games start on the 8th of December
The strongest chess tournament in the UK for twenty-five years, the London Chess Classic gets underway at Olympia on 8 December 2009. The opening press conference is being held on Monday 7 December 2009 at 13:30 hrs at Olympia where some of the greatest stars of world chess will be lining up to meet the press and also draw lots for pairings.
At their head is former world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik, who has very fond memories of chess in London. It was here in 2000 that he won his title in a sensational match with Garry Kasparov, widely considered the world’s best ever player. Before the match, pundits gave Kramnik little chance but he beat the reigning champion without losing a single game and became the only human ever to beat Kasparov in a match. Kramnik arrives in London on the back of a great victory at the Mikhail Tal Memorial tournament in Moscow, where he showed the sort of form that took him to the title in 2000. At 34, Kramnik is in his chess prime.
Magnus Carlsen, who celebrated his 19th birthday only five days ago, also has a Kasparov connection. The great Russian recognise a talent that matched his own as a teenager and became the young Norwegian’s coach early in 2009. This dream pairing bore fruit in September when Carlsen dominated the ‘Pearl Spring’ tournament in China, finishing way ahead of world rated number one Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria. Carlsen finished second to Kramnik in Moscow but there was twofold consolation: he did well enough to displace Topalov from the top of the world rating list, and then won the World Blitz Championship ahead of a stellar field.
Making up the ‘awesome foursome’ from overseas are Ni Hua and Hikaru Nakamura. Between them, these two young grandmasters have won five national championships of their respective super-power countries. Ni Hua, 26, is the only player ever to have won three Chinese national championships. UK chess fans are already very familiar with him as he was part of the superb Chinese national squad which travelled to Liverpool in 2007 and beat the United Kingdom team. Hikaru Nakamura, who will turn 22 during the Lodnon Classic, has already won two US Championships. Hikaru is a specialist in fast chess – the faster the game, the more points Hikaru scores! Just two weeks before the tournament, he played a short ‘rapidplay’ match with world number one Magnus Carlsen – and won. You can bet Magnus will be thirsting for revenge in London.
The best chess talent in the world will be up against England’s four leading grandmasters. Nigel Short is a household name. He put British chess on the map in 1992/93 when he defeated the legendary ex-world champion Anatoly Karpov in a match, and then the Dutch grandmaster Jan Timman, to qualify for a world title match with Garry Kasparov, held at London’s Savoy Hotel. At 44, he is almost a veteran by chess standards but he has struck a rich vein of form in recent months to regain his position as England’s number one. Also in the field is his displaced rival, Michael Adams, 38, who is probably the most consistently successful British player of all time in terms of rankings and ratings. He reached number four in the world chess rankings in the early 2000s and stayed at that level for a number of years. Amongst his victims in world knock-out championships in the 1990s was soon-to-be world champion Vladimir Kramnik. Luke McShane, 25, is the third highest rated English grandmaster. His prodigious natural talent for the game has enabled him to maintain an astonishingly high standard of play whilst studying for an Oxford degree and now holding down a high-flying job in the City. He is one of the best non-professional chessplayers in the world. David Howell, who turned 19 two weeks before Magnus Carlsen, broke Michael Adams’ age record for becoming a grandmaster when he did so aged 16. He is the reigning British Chess Champion – in fact, double British Champion as he holds the title jointly at rapidplay chess too. David is passionate about his chess and highly ambitious – there is no telling what heights he may reach. He will relish the opportunity to cross swords with young rivals such as Carlsen and Nakamura.