News release

Wednesday 9th December 2009


After two games played, Magnus Carlsen is already three points clear of the field, on the 3-1-0 scoring system employed here. After the ‘Pearl Spring’ (the tournament in China where Carlsen scored a runaway success) comes the ‘London Winter’. Which means rain, of course, but so far no water has fallen on Magnus Carlsen’s parade.

Let’s look at the games in the order in which they finished. All the games were hard-fought and provided good entertainment to another large and appreciative audience. The first players to take their places in the Commentary Room were Nigel Short and David Howell after drawing a 44-move game which started with Petroff’s Defence. This opening, named after Alexander Dmitreyvich Petroff (1794-1867), the best Russian player of his day, is popular with super-grandmasters hoping for a solid draw with Black but very unpopular with chess spectators who always fear they are going to see a lifeless grandmaster draw. Not so in this tournament, of course, as we are adhering to the so-called Sofia Rules. Do you need these rules explained again? Yes, so do I and so do the players, it seems. Nigel Short told us at the press conference that, at some point during the game, David Howell offered him a draw. Nigel wasn’t quite sure whether this was strictly legal and, after the game finished asked the arbiter what the procedure was. Arbiter Albert Vasse advised him that it was legal to offer a draw but not legal to accept without consulting the arbiter who (with expert advice) would pronounce it sufficiently dead for a draw to be agreed. It is useful to have that explained in clear English as I’m sure we are all a bit vague about the rights and wrongs of it. One other comment from Nigel drew a big laugh from the audience at the beginning of the commentary session: he said it was the first time in his career that he had been completely exhausted after only one game of a tournament (a wry reference to his 163-move marathon of the previous day, of course).

Whatever the motivating factor or Nigel Short’s generally positive approach to the game, this was quite a spicy encounter where White might have won had he found a few key moves at the right time (that is more or less Short’s comment, paraphrased). It featured a sufficiently imbalanced pawn structure and piece configuration to give computer engines a few problems in making a convincing assessment – often a good sign of interesting chess. Nigel had a strong positional advantage at one point but it seemed to fizzle out around moves 30-34. Offered an engine-generated alternative in the commentary room (I think it was 29 f4!?), Nigel dismissed it: “Oh, that’s just a computer move – that’s not the way I play chess.” A very interesting game, though, and perhaps one that shows the Petroff has a little more bite than we think.

Next to finish was Kramnik-Ni Hua. This was a heavyweight super-GM encounter, in a fashionable line with an intimidating Slavonic name – the Chebanenko Slav. A big name for a little move (4…a4 after the well-known moves 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e3) but quite a feisty variation for those who enjoy hand-to-hand fighting.

Vladimir Kramnik – Ni Hua
Chebanenko Slav D15

1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e3 a6 5 Nf3 b5 6 b3 Bg4 7 h3 Bxf3 8 Qxf3 e5!?

Play gets lively very quickly in this variation.

9 dxe5 Bb4 10 Bd2 Bxc3 11 Bxc3 Ne4 12 Bb4 bxc4 13 Qg4 c5 14 f3

Of course, I could give you a hundred variations from Fritz but let’s take a deep breath and trust that the grandmasters have correctly figured out the tactics around here.

14…cxb4 15 fxe4

Pause for breath. I think we should call this something pleasantly Anglo-Saxon like the ‘Pawn Brawl Variation’ rather than using its current name in order to attract the attention of street-fighting chessplayers. We are coming to the end of a bruising fist fight between the little guys in the centre of the board. It actually looks quite an entertaining line for club players to have a go at but you would need to read up on the nuances of it before rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in. Nice to see Vladimir Kramnik ready to rumble in this way. Incidentally, he turned up with visible designer stubble today after his defeat of the day before. It recalls to mind the old story (probably apocryphal) that Anatoly Karpov didn’t wash his hair until after a defeat. I’m wondering if Vlad has decided he isn’t going to shave until he next tastes blood.

15…0–0 16 exd5 cxb3

I don’t know about the reader but I couldn’t have lived one more move seeing those two big pawns in the centre and would have played the reflex 16…Qxd5 ; however, 17 Bxc4 Qxe5 18 0–0!? Qxe3+ 19 Kh1 and White gets good compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

17 Qd4 Nd7 18 axb3 Qg5

Black’s plan is based on a long sequence of moves which both of them had worked out but which has a sting in the tail in favour of White.

