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GM Rogers on London: Carlsen Wins; Nakamura Mid-Field Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
December 15, 2009
This Magnus Carlsen graphic hangs in the tournament hall, along with those of the other seven competitors
Magnus Carlsen continued his ascent to the chess summit with a narrow win of the London Chess Classic after Vladimir Kramnik's attempt to catch the young Norwegian in the final round was thwarted by Hikaru Nakamura. 

Carlsen's was the last game to finish, in front of an enthusiastic crowd (slightly down on the weekend sell-outs). Carlsen had been trying to wear down veteran Nigel Short (who had earlier lost a 163 mover to Luke McShane in the first round) but almost lost, eventually hanging onto a draw after 71 moves. "I almost had you there," said Short as the players shook hands with only kings left on the board. Carlsen could only agree - he had had to find a series of only moves in a queen ending to survive. 


Carlsen had also confirmed his position at the top of the world; on January 1 he will officially become the youngest ever world number one. Carlsen had not looked convincing after his brilliant first two rounds yet still had a tournament performance rating well above 2800. 

However the crowds were not able to cheer Carlsen's triumph; Carlsen was awarded his winner's trophy at a private dinner for dignitaries and politicians at Simpsons, far away from the fans and the press at the Olympia venue. It was as if the Wimbledon organizers had moved straight to the Wimbledon Ball without bothering to award the trophy to Roger Federer on centre court. 

This was a bizarre and disappointing end to what was otherwise a brilliantly organized tournament by new impresario Malcolm Pein - who intends to trump the current event by hosting the 2012 World Championship match between Topalov and Carlsen. (You read it here first!) 

For Hikaru Nakamura, his first super-tournament turned into an initiation of fire.  

Having survived the first four rounds against most of the top ranked opposition, Nakamura had clearly set himself up for a big finish against the tournament's two lowest rated players, Luke ‘Warm' McShane and David Howell. 

However the one rule of super-tournaments is that even the ‘weak' players in the field are not weak at all and deserve respect. In a pre-tournament interview, Nakamura had admitted that McShane had shown considerable talent before he took time off to pursue a banking career but from his body language during this game, Nakamura was clearly expecting to score his first win against the part-timer. 


Opening: King's Indian Defence 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Nf3 e5 7.0-0 Na6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 Qe8 10.c5 exd4 11.Nd5 Be6!? 
Not a new move, but certainly unusual. Previously it had been thought necessary for Black to try 11...Qxe4 but if the text move is playable then Black's task in this tricky line is much easier than had been thought.  
12.Be7 1.31 
The critical line, though McShane confessed that he couldn't actually remember what he had prepared against it! 12.cxd6 Bxd5 13.exd5 cxd6 does not offer much for White.  
12...Bxd5 1.46 13.Bxf8 Qxf8  
The GMs in the commentary room were advocating 13...Kxf8! 14.exd5 Nxc5 with the idea that 15.Nxd4 can be met by 15...Ne3! 16.Ne6+ Qxe6!. 
14.exd5 dxc5 15.Qb3 Rb8 16.Rfe1  
The first new move; previously 16.Rac1 had been tried, without success. 
16...Qd6 1.18 17.h3 Nf6 18.Bxa6?! 
McShane believed that 18.a3!? was the only way for White to play for advantage, by keeping the a6 knight out of the game. McShane analyzed 18...b5!? 19.Bxb5! c6 20.dxc6 Nc7 21.a4 a6 22.Ne5! axb5 (22...Qf8!) 23.Qxf7+ Kh8 24.axb5 and believed that White would have plenty of compensation for the piece. (In fact he is close to winning.) 
18...Qxa6 19.Rac1 Bf8 20.Ne5 Qb6 21.Qf3 
McShane was more worried about 21.d6!? Qxb3 22.dxc7! Rc8 23.axb3 when 23...Rxc7 can be answered by 24.b4!. If Black could stabilize, prevent the b4 break and take the c7 pawn he would stand well, but this is not easy to achieve. 
21...Qd6 22.g4 0.33 22...Bh6 0.28 23.Rc2 Re8 24.Rce2 Rf8 25.Nc4 Qxd5 26.Qxf6 Bg7 27.Qh4?! 0.28
This attack does not seem to lead anywhere. McShane believed that White's threats would have been more potent after 27.Qf4 Qxc4 28.Re8 "Then I was just going to grab the a2 pawn and hope for the best," McShane admitted.  
27...Qxc4 28.Re8 Qd5 29.Rxf8+ Bxf8 30.Re8 Kg7 05.35 31.g5  
Placing pawns on dark squares could come back to haunt White, but at this stage Nakamura was playing by feel and fast, looking to hustle McShane into a mistake.  
31...Qd6 32.Kf1  
McShane regarded 32.Qe4 b6 33.Qe5+ Qxe5 34.Rxe5 a5 as a probable draw; Black can put his bishop on d6 and hold everything, but making progress seems unlikely. 
32...b5 33.Ke1 c4 34.Qe4 c5 35.h4 c3 
Rather too impetuous, but in time trouble McShane had decided that if White had no threats he would push his pawns at every opportunity. 
36.bxc3 dxc3 37.Qe5+ Qxe5+ 38.Rxe5 a5 39.Kd1 
It is probable that Nakamura was still hoping for a win hereabouts, as 39.Re8 a4 40.Ra8 seems a lot safer. 
39...a4 40.a3!? 1.07 40...b4 41.Kc2 h6 0.28 42.Rd5 1.05 
Despite the time control having been reached, White was still barreling along, but now his drawing chances start fading fast. White should have played 42.Re8 hxg5 43.hxg5 Bd6 44.Ra8 b3+ 45.Kxc3 Be5+ 46.Kd2 c4 47.Rxa4 c3+ 48.Kc1 but Nakamura, in his mind's eye, had forgotten that he was now covering the f4 square and that 48...Bf4+ doesn't now win. In fact Black can try 48...Bd6! when White is almost in zugzwang, but not quite - he can still defend with 49.Kb1. 
42...hxg5 43.hxg5 Kh7!
Suddenly the threat of 44...Bg7 and 45...b3+ becomes potent. 
44.axb4 cxb4 looks dangerous because now 45.Ra5 loses prettily to 45...Bb4+!. However White can still fight with 45.Rb5 a3 46.Kb3 when McShane thought he could probably still win but it would not be easy. Certainly this was Nakamura's last chance to hold the game, but his heart no longer seemed to be in it. 
44...Bg7 45.Rxf7 b3+ 0.14 46.Kb1 0.56 46...Kg8 47.Ra7 Bd4 48.Rxa4 Kf7 
Simple chess - once the Black king enters the game, resistance is futile. 
49.Ra6 Be5 50.Ra4 Ke6 51.Rh4 Kd5 52.a4 c4 53.Rh1 c2+ 54.Kc1 c3 55.Rh4 Bd6 0-1 

