Reports | December 10, 2012 19:12

Carlsen wins 4th London Chess Classic

Carlsen wins 4th London Chess Classic

Magnus Carlsen won the 4th London Chess Classic on Monday, finishing two points ahead of Vladimir Kramnik. In the last round the top of the standings didn't change as Adams-Kramnik, Carlsen-Anand and Polgar-Aronian ended in draws. Hikaru Nakamura beat Luke McShane.

Magnus Carlsen, the winner of the 4th London Chess Classic |  Photos © Ray Morris-Hill

Event London Chess Classic |  PGN via TWIC
Dates December 1st-10th, 2011
Location London, UK
System 9-player round robin
Players Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams, Polgar, McShane, Jones
Rate of play 2 hours for 40 moves followed by 1 hour for 20 moves followed by 15 minutes to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment from move 61
Prize fund € 160,000
Tiebreak 1. # games won. 2. # games won with Black. 3. Result of the game(s) between the tied players. Otherwise Armageddon.
Notes Draw offers only through the arbiter. 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw. The player who has a “bye” will assist the commentators during the round.

A really great tournament in London finished with a slight anti-climax as three of the four games ended in draws. This way Carlsen kept his two-point lead and won without having to play an Armageddon game, while Kramnik, with the same score as last year, had to be satisfied with second place this time. Nakamura and Adams did pretty well too but Anand's score was mediocre and his games included too many big mistakes. Aronian and Polgar played below their standard and in fact the two locals, McShane and Jones, did so too, with TPRs in the 2500.

Polgar and Aronian seemed to be quite happy to be able to finish their tournament with a short draw, to get it over with. They cheerfully analysed their game a bit at the press conference even though it wasn't too interesting and the first 22 moves had been played before.

PGN string


After the beginning I was not even hoping that I will somehow recover as much as I did. Obviously this level is not exactly what I'm prepared for, doing other things in my life. One of the biggest problems I felt that I have that simply my mind was not focused on the tournament. Besides that, of course some lack of preparation was there. For chess unfortunately you need a clear mind and a lot of energy which none of them I had much had too much of. And obviously they're great players.


I was playing my usual but my opponents were not, they were playing much better than usual! Tomorrow I'm going to Beijing to play the Mind Games. It's the best thing, that you can have another tournament when you have been playing chess in this manner. I'm sure I'm going to do better there.

Not long after, Adams-Kramnik also ended in a draw which meant that the tournament had been decided. Kramnik needed to win his game against Adams but decided to follow his opening repertoire anyway. About this he said:

When you're playing Black against such a strong player you cannot really count on winning. Actually the last time I managed to win with Black against Mickey was in January 1998! Of course there was the choice of playing some very rare, random openings and I looked at the games of Mickey and he's scoring incredibly well there. He knows exactly what to do against any kind of random opening. I'm quite experienced and usually what happens in such cases you lose the game like an idiot; you get a worse position and you lose. So I decided to play my repertoire and I see what Mickey is doing. He's playing many lines against Berlin, with d3, and we can get a complicated game with a lot of pieces like my game against Anand.

PGN string


I think in the end some games could have gone better, some games could have gone worse but in the end my score is about right, so obviously I'm very happy to have a decent score, really. I would be absolutely over the moon if someone told me before the tournament I could get this.

Kramnik repeated exactly his performance of 2011 with four wins and four draws.

That time it was enough to be clear first and actually the tournament was more or less of the same strength. This time unfortunately it's only enough to be clear second but of course. It seems that the only chance to win this tournament was to win the direct encounter against [Carlsen] and I was close but he defended very well. But I was really happy with my play; I was playing really well, better than last year. My form was close to optimal. I don't think I can play much better than I did here. If I get a little bit more luck I will get some chances to win the Candidates Tournament and actually I am now number two in the world and also exactly twenty years in the top 10. It's a good way to celebrate that I am number two in January, you can almost say number one because Magnus is not here, he is in the space. Between humans I'm the best probably!

Nakamura got a belated birthday present from McShane, who dropped a full piece.

PGN string


Except for today's game and the one against Kramnik where I got completely outplayed, overall I played very well. It's always nice to do well here in London.

