Reports | September 21, 2012 21:37

Gelfand beats Nakamura in first round London Grand Prix

Boris Gelfand grabbed an early lead at the London FIDE Grand Prix on Friday, scoring the only win in the first round. The Israeli grandmaster defeated top seed Hikaru Nakamura (USA) with Black in a Sveshnikov Sicilian. Ten more rounds will be played in Simpson's-in-the-Strand in central London.

Nakamura vs Gelfand, 0-1 | All photos © Ray Morris-Hill

Event Grand Prix
Dates September 20-October 4, 2012
Location London, UK
System 12-player round robin
Players Hikaru Nakamura, Vassily Ivanchuk, Alexander Grischuk, Veselin Topalov, Peter Svidler, Wang Hao, Boris Gelfand, Peter Leko, Shakriyar Mamedyarov, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Anish Giri, Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Rate of play

120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then each player will be allotted 15 minutes after the second time control and an increment of 30 seconds per move will be allowed from move 61 onwards

Extra Players will not be allowed to offer draws directly to their opponents; players will continue to play if the arbiter does not authorise the draw

Strand is a street in the City of Westminster, about 1.25 km long, starting at Trafalgar Square and running east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar. All participants of the London Grand Prix are staying at the Strand Palace Hotel, located at number 372, and the playing hall is conveniently located right across the street: Simpson's-in-the-Strand, at number 100. The hardest part of reaching the venue is crossing the street in a straight line, instead of taking a slight detour and wait at the traffic lights.

Simpson's is really something. We've mentioned here before that it was the location of the famous Immortal Game Anderssen-Kieseritzky, played in 1851. (Trivia: it wasn't actually a game from the famous London 1851 tournament, but a casual game during a break of that tournament.) And indeed, after entering the building the first thing you see on your left is a very old chess board and pieces, with a metal tag in the middle of the board saying that it has been used since 1826 by players such as Staunton, Zukertort, Blackburne, Tarrasch, Morphy, Winawer, Chigorin, Lasker, Steinitz, Bird and Janowsky! There are chess memorabilia, and many walls are decorated with photos of old masters and more recent players who participated in the Staunton Memorials.

The tournament is being held on the first floor, where besides the playing hall a small bar and a spacious press room can be found. The playing hall itself looks exactly like the renderings that we showed a few days ago.

The tables are placed in two rows separated by wooded panes that carry lights, to provide the perfect setting for a chess game. Even Fischer wouldn't have had reasons to complain!

Each game has its own webcam, and HD video streams are broadcast at Livestream throughout the round. Links to these video feeds are given at the official website. There's no GM audio commentary, but obviously you can watch the video images while listening to commentary at Playchess, ICC or another service.

As you can see in the picture, there is one row of chairs for spectators. It hasn't been communicated clearly whether spectators are welcome or not, but now that the tournament has started, for local chess fans there doesn't seem to be a reason not to drop by at the tournament.

During the first round the atmosphere was very relaxed, sometimes downright cheerful. For example, at the start of the round, when Kirsan Ilyumzhinov wanted to play Veselin Topalov's first move, the Bulgarian jokingly whispered his move 1.Nf3 in the FIDE President's ear, so that his opponent wouldn't hear it!

Luckily all this didn't lead to seven dull draws. While the Sofia Rule wouldn't have allowed that, in fact the players were actually in a fighting mood. OK, eventually six out of seven games did end peacefully, but results don't tell you everything.

The first game to finish was Kasimdzhanov vs Leko, an "unexpected theoretical battle". It was the only game that ended before the first time control.

PGN string

Post mortem video by Macauley Peterson

Topalov-Grischuk started quietly, until the Bulgarian suddenly went for an interesting idea at move 27.

PGN string

Post-mortem video by Macauley Peterson

Dominguez and Giri, who are both playing their first Grand Prix, also split the point. The Cuban took some risks in the middlegame and then had to defend a difficult position with much less time on the clock.

