Reports Dec 9, 2015 | 11:42 AMby Colin McGourty

London Classic Round 5: Anand hits straight back

Vishy Anand shrugged off the previous day's defeat to outplay Veselin Topalov in textbook style in Round 5 of the 2015 London Chess Classic. That was, yet again, the only decisive game, since Fabiano Caruana failed to find the killer blow after crashing through in Alexander Grischuk’s time trouble. World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian were among the other players to draw, with neither star having notched a win in five attempts.

Vishy Anand heaps more misery on his old rival | photo: Ray Morris-Hill

Today’s rest day may be just what the London players need, since the tournament has so far failed to achieve lift-off – it’s hard to ignore entirely the stat that we’ve seen only four decisive games in five rounds. Russian Grandmaster Sergey Karjakin gave a pep talk:

Spectators are advised to tune into Peter Svidler’s Banter Blitz session at 18:00 CET to restore their chess joy de vivre!

So what of Round 5? Well, the games followed a simple pattern. The longer, the more exciting and likely to end in a decisive result they were. Let’s take them in turn.

1. MVL ½-½ Giri, 31 moves: Strike action

The Berlin Wall, 19 moves of previously seen theory, a new move that draws almost on the spot and grandmasters lamenting their struggle to remember computer analysis – what’s not to like?  Nigel Short gave this game short shrift:

You can watch the post-game press conference, where Anish explained he’s going to spend the next 36 hours straight preparing for his Round 6 game with Magnus Carlsen:

2. Aronian ½-½ Carlsen, 40 moves: Levon’s lemon

“Pretty boring – as the rest of them!” was Levon Aronian’s immediate verdict after this game, though it had all started so well. The schoolboy who made the ceremonial first move shunned the peer pressure to go for something obvious like 1.e4 and instead punted the knight to h3. 

Levon won't be smiling when he sees where the knight ends up! | photo: Ray Morris-Hill

Although Aronian undid the damage he seemed inspired, shortly afterwards launching the same knight towards the black king in the kind of coffeehouse attack we don’t often witness at top level. Alas, only a few moves later the fun was all but over:

Levon takes up the story:

I mean, my position was very exciting, but I should have played 15.f4, of course. 15.Rfe1… first of all, it’s a lemon, because I forgot that he can take on h2. It’s completely ridiculous. Second of all, he can play castles and Bf4, so this is a critical moment after which either you get a boring game... or a game.

It would be the former. After 26 minutes of thought Magnus went for 15…0-0 16.Nf3 Bf4, correctly judging that White’s knight on e5 represents no danger. He felt that after 15…Bxh2+ 16.Qxh2 Qxh2+ 17.Kxh2 hxg5+ “Black is closer to ending up in trouble,” despite the extra pawn. The players competed with themselves to describe what followed as “rubbish”, “crap” and even less reproducible phrases, with Aronian’s decision to force a worse ending raising some eyebrows. It seemed like a recipe for disaster against the World Champion, but the blood-from-a-stone Magnus has been noticeable by his absence in recent months.

Afterwards, the players discussed rest-day plans, with one getting interviewed by CNN and going to the Chelsea-Porto match while the other visits a famous violinist. You can probably guess which is which, but if not, here’s the video, where Carlsen also explains his deep opening plan for his game against Giri:

3. Adams ½-½ Nakamura, 56 moves: Gollum’s precious

This was more like it, with Mickey Adams pleasantly surprising his compatriot in the opening:

Only three moves later the pawn had made it all the way to h6, and it wasn’t quite clear what had taken hold of the usually circumspect English no. 1. Nakamura later “cut the pawn off from its fan base” (GM Jon Speelman) with 18...g5 and then gobbled it up with 20…Bxh6:

Nakamura’s own Lord of the Rings analogies haven’t always fared well, but he liked Nigel Short’s:

Mickey also had a plan, though, putting a rook on the now half-open h-file and then marching his king up the board on the lights squares. It didn’t develop into a legendary king march in the style of Short-Timman, but it was enough to hold the balance – just! Adams couldn’t complain about another draw:

Five draws is ok, and as I never looked like winning any of the games I guess you have to be satisfied with a draw.

