London Chess Classic – Round Two

Luke McShane scores another victory, report and photos by John Saunders

England’s Luke McShane is the sole leader of the 2010 London Chess Classic after beating Nigel Short in a complicated tactical struggle. Two points behind him is America’s Hikaru Nakamura who scored a great win against former world champion Vladimir Kramnik.

The Sicilian Dragon is one of the sharpest openings on a chess board and that was the chosen line for Luke McShane against Nigel Short. Unusually so, because Luke is not a regular Dragon player. As always with this opening, it soon became highly tactical and mind-bendingly complicated. At one point it looked as though Nigel was a couple of moves away from a big kingside mating attack but, when he came to calculate variations, he found Luke had counterstrokes against his major ideas.

He tried a g5 thrust instead but soon the queens were exchanged and his weak pawns vulnerable to attack. It was still an exciting spectacle as the two players raced passed pawns down the board, but there could only be one winner as Luke had more pawns. The win takes him into sole lead in the tournament with a maximum six out of six.

Short McShane rd 2

Let’s try to think of presents we wouldn’t want for our birthday. In my case it would be a ticket to a Barry Manilow concert or the memoirs of some tedious politician. Hikaru Nakamura celebrates his 23rd birthday today and his ‘gift’ was a Black pairing with Vladimir Kramnik. And his gift from Vlad? A Catalan Opening. Not unexpected, but I’m guessing that Hikaru’s thought when he saw the ex-world champion prod his pawn to g3 was not so much “Ooh, a Catalan – just what I always wanted!” than “what have I done to deserve this?” Vlad’s Catalan is so good that he ‘lent’ it to Vishy Anand to help him defeat Veselin Topalov in their world championship match earlier this year (now that really was a gift you’d want to have).

But that is not the story of the game. Vlad soon transposed into a Nimzo-Indian and seemed to getting a spatial advantage. But on move 12 he unexpectedly gave up piece for some play. But how much play? Not very much, as it turned out, so maybe this was Vlad’s real gift to his youthful opponent. There were a few tactics as the players reached the time trouble and Nakamura’s king had to flee up the board. But it all held together somehow and Hikaru had the perfect birthday gift after all a win with Black against Kramnik. Add that to his rugged draw against Vishy Anand in the first round and he has made a remarkable start to the tournament.

London Nakamura Kramnik rd 2

Magnus Carlsen bounced back from his first round defeat with a win against England number one Mickey Adams. It was deep, positional game, emerging from an English opening. For much of the game it seemed that Mickey stood pretty well but, short of time, he embroiled his pieces in a kingside attack that didn’t achieve much, whilst the Norwegian pieces took advantage on the opposite side of the board and won material. Faced with an enemy pawn about to queen, Mickey resigned.

London Carlsen Adams rd 2

World champion Vishy Anand is getting good positions in London but can’t quite seem to put his opponents away. At one point, near the time control, it looked as though David Howell might succumb to a concerted attack by Vishy’s queen and rook. David had to surrender a pawn but gained just enough play to hold off the world champion and eventually regained the pawn. It was a splendid rearguard effort by the young Englishman and a psychological boost after his unhappy first round. A second draw is bad news for the world champion, however, as it only garners him a total of two points compared to three other competitors who have won one and lost one but score three points for their win.

London Howell Anand rd 2

Scores after round 2: Luke McShane 6/6, Hikaru Nakamura 4, Adams, Carlsen, Kramnik 3, Anand 2, Howell 1, Short 0. (Note, games are scored 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a loss)

Note that we revert to the normal time of 2pm GMT from Round 3 tomorrow.

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