PGN string

Post-mortem video by Macauley Peterson

Gelfand seemed to have outplayed Nakamura but in fact the players both felt that White's loss was the result of a one-move blunder.

PGN string

The game between Wang Hao and Adams showed how much it takes to win a game at this level. At some point GM Jon Speelman felt that his countryman was close to winning in the rook ending, but the Chinese defended it to a draw.

PGN string

The last game to finish, Mamedyarov vs Ivanchuk, showed how hard these players are trying to win! The Ukrainian reached a 3 vs 2 knight ending at move 39, tried everything he could but eventually had to stop his efforts at move 110!

PGN string

Schedule & pairings

Round 1 15:00 CET 21.09.12   Round 2 15:00 CET 22.09.12
Kasimdzhanov ½-½ Leko   Leko - Ivanchuk
Nakamura 0-1 Gelfand   Adams - Mamedyarov
Topalov ½-½ Grischuk   Giri - Wang Hao
Dominguez ½-½ Giri   Grischuk - Dominguez
Wang Hao ½-½ Adams   Gelfand - Topalov
Mamedyarov ½-½ Ivanchuk   Kasimdzhanov - Nakamura
Round 3 15:00 CET 23.09.12   Round 4 15:00 CET 24.09.12
Nakamura - Leko   Leko - Adams
Topalov - Kasimdzhanov   Giri - Ivanchuk
Dominguez - Gelfand   Grischuk - Mamedyarov
Wang Hao - Grischuk   Gelfand - Wang Hao
Mamedyarov - Giri   Kasimdzhanov - Dominguez
Ivanchuk - Adams   Nakamura - Topalov
Round 5 15:00 CET 25.09.12   Round 6 15:00 CET 27.09.12
Topalov - Leko   Leko - Giri
Dominguez - Nakamura   Grischuk - Adams
Wang Hao - Kasimdzhanov   Gelfand - Ivanchuk
Mamedyarov - Gelfand   Kasimdzhanov - Mamedyarov
Ivanchuk - Grischuk   Nakamura - Wang Hao
Adams - Giri   Topalov - Dominguez
Round 7 15:00 CET 28.09.12   Round 8 15:00 CET 29.09.12
Dominguez - Leko   Leko - Grischuk
Wang Hao - Topalov   Gelfand - Giri
Mamedyarov - Nakamura   Kasimdzhanov - Adams
Ivanchuk - Kasimdzhanov   Nakamura - Ivanchuk
Adams - Gelfand   Topalov - Mamedyarov
Giri - Grischuk   Dominguez - Wang Hao
Round 9 15:00 CET 01.10.12   Round 10 15:00 CET 02.10.12
Wang Hao - Leko   Leko - Gelfand
Mamedyarov - Dominguez   Kasimdzhanov - Grischuk
Ivanchuk - Topalov   Nakamura - Giri
Adams - Nakamura   Topalov - Adams
Giri - Kasimdzhanov   Dominguez - Ivanchuk
Grischuk - Gelfand   Wang Hao - Mamedyarov
Round 11 12:00 CET 03.10.12        
Mamedyarov - Leko        
Ivanchuk - Wang Hao        
Adams - Dominguez        
Giri - Topalov        
Grischuk - Nakamura        
Gelfand - Kasimdzhanov        


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.


1700+ USCF player's picture

Yes, he's young, I'll give him that. But when you are one of the top GMs (okay, top ten) in the sport, one has to have sportsmanship. Yes, I know that many of us chess players are waiting for the mother ship to pick us up --just play in a tournament see what I mean! But this is the modern era and you can't have fans if you are a jerk. I was a huge Naka fan, ever since I saw him play at the World Open some years ago. Not any more, not after the Olympiad comments and some other comments. He could lose all his games and drop down to 2200 and couldn't care less. The dude has lost all my respect.

Congrats to Gelfand!