"I deserved to lose this game," admitted Nakamura later. "I simply lost to his preparation and he played well. OK, he also misplayed the ending and gave me a chance to draw."  

The next day Nakamura came up against the bottom seed Howell but the hangover from the previous day hung heavily and his winning tries were easily rebuffed. 

On the final day Nakamura had a chance to finish with a flourish, playing with the White pieces against Kramnik.

Nakamura's final round face-off against Vladimir Kramnik, Photo Cathy Rogers

It was a death or glory effort from Nakamura and in the end...a highly eventful draw. 

Opening: Queen's Gambit Declined Ragozin 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 d5 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 0-0 7.Qc2 Re8
GM Vladimir Kramnik (VK): "With my knight on c6, Black's only plan is to try to break with ...e5."
8.Bd2 Bf8 9.a3 e5
10.cxd5 allows 10...Nd4!.
10...Nxe5 11.cxd5 Nxd5 12.0-0-0 Nb6 13.Ne4
GM Hikaru Nakamura (HN): "The most aggressive move."
13...Nxf3 14.gxf3 Qh4 15.Bc3 Bf5 16.Bd3 Bg6 17.f4 Rad8
VK: "Now I was expecting 18.Ng3 Bxd3 19.Rxd3 Rxd3 20.Qxd3 c6 when I would prefer to be Black."
18.f5! Rxd3!?
HN:"Actually, I wasn't sure what to do if he played 18...Bh5."
19.Nf6+! gxf6 20.Qxd3 Qxf2!!
HN: "After 20...Bh5 I was intending 21.Rdg1+ Kh8 22.Rg3 and if 22...Bd6 23.f4 threatens 24.Be1 to trap the queen."
21.fxg6 hxg6 22.Bd4 Nd5 23.Kb1
VK:  "Now White is threatening 24.e4 and if I play 23...Qh4 White can just play 24.Bxa7."
23...c5 24.Rhf1 Qxh2 25.Bxf6
HN: "I didn't like 25.Bxc5 Bxc5 26.Qxd5 Bxe3 27.Qxb7 Bd4!."
25...Nxf6 26.Rxf6 Bg7
VK:  "I had the feeling I should be winning here, but I couldn't find any clear way.
27.Qb5! Bxf6 28.Qxe8+ Kg7 29.Qb5 Qg2
HN: "I wanted to push my g pawn but after 29...b6 30.Rd7 g5 31.Rxa7 g4 White has 32.Ra4!."
30.Rd7 Qe4+ 31.Ka2 Qe6+ 32.Kb1 Qe4+ 33.Ka2 Qe6+ 34.Kb1 Qe4+ Draw
VK: "An interesting and high level game."

Kramnik and Nakamura analyze as GM Ian Rogers, Frederic Friedel of chessbase.com and Nakamura second Kris Littlejohn look on, Photo Cathy Rogers

So Nakamura finished his first super-tournament with six draws and one loss.

"I don't know how to feel," Nakamura admitted. I am confused. I held my own against the top two players, which is a good sign for the tournaments ahead [the World Team Championship and Wijk aan Zee]. I could have scored +1 or 2 but it could also have been -2.

"My loss to McShane was the only blemish on a good tournament. I am not thrilled with the result but also not as disappointed as I might have expected. I played well but for one game and a couple of blunders. In the last two games I decided to avoid any long thinks, which use up too much energy, and I didn't blunder." 

In a clip by Macauley Peterson of the Internet Chess Club, Nakamura talks to GM Ian Rogers and Macauley about his performance overall. On the official website, see a collection of videos by Macauley. 

London Chess Classic
Final Scores

1. Carlsen(Nor) 13/18;
2. Kramnik(Rus) 12;
=3.Adams(Eng), Howell(Eng) 9;
5.McShane(Eng) 7;
=6.Nakamura(USA), Ni Hua(Chn) 6;
8.Short(Eng) 5

The official website includes many photos, videos and games from side events. Also see GM Ian Rogers first report for CLO, "Nakamura's Greatest Test." 

December - Chess Life Online 2009

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