2016

London Chess Classic – Round 1

The last leg of the Grand Chess Tour, the London Chess Classic, started with fireworks as the key rivals, Wesley So, in first place and Hikaru Nakamura, the closest behind him, were scheduled to face off in round 1.

In a shocking turn of events, Nakamura blundered right out of the opening, gifting his opponent an easy point with the white pieces.

The other major blunder of the round was in the game between Aronian and Adams, where the Englishman allowed a simple queen fork, losing a piece.

Kramnik played a straightforward game taking full advantage of his dangerous passed pawn. The two draws of the round were between the game of Vachier-Lagrave vs Giri and Caruana vs Anand, which were both quite uneventful.

Vachier – Lagrave, Maxime – Giri, Anish ½

The first result of the round was peaceful. The Dutchman surprised his opponent by playing the Najdorf, Vachier-Lagrave’s pet line, against him. They followed the game Caruana vs Vachier-Lagrave from 2015 until move 14, when Giri deviated with a novelty. The Frenchman had the opportunity to get a dangerous passed pawn in exchange for giving up the pair of bishops, but felt it would have been dangerous for him. Instead, the game ended in a threefold repetition.

Nakamura, Hikaru – So, Wesley 0-1

The tour leader, Wesley So, could not have asked for a better start, as his opponent blundered a pawn on move 13, giving him an easy win with the black pieces against the birthday boy. Nakamura (must have) mixed up his preparation, as he quickly found himself in a tough position, where his opponent had the bishop pair and the initiative against his king. So was gracious, as always, during the postgame interview and said he was glad that he didn’t know it was Nakamura’s birthday today. So is now only two points away from crossing 2800, an achievement he considers a milestone.

Kramnik, Vladimir – Topalov, Veselin 1-0

Kramnik was surprised Topalov played this line because he felt that white is simply better. Topalov played a line that is not popular that he felt was playable, but he forgot his preparation and made some inaccurate moves. Kramnik got a strong passed pawn on c7 right out of the opening, which posed countless problems for black. All it took was another inaccuracy by black on move 20 and the game was over 8 moves later without much trouble.

Aronian, Levon – Adams, Michael 1-0

In this game, we saw a surprising finish as Adams blundered a piece in a seemingly even position. Aronian said that he felt he didn’t deserve to win, but he was happy to start the tournament on a high note. Aronian was very empathetic towards his opponent, because he said he finds the first round of the tournament to be challenging and blundering in the first game was a common feeling for him. The Armenian is off to a good start as his closest rival for second place, Hikaru Nakamura, lost with the white pieces.

Caruana, Fabiano – Anand, Viswanathan 1/2

The U.S. Champion got a good position and started putting some pressure on his opponent around time trouble, but he made several slow moves instead of more forcing ones. After Anand’s queen penetrated his position, Caruana felt like he needed to do damage control by quickly trading queens and heading into a draw territory. Caruana felt that the result itself was acceptable but he was still disappointed that he was not able to put enough pressure at the critical point.

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