All 15 games have now been drawn at this year’s London Chess Classic, with the absent Anish Giri taking the chance to tweet, “Lol @london_chess”, while Fabiano Caruana hit back, “We're thinking of renaming it to the Anish Giri Cup”. Carlsen-Anand was extremely tense, but was still one of three games on Monday that ended on move 31, while only Aronian-Karjakin saw both players truly living on the edge. They couldn’t break the curse, though, as Levon Aronian offered a draw in a position he’d suddenly ruined and an out-of-time Sergey Karjakin took him up on the offer!
You can replay all the draws from the 2017 London Chess Classic using the selector below – click on a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see who he’s drawn with so far:
Relive the Round 3 show, including all the player interviews:
Round 3 of the London Chess Classic wasn’t without its moments, but one of the highlights came when the chess was over and all the games in all three rounds so far had ended in draws. Anish Giri, often unfairly maligned for his tendency to draw games, couldn’t resist, though Fabiano Caruana struck back:
It went on!
That was referring to the opening debacle from the Dutch Rapid Championship last weekend, but Anish got the last word in:
Sergey Karjakin joined the party:
Sergey responded, “Your soul is with us!”, though speaking of "the party":
Maybe this was the party they all meant...
Let’s take the games in reverse order of interest:
Hikaru Nakamura summed up this game:
That’s just modern chess, really. You play something and you hope your opponent doesn’t find the simplest or the best lines.
Wesley So was somewhat surprised when Nakamura went for a Maroczy bind type structure in the English Opening, though he half-remembered a game Nakamura had played in the same line against Boris Gelfand in 2014. The key position came after 14.Bxc4:
Black can simply play this slightly worse position against his opponent's bishop pair, but Wesley explained:
I’d prefer to play an opposite-coloured bishop a pawn down rather than face White’s initiative.
He therefore gave up a pawn with 14…Qc7!? 15.Bxf6 Qxc4 16.Bxe5, and although White’s extra pawn is completely healthy Nakamura summed up, “for all practical purposes there are no winning chances”.
This game took a similar path, though it was Maxime with Black who sprung the early surprise with the novelty 6…Qa5 in a 3.Bb5 Sicilian. That got Mickey thinking early on, but he also found a sacrificial path to a draw:
White can continue, for instance, 24.Rh4 h6 25.b3, and material remains level, but Mickey decided to do something more forcing: “Better to go for a position I know is a draw!” He played 24.Ree1 and after 24…Qxb2 25.Qxc5 Rc8 26.Qa3 Qxa3 27.Rxa3 Rxc4 28.Rxa6 Rxc2 the queenside was eliminated and Black had 4 pawns vs. 3 in a 4-rook ending. Mickey got to demonstrate how it’s drawn with an elegant conclusion:
58.Rg2+! fxg2 Stalemate
A murky game it’s hard to say much about, and one that didn’t appeal greatly to the players either. Nepomniachtchi summed up, “Clearly it’s not the most entertaining game of the year”. He failed in his attempt to surprise his opponent in the opening:
Nepo explained that when you prepare some unusual line and your opponent hasn’t looked at it recently, “You are the boss, you are the king”, but that it’s a lottery for that to happen. Instead he was left having to exchange off pieces to avoid ending up worse.
Fabiano, meanwhile, put the epidemic of draws down to some players being a little more cautious at the end of the year before the Candidates Tournament, while only Magnus and Maxime have much to play for in terms of the Grand Chess Tour.
The backstory to this game meant it mattered to both players, with Anand commenting:
This was our first game where I was Black after Sochi. I thought it was good to do an important job today.
Magnus had been Black for 7 games in a row since the 2014 World Championship match!
Needless to say Carlsen had also scored very well with White in their World Championship matches, but this time things didn’t go his way. He played the Catalan and gave up a pawn on move 4, but then couldn’t pinpoint where he went wrong:
Usually White has ample compensation in this line with long-term play on the queenside against the black bishop on c8, but somehow he’s getting out and I couldn’t see a good way to prevent it, and then I just had to beg for a draw.
