The key feature of the London Classic, which finished shortly before Christmas, was the resurgence of Viswanathan Anand, the former world champion. One might have expected him to be demoralised after his second drubbing at the hands of Magnus Carlsen, but he played steadily and his single victory, without loss, sufficed to share first prize and win the trophy on tie-break. The tie-break method centred on rewarding victory with the black pieces. The wins by Giri and Kramnik were both with White, while Anand defeated Adams with Black. The final scores (on the 3-1-0 system) were: Anand, Kramnik and Giri 7; Nakamura 6; Adams and Caruana 4.
Also notable was the continuing poor form of Fabiano Caruana, whom I eulogised in last week’s column. It seems to me that Caruana is tiring himself by competing in too many tournaments and that he should take a rest from international competitions before making his push for the world title.
Kramnik-Nakamura: London Classic 2014
(see diagram 1)
Kramnik’s win was a spectacular demolition of Nakamura’s favourite King’s Indian Defence. 20 Rhf1 Rxf1 21 Rxf1 Bxh3 22 Rg1 Qf6 23 Rxg3 Nxg6 24 Rxg6 Qf7 25 Rg3 Bf5 26 e4 Bg6 27 Bg4 Qf1+ 28 Nd1 Be5 29 Bh3 Qf6 30 Rg1 Kh7 31 Bf5 Kramnik methodically strips the black king of its defenders. 31 … Bxf5 32 exf5 Nd7 33 Rg6 Qf7 34 Rxh6+ Kg8 35 Rg6+ Kf8 36 Nf2 b5 37 Ng4 bxc4 38 Qxc4 Qxf5 39 Rg8+ Ke7 40 Bg5+ Bf6 41 Qe2+ Black resigns
Giri-Adams: London Classic 2014 (see diagram 2)
The next extract from the London Classic shows filigree technique from Anish Giri who finesses an extra pawn and nurses it into an eventual full point. 24 Nxa5 Bf5 25 Nc6 Bxb1 26 Nxb8 Bxa2 27 Nd7 Re8 28 Nxb6 Rxe2 29 c4 Kf8 30 Rxd5 Bb1 31 Rd8+ Ke7 32 Rd1 Bc2 33 Nc8+ Kf6 34 Rd6+ Kg5 35 Kf1 Re8 36 Rd5+ Kf6 37 Nd6 The complications have resulted in an endgame where White has a solid extra pawn but Black has drawing chances. 37 … Ra8 38 Ke2 Ra1 Now Black’s kingside is too exposed. Better is 38 … Ke7. 39 Ne8+ Kg6 40 Rd6+ f6 41 Rd7 Kh6 42 Nxg7 Ra2 43 Ke3 Ra5 44 Re7 Rc5 45 Kd4 Re5 46 Rxe5 fxe5+ 47 Kc3 Black resigns
The game which clinched the trophy for Anand was not one of the greats. Adams had been nursing a tiny advantage as White in the newly popular Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez. At the critical moment, the English no. 1 was over-optimistic and permitted Anand to demonstrate in dour fashion the continuing validity of the old Steinitzian dictum that the king is a strong piece, especially in the endgame. This example of chessboard attrition will form the topic of a detailed future column.