19 Qf4 Qxe5 20 Qxe5 Nxe5 21 Bxa6 Rfc8 22 Kd2 Rc3 23 Rhb1 f5 24 Ra4 Rc5

I suspect Ni Hua had seen it all to here but now White has a key move to maintain his material edge.

25 e4! fxe4

25…Rd8 would allow White consolidate with 26 Rxb4 fxe4 27 Bc4 and reach a comfortably winning ending.

26 Ke3 Rc2

Black would like to play 26…Rxd5 but then 27 Bb7! Rd3+ 28 Kxe4 Re8 29 Ra8! would ensure White’s ultimate victory.; 26…Rc3+ 27 Kxe4 Re8 28 Kd4 also retains an extra pawn.

27 Bd3!

A neat way to simplify the position.

27…Rxa4 28 Bxc2 Ra2 29 Bxe4

That more or less concludes the major business of the game. Kramnik thought he was winning comfortably here but admitted his finish may not have been the most efficient.

29…Kf7 30 Rc1 Kf6 31 Rc2 Ra1

Exchanging the rooks with 31…Rxc2 32 Bxc2 wouldn’t offer much hope. One general principle that even super-GMs tend to adhere to is that you should try to keep at least one rook on the board if you are trying to defend an endgame a pawn down. Minor piece endgames tend to be easier for the player with the advantage to convert (except for opposite bishop endings, of course).

32 Kd4 Rd1+ 33 Kc5 h5 34 Rf2+ Ke7 35 Re2 Nd7+ 36 Kc6 Rc1+ 37 Bc2+ Kd8 38 Kd6 Nf6 39 Ke6 h4 40 d6 Rf1 41 Re5 Rf2

41…Ne8 is more stubborn.

42 Bf5 g6 43 Bxg6 Nd7 44 Rg5 Rf6+ 45 Kd5 Nb6+ 46 Kc6 Nc8

White is not too bothered about the fate of the d-pawn because he knows Black’s other two pawns are ripe for the plucking.

47 Kc5 Nxd6 48 Bd3 1–0

Black has no convincing continuation, e.g. 48…Nf7 49 Rh5 Rf4 50 Bc4 and the knight doesn’t have a good square: 50…Ke8 51 Bxf7+ Kxf7, etc.

Michael Adams’ game against Hikaru Nakamura was a French Tarrasch, where the pawns stay closely locked across the board, allowing the sort of slow manoeuvring that the English grandmaster prefers. By move 20 Hikaru Nakamura was completely on the defensive. However, his position remained pretty solid. Michael eventually simplified down to a rook and pawn endgame with an extra pawn but his king was left awkwardly posted and he couldn’t convert.

The game of the day prize of 1,000 euros went, for the second day running, to the tournament favourite, Magnus Carlsen. Personally I preferred Kramnik’s win but the people have voted. It’s certainly a very entertaining game.

Magnus Carlsen – Luke McShane
King’s Indian Defence E94

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 Nf3 0–0 6 Be2 e5 7 0–0 Na6

A slightly off-beat way of playing the King’s Indian Defence, but not bad.

8 Re1 Qe8 9 Bf1

Many players would have chosen 9 Be3 but, as in his previous game, Magnus quite likes putting his bishops back on their original squares in a manoeuvring game.

9…c6 10 Rb1

As a 12-year-old, Magnus played 10 d5 in the 2002 Gausdal tournament and won a long game.

10…Bg4 11 d5 c5

The typical closed structure of a King’s Indian Defence game. White’s game will hinge around a pawn advance on the queenside, while Black will look to mobilise on the kingside whilst keeping a careful on White’s queenside play.

12 Be2 Kh8 13 a3 Bd7 14 b4 b6 15 Bg5 Ng8 16 Nb5 f6 17 Bh4 Qe7

This opening can be very hard on dark-squared bishops. For example, 17…g5 would force the h4 bishop back to g3 where it is hemmed in. The snag is that it does much the same thing to Black’s own bishop. If you were to suggest such a move to a top player, they would probably tell you it was “artificial”. By that, they mean that it doesn’t fit in with the general strategy of the opening.

