Fabiano Caruana broke the draw streak in London and has now started a new streak of his own after beating Vishy Anand to claim a second win in a row. That puts him a full point clear of the field, since none of the other players has managed a single win so far. MVL’s attack suddenly ran out of steam against Levon Aronian, while Magnus Carlsen was frustrated by Wesley So in the longest game of the day. The players now have a rest day to rediscover their taste for blood!
You can replay all the 2017 London Chess Classic games using the selector below. Click on a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his results so far:
Rewatch the live commentary from Thursday’s show, including interviews with all the players:
23 of the 25 games at the 2017 London Chess Classic have ended in draws. When Wesley was asked what you need to do to actually win he explained:
Probably you’ve got to take some risk, got to play uncompromising openings and got to create positions where both players have chances.
That was the recipe Fabiano Caruana followed against Vishy Anand, where he flung his g and h-pawns up the board in an Anti-Berlin that wasn't entirely convincing:
This position after 24…gxh6 was a turning point for him, however:
I felt like I would lose at some point, but when I saw 25.Bc1 I suddenly started to get a bit more optimistic about my chances. I realised my position is bad, but at least I had a plan and that was really all I needed for some confidence in the position. When I saw this b3, c4 the position is double-edged and I have some chances.
At around the same time Vishy’s confidence was slipping and he later told Maurice Ashley:
I completely lost the plot, because from move 29 or so every move is a blunder, or if not actually a blunder then from intent.
It seems the 5-time World Champion could have bailed out by exchanging queens at some point, with his last chance coming after 33.Bb2:
Vishy went for the awkward 33…Bg6?, allowing 34.Rd5!, and when he then failed to maintain a defence of the e5-pawn White crashed through: 34…Qb5 35.Rg1 c6? 36.Rxe5 Rxe5 37.Bxe5+ Kg8 38.Bd4 Kf7 39.Nh4 Black resigns
Fabiano felt Vishy should have played on with 39…Bh5, when some calculation is at least necessary, but Caruana would no doubt have been up to the task, and cutting short his suffering has been one of Anand’s common methods in recent years. As he explained in an interview, losing doesn’t get any easier:
I believe a loss will almost always, because of the shock effect, force you to question everything you’d kind of assumed for a while, and it makes you uncomfortable in a very good way. So losses are good, but they by no means get easier with experience. In fact, if anything, I’m much worse with losing now than before. Nowadays people say, “you seem like a very well-behaved loser”, but inside I’m dying! I’m just waiting to get into the room and hit my head against the wall or something.
Given the draws all around him, meanwhile, Fabiano’s two-game winning streak looks almost as impressive as his magnificent seven in the 2014 Sinquefield Cup!
The other games went the way of all but two games at this year’s London Chess Classic, but perhaps only one was entirely without incident. After his loss the day before Sergey Karjakin was happy to get a very easy 30-move draw with Black against Ian Nepomniachtchi.
On the face of it you might assume that two Russian friends had decided to give each other an extra rest day, but in fact they don’t seem to be great friends… The media coverage given to Sergey in Russia, largely orchestrated by his manager and Russian Chess Federation PR officer Kirill Zangalis, has irritated some of the other players, and the following Twitter exchange took place just after the Russian men had missed out on winning the European Team Championship by the finest of margins:
Karjakin: Congratulations to the Russian women’s team on a brilliant victory! The men fought to the end but fell just short. Congratulations to Azerbaijan on a deserved victory!
Nepomniachtchi: Can you teach me how to feel yourself a winner when you miss out on the Championship title?
K: The moment you miss out on it, I’ll teach you.
N: And do you support Russia in general?
K: In general I skipped dinner and put off all my business thinking that with a 3:1 score you would win and I was rooting for you. But ok, what am I doing explaining this…
N: You skipped dinner? Strange. I watched the news and there wasn’t a word about it.
K: Well firstly, keep your jealousy quiet, and secondly, rooting for someone hysterical is a thankless task, that I’ve already understood.
N: Forgive me, Sergey! You’re cool.
Hatchets were buried after that, and the players recently watched Arsenal-Man Utd together in London:
Anyway, that digression was in place of discussion of the game, where Ian’s preparation went out the window when Sergey surprised him with 5…exd5 in a 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian. On the last 10 occasions he’d played 5…Qxd5. Nepo therefore decided to avoid a theoretical discussion and set about instead exchanging pieces for a draw.
Adams-Nakamura saw another Sicilian Dragon from Nakamura, who explained, “it’s a good opening, why not play it?” It didn't have the element of surprise this time, but at some point Hikaru still had hopes of being better before the game fizzled out into a draw. The US star consoled himself, “I guess I’m tied for second!”
Aronian-MVL was drawn in just 25 moves, but was a very different game. Maxime ended up getting all the dynamic play a Grünfeld player dreams of after playing 14…f5!?
Levon was suddenly shaken out of his opening preparation and reacted badly with 15.Bc5!? (15.b3!) 15...Rf7 16.Be2 f4! and White’s position was threatening to collapse. Aronian summed up:
I’m a bit upset. I came to play for a win and then I had to beg for a draw, basically. That of course is not the game plan which I had in mind.
He did get the draw, though, since Maxime couldn’t find a clear-cut path to victory. There were some on offer, but as both players noted, it would have been computer chess. For instance: 18…Qh4! 19.Bd4 Ne3! 20.Bxe3 Bh3!!
The final game of the day saw Magnus Carlsen threatening to get back to his old ways of grinding out long victories. An innocuous Anti-Berlin developed into an intriguing pawn structure battle against Wesley So:
This was where Magnus started a sequence of 7 consecutive pawn moves! 23.b3 Bb5 24.a4 Ba6 25.b4 b6 26.c4 Bb7 27.a5 f6 28.d4 Qh7 29.c5
Magnus later commented:
First of all I think it was pretty equal until he allowed this 29.c5 and then I got a huge initiative… basically right before the time control I thought I was close to winning, but after the time control I realised it wasn’t so at all.
The final act came after 61.Kf4:
Suddenly Wesley had a chance to force a draw, and after checking for 6 minutes he took it with 61…f2!. 62.Bxf2 Bxg4 would have been an instant draw, but 62.Re5+ did nothing to alter the outcome after 62…Kf7 63.Rf5+ Kg8 64.Bxf2 Bf1! 65.Kg3 Ra3+ and all the pieces were exchanged off.
Wesley So commented afterwards, “I’d like to thank the Lord for letting me save this game even though I played quite badly”, though it seemed like Wesley did a pretty good defensive job all by himself after getting a difficult position. Magnus, meanwhile, said “it wasn’t great, but it was a step-up from the two previous games”. In terms of the Grand Chess Tour standings he has nothing to complain about so far, since he remains level with his only real rival, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who ideally needs to win the event:
Maxime’s best chance to win the event will be if he can beat Caruana with White after the rest day, while Carlsen has Black against Nakamura in one of those match-ups that we all watch with added interest.
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