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.

PGN string

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.

PGN string

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

PGN string

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.

PGN string

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


garniktalavera's picture

Luckymura strikes again

noyb's picture

I love how you Hikaru "Haters" call it "luck" when he places ahead of pretty-boy model wannabe Carlsen. Haw, haw, haw...

Nice win by Vlad the Impaler, congrats!

Johnny's picture

I thought the reference to "luck" and Luckymura was based on the photo of Hikaru with the two babes.

RealityCheck's picture

Did Kramnik ever get his winners trophy from Kasparov (or was it Keen) after the Wch match in London 2000?

columbo's picture

yeap ! how lucky he was in London ! INCREDIBLE !

congrats to Kramnik

redivivo's picture

Nakamura got paid back for some previous tournaments, I doubt it ever happened on this level before that someone wins three games from lost positions out of eight played.

mathijs's picture

Nakamura hasnt been too unfortunate this tournament, winning vs aronian, anand and adams when they blundered, but all in all he played decent. Kramnik deserved winner, beating the lowest rated players in true kramnik style. Carlsen has been playing good at +3, while not being able to upset the 'big three'.
Biggest surprise is seeing Anand and Aronian who didn't seem that motivated to take some risks. Wonder why Aronian has been playing so safe. Job well done by McShane, he held his own against a very tough field.

Chris's picture

Nakamura wins remind Tal wins. It is all. Did Tal play decent?

giovlinn's picture

That's what I like about chess. I thought Carlsen would win easily from Short but nope.

Thomas Richter's picture

Funny final standings: 16, 15, 14 and 13 points - a bit sad that Peter didn't put four names in the title because for me McShane is also a hero of the event.

Which cannot be said about Anand and Aronian - only here the "most wins with black" tiebreaker was relevant, and it all depended on which color they got against Nigel Short (they would have been exactly tied based on any other criterion).

christos's picture

Big performance by Vladimir Kramnik!

iLane's picture

Whz is Howell and Adams tied 8-9 with 4 and 3 points?

Anonymous's picture

Well Anand got exactly what he apparently wanted - to score 50%. He only got upset and pressed for a win after he lost a game. I can understand not wanting to show his opening theory, but WHY was he in such a hurry to play for 3-fold repetition in interesting positions that he could have prodded with little risk? His last round game was played as if he wanted to be somewhere else. Why?

archimedes's picture

He does. He has to defend his title.

Anthony's picture

Great performance Kramnik!

i don't like the lucky Naka stuff. No, Hikaru came to London with burning ambition, looking for disbalance all the time and certainly overstepping at times. He did very well, although his loss against Magnus no doubt reminded him he still has some way to go before he can really challenge the Quadopoly.

Too bad Nigel picked Magnus to show his innate class. He played like a clown in the rest of the event, as he sometimes does. But he always shows he can still be dangerous and doesn't like to be seen as a push over. It's nasty it had to happen to Carlsen, who would have been a deserved co winner, but then again: with such a monstrous domination one cannot blame the rest of the field of working extra hard against him.

Aronian will be disappointed, his performance was clearly sub par.
Anand probably made a mistake playing here and in Moscow.

In this day and age, you just can't face the best without your killer applications at hand. Even Anand needs to muster all his reserves and most definitely his database to show his class in such a field.

Hopefully it doesn't hurt his confidence too much. However, the reactions from the stupid masses have shown their usual brainlessness.

S3's picture

So Naka, who scored 2 wins, a draw and a loss can not challenge your Quadopoly...Very special..I suppose you prefer drawmakers who get their rating of much lower rated players.

As for the "monsterous domination" of Carlsen (not less than 3rd place!!) , it was frightening indeed. To think of the extra effort he had to put in because of people working extra hard against him ( for instance his thriller with the QG against Anand). Obviously he deserved to be tied for first. This does not hold for Aronian, and certainly not for Luke McShane whom we will leave out of our analysis to be clear.

Like you said. People have shown their usual brainlessness.

Anthony's picture

The quest for hegemony is an ongoing process S3. This tournament is just one. Carlsen played very strongly, undefeated, plus three, among the leaders the whole time, 2875 performance.

He's been doing this (and winning most of the time) for quite some time. It's not for nothing he's 30 points up in the live ratings.

Anthony's picture

Btw S3: Luke's performance was charming, but a little overrated.
He had a strange tournament: black against his compatriots and offering a great showing against them.

Then he had 4 whites against the top 5 players. He didn't manage to threaten them at all. He just doesn't have the repertoire.

His talent and strength sure predestine him to the elite.

But only if he digs in to the openings.

He did very well in London, but he never really was in contention and he clearly lacked that little extra against the best.

Why you bring up Aronian, who clearly disappointed and played no role at all, I don't understand.

