12/11 London Classic press release

News release
Friday 2nd December 2011

John Saunders reports:
The opening press conference of the 3rd London Chess Classic took place at the Olympia Conference Centre, Kensington, London at 2pm on Friday 2 December 2011.
As tournament organiser Malcolm Pein pointed out in his opening address, this is something very special for British chess: it’s quite simply the strongest chess tournament ever held in these islands. That is quite an achievement for a country which held a stellar chess tournament as early as 1851, to celebrate the Great Exhibition of that year.
This year’s tournament is held under the auspices of the Chess in Schools and Communities, a charity set up to promote the teaching of schools in UK schools. As such, the tournament is not just about the elite grandmasters, it caters for players of all ages and abilities, with a general congress for competition players, numerous fun events in the foyer for those trying chess for the first time, plus organised tuition for the children.
The players were asked questions, both from the people assembled in the room and spectators on the internet who had sent their questions earlier. Elite GMs can often be reticent about saying too much before the tournament and this was no exception, but they responded well to a few of the light-hearted questions. One of this year’s innovations is to have an odd number of players. OK, not totally unprecedented in itself but the novelty is to require the ‘bye’ player to join the commentary team for the day. It so happens that Nigel Short will have the bye in the very first round, so he will be the elite commentator to start the tournament. He is also scheduled to play a fun game with star guest, former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker. Boris has ‘form’ as a chessplayer, having played Garry Kasparov, opening 1 e4 e5 2 Qh5!?. “Ah, he hits the ball over the net,” the former world chess champion is alleged to have said. Today a questioner suggested that, since Boris has a broken foot, Nigel ought to take the opportunity to play him at tennis as well.
Mindful of what was coming next in proceedings, a questioner asked the panel about their attitude to Twitter, Facebook and other social websites, with Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian being the only players in the line-up to tweet so far. Mickey Adams took the microphone to answer: “You haven’t done your research properly,” he replied. “I joined Twitter this morning!” He acknowledged the technical support of his wife in so doing. So, as well as the website, followers of the tournament might like to make a note of the players’ Twitter sites, to see if they make any comments as the London Classic unfolds – @magnuscarlsen, @GMHikaru, @LevAronian and @MickeyAdamsGM.
After the press conference came a new departure – a chess game on Twitter. Billed as London Chess Classic versus the World – the strongest chess game ever held on the medium (and it would be to argue with all those 2800 ratings), it was really just a bit of funny. Nobody quite knew how it would work out but in fact it was great fun. At least, it was good fun for the grandmasters, who entered into the spirit of the thing and bantered happily together as they plotted world destruction. A very good ice-breaker: perhaps all tournaments should start with this pleasant diversion, allowing the players to warm up a bit with the crowd. Maybe they should do this at tennis too – invite people from the crowd to knock up with the players for a few minutes. We can ask Boris Becker what he thinks tomorrow.
But you want to see some action? Have a look at the game between the GMs and the Twitter audience.
London Classic Twitter Games London, 02.12.2011    The World on Twitter – London Chess Classic
1 e4     First serve, Boris Becker. He wasn’t there in the room but is alleged to have started the game. It is unclear to what extent the great German tennis star participated thereafter.
1…g6     The GMs were taking it in turns to make moves, but there were some discussions between them about plans. It was all very informal and the strict laws of the game were not being adhered to. At one point I was shocked to hear what sounded like an arbiter giving advice to a player. Well, to be honest, I was not so much shocked that an arbiter should break the rules in this flagrant manner as incredulous that he should imagine that someone rated about 700 points above him would take his advice in a million years.
2 d4 Nf6     A whim of Nigel Short’s, designed to tease Magnus Carlsen. It elicited a large guffaw from the knowledgeable super-GMs when Nigel suggested it. Magnus was game for a laugh and agreed to Nigel’s whim.
3 e5 Nh5     Why did the GMs laugh? This is a line once played by Tony Miles that Magnus took up but with which he lost to Michael Adams at the 2010 Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad. First psychological blow to the English GMs – but they may pay for it later.
4 Be2 d6 5 Bxh5     5 Nf3 Nc6 6 exd6 exd6 7 d5 Ne7 8 c4 Bg7 9 Nc3 0–0 10 0–0 Bg4 11 Re1 was Mickey Adams’ more measured approached against Magnus Carlsen at the 2010 Olympiad. The Twitter audience decides to grab the offered pawn. It looks like a freebie but you may be surprised to find that even your materialistic analysis engine is skeptical.
5…gxh5 6 Qxh5 dxe5 7 Qxe5 Rg8     The GMs have good play for a pawn here. Whatever White does, Black will soon gain a tempo – and with four 2800s leading the debate, one tempo is going to hurt a lot.
8 Nf3 Nc6 9 Qh5 Nxd4     Someone, I think Vishy Anand, asked Luke McShane why he hadn’t snaffled a pawn with 9…Rxg2 around here. But of course the enquiry was made in the mildest tone. There were no recriminations amongst the GMs. In fact, the game acted as a pleasant ice-breaker after the press conference. By now they were fully absorbed in the chess game, discussing its nuances in the most affable, relaxed terms – and, of course, utterly confident of a successful outcome. Levon Aronian showed himself to a natural chairman, summarising the various ideas and plans.
10 Nxd4 Qxd4 11 0–0     Malcolm Pein sat at the computer keyboard, fielding and sifting the Twitter suggestions as they came in. No easy task, and he had arbiter Albert Vass sitting at the electronic board, chivvying him along, to keep the game moving. For their part the GMs were moving more or less instantly.
11…Qe4 12 g3 Bg7     Kramnik’s idea. Black has the edge with development and weak white squares to aim at.
13 Nc3 Bxc3 14 bxc3 Bd7 15 Ba3?!     Well, the idea is clear, but unfortunately Black gets a big threat in first.
15…Bc6 16 f3 Qe3+ 17 Kg2 0–0–0     Black is now piling the pressure on White’s king. Unless a few thousand of them had Rybka switched on, they were in big trouble.
18 Rae1? Qxc3     The massed ranks of GMs can’t see what your analysis engine sees instantly: 18…Rxg3+!! 19 hxg3 Rd2+ 20 Kh1 Bxf3+!! 21 Qxf3 and now the real point of 18…Rg3+ is revealed: 21…Qh6+! giving mate in a couple of moves.
19 Bxe7 Rd2+ 20 Kh1 Rf2!     Standing close to Magnus Carlsen when he played this, I opined to the arbiter that he was “showboating” (doing something unnecessarily flash when a more routine move would serve as well) but on reflection I’m inclined to think that it was all about the mystical gravitational force which draws Magnus Carlsen in the direction of the right move. Which it is.
21 Qf5+ Kb8 22 Rxf2 Qxe1+ 23 Kg2 Qxe7 0–1     At this point Nigel Short suggested to Malcom Pein that the GMs offered the World “resigns” since White is a bishop down with no hope of salvation. “And if that doesn’t work, we offer them a draw,” suggested a smiling Vladimir Kramnik, who was prepared to trade a half point in favour of an early return to the hotel with his wife and daughter. He is unlikely to be so generous from tomorrow onwards. But Malcolm took the hint and brought the curtain down on the Twitter crowd’s game.
What to say about the world’s performance? I know what Homer Simpson would say: “You tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” But I apologize immediately for that ignoble, defeatist thought. And many thanks to everyone who joined in and were good sports – hope you had some fun. A better idea would be to sit down and relax at your computer screen, and watch the chess stars knocking lumps out of each other, starting tomorrow. Believe me, it’s going to be good…

