Rest day in London

With the players taking a well-earned break in the English Capital, this gives us time to reflect on yesterday's games. Kramnik dominated McShane to take second place and Carlsen missed a win against Howell, but still leads.

Here are some notes on the two most noteworthy games from yesterday's third round.

David Howell (2597) - Magnus Carlsen (2801)

London (Chess Classic 3) 10.12.2009

Sicilian Alapin (B22)

1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 ♕xd5 4.d4 ♘f6 5.♘f3 e6 6.♗e3 ♗e7 7.dxc5 ♕xd1+ 8.♔xd1 0-0 9.♘bd2 ♘g4 10.♘b3?!

A new move, but it doesn't seem that good as Black is able to obtain excellent play. Instead the previously known 10.b4!? isn't clear.

10...♘xe3+ 11.fxe3 ♘d7 12.c6 bxc6 13.♘a5 ♗c5 14.♘d4 ♘f6 15.♗c4 ♘g4 16.♔e2 e5 17.♘c2 ♗f5

Black's pieces are actively placed and Howell has to be careful not to be simply worse.

18.h3 ♘f6 19.♘b4 ♗e4 20.♘bxc6

Snatching a pawn to justify his previous play, but Black is now able to tie up White's pieces.

20...♖fe8 21.♖hg1 ♗b6 22.b4 ♖ac8 23.b5 ♗xa5 24.♘xa5 ♖c5 25.a4 ♖ec8 26.♗d3 ♗xd3+ 27.♔xd3 ♖xc3+

Material equality is regained with Black being somewhat more active.

28.♔e2 ♖c2+ 29.♔f3 e4+ 30.♔f4 ♖8c5 31.♘c6 g5+ 32.♔g3 ♖5c3 33.♘e7+

Black would also be better after 33.♘xa7 ♖xe3+ 34.♔h2 g4 35.♖gf1 ♖ee2 36.♖g1 ♖c3 37.♖gf1 ♘d5 38.hxg4 ♘e3.

33...♔f8 34.♘f5 ♘d5


This loses the exchange.

Better was 35.♖ad1! ♖d3! 36.♔g4 ♖xg2+ 37.♖xg2 ♖xd1 38.♔xg5 ♖f1 39.♘d4 ♘xe3 40.♖e2 ♖g1+ 41.♔h4 when White would have very good holding chances.

35...♘f4 36.♖g1 ♘e2+ 37.♔g4 ♘xg1 38.♖xg1 f6 39.h4 gxh4 40.♔xh4 ♖a3

The time control is reached and White is clearly going to be significantly down on material. Black now struggles to find a clear-cut way to win as White's pieces become annoyingly active.

41.g4 ♖xa4 42.♖d1 ♖aa2 43.♖d7 ♖h2+ 44.♔g3 ♖hg2+ 45.♔h3 ♖gf2 46.♘d4 ♔g8 47.♖e7 ♔f8 48.♖c7!

It's more important to keep the rook on the seventh (which keeps Black's king stuck on the eighth) than snatching the e-pawn although 48.♖xe4 ♔f7 wouldn't necessarily be lost.

48...♔e8 49.♔g3 ♖f1?!

Perhaps 49...h6! is more precise, so that when White captures the pawn (with ♖-h7xh6) then Black could at least free his king.

50.♖xh7 ♖a3


More robust was 51.♘f5! e.g. 51...♖f3+ (or 51...♔d8 52.♖f7) 52.♔h4!

51...♖d1 52.♘f5

Or here 52.♘c6 ♖xe3 53.♖e7+ ♔f8 54.♔f2 ♖de1 55.♖xa7 ♖1e2+ 56.♔f1 ♖b2 also looks grim for White.


It's surprising that Carlsen missed the following forcing sequence: 52...♖a2+ 53.♔g3 ♖g1+ 54.♔f4 ♖f2+ 55.♔xe4 ♖xg4+ 56.♔d5 ♖xf5+ 57.♔e6 ♖e5+ 58.♔xf6 ♖xb5 and Black is of course winning.

This goes to show that even 2800s are human!

53.♖h8+ ♔f7 54.♔g3 ♖b3 55.♔f4

With White's pieces so well co-ordinated it now proves to be impossible to win.

55...♖b1 56.♔xe4 ♖f1 57.♖h7+ ♔e6 58.♖h8 ♖c7 59.♘d4+ ♔d6 60.♖d8+ ♖d7 61.♖c8 ♖g7 62.♖d8+ ♖d7 63.♖c8 ♖e7+ 64.♔d3 ♖c7 65.♖d8+ ♖d7 66.♖g8 ♖g1 67.♔e2 ♔c5 68.♔f2 ♖b1 69.♖f8 ♖d6 70.♖f7 ♖b2+ 71.♔f3 ♖a2 72.♔e4 ♔b6 73.♖f8 ♖g2 74.♔f3 ♖h2 75.♖b8+ ♔c7 76.♖a8 ♔b7 77.♖f8 ♖h7 78.♔f4 ♖h1 79.♔f3


Luke McShane (2615) - Vladimir Kramnik (2772)

London (Chess Classic 3) 10.12.2009

Bishop's opening (C24)

1.e4 e5 2.♗c4 ♘f6 3.d3 ♗c5 4.♘f3 0-0 5.♘c3

5.♘xe5? would be too risky due to 5...d5! 6.exd5 ♖e8 7.f4 (7.d4? ♗xd4 8.♕xd4 ♘c6 favours Black due to his lead in development) 7...♘g4 with a strong attack.

5...d6 6.♘a4 ♗b6 7.c3 ♗e6 8.♗b3 ♗xb3 9.axb3 ♘bd7

Kramnik chooses the most flexible knight development. 10.b4

The most sensible would have been 10.♘xb6 axb6=.


A mini-combination that enables Kramnik to completely free his position.

11.♔xf2 b5 12.♗d2?

Surely 12.♖e1 intending to 'castle by hand' is correct, then a plausible continuation such as 12...a5 13.♘c5!? dxc5 14.bxa5 c6 15.b4 cxb4 16.cxb4 c5 would be comfortable for Black but perhaps not advantageous.

12...bxa4 13.♕xa4 c5 14.b5 d5! 15.exd5 ♘b6 16.♕c2 c4!

A fine move. White is not given time to repair his queenside structure with c3-c4.

17.♘xe5 ♕xd5 18.d4 ♘e4+ 19.♔g1

White now will be made to regret not having linked his rooks earlier. His king is in the way and his whole position lacks harmony as a result.

19...♖fe8 20.♘f3 ♕xb5 21.h4 ♕b3!

If White captures on b3 then Black obtains access to the c4-square.

22.♕b1 ♘d5 23.♖h3 h6 24.♕c1 ♕b6 25.♖a4 ♖ab8 26.♖a2

After 26.♖xc4, Kramnik may well have continued with 26...♕b3 27.♕f1 (ugly but what else?) 27...♕xb2 28.♗c1 ♕a1 with strong threats.

26...♕b3 27.♕a1 ♖b6 28.♔h2 ♘df6 29.♗e1 ♘g4+ 30.♔g1 ♘ef6 31.d5

A desperate and rather flippant move. However even sensible continuations such as 31.♖xa7 ♕xb2 32.♖a2 ♕b1 33.♖a6 ♖b2 also look decidedly unpleasant.

31...♘xd5 32.♖g3 ♘df6 33.♗d2 ♖d6 34.♖a3 ♕b6+ 35.♔h1 ♘f2+ 36.♔h2 ♘6g4+


For more information go to the official site: Official site for the London Chess Classic.

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