The annual London Classic is now underway at Olympia. Understandably Magnus Carlsen, after his exertions in New York, is not competing. Nevertheless, the line-up is extremely powerful, consisting of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik, Lev Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov and our own Michael Adams. This week, a game and puzzle from previous encounters between the contestants. I have published this game before, but fresh computer analysis has revealed some exciting new possibilities.
Anand-Vachier-Lagrave: London Classic, London 2015, Sicilian Defence
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e5 7 Nb3 Be7 8 Be3 Be6 9 Nd5 Nbd7 10 Qd3 0-0 11 c4 b5 12 Nd2 This is somewhat unusual and the natural 12 cxb5 is almost always preferred. 12 … Nc5 13 Bxc5 dxc5 14 b3 Bxd5 15 cxd5 Ne8 Black starts the knight off on a manoeuvre round to d6. This is an ideal square for the black knight is it blocks the white d-pawn without its own mobility being restricted. 16 0-0 Nd6 17 a4 Bg5 18 Nf3 Bf4 19 axb5 (see diagram 1) 19 … f5 Black realises that he can get his initiative on the kingside going at once. 20 exf5 fails to 20 … e4. 20 Nd2 Qg5 Vachier-Lagrave gets a little carried away. 20 … axb5 was fine for Black. 21 Rad1 This is somewhat feeble. A much better test of Black’s idea is 21 Nc4 when 21 … fxe4 22 Qh3 Nxb5 23 Nb6 results in a complex position where White is not worse. 21 … axb5 22 exf5 Ra3 23 Ne4 c4 24 Qc2 Anand seems to have completely lost the thread of the position. 24 Qf3 kept White very much in the game. After 24 … Qh6 25 g3 Rxb3 26 Qg2 Black stands well but the position is complicated and White has good practical counterchances. 24 … Qxf5 (see diagram 2) 25 Qb2 Anand doubtless planned 25 Bf3 but then 25…Rxb3 26 Qe2 Rxf3 is crushing. For example : 27 Nxd6 ( not 27 gxf3 Qh3) 27…Qh5 28h3 Rf6! 29 Nxb5 Qxh3! winning. 25 … Rxb3 26 Qxb3 This queen sacrifice is hopeless but White was by now out of good ideas. 26 … cxb3 27 Nxd6 Qg6 28 Nxb5 e4 29 d6 b2 30 Nd4 Qxd6 31 Bc4+ Kh8 32 Ne6 Bxh2+ 33 Kh1 Rxf2 34 Ng5 Bg3 White resigns
The last game of the World Championship match between Carlsen and Karjakin in New York ended in a colourless draw. With the match tied at six points each, the subsequent rapid-play shootout resulted in victory for Carlsen, who defended his title by two wins to zero with two draws.