Reports Dec 13, 2014 | 2:41 PMby IM David Martínez

London Classic 3: An Evans and a shaky Berlin Wall

The stage at London's Olympia Conference Centre during Round 3 | photo: Ray Morris-Hill

In the first few minutes of Round 3 of the 2014 London Chess Classic the public had no doubt about the game of the day. While there were two Berlin Walls on the other boards, Hikaru Nakamura played the bold 4.b4, announcing the Evans Gambit, against Viswanathan Anand. When the initial tension had subsided, however, the position was less than spectacular. We were lucky, therefore, that Vladimir Kramnik decided to play for a win with Black against Michael Adams, though he come perilously close to a loss.   

Hikaru Nakamura½-½Vishy Anand
Mickey Adams½-½Vladimir Kramnik
Fabiano Caruana½-½Anish Giri

A cameo by Peter Svidler was just one of the highlights of the London Chess Classic live commentary:

The game between Nakamura and Anand will be remember not for a great game but a valiant attempt. The American no. 1 delighted the audience by daring to sacrifice a pawn on move 4. Anand, who admitted to reviewing the Evans Gambit recently, replied with one of the strongest lines and gained a comfortable position which, to the chagrin of the spectators, saw no attack for White. After Nakamura gained a slight edge the game ended in a draw without major upheavals.

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗c4 ♗c5 4. b4 The Evans Gambit. It's always a pleasure to see free spirits trying to bring fresh life to the openings. In my case the ability to successfully play gambits in king's pawn openings is one of those dreams like the honesty of politicians and that donuts are healthy that faded away after my youth. Will Nakamura make me believe in politicians? Just in case I'm going to have a couple of donuts for breakfast tomorrow!

Nakamura drank his drink of choice to get ready for 4.b4! | photo: Ray Morris-Hill

4... ♗xb4 5. c3 ♗a5

5... ♗e7 was one of the top official refutations back in the 90s, until Kasparov breathed new life into the line against none other than Anand! In an epic game the Beast from Baku swept the Indian from the board in only 25 moves. 6. d4 ♘a5 7. ♗e2 exd4 8. ♕xd4 ♘f6 9. e5 ♘c6 10. ♕h4 ♘d5 11. ♕g3 g6 12. O-O ♘b6 13. c4 d6 14. ♖d1 ♘d7 15. ♗h6 ♘cxe5 16. ♘xe5 ♘xe5 17. ♘c3 f6 18. c5 ♘f7 19. cxd6 cxd6 20. ♕e3 ♘xh6 21. ♕xh6 ♗f8 22. ♕e3+ ♔f7 23. ♘d5 ♗e6 24. ♘f4 ♕e7 25. ♖e1 1-0 Kasparov,G (2805)-Anand,V (2715) Riga 1995

6. d4 d6

6... exd4 is thought to give too much compensation to White after 7. ♕b3 ♕f6 8. O-O , although it's still far from clear.

7. ♕b3 ♕d7 8. dxe5 ♗b6! 9. a4 A novelty!

9. ♘bd2 is the usual response, aiming to recapture on c4 with the knight after Na5-Nxc4.

9... ♘a5 10. ♕a2 ♘xc4 11. ♕xc4 ♘e7 12. exd6

12. O-O immediately would be met by 12... d5 and the white pawn on e5 is left somewhat weak.

12... cxd6

12... ♕xd6 was also possible, maintaining a solid pawn structure. White can try to seize the initiative with 13. a5 ♗c5 14. ♗a3 ♗xa3 15. ♘xa3 but the precise 15... O-O maintains the balance, since there's no need to fear 16. ♘b5 due to 16... ♕f4 17. ♘xc7? ♗h3! Now that's a counterblow!

13. O-O O-O

13... d5 was again possible, with roughly even play.

14. ♕d3 Trying to make the d6-pawn a problem for Black.

14... ♘g6 Once again Anand had another interesting option, and in this case I think it was preferable.