Anonymous's picture

It's so easy and sad to do what you suggest.
Political correctness is important when you strive for social conformity. If you burn for your mission, like an artist or intellectually gifted player, things are entirely different. Don't go with the masses, think for yourself ;-)

Niima's picture

I sympathize with some of your ideas.

Nakamura is like the younger family member who can behave like an idiot at times. But we still care for him because of his good qualities, and because we are stuck with him! He is family :-)

Anonymous's picture

Yes he is! :-) And a genius too, not likely to be politically correct in every single tweet he hits to the world ;-)

MW's picture

Wow. Beautiful venue!

redivivo's picture

The simple truth is that all the top players see a draw against Gelfand as such a failure that they do everything they can to avoid it. Nakamura could of course have drawn easily but chose to try to swindle Gelfand by going for an inferior line instead. Gelfand was obviously happy to draw by repetition around move 26-29. He did well after that, but at the same time Nakamura played a horrible game after avoiding the draw and Gelfand's playing level shouldn't be exaggerated, it's still more then seven years since he won a round robin and I don't think he will finish anywhere close to the top this time either.

Thomas's picture

Hmmm, Nakamura is just one top player, not "all the top players" - actually IMHO the fact that he sometimes loses games in such a fashion still separates him from the very top (i.e. WCh material). Dare I suggest that Anand is a top player, even if he didn't do "everything he could" to avoid a draw against Gelfand?

redivivo's picture

Look at for example Ivanchuk's loss against Gelfand in Tata this year, the endgame was a dead draw but Ivanchuk refused to accept that and managed to lose. Anand obviously didn't do everything to avoid draws in a match, but in a tournament white against Gelfand is an entirely different matter.

Ed Dean's picture

"The simple truth is that all the top players see a draw against Gelfand as such a failure that they do everything they can to avoid it."

What nonsense.

redivivo's picture

Well, do you seriously think Nakamura would have avoided the draw if black had been for example Carlsen?

Ed Dean's picture

I think it would be a mistake to think that the outcome here was purely the result of Nakamura consciously "avoiding the draw," rather than being a function of Gelfand's play as well. But in any case, my previous response was to the exact words of yours which I quoted, and which were indeed nonsensical.

Thomas's picture

In any case, both examples by redivivo say more about the white players than about Gelfand. Various things might play a role: misplaced fighting spirit, lack of objectivity, possibly lack of respect for the opponent, poor understanding of seemingly simple positions.
It happened before to Nakamura and Ivanchuk against "non-Gelfand opponents":
1) Nakamura's loss with white against Kramnik, Dortmund 2011 (against Kramnik, a draw with white would certainly be an acceptable result)
2) Ivanchuk's tragicomic loss with white against Wang Yue, MTel 2009

redivivo's picture

I was certainly exaggerating, but in his whole career Gelfand had before yesterday never been close to win with black against a 2770+ player, and that says something after 25 years of top events and numerous games against the strongest players.

chesshire cat's picture

I am just curious...have you checked all the games he played with black v 2770 plus? If so, kudos for your dedication! Or maybe the figure is smaller than one would expect.

redivivo's picture

I checked that he hadn't beaten Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik or Topalov at all the last 15 years (except for the one game with white in the recent title match), and after Carlsen grew up he's 0-2 against him, so regardless of colour Gelfand almost never beats 2770+ opposition. He had a couple of black wins against Aronian 4-5 years ago when the latter was in the 2750s though.

Thomas's picture

redivivo can get pretty dedicated in his hate campaign against Gelfand, but here again it is selective dedication. First I thought that 2770 was conveniently chosen so Gelfand's wins with black in Wijk aan Zee this year against Ivanchuk (2766) and Karjakin (2769) wouldn't count. But in their candidates match, Gelfand also beat Mamedyarov (2772) with the black pieces.
Together with the win against Nakamura, that's four black wins in one year against 2760+, how many players did better than that? For example, Carlsen also has "just" four such black wins in 2011/2012 (Nakamura, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Radjabov). Aronian has three wins (Ivanchuk, Grischuk, Kramnik).