Tomorrow I fly to China for the World Mind Sports Games, another strong event, and after that I will be playing in Wijk aan Zee in January.

For McShane it wasn't the best of finishes. He said:

I think I played quite a few interesting games here. I think I had a pretty tough time from the first four rounds to come away with only half a point because the games were quite interesting and a couple of them could have been different but of course it's always difficult when you're playing against the best players in the world so that's the way it goes. After that I thought I played reasonably well against Gawain, that was a good game, but the last couple of rounds I don't seem to have been showing particularly good chess.

When Vishy Anand arrived at the last press conference (while Magnus Carlsen was delayed as he was giving an interview to Norwegian media) he seemed quite frustrated about his play. He started by saying

It's completely ridiculous. Every day I have positions I should draw in my sleep and I'm sitting there awake and I just blunder and blunder and blunder.

PGN string

After the post-mortem Anand said:

I would say it's more or less catastrophic. It was the same last year and it has been the same for a while. I really had hopes that it would go better this time but somehow they were not realized. It seems to just go from bad to worse. The only thing I can say is that yesterday and today I actually played "fun" chess, maybe that's a kind of compensation.

It's a real pity to see the World Champ struggling with his form for not just one or two tournaments, but for longer than a year now and we certainly hope that he'll find it back in time to be able to fight for the top places in Wijk aan Zee next month!

As a compliment to the organizers we'll finish off by referring to their charity Chess in Schools & Communities. We strongly suggest you to donate (we did!) which will also help to create the 5th edition of the Classic.

Commentary videos (produced by Macauley Peterson)

Pairings & results

Round 1 01.12.12 15:00 CET   Round 2 0212.12 15:00 CET
McShane 0-3 Carlsen   Polgar 1-1 Jones
Aronian 0-3 Nakamura   Nakamura 0-3 Kramnik
Kramnik 3-0 Polgar   Carlsen 3-0 Aronian
Jones 0-3 Adams   Anand 1-1 McShane
Anand bye Assisting the commentary   Adams bye Assisting the commentary
Round 3 0312.12 15:00 CET   Round 4 04.12.12 17:00 CET
Aronian 1-1 Anand   Nakamura 1-1 Adams
Kramnik 1-1 Carlsen   Carlsen 3-0 Jones
Jones 1-1 Nakamura   Anand 1-1 Kramnik
Adams 3-0 Polgar   McShane 0-3 Aronian
McShane bye Assisting the commentary   Polgar bye Assisting the commentary
Round 5 06.12.12 15:00 CET   Round 6 07.12.12 15:00 CET
Kramnik 3-0 McShane   Carlsen 3-0 Polgar
Jones 0-3 Anand   Anand 0-3 Adams
Adams 0-3 Carlsen   McShane 3-0 Jones
Polgar 0-3 Nakamura   Aronian 1-1 Kramnik
Aronian bye Assisting the commentary   Nakamura bye Assisting the commentary
Round 7 08.12.12 15:00 CET   Round 8 09.12.12 15:00 CET
Jones 1-1 Aronian   Anand 1-1 Nakamura
Adams 1-1 McShane   McShane 0-3 Polgar
Polgar 1-1 Anand   Aronian 1-1 Adams
Nakamura 1-1 Carlsen   Kramnik 3-0 Jones
Kramnik bye Assisting the commentary   Carlsen bye Assisting the commentary
Round 9 10.12.12 13:00 CET        
Adams 1-1 Kramnik        
Polgar 1-1 Aronian        
Nakamura 3-0 McShane        
Carlsen 1-1 Anand        
Jones bye Assisting the commentary        

London Chess Classic 2012 | Final standings (football)


London Chess Classic 2012 | Final standings (classical)



Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


The Golden Knight's picture

Anonymous = Realtiy Check

Mattovsky's picture

Kramnik seems to believe that everything else than the Berlin is a "very rare, random opening", lol

Thomas's picture

I don't think that's what he believes, but anything "deeply theoretical" also wouldn't be a good idea unless you prepared it already before the event. And if he has a surprise in store for the candidates event, he won't show it yet.

