a drawn endgame.

  • In the accompanying British Knockout Semi-Finals, Luke McShane forces a perpetual after mounting a strong counter-attack on Mickey Adams’ king.


LONDON (December 11, 2018) – The big question on everyone’s lips at the start of play at the London Chess Classic Semi-Finals was whether Fabiano Caruana could win to overtake Magnus Carlsen – just 3 points ahead of him in the live ratings – to grab the coveted World No. 1 spot that the Norwegian has held for seven years.

DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis plays the first move in Fabiano Caruana’s game with Hikaru Nakamura on Tuesday at the

London Chess Classic.Rajko Vujatovic (left) and David Howell, delighted winners of the 2018 Pro-Biz Cup (photo Lennart Ootes)

Caruana came very close to securing the win, playing aggressively against Hikaru Nakamura’s Queen’s Gambit Declined, and sacrificing the front of two g-pawns to mount a kingside attack against Nakamura’s king. Yet perhaps in an echo of Caruana’s World Championship match last month with Carlsen, the win proved elusive as even computer analysis showed no clear way through, despite giving Caruana a sizeable advantage.

The other game in the Semi-Finals, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave playing a Ruy Lopez against double king-pawn specialist Levon Aronian, was eventually drawn despite the Armenian initially having a clear advantage after a queen exchange.

Both games in the British Knockout Championship, which were played in the same auditorium at Google Deep Mind’s London offices, were also drawn. While David Howell versus Gawain Jones was a fairly sedate affair, Luke McShane’s game with Mickey Adams was an end-to-end running battle, with first Adams and then McShane taking the initiative on the kingside. An exchange sacrifice by McShane led to a forced draw, leaving all still to play for in Game 2 tomorrow.

Both the London Classic and British Knockout follow the same Grand Chess Tour knockout format. After the second Classical game on Wednesday, play switches on Thursday to two rapid and four blitz games. If the players are still level, rapid playoff matches and if required an Armageddon blitz game will decide who goes through to the finals.

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Tim Wall, @London_Chess, press officer, London Chess Classic



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