S3's picture

Right. I advise you to take a look at McShane-Kramnik.

Anthony's picture

Lol, that's a good point.

He overpressed and got punished.

RealityCheck's picture

Yes, big daddy Vlad chalks up yet another successful training tournament!!! I know I'm getting ahead of myself with TATA just around the corner but, the up coming Candidates tournament 2012 is the really the real thing. It will decide the next world championship challenger. Much more than money at stake here. Be there or be square.

Dr. Wolfgang Berghorn's picture

Congrats to Vlad Kramnik, who has been underestimated since his loss to Anand in Bonn 2008! It´s a pity, that there is no WCC match ANAND-KRAMNIK in April 2012.

Bastian's picture

Yeah, you're right, I'd also like to see a WCC match between the Kramnik 2.0 and Anand!

Chris's picture

He was overestimated after his match win over Kasparov.

He is a decent match player - kazan lucky win over Radjabov due to clock problem.etc

Septimus's picture

Congrats to Kramnik. An excellent performance in a star studded field. Of all the participants, I think Luke McShane ought to be given a special prize for his excellent performance. Most people (including yours truly) expected him to be the whipping boy, but boy did he crank it up a notch or what!

Clearly Anand's performance was the most abysmal of the lot. One would expect a much better performance from the World Champion. Way too many insipid draws. Today's game was one such travesty.

Short, despite his poor score is definitely my favorite! The guy is totally fearless and always comes out blasting. We need more crazy play and less QGD garbage draws.

Anthony's picture

To be honest, I'm amazed at the little appreciation Magnus receives here.

People complain a lot about Anand, but the kind of ignore Carlsen. While he was fighting for first place the whole time and was slightly unlucky to find a combative Short.

I think chess should be really happy with such an incredibly strong player. I think it is completely unprecedented what Carlsen has done so far.

Even Kasparov's rise to the top was not so meteoric and Carlsen is only 21, when he's already clearly the strongest player in the world. And has been for quite some time now.

He's still years from his prime and ever since I've been following him my main worry has been he'd get bored.

But as long as he's not, the only question is how close he'll get to 2900.

At this point the other three of the Quadopoly can only threaten him on a bad day.

S3's picture

Think what you want about unprecedented but Kasparov had already played a wch match at 21, just to mention the most obvious example.
And winning of Howell, Adams, Nakamura is really not as special as you seem to think. Guys like Karpov and Kasparov were winning against everybody at that age-not just the weakies. At Tal MC won only of Gelfand and (once again) Nakamura. Is it really that impressive? As for the games, they don't strike me as that special either. It's completely logical that Kramnik gets the praise when he wins the event, all the more so 'cause he masters chess far better than Carlsen, albeit not as stable these days.

Anthony's picture

A match maybe, but I think he was losing 5-0 at some point, wasn't he?

Do you see Carlsen losing 5-0 to anybody?

And about the games: the intuitive type is always loathed by the many, especially if they have a profylactic approach to the game.

The masses want blood 'n gore, but the Karpovs, Kramniks and Carlsens of this world are pythons, blunting the swords of the uncanny Kasparovs and Topalovs.

Carlsen's domination is very much like Karpov's was at his prime.

S3's picture

I don't see him "losing" a match 5-0 cause so far he has not shown the guts, let alone the strength, to qualify. Furthermore Kasparov was not losing 5-0, he was 5-3 over 48 games.

not a MC fanboy's picture

Just like Carlsen can only threaten Kramnik,Anand or Aronian on one of their bad days.

archimedes's picture

The record between Carlsen and Kramnik begs to differ from your last statement.

A higher rated player is not always better in a match situation against a lower rated player. An incongruence of style is not to be underestimated in match play.

redivivo's picture

Exactly, Aronian is a better match player than Anand, as their head to head stats show.

Anthony's picture

This is true of course. And any match with Carlsen in it would be most exciting. The other three guys would put up a great fight and have every chance of winning, especially Kramnik who is a phenomenal matchplayer.

I'm certainly happy for Gelfand that after such an illustrious career he gets a shot.

But to be honest: it does look like a waste of time.

redivivo's picture

"Kramnik who is a phenomenal matchplayer"

Are you certain about that? He played one phenomenal match in his career, but didn't win a game in the matches against Grischuk and Radjabov, was beaten by Anand, Kamsky, Shirov and Gelfand, drew Leko and won in tiebreak against Topalov (who is a comparatively weak match player, losing to Anand and Kamsky lately). Not extremely impressive match results on the whole, but people tend to remember the Kasparov match and forget about those played the last years.

Anthony's picture

Hmmmmm.............maybe you have a point.