Looking further back in time, it's a bit misleading to specify 2770 which meant much more than nowadays just a few years ago. Currently the live rating list has eight players rated 2770 or higher (plus Caruana at 2769.8), just five years ago the top of the July 2007 list was Anand 2792, Topalov and Kramnik 2769. If we instead talk about wins with black against top10 players, for example Gelfand's win against Aronian at the 2007 Mexico WCh does count. BTW he did also beat Topalov with black exactly 15 years ago (Novgorod 1997) when Topalov was world #6 (Elo 2725) and Gelfand #8 (Elo 2700).

It takes some dedication to refute redivivo (or point out that he is rather suggestive), but it's always a pleasure :)

redivivo's picture

Hate campaign? Ok, he never won with black against an opponent rated higher than 2772, mot 2770, so that's indeed a refutation but not with some amazing margin.

Geof Strayer's picture

Sorry, but this is such nonsense. There are some players who are capable of playing well above their rating important games. Gelfand is one of them. No one considers him a pushover, not even the younger (and more arrogant) players such as Naka.

On the subject of Naka, I've been following professional chess for about 30 years, and the young top players always have very strong egos. I have not seen a single exception to this. It is part of the recipe for being a strong player. So give Naka a break. If he didn't have a strong ego, he probably wouldn't be so good.

Anonymous's picture

I second your view entirely.

RealityCheck's picture

I find it absurd hearing people say stupid things like "he hasn't won a game against so and so in 15 years; when the combatants may have played a grand total of 5 games against each other over that same period of time. What is this line of reasoning supposed to prove, @redvivo?

redivivo's picture

A grand total of five games over 15 years? Do you know how many games Gelfand played against Kasparov alone? That's close to 20 with more losses than draws and no wins. He's an opponent the best players don't just take a draw with as white since his results against the top players are so bad, and Naka went too far when he didn't take the draw this time.

trollaras's picture

If you are a top 5 player it is an insult to accept a draw against such a mediocre player like Gelfand. That's why Naka pressed for a win. However, sometimes you win sometimes you lose, that's part of the game. But in principle, he was correct, it is stupid to let a mediocre player get out with a draw.

sen's picture

Naka has not even qualified for candidates matches 2013.I don't consider him as current top 5 player.he has long way to go even to be considered elite top GM. Anand,carlsen,kraminick and aronian are current top elite players.

Anonymous's picture

wrong again. carlsen, aronian, kramnik, radjabov and nakamura are currently the top 5 players in the world, anand still has the title though.

sen's picture

I know you will put up the weak fide rating argument.current month fide ranking doesn't reflect the real top player,it is just rating for a short period.Kramnik himself has rated anand very high as par with kasparov
It is really funny to talk about playes who haven't yet even qualified for candidates match :-),forget about even talking about aronian and carlsen they are yet to be a worldchampionship challenger.

Anonymous's picture

oh i see, in your opinion the current fide ranking only reflects the real top players when anand is (was) number one ? ;-))

anand is of course an exceptional player, surely an alltime "living legend" and currently world champion.

still, if you want to talk about the presence, he is currently only ranked number 6 in the world, at best. his opponent in the recent world championship match was certainly not the strongest and overall the match didn't quite make up for a convincing demonstration of his dominance, after all he won one single classical and one rapid game against gelfand. let's see how he fares in sao paulo and bilbao. if he could win the tournament, that would really be something!!

redivivo's picture

It's been a long time since Anand played like a top five player, and the only reason he will be as high as 7th on the October list is that he hasn't played that much lately. He still lost 40 rating points in just over a year. It will be very interesting to see if it will be the same Anand as the last year also in the Grand Slam final or if he will play like the great player he was up until 2008.


Latest articles