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London Chess Classic: Mate in 196 Print E-mail
By Daniel Parmet   
December 19, 2012
This year's London Chess Classic was a historic event, marking Magnus Carlsen's shattering of Garry Kasparov's all-time rating high. I was a proud member of the staff for the 2nd time this year. The London Chess Classic is funded by the Chess in the Schools, a charity that brings chess to over 200 British Schools and offers free instruction during the event.

GM Nigel Short can be seen here playing 8-year-old Joshua Altman – the last man standing in a free simul provided to school children on the rest day.


However, what most of the world tunes in for is the main event.

I found one  gentleman shooting photos of the empty chairs the players were soon going to be occupying.

The catch is of course that GM Hikaru Nakamura was sitting in front of him to his right, World Champion Vishy Anand is sitting directly in front of him… and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik is directly to his left!

Speaking of reigning US Chess Champ Hikaru Nakamura, followers of the event know he finished joint 3rd with Mickey Adams on 13/24 (football scoring) or +2 by normal scoring (5/8). However, there are many stories that perhaps even the audience listening through streaming might have missed.

Here a child, representing a school that the charity supports, can be seen making the opening move for Hikaru Nakamura of 1. f4. An opening move that would be retracted just like many of the other ceremony opening moves (IM Michael Basman played 1. h3 for Magnus Carlsen).

The most exciting story comes from the VIP commentary room, accessible only to VIPs and staff that are on physical site. After the player that has the BYE completes their streaming commentary for the whole world, they proceed to the VIP room to continue at their leisure giving a bit more commentary with a variety of different GMs. On this particular day, GM Magnus Carlsen was the BYE commentator and the game that took his attention, and indeed nearly every GM in the VIP room’s attention was: World Champion Vishy Anand – GM Hikaru Nakamura.


Their game was an extremely complex and rich game that could easily be played over multiple times without fully grasping the richness. While listening to Carlsen commentate, it became clear to me exactly how tough a game chess really is. Over 30 GMs were present in the room. Many GMs were expressing their preference for Anand’s position while Carlsen stood firm with thinking it was dynamically equal but he’d rather have Hikaru’s position. It was amazing to see such discourse and variations flying throughout the room without any engine advice being given or requested. All that would soon change though, after Carlsen left and the endgame position came to the board:


after 45...b4

Everyone had heard the engines say the win was gone after Anand played 46.h5 and that he should have played 46.Rxb4 Kxg6 47.h5++–.

Now the present GMs wanted to hear what the engines had to say…. and soon the engine spit out mate in 196! I was quick on the buzzard to request a screenshot of the engine output or no one would later believe this pronouncement.


Back to the game after 46.h5?

46...b3 47.Kf5 Bd6 48.Rb4
Anand 48.Rb6 Bc7 49.Rc6 Ba5–+
48...a5 49.Rb6 a4 50.Rxd6 b2 51.Rb6

51.Rd1 a3 52.Rh1 Kh6 53.g4 Nakamura: this beautiful 53...Ne4!! (Anand, "and not: 53...Ne6?? 54.Kxe6 a2 55.Kf6 and he can't stop mate.") 54.Kxe4 a2–+
51...a3 52.Kg5 Ne4+
Anand, "I wanted to play Kf5 here, but I put it on f4 and released my hand and then saw what I had done. So I hesitated on whether I could do a Garry." ( referencing Kasparov - Polgar Linares 1994 )
53.Kf5 a2 54.Rxb2 Nd6+ 55.Kg5 a1Q 56.h6+ Kf8 57.g7+
53...a2 54.Rb7+
Nakamura & Anand: 54.Rxb2 a1Q 55.Rb7+ Kf6 (55...Kf8 56.Rf7+=) 56.Rf7+ Ke6 57.Kxe4 Qe5+ 58.Kf3 Qxh5+ 59.Kf2 Qxg6 60.Rf3=
54...Kf8 55.Rxb2 a1Q 56.Rb8+ Ke7

After the laughter subsided, and the final endgame arose, GM Julian Hodgson pronounced that this would be a “draw” as no human would be able to calculate the win the computer was seeing. Nigel Short then regaled the audience with stories about how hard Queen Endings were and how when Nalimov tablebases were first developed that the most errors were discovered in such endings.
However, once the engine showed the win: 57… Qa4+ 58. Ke5 Qc6 (or Qa6) it split the masters in the room down the middle… half claimed “no human could ever see this line” and the other half claimed that once the idea had been shown it was actually quite “rational”….
White cannot hold on to his rook after 58..Qc6!

But with little time left, Nakamura missed this continuation and the game did eventual end in a draw. However, our story does not end there!

 “You [the audience] might be able to tell them one or two things that only the computer saw and the rest of us could only imagine.” – IM Malcolm Pein said as he introduced Anand and Nakamura to talk about their game. 

Anand, “And here, Hikaru rather carelessly threw away a win in 198 moves so…”

Someone had told Vishy the story from the VIP room already!

Hikaru said "I only looked at Qd7 here and then there is still a lot of play after Rb1 58...Qd7 59.Rb1) 59.Kf5 (59.Rb1 Qc5+ 60.Kf4 Qd4+ 61.Kg5 Qe3+) 59...Qd5+ 60.Kg4 Qxg2+"

The game ended in a draw after

58.Kf3 Qc3+ 59.Kg4 Qd4+ 60.Kh3 Qd3+ 61.Kh4 Qe4+ 62.g4 Qe1+ 63.Kh3 Qe3+ 64.Kh4 Qe1+ 65.Kh3 Qe3+ ½–½

I strongly recommend to all viewers to head over to londonchessclassic.com and watch the full video… because you are in for a surprise conclusion to this story. 

Even when the main event was over… the players never lost their passion for playing chess. Nakamura promptly engaged all comings in blitz starting with GM Nigel Short:
The festival itself was a major blast! It included a variety of different events from book signings, nightly blitz, and numerous other creative events for the children such as the spectacle of watching two GMs play 3 0 blitz on a big chess board.

Here is my video of GM Stephen Gordon playing against GM David Howell while IM Malcolm Pein commentates.

It was easy too to forget there were also multiple tournament schedules going on as well right along aside the main event. I was shocked to run into with fellow Chicagoan Robert Mercer. I also met and was able to enjoy the company of IM John Bartholomew who came all the way from MN to play in the FIDE Open (he finished on a great 6.5/9). John traveled to the FIDE open with two other USA players the Schneider brothers. FM Igor Schneider finished on 5/9 and his brother IM Dmitry Schneider finished on 6/9.

Full standings can be seen here.

Here is a picture of the staff that made this wonderful event possible (not pictured are fearless leaders IM Malcolm Pein and Operations Director Tao Bhokanandh):
I encourage Americans to check out this event. Or in the words of my friend Matt Day from Seattle, whom I met on this trip, all chess players should “have a ‘chess trip of a lifetime.’ It brings to life everything that makes chess such an obsession, and shows that the elite players are just as obsessed as you and me.” My hope is that my article gives a bit of a feel of what it felt like to be there at this historic event. This tournament will surely be remembered in history books decades into the future, as the event in which Magnus Carlsen broke Kasparov’s record.