Recap Article

2016 London Chess Classic Recap Day 2

Not only did the second round of the London Chess Classic deliver exciting chess, but also a change in the world rankings. After his second win in a row, American Wesley So reached a milestone by crossing the highly coveted 2800 rating in the live rating list! He is the 12th player in history of chess to do so. With his win over Veselin Topalov, Fabiano Caruana is now only 14 rating points behind Magnus Carlsen on the live rating list. If the U.S. Champion can repeat his phenomenal performance in the 2014 Sinquefield Cup where he went 7-0, he will become the highest rated player in the world!

The competition is really heating up as there have already been several decisive results every round. Five-time world champion Vishy Anand is only half a point behind the leader, after defeating Vachier-Lagrave in a theoretical battle. Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian joined Anand for the second-place tie after their peaceful result. Anish Giri is the only player with two draws, after he wasn’t able to pose any serious problems for Hikaru Nakamura.

Kramnik, Vladimir – Aronian, Levon ½

What started as a quiet affair, became very sharp when the players had opposite colored bishops in the middlegame, which are known to give the side with advantage attacking possibilities. In this game, both kings were exposed, requiring both players to play precisely to avoid a catastrophe. Aronian took the opportunity to liquidate by forcing an exchange of queens and a draw was then quickly agreed.

Anand, Viswanthan – Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 1-0

This was an extremely dynamic theoretical battle where Anand challenged the Frenchman’s Najdorf with his deep preparation. Finding himself out of book early on, Vachier-Lagrave chose not to sacrifice an exchange for a pawn and centralization, instead choosing to sacrifice a pawn for quick development and a double-edged position. Unfortunately for him, this allowed white to maintain his extra pawn and the advantage. Anand made some inaccuracies, eventually sacrificing an exchange for two pawns in the endgame. The final mistake came toward the very end, when Vachier-Lagrave didn’t eliminate his opponent’s bishop pair and blundered a bishop sacrifice that allowed a queening of a pawn.

So, Wesley – Adams, Michael 1-0

The tournament leader played the open Catalan where his opponent utilized Aronian’s unusual idea of a rook lift early in the opening. So managed to get the bishop pair in an open position, but his opponent was able to neutralize white’s advantage for most of the game. Around time trouble, when it seemed as if Adams had achieved equality, he mistakenly refused the exchange of queens and quickly found himself in a much worse position. Feeling the pressure both on the clock and on the board, he once again blundered a piece, giving the American the sole lead of the tournament.

Giri, Anish – Nakamura, Hikaru ½

This was a very quiet affair with little development and very bad time management on both sides. After 7 theoretical moves, Nakamura spent over 40 minutes and played a very uncommon move. Giri decided to join his opponent and spent around 30 minutes on one move. After the queens came off, white had a slight advantage but Nakamura was able to find good defensive resources stabilizing the position and drawing easily.

Topalov, Veselin – Caruana, Fabiano 0-1

Caruana played the French Defense, a very uncommon opening at the top level, which resulted in a closed and complicated position that required a lot of maneuvering. Both sides made some unusual decisions in their piece placement. Caruana had great counter play in the center, but erred at one point, allowing his opponent get a dangerous passed pawn on g7. Additionally, he also found himself in deep time trouble and had to depend both on his opponent’s mistakes and on his ability to find only moves to survive. Topalov must have relied too much on his opponent’s time situation instead of his advantage, which allowed Caruana to finish the game off with a brilliant tactic, which seemed to have come out of nowhere. Even after the win, the U.S. Champion did not feel as though he is playing well in the tournament and is hoping to improve.


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