Reports | December 12, 2011 18:21

Kramnik wins in London ahead of Nakamura and Carlsen

Kramnik wins in London ahead of Nakamura and Carlsen

Vladimir Kramnik won the 3rd London Chess Classic on Monday. The Russian grandmaster finished on 16 points, one more than Hikaru Nakamura who beat Mickey Adams in the final round. Magnus Carlsen finished third, one point behind Nakamura.

Kramnik receives the London Chess Classic trophy from the player who lost his world title to him in London in 2000: Garry Kasparov | 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

For iPhone/iPad users: you can access the videos here (new link).

Vlad All Over

Report by John Saunders

Many congratulations to Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, who has won the third London Chess Classic. If you needed someone to save your life by getting a draw with White, Kramnik would be most people’s first choice. He was solidity personified against Levon Aronian, rapidly liquidating to a level bishop ending. That gave him the point he needed to take the trophy.

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Vladimir Kramnik after the game

Magnus Carlsen could still have shared the money (though not the trophy) with Vlad had he won with Black against Nigel Short in their now traditional last round encounter but he had rather worst of things. The game started with the Giuoco Pianissimo - ‘very quiet game’ - which most of us learn when we are beginners.

I haven’t played this since I was about eight,

said Nigel.

I haven’t scored with White in this event and I decided to play something incredibly boring. Magnus tried to inject some excitement into [the game] - but the excitement was all for White.

Nigel managed a picturesque d4-d5 thrust, which was a very useful pawn sacrifice, and the resultant activity saw him go from a pawn down to a pawn up. He was close to winning at one stage and Magnus admitted he

played a horrible series of moves

to get himself into difficulties.

However, it turned out to be what chess writers like to call a ‘symbolic advantage’ only. Nigel was a pawn up, but with all the pawns on one side of the board, and the world number one defending stoutly, his winning chances abated. He indulged in the ritual torture that all GMs practise against each other in such positions (it is part of the unwritten grandmaster’s code - your opponent tortures you when he or she gets the chance, so you are honour bound to do the same back to them). But it was unlikely to bear fruit against the world’s top rated player and a draw was the result.

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Luke McShane faced the world champion Vishy Anand with White. Vishy played the Caro-Kann and the play was fairly balanced. A repetition led to early peace terms.

Luke McShane played with the (admittedly, heartbreaking) round 8 game against Kramnik still in his mind

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The game of the day was Hikaru Nakamura versus Mickey Adams and was earmarked as such from the moment that Hikaru played the King’s Gambit. As with the previous outing in the tournament for this museum piece of an opening (when Nigel Short played it against Luke McShane), initial exuberance soon gave way to caution and tentativeness as Hikaru tucked his king away on h1 and allowed a c4 counter-thrust. A pleasantly piratical game ensued, with White launching a pawn assault on the queenside as Mickey Adams pointed his bishops at the white kingside.

Nakamura took risks to create complications, but came out victorious in the end

Watching in the VIP room was a fascinating experience as the super-GMs who had finished their games were joined by Garry Kasparov and other former greats of the game. GMs Julian Hodgson and Stuart Conquest were the commentators there but for once they were heavily outgunned by the audience. Black seemed to hold sway for much of the game but eventually the great pendulum swung in White’s direction.

Commentating GMs Julian Hodgson (l.) and Stuart Conquest | Photo © John Saunders

Garry Kasparov it was who first spotted the change in wind direction:

38 Rfe1 and now it looks better for White.

A blunder followed and White duly triumphed, taking Hikaru Nakamura to clear second in the table and condemning poor Mickey Adams to last place. Credit to both players, though, for providing the last round audience with a feast of chess entertainment.

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So that’s the third London Chess Classic over and done with. The end of a chess tournament is always a melancholic affair, as the organisers pack up the equipment and take down score tables, the winners lug home their trophies, the unsuccessful slink away to lick their wounds, and old chess friends part company for the dreary-seeming ‘real world’.

Just as I myself was getting ready to leave for home, I saw something I had never seen before on such occasions: a young man sitting playing a guitar on a bench just outside the commentary room. And playing quite beautifully, too. I love playing the guitar but I cannot play like this talented young man. I stood and listened to him giving this impromptu concert, all on his own outside the now deserted commentary room. Presently, Nigel Short happened to be passing and he too, as a guitar aficionado, stopped and marvelled at the music coming from the young man’s unusual eight-stringed instrument.


exclaimed the grandmaster.

