Tactics and Strategy at the London Classic

LCC-151207_223-L Hikaru Nakamura, who defeated GM Vishy Anand in round four of the London Chess Classic, celebrates his birthday on the rest day. Photo Ray Morris-Hill
While the Sinquefield Cup began with all decisive games, the London Classic has had a far more peaceful start. After four rounds, there's been an 85% drawing rate—with only 3 decisive games. Round five continued the trend, with just one decisive result- Anand over Topalov. However, many of the draws have been full of depth and fight. Three tournament leaders have emerged, slightly ahead of the pack: U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Here are some of the tactical and strategic highlights of the event so far:
Puzzle #1: Tactic
How did Anish Giri score the first victory of the tournament?
Veselin Topalov vs. Anish Giri
Black to move. Checkmate in 8 moves.
Show Solution
36...Qh1+ 37. Ke2 Qg2+ 38. Ke1 Re8+ 39. Kd1 Nf2+ 40. Kc2 Ne4+ White resigns. If 41. Kd3 Qd2+ 42. Kd4 Rc8+ 43. Qc5 Rxc5#
Puzzle #2: Strategy
How did the World Champion gain an advantage?
Viswanathan Anand vs. Magnus Carlsen
Black to move.
Show Solution
34...Na5! The knight heads to the outpost on c4 where it will have a grip on the center and cannot be chased away. 35. Re1 Nc4 Carlsen has a nearly decisive advantage and will follow it up by preparing ...b5.
Puzzle #3: Strategy
According to Nakamura, Anand's 30...g6 in their game was "basically the losing move" because it allowed him to get a "structure where the knight is always better than the bishop". How did Nakamura win the minor piece battle?
 Hikaru Nakamura vs. Viswanathan Anand
White to move.
Show Solution
31. h5! Nakamura forces Anand's g-pawn to advance, creating an outpost on f5 for his knight. In a few moves, White's knight will dominate the game. 31...g5 32. Qd1 Bg7 33. Nc2 The knight begins its journey to f5. 33...Qa2 34. Ne3 Qa1 35. Qxa1 Bxa1 36. Ra2 Bd4 37. Nf5 The knight finally reaches the outpost, and Black's game soon falls to pieces: 37...Bg7 38. Rxa6 Bf8 39. d6 Bxd6 40. Nxh6+ Kh7 41. Ng4 In the face of White's threats and Black's weakened kingside, Black resigns.
Puzzle #4: Strategic Sacrifice
Inhis game against Veselin Topalov, Fabiano Caruana showed how to draw a nearly lost position: Counterplay with active pieces.
Caruana is down a pawn and positionally worse. Now, Topalov has just skewered the white queen and rook with 46. Ba6. What's Caruana's best chance to save the game?
Veselin Topalov vs. Fabiano Caruana
Black to move.
Show Solution
46...Qa7 Giving up the entire rook! 47. Bxc8 Qxa2+ 48. Kd1 c4 49. Rd2 Qa1+ 50. Ke2 c3 and Caruana's connected, passed pawns and active queen proved to be enough compensation to hold a draw—despite his vast material deficit.
 Here's the full game:
[pgn] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [White "Veselin Topalov"] [Black "Fabiano Caruana"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2803"] [BlackElo "2787"] [PlyCount "165"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 O-O 6. Nbd2 d6 7. h3 Ne7 8. d4 Bb6 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Qe2 Ng6 11. g3 Qe7 12. Bd3 a5 13. Nc4 Bc5 14. Be3 Rd8 15. Bxc5 Qxc5 16. Ne3 h6 17. O-O-O Be6 18. Kb1 b5 19. c4 b4 20. Nd5 Nd7 21. Ne1 c6 22. Nc7 Rac8 23. Nxe6 fxe6 24. h4 Rf8 25. Bc2 Qe7 26. Nd3 Nc5 27. Qe3 Nxd3 28. Rxd3 Rfd8 29. Rhd1 Rxd3 30. Qxd3 Nf8 31. Ba4 Qc5 32. Rd2 Kf7 33. Bd1 Ra8 34. Qd6 Qxc4 35. Qxe5 Qb5 36. Qc7+ Kg8 37. Qd6 a4 38. Be2 Qb6 39. Bc4 Re8 40. Qd4 c5 41. Qd6 Qb7 42. f3 a3 43. Rd3 axb2 44. Kxb2 Kh7 45. Kc2 Rc8 46. Ba6 Qa7 47. Bxc8 Qxa2+ 48. Kd1 c4 49. Rd2 Qa1+ 50. Ke2 c3 51. Qxf8 cxd2 52. Kxd2 Qb2+ 53. Ke3 Qc1+ 54. Kf2 Qd2+ 55. Kf1 Qd1+ 56. Kg2 Qe2+ 57. Kh3 h5 58. g4 hxg4+ 59. Kxg4 Qg2+ 60. Kf4 Qh2+ 61. Ke3 Qg1+ 62. Kd3 Qf1+ 63. Kd4 Qa1+ 64. Kc4 Qc3+ 65. Kb5 b3 66. Bxe6 Qe5+ 67. Kb4 Qxe6 68. Kc3 Qb6 69. Qf5+ Kg8 70. Qd5+ Kf8 71. Qxb3 Qf6+ 72. Kc2 Qxh4 73. Qb8+ Kf7 74. Kd3 Qe1 75. Qf4+ Ke6 76. Qf5+ Ke7 77. Qc5+ Kf7 78. Qf5+ Ke7 79. Qg6 Qd1+ 80. Ke3 Qe1+ 81. Kf4 Qc1+ 82. Kf5 Qc5+ 83. Kf4 0-1[/pgn]
Watch live games and commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and more, with US Chess editor Jen Shahade hosting onsite interviews, at the Grand Chess Tour Website.
London Chess Classic - Schedule

London Chess Classic Schedule

Date Time (CT) Event
December 4 10 a.m. Round 1
December 5 8 a.m. Round 2
December 6 8 a.m. Round 3
December 7 10 a.m. Round 4
December 8 10 a.m. Round 5
December 9 Rest Day
December 10 10 a.m. Round 6
December 11 10 a.m. Round 7
December 12 8 a.m. Round 8
December 13 8 a.m. Round 9 & Playoff