London Chess Classic 2016 – Round 7

These talented people learn fast. After being demolished in a Najdorf in the previous round, Nakamura quickly changed sides and demolished Vachier in a convincing fashion. Not a very good outcome for the Najdorf aficionados out there, black lost two games in a crushing fashion, but as it usually happens in these cases the black players will simply switch the variation and all will be fine again.

Need I say that Vachier was outprepared again? This time in his pet line in the 6 Bg5 Najdorf, the Poisoned Pawn Variation with 7…h6 8 Bh4 included. Nakamura produced an impressive tour de force, showing his attacking prowess – Vachier simply didn’t stand a chance. When they start sacrificing like that in a Najdorf the black players never survive, mostly because the sacrifices are correct! In order to survive in a Najdorf black must not allow such sacrifices.

The other games were drawn. So is a very pragmatic player, he knows not only when to play for a draw, but, much more importantly, knows how to do it. Against Kramnik he chose a line in the QGD that leads to massive simplifications and drew comfortably. His main test will come in Round 8 when he faces Caruana with black.

Adams put some pressure on Caruana in an English Opening, but it never threatened to be something serious.

Similarly, Aronian didn’t threaten Anand, which is surprising as he is one of Anand’s most uncomfortable opponents. Even more surprisingly, he repeated the toothless variation in the QGD which he used to beat Nakamura with in St. Louis earlier this year (nothing to do with the opening, apparently). That was probably Anand’s dream scenario, as he came fully prepared and drew without breaking a sweat.

In yet another QGD (3 in this round!) Topalov finally drew a game. (He also drew with black in Round 3, which means that he has 0/3 with white.) And who did he draw against? Anish Giri, of course. Giri tortured Topalov for quite a long time, but in a blockaded position arising from the popular 6…Nbd7 line in the QGD with 5 Bf4 white found it impossible to break through. Draw number 7 for Giri, still two more rounds of hope for him.

With So practically being assured a win of this year’s Grand Chess Tour, the only question that remains is who will win this tournament. Round 8 sees Caruana (4.5) take on So (5) and that should be the great battle of the Americans in London. If we look at the previous American duels in this tournament, it shouldn’t disappoint.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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