Guitarist Alf Wilhelm Lundberg | Photo © John Saunders

The young man was Alf Wilhelm Lundberg, from Norway, and you too can listen to some of his music at his website - I asked him what he was doing there. He told me he happened to be in England and had stopped by to see his famous compatriot Magnus Carlsen but he had missed him - the world number one had already departed. He’s a chessplayer too, incidentally. Norway - great chessplayers and great guitarists. Sounds like my sort of country.

On that note, I must close. Dear reader, I hope I have been able to bring to life some of the thrills, incidents and excitement of a wonderful tournament with you. It has been a great privilege to write for you. I wish you all the compliments of the season - may Caïssa go with you in 2012 and may your errors not be of the double question mark variety.

Big Vlad: the winner in London this year

To this report by John Saunders, we'd like to add a few quotes. For example, here's Vishy Anand's answer to a question from the audience: 'How does this tournament fit in your preparation for the match against Gelfand?'

This whole season since Sao Paulo has been a disaster. Somehow it never got going, I never got the positions I wanted to play. I kind of have to forget about it. I'm looking forward to training for the match and I hope with a tough opponent, the motivaton will come back.

Anand then complimented McShane for his fine play.

Especially in some tricky positions in the early rounds he acquitted himself beautifully.

Tournament winner Vladimir Kramnik explained that he wasn't sure about his strategy before the game.

If I had won I would have been number two in the world. But I really wanted to win the tournament so I decided to play solidly. I was still pretty tired after the Tal Memorial. I didn't bring a second but during the first half my wife and my daughter joined me. This gave me energy, a boost of positive emotions.

Round 9 (final) standings

No. Name Rtg Score/game Tiebreak Perf
1 Kramnik,V 2800 16.0/8   2932
2 Nakamura,H 2758 15.0/8   2884
3 Carlsen,M 2826 14.0/8   2875
4 McShane,L 2671 13.0/8   2846
5 Anand,V 2811 9.0/8 1 black win 2740
6 Aronian,L 2802 9.0/8 1 white win 2741
7 Short,N 2698 6.0/8   2617
8 Howell,D 2633 4.0/8   2572
9 Adams,M 2734 3.0/8   2492

Round 9 standings (classical)


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 ½-½ Adams
Aronian ½-½ McShane   McShane ½-½ Carlsen
Carlsen 1-0 Howell   Nakamura 1-0 Aronian
Adams ½-½ Anand   Short 0-1 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 1-0 Short   Carlsen ½-½ Kramnik
Carlsen 1-0 Nakamura   Adams 0-1 Short
Adams 0-1 McShane   Anand 0-1 Nakamura
Anand ½-½ Howell   Howell 0-1 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 1-0 Howell   Adams ½-½ Aronian
Short 0-1 Anand   Anand ½-½ Kramnik
Kramnik 1-0 Adams   Howell ½-½ Short
Aronian ½-½ Carlsen   McShane ½-½ 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 0-1 McShane   Anand ½-½ Carlsen
Kramnik 1-0 Howell   Howell ½-½ Aronian
Aronian ½-½ Anand   McShane 0-1 Kramnik
Carlsen 1-0 Adams   Nakamura ½-½ Short
Nakamura bye Assisting the commentary   Adams bye Assisting the commentary
Round 9 12.12.11 13:00 CET        
McShane ½-½ Anand        
Nakamura 1-0 Adams        
Short ½-½ Carlsen        
Kramnik ½-½ Aronian        
Howell bye Assisting the commentary        

At the closing ceremony, held on Monday night at Simpson's in the Strand, many celebrities were present...

...and the players played the traditional simuls during dinner - here Vishy Anand

Levon Aronian - and at the table GM Danny King

Vladimir Kramnik - and we notice GM Jonathan Rowson

Mickey Adams with on his right IM Lawrence Trent

Magnus Carlsen making a move

Luke McShane pondering...

...and David Howell, who seems to have forgotten his preparation!?

Hikaru Nakamura found two chess queens...

...while Vladimir Kramnik had someone special next to him as well, when receiving the trophy!

