Finegold on the London Classic
By GM Ben Finegold   
December 12, 2013
The 5th Edition of the London Chess Classic (Dec 11-15, 2013) is underway at the Olympia Conference Centre.  This is different than previous years, when the top section was a 7-10 player Super GM round-robin. IM Malcolm Pein, the chief organizer, decided that a rapid tournament consisting of 4 player double round-robin sections (two qualify for the knockout stage in each 4 player section), followed by knockout matches of quarters, semis, and finals is a more interesting format.

Indeed, if the rapid games from day one are any indication, there will be few draws, lots of blunders, and lots of time trouble excitement.

Why am I in London?  Well, I have not been to England since January 1989 (!) but I am coaching at the World Youth Championship this year in Al Ain, UAE December 17-28, and Co-Head of Delegation, FM Aviv Friedman, suggested we stop in London on the way, watch some soccer and chess, eat great (Indian) food, and break up the long trip from the USA to UAE.  It sounded like a great plan to me!  We saw local team Chelsea win 1-0 over Steaua Bucharest to win their group and qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League.


Normally 3-4 British players and 4-5 of the World's elite play, but with 16 players this year, there are 9 foreign GMs and seven British GMs making up the field.

Another interesting feature of the London Chess Classic, unknown to most Americans, is that it is a chess festival, with several events alongside Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, and the other Super-GMs.  There is a very strong Open tournament, with several GMs and almost 200 participants.  There are daily simuls against British GMs such as John Nunn, Jon Speelman, and Julian Hodgson.  There is live commentary on the games with GM Danny King and IM Lawrence Trent.  And there are daily events for lower rated players and blitz events as well.  Something for everyone, and many are not playing at all, but simply come to watch, like yours truly!

Another strong Grandmaster who is here to watch, and not play, is Garry Kasparov himself! I saw Garry in the VIP room, where one can find commentary by GM Hodgson, and an assortment of GMs and IMs who want to watch and kibitz the action.  Garry suggested a lot of moves in the first round, and his banter with GM Nigel Short was quite amusing. In fact, a lot of the players kibitz in the VIP room when they are not playing a game, and the analysis can get quite exciting with so many GMs in one room suggesting moves!

The first day of play saw a few surprises, as the British players did well, winning and drawing several games against higher rated competition.  There were some blunders, and Vishy Anand was quite lucky not to lose to Luke McShane:

McShane,L (2684) - Anand,V (2773)


White has several ways to win here. Kasparov suggested 23.Kh1! getting off the "g" files and preventing Nf3+. Instead, Luke plays it "safe." 23.c5 Nf3+ 24.Qxf3 Qxf3 25.gxf3 Bxf4 26.b4 This should be easily winning, but white had less than 5 minutes, so..... 26...Nc6 27.Bb5 Kd7 28.Rfd1 e5 29.a3 f5 30.Kf1 Kc7
Kasparov suggested "pass" would have been better, as the Ke2 is much worse off than safe on f1. 31...e4! 32.fxe4 fxe4 33.Bxc6? Again, Kf1! is the right move. This tactical miscue gives the advantage back to Anand, and with less than a minute left on his clock, Luke just had no chance to save the game. 33...d3+!

[34.Rxd3 exd3+ 35.Kf3? Be5! 36.Re1 d2 winning for black] 34...Kxc6 35.Kg2 Kd5 "Black is up a king" --- Finegold 36.Rg1 Be5 37.Rad1 Rg8+ 38.Kf1 Rxg1+ 39.Kxg1 f5 40.Kg2 Kd4 41.c6 f4 42.b5 Bc7 43.Rb1 d2 44.Kf1 Kd3 45.a4 e3 46.fxe3 fxe3 0-1

Also losing a winning ending was Peter Svidler.  After move 48 Peter has two ways to win, but instead he ends up making mistake after mistake and losing quickly:

Kramnik,V (2793) - Svidler,P (2758)

After an up-and-down affair, Peter is finally winning. Either 48.. Ke7 or 48..Bc3+ should be +2 or more according to the almighty engines. But with seconds left.... 48...Be3? 49.Re5 Ok, so a draw is now a fair result. 49...Ra1+ 50.Rd1 Ra2 51.Rd8+ Kg7 52.Kd1 Ra3?? [52...Ng2=] 53.Kc2! Black's pieces are all tangled up. 53...Ne6 54.Rd7 Kg6?? [54...Kf6 55.Rf5+ Kg6 56.Kb2 is also very strong for white, but not simply winning a piece like in the game!] 55.Kb2 1-0

The best chess the first day was played by American passport holder Fabiano Caruana, who absolutely destroys Israeli GM Emil Sutovsky, after the second player got a little too frisky in the opening.

