The London Classic is over with the final scores being as follows: Wesley So 6/9; Fabiano Caruana 5½; Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik and Hikaru Nakamura 5; Anish Giri 4½; Lev Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Michael Adams 4; Veselin Topalov 2.
This result means that Wesley So not only wins the London leg of the Grand Tour, but also takes first prize in the overall contest. The Grand Tour organisers have now announced the full lineup for 2017, with the nine permanent competitors being as follows: Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Vladimir Kramnik, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Sergei Karjakin, Viswanathan Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
I imagine a huge sigh of relief from sponsors and organisers alike must have gone up when it became apparent that Anish Giri, fine player though he is, had not made the final cut for various statistical reasons. Giri drew all his games in last year’s world championship qualifier, and in London he once again drew every game. Sergei Karjakin has sarcastically described him as the ‘world drawing champion’, and it is hard to disagree with this unflattering assessment. If chess is to flourish as a spectator activity, then leading players must understand that taking risks to go for decisive results must take precedence over a strict imperative to avoid losing.
This week, highlights from the London Classic.
Topalov-So: London Classic 2016 (diagram 1)
So has adopted an ambitious strategy where he has advanced the pawns in front of his king. This double-edged plan pays off as his opponent now loses the thread of the game. 17 e5 It is better to keep the position fluid with 17 Nb3 when White is better. 17 … d5 18 Be2 This is a bad mistake as it now becomes much harder to protect the vulnerable f2-square. 18 Bd3 was equal. 18 … Qg5 19 a5 Topalov hopes for play by bringing his rook to a4 but this is way too slow. 19 Nb3, planning Nd4 was essential. 19 … f5 20 exf6 Nxf6 21 Ra4 Rf7 Black’s threats are already overwhelming. 22 Re1 Nh5 23 Bxg4 Nxg3 24 Re8+ Kg7 25 Rxc8 Bxf2+ 26 Kh2 Qe5 27 Kh3 Ne2 White resigns
Caruana-Nakamura: London Classic 2016
Caruana now plays an imaginative queen sacrifice which is very hard to counter in practical play. 19 Qxf6 Bxf6 20 Nd5 Qd8 21 Nf5 Rb8 Losing. 21 … Bxf5 was essential. 22 Nxf6+ Qxf6 23 Rxd6 Be6 24 Rhd1 0–0 25 h5 Qg5+ 26 Be3 Qf6 27 Nxh6+ Kh8 28 Bf5 Qe7 29 b5 Qe8 30 Nxf7+ Rxf7 31 Rxe6 Qxb5 32 Rh6+ Black resigns