But he did cling on to the WC title in two matches. His draw against Leko should not be underestimated: Leko was at his prime and Vlad came up with a must win in the 12th game.

Similar story with Topalov, who was winning everything at the time.

I don't care too much about the matches in the candidates. They are so short everybody is just playing not to lose a game and hopefully win one until the rapids.

This creates another kind of dynamic than in a real match.

Which, btw, should have at least 16 games to offer a really objective result.

RealityCheck's picture

You have the audacity to call Gelfands' life time, career accomplishment, becoming Anands challenger, a waste of time!?!? Take a hike Anthony! Get outta here.

Anthony's picture

I understand your point RealityCheck, I know Gelfand is a very classy gentlemen and grandmaster.

I was trying to say that with the current kind of studs all over the place Gelfand clearly is not the most challenging or inspiring challenger

RealityCheck's picture

How can you know this before it happens? You just assume one of these studs would put up a better fight; maybe even defeat Wch Anand. Who, besides me, imagined Anand dusting Kramnik off in the first half of their WC Match? Kramnik is no push over. Every one assumed a close match in public and a Kramnik victory in private.

My dad told me always to remember this: when ones assumptions turn out wrong you make an ass out of u and me. Let the match play itself out. By the way, the studs you imagine all had their chance to challenge Anand and didn't make it for one reason or another. Maybe next time. This time it's Anand vs Gelfand. Show some respect.

Excalibur's picture

Well said S3. Carlsen might be a the most brilliant talent in recent years but some chess fans tend to succumb to hyperbole when describing his immense talent, hence non-Carlsen fans might even feel contempt for the young lad. Why don't some of you be more humble like the young man? Congrats to Kramnik, chess legend.

S3's picture

Thanks, but in fact I was giving too much credit when I made the comparison with Kasparov. I should have used someone like Kamsky who got to play a match for the title at age 22, after beating Anands and Kramniks in matches. Ok, he was not ranked 1rst but 2-4th, but qualifiers are obviously not the best rating maximizers and secondly Karpov and Kasparov were still going strong at that time. Alas, I fear that the name of a Kamsky doesn't ring any bells for many.

Anthony's picture

There is no hyperbole, just appreciation and happiness that chess has such an uncanny new master.

Carlsen's performance is his, not mine, I just enjoy it. So I can't be 'humble' or 'arrogant' about it.

Carlsen is indeed no bluffer and does not show the arrogance some other strong players do or did. Although it must be said that ego has been on the decline in chess for quite some time. Most players show good spirits both on and off the board.

Boring on the one hand, but in the end a good thing.

And by the way, I've been a solid Kramnik fan for more than 15 years. I've loved the pythons ever since I started to play serious chess :-)

Al's picture

Congrats to Kramnik, a chess legend!

Magnus has enough to be satified with (even though he missed out on shared first) his new live rating, seems to increase a few points every tournament which seems to be his main goal.

2012 is going to be an interesting year indeed!

darkergreen's picture

Good news that David Howell will start to play more chess! Luke must do the same!

Knallo's picture

Congratulations to Grandmaster Kramnik! I think no one played better in the tournament than he did, and he played very, very well indeed often.
A player who combines huge talent with self-confidence and modesty (yes, it can be done!), poise, and humour of a flavour I enjoy very much.

One little thought: Luke is almost incredible. I am not sure whether he should advised to return to chess full-time, but if he did, I would be happy.

Daaim Shabazz's picture

I interviewed Nakamura at the 2005 HB Global Challenge and there was a lawn set. I asked if he was going to play some bullet games on it. It was funny, but I was only kidding. I never thought I'd see blitz on this.

Chess Fan's picture

Luke McShane is the young player of the year to watch after Magnus Carlsen and Lev Aronian. If he focuses on Chess, he is sure to be in their league and be a strong contender to be the World Chess Champion in my opinion.
David Howell is also a great British talent and hope but now where as good as Luke McShane from what I have seen so far.

Chess Fan's picture

According to Peter Svidler himself, Vladimir Kramnik is the most talented and intuitive player that he has even known.
Is it any surprise that this legend is performing so consistently and so well, including winning this tournament?

Xeno's picture

Didn't he finish second to last in Tal Memorial a couple of weeks ago?

Abbas's picture

Yes, you're right, and if you look at his Elo rating, you'll notice the fluctuations in his rating during the year but the trend is upward so far.

redivivo's picture

To be serious for a while even if it's more boring, Kramnik has done well against the lower rated players during 2011 but he did much worse in Tal, Kazan, Wijk and the Russian Superfinal, where there were fewer opponents with ratings similar to Meier-Giri-Polgar-Lagrave-Short-McShane-Howell-Adams.

Kramnik's results in 2011 against players rated 2735 or better: +0 -4 =25


Latest articles