Caruana,F (2782) - Sutovsky,E (2657)

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 d6 4.h3 c5
We see a lot of unorthodox openings in Rapid Play! 5.dxc5 Qa5+ 6.Qd2 Qxc5 7.Nc3 Bf5 8.Nd4 Ne4 9.Nxe4 Bxe4 10.f3 Bc6 11.e4 White has a big edge already, but Emil makes a terrible positional and tactical move now that seals his fate! 11...e5? Fatally weakening, well, everything! But this also fails tactically! 12.Be3!

I guess if you are going to be lost, you might as well be really lost! 13.Bxd4 Bh6 14.Qf2! Qa5+ 15.Bc3 Jon Speelman, for some reason, was suggesting 15...Qxc3+ as interesting. Um, yeah... 15...Qd8 16.Bxh8 f6 17.Qh4 Bg5 18.Qxh7 Qa5+ 19.c3 Nd7 20.Qxg6+ Ke7 21.h4 Be3 22.Bxf6+! Nxf6 23.Qg7+ Ke6 24.g3!

Once the assembled GMs in the VIP room saw that Fabiano would play this move, all agreed white would win. 24...Bf2+ 25.Kd2! [25.Kxf2 Qb6+ 26.Kg2 Qxb2+ 27.Kh3 Qxc3 Also wins for white, but the text move is much better.] 25...Be3+ 26.Kc2 Now nothing can stop Bh3+ winning, so Emil gives up some more material.... 26...Bxe4+ 27.fxe4 Qa4+ 28.b3 Qxe4+ 29.Kb2 Qf3 [29...Qxh1 30.Bc4+ winning] 30.Bh3+


American GM Hikaru Nakamura, a clear favorite in the rapid format had two tough games, but scored the maximum he could have hoped for, drawing a much worse position in round one, then winning a much worse/lost position against Judit Polgar.  After getting black both games the first day, I am sure Hikaru is looking forward to getting lots of games with white pieces the next two days.

Polgar,Ju (2693) - Nakamura,Hi (2786) [C70]

Here Judit should be winning after 28.Qe3! stopping Hikaru's counterplay. 28.Rd1? c5! Nakamura does not miss his chance to get active, and now black is fine. 29.Rac1 Rd8 30.Qf3? Almost anything normal was better. Now Hikaru is better and never gives an inch. 30...cxd4 31.Nc6 [Blockading with 31.Nd3 is a better way to try and keep equality.] 31...Bxc6 32.Rxc6 Rf6 33.Rxf6 Bxf6 34.Bc4 Qc7 35.Bxa6 Qxa5 36.Qb7+ Bg7 37.Re1?
In Judit's first game against Boris Gelfand, she should have advanced her passed "d" pawn, but didn't and ended up losing. Here, she should stop Hikaru's passed pawn, and let's it advance! 37...d3 38.Re7 Qa1+ 39.Kh2 Qxb2 40.Qc7 Rf8 41.Bxd3 Qc3 42.Qd7? b3 43.Bb1 b2 44.Ba2 h5 Hikaru lost his "d" pawn, but the strong "b" pawn ensures victory. 45.Qb7 Kh6 46.Re6 Be5+ 47.g3 f4 48.gxf4 Rxf4 49.Kg2 Qd4 50.f3 Qd2+ 51.Kf1 Qd1+ 52.Kf2 Qd2+ 53.Kf1 Qe3 54.Rxg6+ Kxg6 55.Bb1+ Kf6 56.Qc6+ Kg5 0-1

To watch games live, see pictures, standings, pairings, and more, go to: and look for GM Finegold's reports from the World Youth on CLO as well.