London Chess Classic – Round 3

Round 3 of the London Chess Classic was relatively peaceful, as there was only one decisive result.

After losing on his birthday in round 1, Hikaru Nakamura decided to return the favor by defeating Vishy Anand on his special day. After several bizarre decisions, the former world champion found himself in a lost position.

The most dramatic game of the round was between the tournament leader, Wesley So, and the Armenian, Levon Aronian. Right out of the opening, the American found himself in an unpleasant position but his persistent defense let him escape with a draw and remain in the 2800 club.

Vachier-Lagrave was also lucky to escape, as Topalov failed to find one of the many lines that would have given him a close to decisive advantage.

Caruana vs Kramnik and Adams vs Giri were relatively quiet affairs, where the extra pawn in the rook endgame was just not enough to win.

Aronian, Levon vs So, Wesley ½

So chose a rare line in the English Opening where white lost his privilege of castling and had some weaknesses in exchange for activity and being ahead in development. In this type of position, it is very important for the side with the initiative to keep the pressure on; otherwise, they might find themselves in a strategically bad position. Aronian posed many difficulties for his opponent; at some point, Wesley even spent over 40 minutes on a recapture. Aronian felt that he could have won with logical moves and chose not to go for complications, which would have given him better winning chances. The American defended tenaciously and escaped with a draw.

Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime – Topalov, Veselin ½

Both players felt that white misplayed the position after the opening. Topalov outplayed his opponent very nicely by first winning a pawn and then building an attack on the kingside. Black had many strong continuations, but made the incomprehensible decision of trading queens in a position where he still had attacking chances. In the postgame interview, Topalov admitted that his focus was not quite there which made calculation difficult. Vachier-Lagrave was also not happy about his game as he came prepared to fight for a win with the white pieces but was forced to defend most of the game.

Nakamura, Hikaru vs Anand, Viswanathan 1-0

Perhaps it is the curse of playing on one’s birthday, but this game had quite a few strange moments. First, Anand missed that he could have captured a free pawn after Nakamura moved his queen, which was tactically defending that pawn. Several moves later, Nakamura made a capture with the wrong knight, which would have given him the advantage. The most bizarre moment was when Anand exchanged rooks instead of playing a more natural retreating move, inviting Nakamura’s knight towards his king’s compromised position. Anand was forced to give up the queen for a bishop and a rook, but there were no hopes of a fortress and the American went on to win effortlessly with flawless technique. Nakamura explained that after they both realized that Anand missed winning the pawn, they were both distracted and it became hard to focus on the remainder of the game.

Caruana,Fabiano vs Kramnik, Vladimir ½

White chose the Italian, a classical opening that has once again regained popularity at the top level recently. Caruana overestimated the position, as he felt that he was outplaying his opponent with natural moves. At just the right moment, Kramnik liquidated to a rook endgame which was drawn, even though Caruana managed to win a pawn. Due to his exposed king, he was the one who had to force the draw. He felt that sometimes it’s better to have an out of control position rather than try to squeeze out a win in a slightly better position where his opponent has great chances to draw.

Adams, Michael vs Giri, Anish ½

Giri chose the Sicilian defense, but his opponent, perhaps trying to recover from two losses, decided not to enter any theoretical battles and opted out for a quiet line. Again, at just the right moment, Giri implemented the correct pawn break in the center, temporarily sacrificing a pawn and equalizing the position. In the endgame, the Englishman entered some unnecessary complications by trading the minor pieces and entering a pawn down rook endgame. Giri looked for winning chances for some time, but due to white’s active pieces and his own weaknesses, the position did not have much to offer.

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