London Chess Classic 2016 Starts

The elite of the world chess gathered in London for the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour. The notable absentee, the World Champion, is probably chilling out somewhere in the Carribean on a well-deserved holiday, while his challenger didn’t qualify for this year’s Tour.

The first round saw three decisive results, two of them coming from horrible blunders. Let’s start with the earlier one.

Playing on one’s birthday is considered bad luck, although the notable absentee successfully defended his title exactly on his birthday. Probably this was because the usual (Murphy’s) laws do not apply to him. Ask Nakamura if you wish, who playing white against So made a losing blunder on move 13 (speaking of luck…) and could resign with clear conscience on move 21. At least I hope they didn’t give him flowers before the round…

Aronian beat Adams by playing the Giuoco Piano. Not that the opening mattered, I mention it here because Aronian is a 1 d4 player and Adams always plays 1…e5 after 1 e4. So Aronian copied Kramnik and played 1 e4 against a player who is certain to play 1…e5 (I wonder what he would have done had Adams played the Sicilian). He got nothing out of the Piano, I’d say that black was even slightly better. The game was decided when Adams blundered horribly, probably in time trouble.

And of course, the treat of the day was the duel of the Toilet Men – Kramnik and Topalov. No handshakes, of course, neither wants to touch the other man’s hand. The psychological undercurrent of these duels affects both players – the number of odd opening choices and blunders in their games is very big when compared to when they play other people. It is as if these games take away their peace of mind and they get over-excited. It seems that this affects Topalov more, but Kramnik has also had his fair share of odd games. Another notable feature is that usually white wins in these games.

The draws were correctly played. When chess is played correctly and the players don’t commit bad mistakes, which means that the game was of high quality, the game ends in a draw. When one players blunders the game ends with a win. And the moaners are never happy – if the quality is good, then it’s a draw, if there is a win, then the quality is low. You cannot please them all.

Anand’s new favourite way to meet the English Opening (1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4), which he started to play after his problems in the usual main lines in the Candidates, survived Caruana’s attempts (Caruana was one of the players who beat Anand in the Candidates in the English Opening!) while Vachier and Giri played an uneventful Najdorf (yes, unfortunately that can also happen).

Tomorrow is Round 2 when Kramnik plays Aronian. Will he play 1 e4 against a dedicated 1…e5 player?

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