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?
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?
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?
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:
Watch live games and commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley, GM Alejandro Ramirez with US Chess editor Jen Shahade hosting onsite interviews, at the Grand Chess Tour Website.