Matthew Sadler felt that Magnus might have overlooked 17…Nf8, a move the World Champion seemed to greet with a grimace, but he said afterwards he'd seen it but “didn’t see what else to do”:
18.Bxe5 runs into 18…Bf5!, and Magnus decided to go for 18.a4, allowing Black’s bishop out of its cage with 18…Bg4 19.Bxb7 fails tactically to 19…Rac8! 20.Bxc8 Rc8 and the pin on the c-file is decisive, so Magnus decided to give up the problem piece with 19.Bxb6.
The question fans were asking was “could Magnus lose?”, but instead the game soon fizzled out to a draw. Vishy allowed his central pawns to be swapped off for Carlsen’s queenside pawns, and his doubled pawns on the b-file gave no prospects of victory. Nevertheless, it was a result that both players could be satisfied with.
This was the game all the other players pointed to as the last hope when quizzed about the number of draws in the event, and you could understand why. Levon repeated his Catalan with Na3 that gave him a thumping win over Anish Giri in Wijk aan Zee at the start of the year:
In that game Giri took on a3 and Aronian got to sac an exchange early on, but this time Sergey Karjakin played more circumspectly… up to a point! He then got into the same spirit as Levon, playing a Stonewall setup with f5, accepting a pawn sacrifice and going for 21…f4!
Play continued 22.gxf4 gxf4 23.Bxf4 Nxd4 24.Rxd4 Nxe5 25.Rd1 Qg6 26.Bg3 h5! and things were getting wild:
Black is threatening to play h4 next move and the potential mate on g2 means the bishop on g3 can’t move, but Levon responded with the cold-blooded 27.Nb6! Fabiano had commented earlier that if White got in this move the whole game would turn around. Aronian must have felt the same, but afterwards lamented:
I really underestimated the fact that after 27.Nb6 Rb8 I wouldn’t have a good move.
After 8 minutes’ thought he continued 28.Rcd2 Nf7 and after another 9 minutes 29.Qc5!?, though he realised at this point that objectively his best option would probably have been to exchange queens with 29.Qc1. Karjakin could finally have played 29…h4, but instead went for 29…e5, when he was hit by Aronian’s devilish plan of 30.Qc4!
Karjakin called this a “huge surprise” (he was expecting the natural 30.Qxa5). The f7-knight is pinned and if Black is careless with e.g. 30…h4?? things end very badly for him: 31.Rd8+! Bxd8 32.Rxd8+ Kh7 33.Qxh4+ Nh6 34.Nxc8 and Black is busted. Karjakin didn’t put a foot wrong, though, and play continued 30…Kh8! 31.h4?! (Aronian noted he should have taken on c8) 31…Bf5 32.Nd7 Rbg8 33.Kh1? (33.Nxf6! was necessary)
And this was the final move of the game, since Levon had strategically accompanied it with a draw offer. While waiting for a response Aronian spotted that the move had the minor drawback that after 33…Be7! Black is winning – the bishop is no longer getting exchanged, Bb4 is threatened and, after e4, Black can still implement his main threat in the position of taking on h4.
Sergey’s clock continued to count down, though, and when he
was under 30 seconds he finally accepted the draw offer. He explained
afterwards that he hadn’t seen the move:
It had sense to play only if you see the right idea. If you don’t see it, then it’s very complicated.
Levon had had a lucky escape, but afterwards said the draw offer gave him an “advantage which is not in the spirit of the game”, something he felt shouldn’t be an option “in the modern age”.
On the other hand, if the players had continued they might have spoiled the perfect string of results! So what’s next? Well, the run surely has to end at some point, and games such as Nakamura-Nepomniachtchi and So-Adams in Round 4 have a good chance of producing a decisive result, while MVL-Carlsen is potentially a battle for the Grand Chess Tour 1st prize of $100,000. What do we want?
Though world records are also nice!