You can rewatch his post-game press conference below:

Caruana ½-½ Grischuk, 58 moves: A close shave

“Perhaps we shouldn’t look at my game,” gave a good idea of how proud Alexander Grischuk was of his play. On the black side of an Anti-Berlin he started thinking early, while Fabiano Caruana just blitzed out his first 20 or so moves. The players soon reached a position where it seemed White’s passed e-pawn would merely give a symbolic advantage, but Caruana cranked up the pressure until his opponent lashed out with 34…Qd1?!

The typical Berlin 35.e6+! break allowed the white bishop and queen to start a reign of terror, and when the time control was reached Black looked well and truly busted. Grischuk admitted his thoughts had already turned to the post-game press conference, and the chess could have ended logically on move 46:

46.Qg6! was the solution, when the threat of mate forces 46…Qg3+ and a hopeless endgame. We’re a bit conflicted about this move. On the one hand, our very own Jan Gustafsson spotted it on the live commentary without the use of a computer… so how hard can it be?  On the other hand, it turned out neither super-grandmaster had seen the chance until they were told about it after the game:

Jan: How did you keep a poker face when he could have played 46.Qg6?

Grischuk: I didn’t see it!

Part of the explanation was no doubt the speed of play at this point, since Caruana spent only 17 seconds on 46.Qa8+? That gave away a large part of the advantage, and one or two tricks later it was actually Fabiano who found himself forcing a perpetual check.

Watch Alexander Grischuk after the game:

Anand 1-0 Topalov, 74 moves: Good knight vs. bad bishop

There’s something about Veselin Topalov that brings out the best in Vishy. Anand of course won a World Championship match against Topalov in Sofia in 2010 (he discusses the dramatic final game from around 7:30 onwards in this video from his almost four-hour Tips from a World Champion chess24 series). More recently, he scored a crucial third win in the 2014 Candidates Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk by smoothly outplaying Topalov in a 6.h3 Najdorf Sicilian. Vishy soon established a very good bishop vs. a bad bishop and, despite equal material, he was able to nurse that edge to victory.

In London it was almost a carbon copy of that game, just with a new theme of the day: good knight vs. bad bishop. Topalov acquiesced in his opponent’s plans, failing to go for active measures with moves like 24…a5 and allowing the exchange of the light-squared bishops. The knight on d5 utterly dominated the bishop, but again, material was level and there was a long way to go. In fact, it seemed to go on even longer than strictly necessary, with Grischuk exclaiming:

He’s enjoying it – he just doesn’t want to win!

As in Khanty-Mansiysk, Anand’s technique was a joy to behold:

White's dominance is so great he can give up the g5-pawn to facilitate his breakthrough. It was still far from easy, but some zugzwangs and skilled manoeuvring (you can of course replay the game with computer analysis here) led Topalov to admit defeat on move 74.

Veselin has fallen from grace since winning the first event of the Grand Chess Tour in Norway | photo: John Saunders

That loss was Topalov’s third of the event and leaves him adrift on -3. The only other player to lose a game in London was Anand, but now after his win he’s back up on 50%:

Although Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura and Giri still lead, no less than six players are only half a point behind, while the winner of the tournament has a great chance of winning the Grand Chess Tour (for more details see Chess by the Numbers). In short, there’s still an enormous amount to play for in the remaining four rounds. 

The grudge game Giri-Carlsen may be the one to watch in Round 6, with Giri of course defending his unbeaten plus score against the World Champion:

Tune in to the live show with GMs Jan Gustafsson, Danny King and assorted guests at 16:00 London time (17:00 CET) on Thursday. You can also watch all the games in our free mobile apps:


See also:

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