Reports | December 04, 2011 1:14

Carlsen beats Howell in first round London Chess Classic

Carlsen beats Howell in first round London Chess Classic

Magnus Carlsen took an early lead at the London Chess Classic on Saturday. In the only decisive game of the round, the Norwegian beat David Howell with White.

The first move in Carlsen-Howell was performed by tennis legend Boris Becker | all photos © Ray Morris-Hill for the official website except when mentioned otherwise

Event London Chess Classic 2011PGN via TWIC
Dates December 3rd-12th, 2011
Location London, UK
System 9-player round robin
Players Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams, Short, McShane, Howell
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.

Videos by Macauley Peterson

The 3rd edition of the London Chess Classic took off on Saturday afternoon shortly after 14.00 local time, again in the 440-seater auditorium of the Olympia conference hall at Hammersmith Road in Kengsington, London. The first move, or should we say first serve, was for none other than Boris Becker.

A six-time Grand Slam singles champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and the youngest-ever winner of the men's singles title at Wimbledon at the age of 17, it's no secret that Becker is also a chess fan. He once famously played Garry Kasparov live on CNN and played the game to focus his mind ahead of big tennis matches.

During the round he played a couple of friendly chess games with Nigel Short. The official game is given below:

PGN string

Short started the tournament with a bye and assisted the commentators whereas Boris Becker joined the audience and saw Nigel Short using one of his crutches for other purposes! | Photo © John Saunders

Becker said:

Chess is much like tennis as it involves being one-on-one against your opponent and having to plan ahead. There’s a lot of strategy involved and elements like shaking hands before you begin teaches fair play and sportsmanship.

It was probably a good idea that Becker and Short didn't play each other on the tennis court, because in that case the match would have been short, and it would have been... Short!

As it turned out, Becker currently is suffering from a broken leg and needs crutches to go around...

The first round in action with some TV crew members and photographers still on stage

Becker's excellent first serve was 1.e4, played at Magnus Carlsen's half of the court. A Ruy Lopez came on the board as opponent David Howell countereed with a few classical backhand returns: a setup with ...Nf6 and ...Bc5. Right after the opening, the net caught fire when Carlsen sacrificed two pawns for good chances on the kingside. This soon became a crushing attack but in his opponent's timetrouble, the Norwegian made a mistake and the final position turned out to be quite unclear, but Howell had already resigned, with just three seconds left on the clock.

PGN string

Magnus Carlsen came to the stage in a determined manner, and took an early lead in the tournament

In another '2800 club member with White against a local hero' kind of game, Luke McShane was more successful against Levon Aronian. In a Chebanenko Slav the Englishman did get under pressure and in timetrouble as well, but thanks to 29...Re8! he held things together. Aronian, who was mainly trying to make things complicated, had underestimated this move and immediately made sure the game would finish in a draw. The Armenian was reluctant to give concrete evaluations afterwards, dubbing the game as "too complicated".

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A good tradition in London: talented young chess players making the first move at the boards of top grandmasters | Photo © John Saunders

Another much anticipated encounter was the one between Kramnik and Nakamura, who met with the same colours earlier this year both in Dortmund and at the Tal Memorial. In July Nakamura won with a KID, in Moscow a Grünfeld ended in a draw.

Nakamura played something completely different in London: he decided to enter the Catalan territory that has been explored so much in recent years at top level. In fact the players followed Kramnik-Anand, Bilbao 2010 for 19 moves and for five moves longer the position was known from a correspondence game. Kramnik said:

It's a very concrete position. In reality Black is making only moves for some time.

PGN string

Vladimir Kramnik, one of the great experts of the Catalan...

...but held by Hikaru Nakamura who found many 'only moves'

Adams and Anand also followed theory for a long time. Their example, in a 6.Be2 Najdorf, was a Bundesliga game from last year between the young Dutch grandmasters Smeets and Giri. In that game Black won, and so White needed an improvement somewhere which Adams came up with at move 22.

PGN string

Indian High Commissioner Rajesh N. Prasad meets with Adams and Anand before the game | Photo © John Saunders

Round 1 standings

No. Name Rating Score/game TPR
1 Carlsen,M 2826 3.0/1 3368
2 Anand,V 2811 1.0/1 2734
3-7 Aronian,L 2802 1.0/1 2671
3-7 Kramnik,V 2800 1.0/1 2758
3-7 Nakamura,N 2758 1.0/1 2800
3-7 Adams,M 2734 1.0/1 2811
3-7 McShane,L 2671 1.0/1 2802
8 Short,N 2698 0.0/0 -----
9 Howell,D 2633 0.0/1 2091