14... ♘c6 Preventing a5. 15. ♘a3 (15. ♖d1 ♖e8 and the e4-pawn suffers just as much as the d6-pawn.) 15... ♘e5! and the ending after 16. ♘xe5 dxe5 17. ♕xd7 ♗xd7 is even a little better for Black due to his bishop pair.

15. a5 ♗c5 16. ♗e3 ♖e8 17. ♘bd2 ♗xe3 18. ♕xe3 d5 Anand said after the game that he thought this move equalised completely, but later he realised that White maintains a certain initiative and Black still had some problems to resolve.

19. ♖fe1 dxe4 20. ♘xe4 ♕e7 21. ♘d6 Nakamura forces an ending that, although objectively equal, allows him to press since his pieces occupy more active positions. In exchange, though, he's had to weaken his pawn structure a little more by allowing the exchange to take place on e3.

21... ♕xe3 22. fxe3 ♖d8

22... ♖e6 23. ♖ad1 ♘e5 was mentioned as interesting by Anand, alleviating the defence by exchanging off a pair of knights.

23. ♖ed1 ♖b8 24. ♖d4 ♗e6 25. c4 Trying to up the pressure, but Anand finds an easy way to neutralise it.

25... b6 26. axb6

26. a6 would be met by 26... ♘e7 followed by Nc6, defending the weakness on a7.

26... axb6 27. ♖a7 h6 28. h3 White is unable to extract anything more from his advantage due to Anand's solid setup.

28... ♖a8 29. ♖b7 ♖db8 30. ♖c7 ♖a5 31. ♔h2 ♖c5 32. ♖a7 ♔f8 33. g4 ♖a5

33... ♘e7 was mentioned after the game as an attempt to play for a win, but after 34. ♖f4 ♘c8 35. ♘xc8 ♖bxc8 36. ♖b7 the game would still end in a draw.

34. ♖c7 ♖c5 35. ♖a7 ♖a5 36. ♖c7 A game that started off with great intentions, but after a few moves ended up in a quiet position that could have been slightly favourable for Black. It remains tough to play gambits in king's pawn openings, but let's hope Nakamura doesn't give up trying!


Watch the players talking about their game:

Caruana-Giri could be considered a “boring” game, too technical and with the Italian failing to put any real pressure on his opponent, but let's hand over to two guys who definitely knew what was going on:

The same couldn’t be said of Adams-Kramnik. The Russian former World Champion is almost single-handedly responsible for the popularity of the Berlin Wall, and seemed to equalise without any trouble.

However, his somewhat dubious plan of Ra6-a3 followed by a5-a4 led to a difficult rook ending. The game could have been decided on move 40, the final move before the time control. Adams had the following position:

The English no. 1 failed to play 40.f6!, which would essentially have put his opponent in zugzwang. The white rook will activate to attack f7, and there would have been little Kramnik could do about it. Adams instead went for another move he thought was winning, 40.c5?, but said afterwards he’d missed that after 40…bxc5 41.Kxc5 Re4 42.Kd5 Kramnik had the saving 42…Re3!

You know you're a top player when you can observe the nuances of the Berlin Wall with interest, as Giri and Édouard are doing here | photo: Ray Morris-Hill

Vladimir Kramnik may have "won" the press conference, but Adams is providing the tournament’s most exciting games!

So then, as the tournament crosses the midway point we have the following standings:

1.Kramnik, Vladimir2769½½152896
2.Giri, Anish27681½½52908
3.Adams, Michael2745½0142788
4.Anand, Viswanathan2793½½½32791
5.Nakamura, Hikaru27750½½22651
6.Caruana, Fabiano2829½0½22643

The Round 4 pairings are as follows. Will Kramnik or Giri be able to make a move before they meet in Sunday's final round?

Vishy Anand-Anish Giri
Vladimir Kramnik-Fabiano Caruana
Hikaru Nakamura-Mickey Adams

The action starts two hours earlier on Saturday at 14:00 London time (15:00 CET), and you’ll find all the moves and the official broadcast live here at chess24.

You can also watch the games using our free mobile apps:


See also:

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