18 Nd2 Nh6 19 Nf1 Rfc8 20 Ne3 Nc7 21 bxc5 Nxb5 22 cxb5 Rxc5 23 f3 Rac8 24 Bd3 Qf8 25 Bf2 f5

One of the signature moves for Black in a number of King’s Indian Defence variations. Sometimes it presages an exchange on e4, followed by pressure on e4 or occupation of f4 by a minor piece, but rather more often it is followed by f5-f4 and then an advance of the g and h pawns to start a full-scale kingside attack.

26 a4 R5c7 27 h3 Bf6 28 Qd2 Bg5 29 a5 fxe4

Here, 29…f4?! would only serve to undermine Black’s kingside counterplay. Magnus had already taken the precaution of playing h2-h3 to restrain a possible advance on that side of the board.

30 fxe4 Nf7 31 axb6 axb6 32 Qe2 Rb7

Bearing in mind that White’s knight is about to come to c4 with pressure on b6, one’s mind turns momentarily to 32…Bxe3 but after 33 Bxe3 Rb7 34 Rf1 the dark squares will be a nightmare for Black. A case of the cure being more lethal than the disease.

33 Nc4 Qd8 34 Rf1 Kg7 35 Kh1 Be8 36 Qb2 Nh6 37 Bxb6!

Luke McShane said he had missed this but there is probably not much he could have done.


37…Rxb6 38 Qf2 threatens mate with Qf8 and also the rook on b6, so White would emerge with a healthy material advantage.

38 Qf2 Rcb8 39 Rb3 Ng8 40 Be2 Nf6 41 Bf3

I’ve been racking my brains to think of something intelligent to say about Carlsen’s manoeuvre Bd3-e2-f3, where it seems worse placed than it had been on d3, but I have to give up. Perhaps White was concerned about the black knight entering the fray via h5 and this stops it happening.


Black is no longer willing to sit and suffer, but decides to mix things a little.

42 Nxb6 Qc7 43 h4 Bh6 44 Na4 Rxb5 45 Be2

White could also have tried the move order 45 Rxb5 Bxb5 46 Be2 but then perhaps 46…Bf4!? complicates the game a little: 47 Bxb5 Nxe4 48 Qe1 Ng3+ 49 Kg1 Qa7+ 50 Rf2 when, despite being a rook for pawn up, White has a few problems.

45…Rxb3 46 Qxf6+ Kg8

Has White’s attack suddenly run out of steam?

47 Nc5!

No! This remarkable move maintains White’s momentum.


Black cannot take with 47…dxc5 because of 48 d6 Qg7 49 Bc4+, etc.

48 Ne6 Qf7 49 Qxf7+ Bxf7 50 Rb1

Material is level but now White has a very big positional advantage. His rook is so much better than his opponents.


50…Bxe6 51 dxe6 Bf8 52 Rb8 Kg7 53 Rb7+ Kf6 54 Rf7+ wins a piece.

51 Bf3 Kf7 52 Rb7+ Kf6 53 Rxh7 Bf4 54 Nxf4!?

White is going to win a piece, albeit for pawns. 54 Rc7 Be3 55 Nf8 threatens mate in one but Black can struggle on with 55…Bf7, etc.

54…exf4 55 e5+! dxe5

55…Kxe5 56 Re7+ is an easy win.

56 d6 e4

56…g5 57 hxg5+ Rxg5 58 d7 Bxd7 59 Rxd7 is a technical win. Black has no hope of reaching a rook and bishop versus rook endgame because White’s g2 pawn will stay on the board.

57 Bxe4 Re3 58 Bd5

The only move to win, but that is all you need.


58…Rd3 59 d7! wins a piece with no further ado.

59 Kh2 Re5 60 Bf3 Kf6

After 60…Ke6 61 d7! again wins.

61 d7 1–0

That leaves Magnus Carlsen in the lead on 6/6. Second equal are Luke McShane and Vladimir Kramnik on 3, David Howell, Hikaru Nakamura and Michael Adams on 2 and Nigel Short on 1. More fun tomorrow!

For more information and to buy tickets to The London Chess Classic, please go to

For further information please call:
John Saunders
Chess Press Chief, London Chess Classic
Press Room: 020 7598 6598
Mobile: 07777 664111
E :

Posted by Picasa
Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
Tags: ,