London Chess Classic 2015 – Rounds 4-5
In Round 4 Nakamura repeated the style of play he successfully adopts against Anand – slow game, with nothing special out of the opening, but with constant pressure and problems to solve for Anand. Plus, always the same Catalan. This game also illustrates the approach to the opening preparation of the elite players – it’s equal everywhere, but at least the equal should be with some venom, whether that be a pawn (for compensation) like here, or some other type of disbalance.
The surprise of the round for me was Carlsen’s inability to squeeze more from the technical position an exchange up against Adams. He usually wins these positions, but this time perhaps there wasn’t really a way.
The Najdorf with 6 Bg5 is not a frequent guest in these circles, so it was a welcome sight, especially for a lifelong Najdorf player like myself. A lively battle led to a well-played draw in Grischuk-Vachier.
Round 5 saw Anand come back to 50% thanks to Topalov’s continued bad form. For the second time in the tournament the faithful Najdorf brought only grief to Topalov, but if against Vachier in Round 3 he was doing well after the opening here he was suffering almost from the start because of his passive play.
Aronian-Carlsen was a decent draw, notable for Carlsen’s acknowledgement of Kramnik’s opening preparation – he employed his predecessor’s idea in the Semi-Tarrasch. (This was played by Fressinet, Carlsen’s second, in 2014, one year before Kramnik, but note that Fressinet was Kramnik’s second before he started working for Carlsen. My guess is that this was all Kramnik’s preparation for the London Candidates in 2013 when he introduced the Semi-Tarrasch in his repertoire.)
The other 3 games of the round were two Anti-Berlins (4 d3) and one main line Berlin. The latter saw Giri demonstrate his superb prep to make a draw without much effort against Vachier. I don’t think the Frenchman minded much. In the Anti-Berlins, Adams got nothing against Nakamura while Caruana was winning against Grischuk, but somehow managed not to win.
With 3 players on +1 (Nakamura, Giri, Vachier) and everybody else except Topalov on 50% everything is up for grabs in London. In the next round I expect Giri with white to play for a draw against Carlsen. But I always expect that.