Magnus Carlsen winner of the London Chess Classic

Report and photos by John Saunders

Magnus Carlsen clinched first place and the 50,000 euros first prize in the 2010 London Chess Classic at Olympia on Wednesday with a consummate positional win against England’s Nigel Short. Theirs was the second game to finish but the tie-break ensured that Magnus would take first regardless of other results. Vishy Anand and Vlad Kramnik drew their game and the two results should also see Magnus Carlsen Carlsen reclaim his place at the top of the official rating list in January 2011.

The first game to finish was the pairing of the current world champion Vishy Anand and his great predecessor Vlad Kramnik. Vlad’s own great predecessor Garry Kasparov was present in the building to see how his successors fared. Garry witnessed a Berlin Defence, which was his own nemesis in London in 2000. Vishy too was unable to overcome it. Vlad played 10…h5 in a position where he had previously played 10…Be7 or 10…b6. Vishy carried a token edge into the middlegame but it came down to an opposite-coloured bishop endgame where his extra pawn was of no consequence.

London Rd 7 Anand Kramnik

Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik

Nigel Short faced leader Magnus Carlsen with the black pieces and his plan seemed to be to play the French defence and swap off some material to try and stop the rampant Norwegian in his tracks. Unfortunately, exchanges did not relieve the pressure as Magnus restrained Nigel’s queenside development and occupied strong points. Magnus gave up the two bishops to round up Nigel’s a-pawn and it soon subsided into a straightforward technical win as Nigel’s various tricks were defused. In the VIP room Garry Kasparov correctly predicted Magnus’s plan of 27 Rb5 and 28 a5 and then said “this is a technical win – let’s look at another game!”

London Rd 7 Carlsen Short

Magnus Carlsen – Nigel Short

David Howell and Luke McShane are the heirs apparent of English chess and they played a full-blooded Sicilian Dragon – one of the wildest openings in the canon. Game followed theory until Luke’s 17…Be6 (17…e5 has been played before). David seemed to have much the best of it of the early part of the game and it appeared his attack was crashing through when he played 33 Rxd5. But next move he hesitated and demurred to play 34 Rxh7+ Kg8 and White has the improbable 35 Rf7!! and all the tactics seem to work. Luke then missed his defence and David once more had the chance to win had he played 38 Rxh7+ and 39 Rhe7 which surely wins. Instead the game was drawn by repetition. A watching Garry Kasparov made a wicked observation: “Is Howell a member of Amnesty International?” So the game was drawn and Luke McShane had improbably remained unbeaten in the tournament.

London Rd 7 Nakamura Adams

Hikaru Nakamura vs Michael Adams

The game between Hikaru Nakamura and Mickey Adams went right down to the kings – a most appropriate end to a fighting tournament. Mickey played his favourite Marshall Attack and Hikaru exited the ‘book’ when he played 17 a4. It is very possible that Hikaru could have improved on move 21 when he allowed a discovered attack on his queen. The queens came off and Mickey retained some compensation for his sacrificed pawn in the shape of the two bishops and pressure against Hikaru’s hanging pawns. Eventually he managed to equalise material and draw the game.

Final Scores: 1st Magnus Carlsen 13/21; 2-3rd Vishy Anand, Luke McShane 11; 4th Hikaru Nakamura 10; 5th Vladimir Kramnik 10; 6th Mickey Adams 8; 7th David Howell 4; 8th Nigel Short 2. (Note, games are scored 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a loss)