"Rare and random" might refer to touching his d-pawn as he has done before for a Pirc or a Scandinavian.
Adams' score against the Pirc according to +18=2-2
Against the Scandinavian: +7=4-1
(both include old games and many against relatively weak opponents, but still)

Mattovsky's picture

When tournament victory is at stake, one could assume that a 2800 player might be able to find an opening that isn't the Berlin (or the Petroff) and still doesn't lose by force. All this talk about "random" and allegedly very risky openings is quite ridiculous IMHO. It's just an excuse for a lack of fighting spirit.

Anonymous's picture

Not taking unnecessary risk is not the same as a lack of fighting spirit. At Kramnik's age it may be hard to play all kind of openings and remember a back up repertoire. He also might have been content with a draw in the first place. Still, Kramnik is a very complete player but his ability to fight with black in a must win situation is perhaps a bit wanting.

Thomas's picture

No doubt Kramnik lacks flexibility against 1.e4 - particularly now since he seems to have abandoned the Petroff :) . But it's also a bit odd that Kramnik seems to get all the blame, and Adams none of it - after all, different lines from white could have led to three results (the Berlin isn't quite as boring and drawish as its reputation!).

It may well be that both players, but particularly Adams, were rather happy with a draw - to avoid spoiling an excellent event in the final round. Generally I would criticize other players (e.g. Radjabov) in such a situation, but here it's sort of understandable as they already achieved a lot in the event - maybe Adams even more relatively spoken considering where he comes from (below 2700 not too long ago).

BTW it's hard to spot the difference between Adams-Kramnik and McShane-Carlsen, also a 5.Re1 Berlin, and who was responsible for it - black or white. But Kramnik is too rational a player to accept a position where he is substantially worse and, initially, without counterplay just to keep pieces on the board - is this a weakness?? And Adams may be too rational to let Kramnik escape with a win from a worse position - short of doing what he did against Carlsen ... .

Mattovsky's picture

Kramnik is probably the only player on the planet who wheels out the Berlin or the Petroff in a must-win-situation, completely fails to create any winning chances and has enough cheek to tell the public he did everything right. And the funniest thing is that some people actually believe him.

Thomas's picture

There is some truth to what you write, but ... maybe the last round of London wasn't an absolute must-win-situation, in the sense of having nothing to lose and a lot to gain. In such situations (his tournament was already relatively bad and couldn't get worse no matter what) Kramnik played the Pirc or - last match game against Anand - the Najdorf.
Anyway, the tournament was decided because Adams played it safe against Kramnik and blundered against Carlsen. We can nail it down to this one opponent because everything else was equal between Carlsen and Kramnik (except that Carlsen beat Aronian, and Kramnik beat Nakamura).

Kramnik also isn't strictly the only one: Aronian also has a narrow repertoire against 1.e4, basically Berlin or Marshall. One could also consider Naiditsch-Aronian, last round of the European Team Championship, a must-win-game for black - Aronian played the Berlin, Naiditsch played 5.Re1, draw. Like Kramnik, Aronian occasionally plays Pircish setups. His last Sicilian in a classical game was Wijk aan Zee 2009 against Smeets (drawn in 22 moves)..

redivivo's picture

"the tournament was decided because Adams played it safe against Kramnik and blundered against Carlsen. We can nail it down to this one opponent because everything else was equal between Carlsen and Kramnik"

That's to simplify things, for example Polgar blundered in the opening against Kramnik in a way she didn't do against Carlsen, Nakamura blundered in a drawn endgame against Kramnik in a way he didn't against Carlsen, etc. Carlsen avoided the draw he could have had to instead try for more when Adams got low on time. Carlsen was the deserved winner of the tournament and there's not much more to say than that.

Anonymous's picture

Except that Adams said the same thing as Thomas. And apologized to Kramnik for blundering manyfold against Carlsen losing a game that should have been won or at least drawn. Such is chess, and of course Carlsen is the deserved winner. But one can't blame Kramnik for playing the Berlin either, he had a great tournament and even a win in the last round wouldn't have made a difference.

RG13's picture

"even a win in the last round wouldn't have made a difference."

Wouldn't a last round win have tied Kramnik for first place?


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