Reporting from London Chess Classic (kinda)

This intrepid reporter THOUGHT about going to London this year to cover the growing phenomenon called the Chess Classic for my first time.  Sounds like an awesome time!  I even applied for and received a press pass.  Alas I could not make it work out with my job so I thought “maybe next year.”

Much to my surprise, my press pass is now getting me some goodies while I sit home in Poestenkill, NY.  I am being e-mailed materials for the press!  So I am going to post for you what looks postable and hope that this isn’t problematic in any way.

Well, that is me reporting from Corus not London … or Poestenkill … but I just want to get your attention.

As I await the start of round 1, I have received the following treats about the pre-tournament press conference and Twitter game.  Enjoy!


The Champ!

As predicted, Naka kicked some serious butt!
Hikaru Nakamura is the (sole) Champion of the 2011 Tata Steel Chess Tournament having outlasted World Champion Vishy Anand and a late charging World #1 Magnus Carlsen. Simply a superb performance and confirmation that he will be a real challenger for the World Champion title some day. (He has missed the window to be in the current cycle and will need to join next cycle.)
Congratulations Hikaru! And thank you for the excitement you bring to the game at the highest level.

Coming down the home stretch

Wow! The last 3 rounds to go and Hikaru Nakamura is tied for the lead with World Champion Vishy Anand. This is awesome. Great chess, great drama. Nakamura-Kramnik on Saturday morning (7:30am start) I hope you are following. The host site has been top notch this year, too. http://www.tatasteelchess.com/ .

Now to squeeze my last favorite “lost tapes” from last year, here is a two part clip of players from the B section who played a crazy game. Plus the moves. Check it out!

