The London Chess Classic 2011, the strongest tournament in the history of British chess, runs from 3-12 December 2011. The 2800 club makes yet another meeting right after the Tal Memorial and Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, and Kramnik will face each other in a round robin tournament together with Nakamura, Adams, Short, McShane, and Howell.
The tournament will be complemented by a chess festival with tournaments for all levels and free chess coaching for schools. There will be training courses for chess teachers and for those who would like to become chess teachers, both organised by the charity Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC). Since the last London Chess Classic, CSC has expanded and works in 70 schools in 13 towns and cities in England and Wales. See www.chessinschools.co.uk.
Viktor Korchnoi has agreed to come back again as guest of honour and will give two simultaneous displays.
The London Chess Classic now comes under the Chess in Schools and Communities umbrella and there will be five days of free school activities. Each day, schools can bring children to learn from top coaches and play in a tournament or a simultaneous display. There will also be a chess arbiter’s training course, and on the rest day, Wednesday 7 December, a chess cultural day with film screenings, lectures and more simultaneous displays.
Timetable, course details and tickets are available here: www.londonchessclassic.com
London Classic 2011, the line-up
Magnus Carlsen of Norway remains the hottest property in world chess. In 2009 he used the London Classic as his launch pad to become the youngest player ever to reach the top of the world rating list and he has stayed there on most subsequent lists. And in 2010, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he did it again, despite losing a couple of games. ‘Veni, vidi, vici’: “I came, I saw, I conquered”… but even Julius Caesar only conquered Britain once! So Magnus is back to try and lift the London Classic trophy for a third time. If he does it, we’re going to promote him from Magnus (“great” in Latin) to Maximus (“the greatest”)…
Viswanathan Anand became the undisputed world chess champion in 2007 and has since defended the title twice in matches with Vladimir Kramnik in 2008 and Veselin Topalov in 2010. In an age when more and more players are playing professional chess, with infinitely more sophisticated training resources and information available to them, his achievement in defending the top spot from all comers is as impressive as any of the successes of his championship predecessors. Vishy has maintained his form in 2011 and his fans will be eagerly watching his play in London as he will be required to defend his title against Israeli GM Boris Gelfand in 2012 and needs some top-quality opposition to hone his play.
Levon Aronian of Armenia will be 29 by the time of the third London Chess Classic in December 2011 and, with his inclusion in the ‘magnificent nine’, London will be able to claim the last jewel in the crown of elite chess. Along with world number one Magnus Carlsen and world champion Vishy Anand, Levon is the only player in the world who currently sports a 2800+ world rating, so he is currently ‘the third man’ occupying the peak of chess Olympus. He has a current world title, having won the last World Blitz Championship, and he has won several other world titles in the past, including the 2002 World Junior Championship (ahead of Luke McShane) and the 2009 World Rapidplay Championship. Just to complete the picture of his chess virtuosity, he is a former world champion of Chess960, a variant of the game where the pieces on the back rank are placed randomly and the players are thus unable to rely on their memory of opening theory and thrown onto their own strategic resources.
Vladimir Kramnik was world champion from 2000 to 2007. His greatest claim to fame was being the only organic (as opposed to digital!) chessplayer ever to defeat the world’s best ever player Garry Kasparov in matchplay. In 2011 he won the Dortmund Sparkassen tournament for a record tenth(!) time and in great style. There is something of a rivalry between Kramnik and Carlsen in major events, much as there was between the young Kramnik and Kasparov. So far the young Norwegian has finished ahead of the Russian ex-world champion both times in London but he will do well to deny ‘Big Vlad’ forever. The former world champion shows sign of sharpening his style somewhat recently so we could see fireworks in 2011.
Hikaru Nakamura, two-times US champion, is nicknamed ‘H Bomb’ for his explosive and uncompromising style of play and widely recognised as one of the world’s greatest players, particularly at blitz chess. He had a great start to 2011, winning the Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee tournament with 9/13 ahead of the four top-rated players in the world, Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik – all of whom he will meet again at the 2011 London Classic, of course. Writing of Hikaru’s stellar achievement at Wijk aan Zee 2011, Garry Kasparov was full of praise: he reminded us that Bobby Fischer had never won a tournament ahead of a reigning world champion and that we would have to look back to Harry Pillsbury’s 1895 Hastings victory for an equivalent tournament success by an American. Later in the year Hikaru defeated former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov in a six-game match held in Saint Louis, Missouri (where Hikaru now lives).