London Chess Classic 2011 | Schedule & results

Round 1 03.12.11 15:00 CET   Round 2 04.12.11 15:00 CET
Kramnik ½-½ Nakamura   Howell - Adams
Aronian ½-½ McShane   McShane - Carlsen
Carlsen 1-0 Howell   Nakamura - Aronian
Adams ½-½ Anand   Short - Kramnik
Short bye Assisting the commentary   Anand bye Assisting the commentary
Round 3 05.12.11 15:00 CET   Round 4 06.12.11 17:00 CET
Aronian - Short   Carlsen - Kramnik
Carlsen - Nakamura   Adams - Short
Adams - McShane   Anand - Nakamura
Anand - Howell   Howell - McShane
Kramnik bye Assisting the commentary   Aronian bye Assisting the commentary
Round 5 08.12.11 15:00 CET   Round 6 09.12.11 15:00 CET
Nakamura - Howell   Adams - Aronian
Short - Anand   Anand - Kramnik
Kramnik - Adams   Howell - Short
Aronian - Carlsen   McShane - Nakamura
McShane bye Assisting the commentary   Carlsen bye Assisting the commentary
Round 7 10.12.11 15:00 CET   Round 8 11.12.11 15:00 CET
Short - McShane   Anand - Carlsen
Kramnik - Howell   Howell - Aronian
Aronian - Anand   McShane - Kramnik
Carlsen - Adams   Nakamura - Short
Nakamura bye Assisting the commentary   Adams bye Assisting the commentary
Round 9 12.12.11 13:00 CET        
McShane   Anand        
Nakamura - Adams        
Short - Carlsen        
Kramnik - Aronian        
Howell bye Assisting the commentary        


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.


Al's picture

Good start Carlsen, the type of chess we like to see! Hopefully it's a sign of how you'll play this tournament. It's always great to see you attack :-)

Al's picture

Always great to see Carlsen attack, hopefully we'll see plenty more of it! Great start :-)

ben's picture

Was Short left out of the classical standings on purpose?

Ak's picture

Short had a bye first round. Its a 9 player tournament.

Peter Doggers's picture

The classical standings are created automatically by a script, based on the PGN file. Since Short wasn't in the first round PGN, he was left out. Decided to remove it and include the TPRs in the 'real' standings.

darkergreen's picture

It was an interesting moment: During live commentary after his game with Howell, Carlsen is really critical on himself about missing a winning earlier! That shows how this guy improves himself! Liked Aronian vc. McShane too. From the first round, it is clear that these two, Carlsen and Aronian, will continue their dominant position nowadays. Hope that others will show better performances compared to earlier stuffs.

Mark McCready's picture

Poor start by Howell. He had used almost half his time by move 11 and was down to 30 minutes by move 16. With a passive position from the opening as well, he appears to have gone badly wrong in this game. Given that it was main line Lopez stuff, very surprising to see a player of his calibre succumb like that.

RealityCheck's picture

@ Mark
Just one more proof he shd not be there. The one thing the organizer gets right, Time Control, Howell neglects. I don't know if Nepo or Karjakin would have cost Pein less than Short plus Howell but I'd bet the battle for the top spots would be more interesting, closer as a result of their participation. We just saw it happen in Moscow.

Zeblakob's picture

non sense "realityC...", take a bath.

Excalibur's picture

Mark: To be fair, he was playing a player of superior quality with black (held his own a bit, albeit using twice the time) and was not as chess "fit" as Carlsen is (more games played recently). Doesn't really matter as quality always shines through.

sulutas's picture

I believe that if they had Hou Yifan in Short or Howell's stead, the tournament would be much more interesting and the overall world media love to see a game between Yifan v Anand.

Parkov's picture

Why? So Anand could break his string of draws?

columbo's picture

plus 1

El Tonto's picture

nice games :)

Abyan's picture

mayo ah hehe

boredteenloafer's picture

You missed one of the games: Becker - Short.

Abyan's picture

Short's games can't be published for simple reason that it's to short to post here :)

Charles's picture

Am I being thick or is 40.Qd8 not checkmate for Magnus? Why Rg3?

ff2017's picture

White is being checked.

Charles's picture

I suspected Carlsen might have little to learn from me.

columbo's picture

no, white is being checked

lefier's picture

First round much as expected.
McShane defended really well though, especially when being that short on time.
He should decide for chess only from now.

Jeans's picture

@Mark McCready
No wonder Howell was short on time after move 11. Even though it is mainline Ruy Lopez, Carlsens 11. Nxd4 is not so common at all. The knight from b1 was very pleased that Carlsen offered a couple of pawns to make it shine on e4.
I am very impressed by his fresh ideas in this opening.

Eiae's picture

Production hasn't improved from last year, at least not the internet part. They should look and learn from what is coming from Russian tournaments these days.

nickeur's picture

Hello. I don't know where i can post it... so here!

I like chess daily puzzle from chessvibes. But every time i use it the pieces aren't on the right squares. What's wrong with me?


Peter Doggers's picture

Well, there is a link called 'Contact' in the footer of our page. ;-) Please use that so that we can look at your specific computer settings, browser, etc.

Thorn's picture

Does anyone know where I can find the last part of yesterdays commentary with Carlsen explaining his game against Howell? The third part posted above ends right before that...

Thorn's picture

Ok, part 4 is uploaded now...

steven's picture


Unless i suffer from chess blindness i don't see a link to the website and the live games of the LCC ?

Peter Doggers's picture

We give the link to the official site at the top of the article, in the grey info box, and also in the sidebar on the right, under Current Events.

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