Black sacs 4 pawns and then the exchange for a nasty attack …. and the game ends in a draw!! Negi and Harikrishna played the game, Akobian and Nisipeanu are kibitzing and all are trying to find a winning line for either side. Peter Leko watches too, then leaves …an hour later he is back in part (b) and finally calls it a night. As he leaves he laughs at the others and says something like “you know the press will say this was a ‘nice grandy draw’ between the two Indian players…”



(139) Negi – HarikkrishnaCorus Chess 2010 Wijk aan Zee (7), 23.01.2010
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 Bd6 8.Qe2 h6 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 Qc7 11.0-0 b6 12.Qg4 Bb7 13.Qxg7 Rf8 14.Re1 0-0-0 15.Kh1 Kb8 16.a4 Rg8 17.Qxf7 Rdf8 18.Qxe6 Nf6 19.Bxh6 Bc8 20.Qe2 Rf7 21.Ne5 Ng4 22.Nxg4 Bxg4 23.f3 Bc8 24.f4 Rh7 25.Bxh7 Qxh7 26.Qh5 Rg6 27.Re8 Rxh6 28.Qg4 Rxh2+ 29.Kg1 Rh1+ 30.Kf2 Qxc2+ 31.Ke3 Qb3+ 32.Ke4 Qc2+ 33.Ke3 Qb3+ 1/2-1/2

Being there – redux!

I have really enjoyed the video coverage of this year’s tournament on the host site and today (round 6) was most enjoyable for me. It starts with quite a bit of video of the amateur tournament. This really captured what it was like for me in 2009 when I went and played in the first 3 day event for regular players. What I recalled was all the Dutch players, mostly older men and pretty “down to earth”…and consuming food and beverage served in the tournament hall, particularly the pea soup! But more than anything, the very social and friendly atmosphere of the competition.


I highly recommend that you go and experience it for yourself. It is unlike anything you will find here in the USA.

Oh, and don’t miss out on the cool host video reports for the rest of the tournament. Enjoy.


There has been one game each in rounds 3 and 4 of the Tata Steel (aka Corus) tournament decided by one of the top players in the world simply blundering in the opening. On one level that reassures me – “we all do it” sometimes. And still… it seems hard to believe.

Well here was a very memorable moment from last year’s Corus. I was in the media room when I heard analysts murmuring that Vassily Ivanchuk had just blundered against Magnus Carlsen. People were shaking their heads and asking why he plays like a genius at times and then makes such bonehead plays as well. Apparently he has that reputation.

I rushed out to the playing area and captured the moment on film. Notice the buzz that something just happened at Magnus’ board and all the players coming over to see. Then watch Vassily’s eyes as he tries to save face somehow. Too late, the damage was done.


Hey, it happens….


First off – Hikaru this year is playing like the champion of the tournament. He has scored 2.5 out of 3.0 with a fantastic win over Shirov yesterday. Go Hikaru! Meanwhile…


I was checking to see if my YouTube links I am posting were working – and yes they are – when I found this clip from last year that actually proves I was there. It was a post-game analysis where Kramnik was basically lecturing Van Wely about he had him no matter what Van Wely tried. This clip was good natured but there were some nastier comments by Vlad. I found out later Van Wely had been Vlad’s second at one point so they knew each other well.

I was the new kid on the block and just understanding we really could crowd around and record their “private” conversation. Very cool. You can see me sneak in about half way thru the clip. Eventually I ended up sitting next to Kramnik from the very perspective of this videographer! (At first I thought this was my video!)

The memorable moment for me, though, was when they went through a line and then backed up to a starting position and I thought Kramnik had lost track of something. So, to be helpful, I pointed out to Kramnik that he was in check. Doh! What was I thinking???? I made a blog about it last year.

Corus post-post game analysis

Yes! Hikaru won game 1 today against grischuk. Good start.

Now it seems a bit wierd to show videos from last year while this tournament is going on. (See my two earlier posts.) What the heck, I’ll show some anyway, hopefully for your enjoyment. Here’s something pretty interesting to me from the skittles room at Corus in Jan 2010. It is Smeets (who spanked Shirov today) against Dominguez going over their crazy game in round 7. The game score follows. Wild, huh?



Smeets – Dominguez
Corus Chess 2010 Wijk aan Zee (7), 23.01.2010
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nc6 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.e5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.fxg5 Nd5 12.Ne4 Qb6 13.Bd3 hxg5 14.Bxg5 Qxb2 15.c4 Be7 16.Bxe7 Ne3 17.Qc1 Nxg2+ 18.Kd1 Ne3+ 19.Ke1 Ng2+ 20.Kd1 Ne3+ 21.Qxe3 Qxa1+ 22.Kd2 Qxh1 23.Bxd6 Rxh2+ 24.Be2 Qb1 25.Nf6+ Kd8 26.Qd4 c5 27.Bxc5+ Kc7 28.Qd6+ Kb7 29.Qe7+ Kc6 30.Qd6+ ½–½

It’s Corus time!!!

Hello everyone. I am back with more reports on the Corus tournament – the only thing is it is from last year. Actually I just posted a full explanation but it showed up as being posted on 01/01/11. If you go to it (back in the timeline of posts), there is an excellent interview on video with Nigel Short. Anyway, check that out to understand why I am posting year old videos and pics. Meanwhile here is something to wet your appetite – the youngster Karjakin and Smeets having a good laugh going over their game.


One of these days I’ll really figure out how to embed YouTube videos in my blogs. Sigh.