2016

London Chess Classic – Round 8

In a fascinating turn of events, the winner of the 2016 Grand Chess Tour has been crowned, while it is still unclear who will win the London Chess Classic!

Going into the last leg of the tour, Nakamura needed to win clear first in London in order to catch Wesley So. After both players drew their respective games, it is now mathematically impossible for Nakamura to catch his compatriot.

Wesley So has officially clinched the 2016 Grand Chess Tour with one round to spare. He is still only half a point ahead of Caruana which means that the winner of the London Chess Classic will be decided in the last round.

Since this year’s tour offers three qualifying spots for next year, the players are not taking as many chances in the last rounds, not wanting to risk their qualification.

It was yet another peaceful day in London, where the only decisive result came from Anand vs Topalov, as the Bulgarian simply cannot stop the bleeding and has become the target of the tournament. The rest of the games ended in a draw.

Nakamura, Hikaru vs Aronian, Levon ½

Both players were in a must win situation, as Nakamura needed the point to catch the tournament leader and Aronian needed to finish in top three to qualify for the 2017 Grand Chess Tour. Ironically, the game was first to finish after only an hour of play in a very uneventful manner when all the pieces were exchanged, not leaving enough material on the board to play for a win.  Each player was expecting the other to play more aggressively and take risks to win and chose to play very solidly. Nakamura no longer has any chances to win the Grand Chess Tour, as he remains a full point behind Wesley So and cannot get clear first in London.

Caruana, Fabiano vs So, Wesley ½

All eyes were on this all-American match as the win with the white pieces would give Caruana the lead in the tournament. So played the opening excellently, neutralizing his opponent’s pieces and liquidating the game into an endgame. Caruana felt that he had a slight advantage in the endgame but missed So’s precise continuation to reach complete equality. The resulting opposite color bishop endgame was completely drawn and the peaceful result was agreed upon before they reached the first time control.

Topalov, Veselin – Anand, Viswanathan 0-1

Once again, Anand showed off his world class preparation when he played yet another novelty, surprising his opponent and complicating the position. For the already out of form Topalov, this was certainly an unpleasant situation to be in and he soon found himself in a much worse position. Anand missed a winning shot, allowing his opponent to come back into the game. Unfortunately, it is clear that nothing can go right for Topalov in this event, and as he put it himself, his brain is not working. Yet again, he blundered in a difficult position, losing his 6th game in the event.

Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime vs Adams, Michael ½

Just like Topalov, Vachier-Lagrave can’t find his form in this tournament, even if his results don’t reflect it. Out of the opening, White found himself in an unpleasant position and once again had to be on the defensive side. The Frenchman sacrificed a pawn in order to trade down into an endgame. The three pawns against two pawns rook endgame offers practical chances, but at such a high level, these endgames end in a draw, and this one was no exception.

Kramnik, Vladimir vs Giri, Anish ½

Historically, Kramnik has been a difficult opponent for the young Dutchman, with six wins and no losses; hence, a draw was a respectable result with the black pieces. However, Giri has made it clear that he wants to rid himself of his reputation of drawing all his games by playing sharper openings and taking more risks in his games. In an equal position, he sacrificed a piece for three pawns, trying to create an imbalance in the game. Even so, the position did not have enough to offer, especially against an extremely solid player such as Kramnik, who kept his cool and kept the position level until a draw was agreed.

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