Michael Adams, known as Mickey, has a strong claim to being Britain’s best ever chessplayer based on his consistently high rating over many years. He broke all significant national age records to become a grandmaster and win the British Championship at the age of 17 in 1989. He is currently Britain’s top-rated player and for a while a few years ago was ranked number four in the world behind Kasparov, Anand and Kramnik. He is the reigning British Champion, having edged Nigel Short in a tie-break in August.
Nigel Short will always be remembered as one of the most famous chess prodigies, as well as the first non-Russian since Bobby Fischer to break the Russian monopoly contesting world championship matches back in the 1990s. At 46 he is now one of the oldest players amongst the world’s top 100 rated players but his appetite for the game shows no sign of diminishing. He is in pretty good form, too. He started 2011 with a phenomenal 8½/10 score at a Gibraltar Masters tournament that was littered with top-class grandmasters and he has since come within a couple of tie-breaks of winning both the Commonwealth and British championship titles.
Luke McShane, 27, had a brilliant career as a chess prodigy before going up to Oxford and starting an equally career as a financial professional. The London Chess Classic provided him with a way back into chess and he grasped the opportunity with both hands with a wonderful 2010 performance, defeating Carlsen and finishing second equal with world champion Vishy Anand. This re-established Luke in the world top 100 and he carried his good form into the Tata (formerly Corus) Wijk aan Zee ‘B’ tournament in January 2011, winning the tournament on tie-break from David Navara and qualifying for the 2012 ‘A’ group. He has since returned to full-time financial work but he has already earned the respect of his peers as one of the best (if not the best) amateur chessplayers in the world.
David Howell, the 2009 British Champion, is also a very gifted and determined player who is widely tipped to advance into the world’s elite very soon. The London Classic has provided him with an excellent opportunity to cross swords with some legends of the game, and he brought off his best-ever tournament success at the 2009 tournament, finishing third behind Carlsen and Kramnik. David is currently studying a course in Folklore, Mythology and Medieval Renaissance Literature at Cardiff University.
If all this talk of chess rivalries is only making you thirst for some chess action yourself… you can play chess at the London Chess Classic, under the same roof as the super-stars! There are all sorts of events and prizes for all chess standards and tastes, from the humblest beginner, and tournaments which last days at a time, or over the weekend – or for just part of a day (e.g. evening blitz events lasting no longer than 2½ hours). Entry forms are available for download now from the tournament website at www.londonchessclassic.com.
Apart from the elite Classic tournament, there is a nine-round world-rated open which attracts professional grandmasters from around the world, chasing the £2,500 first prize. One of the legendary figures of the game, Viktor Korchnoi, will be playing simultaneous displays, where amateur players can experience what it is like to face the player who contested world championship matches with Anatoly Karpov in the 1970s and 1980s.
2010 London Classic (n.b. win = 3pts, draw = 1pt)
Final Placings: 1 Magnus Carlsen (NOR) 13/21, 2-3 Viswanathan Anand (IND), Luke McShane (ENG) 11, 4 Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 10, 5 Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) 10, 6 Michael Adams (ENG) 8, 7 David Howell (ENG) 4, 8 Nigel Short (ENG) 2.
2009 London Classic (n.b. win = 3pts, draw = 1pt)
Final Placings: 1 Magnus Carlsen (NOR) 13/21, 2 Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) 12, 3 David Howell (ENG) 9, 4 Michael Adams (ENG) 9, 5 Luke McShane (ENG) 7, 6 Ni Hua (CHN) 6, 7 Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 6, 8 Nigel Short (ENG) 5.
For more information and to buy tickets to The London Chess Classic, please go to www.londonchessclassic.com Tickets are on sale NOW from the website or from the London Chess Centre, 44 Baker Street, W1U 7RT (tel. 020 7486 8222).
The tournament will be complemented by a chess festival with tournaments for all levels and free chess coaching for schools.