Editors's picture
Author: Editors


Anthony's picture

Vlad is true Maestro!

Anthony's picture

By the way, about Vlad:

In the mid 2000's he tried to spice up his game. He started playing Najdorfs, as did Leko, Topalov, Kasparov at the time.

He tried to rest his Python ways and look for more disbalance.

He suffered for a few years and never managed to quite make it work.

Than he went back to his former ways, immediately reasserting his waning authority.

But now he seems to have found new ways of becoming more aggressive, risking more and scoring more, without being untrue to himself.

It will be interesting to see how far he gets with this!

Thomas Richter's picture

I don't get it how Anthony can complain that Carlsen receives "little appreciation", and even less that he writes that Short showed "innate class" against Magnus - Short played a boring opening (his own words) and got a slight but basically symbolic advantage when Carlsen tried to mix things up. Is this already innate class? True, Short played better against Carlsen - and before against Nakamura - than in most of his earlier games. He didn't play badly enough to lose his last two games, and the other guy didn't play well enough to win, or even to get any winning chances - simple as that.

Summarizing the tournament of the top four (with football scoring, the gap between fourth and fifth place is bigger than between first and fourth place!) inevitably includes some simplification, my take would be: Kramnik outplayed his opponents. Carlsen was outsitting his opponents, he beat Adams and Howell only in their time trouble (the game against Nakamura is another story). Nakamura was outgambling his opponents. All are 'proper' ways to win a game of chess at the highest level, at this occasion Kramnik's way led to clear first place.

Finally McShane: Safe to say that he got presents from his three English countrymen. More impressive - given his rating and amateur status - was that he held against all but one of the pre-tournament favorites. He actually gave Carlsen, and to a lesser extent Nakamura a hard time. And even his loss against Kramnik was a "full game", certainly not a walkover for the 130 points higher-rated player.

Bert de Bruut's picture

They did not forget to take a picture of Kramnik, Anand & Kasparov jointly, did they?

adam's picture

carlsen could join in; it would make a nice christmas card for topa ;)
congrats to kramnik, all the other players and the organizers for a great tournament, and chessvibes for the nice coverage!

Knallo's picture

A minor point:
"Especially in some tricky positions in the early rounds he acquainted himself beautifully."
Acquitted, not acquainted.

chandler's picture

I second that

Peter Doggers's picture

Thx, corrected.

Septimus's picture

The lady in the white dress is smoking hot. I'd take her over any prize! Hikaru you player!

Anonymous's picture

No, the other girl is MUCH hotter!

guest's picture


katar's picture

Agree. Brunette in tan dress is plus over minus. This is not even a question.

Am_b_2's picture

Man, Anand dropped below 2800 after a long long time. So next WC match, both players would be under 2800, while there are three other players who are above 2800 magical mark! May be we should not look too much into the rating points afterall.

Brecht's picture

I m thinking Anand is experiencing a burn out, like Kramnik did...

I hope we can see Anand 2.0 soon, like we have now Kramnik 2.0

Anand will win againt Gelfand, but is Gelfand still top 5 player now???

Septimus's picture

Quite a long burn out if you ask me. If he plays like this, Gelfand will crush him.

redivivo's picture

Hardly, Gelfand wasn't exactly different level in the Tal Memorial where he was 8-9th and in Wijk he will hope to avoid repeating his last place from his latest start. I think Anand will win even if he plays like in his latest events, but unless he improves it could get more even than it normally would.

Lee's picture

Well deserved win by Kramnik, plus he's good to watch with his post mortems.

MVP of the event though would be Daniel King who anchored the live broadcast fantastically. He'd be the first man I'd invite for next year if I were one of the organisers.

classic's picture

Daniel King? Not exactly any deep analysis, more superficious I would say.

Lee's picture

lol. Didn't say anything about deep analysis. I liked the way he kept the broadcast moving.

Sarunas's picture

"He was solidity personified against Levon Aronian, rapidly liquidating to a level bishop ending."
I actually think that in order to lose a "solidity personified" Queens Gambit Declined on White side, any GM must have had a shaky night. Which happens sometimes, undeniably...

Niima's picture

Love the picture of Kramnik in front of the electronic demo board. The shadow of a giant.

MaryTenderLOS's picture
Anonymous's picture

i love those two chess queens


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