Nakamura wins Grand Chess Tour Final with Dramatic Last-Round Blitz Victory Print
Tuesday, 18 December 2018 07:21

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NAKAMURA WINS GRAND CHESS TOUR FINAL WITH DRAMATIC LAST-ROUND BLITZ VICTORY

LONDON (December 17, 2018)American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura defeated Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the London Chess Classic and Grand Chess Tour Final by the super-slim margin of 15-13 – the win of a single blitz game – after a nail-biting sequence of seven draws.

After several rapid and blitz games where the difference between the two players hardly ever threatened to become of decisive proportions, in Blitz Game 4 Nakamura repeated a line of a hybrid Grunfeld-English they had played earlier in the match.

Vachier-Lagrave began to suffer after he unwisely moved his queen to the kingside with 15…Qf5, when its lack of safety became a decisive factor.

lcc 2018

Thereafter Nakamura took control of the centre and allowed MVL’s queen no respite, with the death-knell for MVL coming with 24 Ng5, when the queen is cornered. The picturesque final blow was delivered by 29 Bg4!, forcing the win of the queen due to a killer knight fork.

Both players’ match strategy appeared to be aimed at surviving with Black and waiting for the Blitz portion of the match. Nakamura’s adoption of the super-solid Berlin Wall defence in London marked a departure from his usual counter-attacking style, but it paid off in the end.

Nakamura takes home $120,000 for winning the Grand Chess Tour, while MVL pockets $80,000 as runner-up.

In the Third Place Playoff match, US World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana managed to salvage some pride, coming out on top in the Rapid and Blitz games against Armenia’s Levon Aronian, winning the second Rapid game and the final two Blitz games to secure victory by the score of 16-12.

(The scoring system awarded 6 points for each Classical game, while the Rapid games are worth 4 points and the Blitz games 2 points.)

Caruana’s payday was $60,000, while Aronian had to be satisfied with $40,000. Caruana’s third place guarantees him a place in the 2019 Grand Chess Tour, the GCT announced today.

In a press release, The Grand Chess Tour announced on Monday it will be expanded to include two new Rapid and Blitz events, in India and Cote D’Ivoire, which will replace the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, while there will be a new Classical tournament in Croatia. The total prize fund will also be increased, to at least $1.5 million, and Gameplan Sports Pvt. Ltd, one of India's foremost corporate and sports branding agencies, has been appointed as an official sponsorship and branding partner.


Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura deploys the Berlin Defence to the Ruy Lopez against Maxime-Vachier Lagrave in Rapid Game 1 of the Grand Chess Tour Final on December 17. (Photo: Lennart Ootes)


Londonchessclassic.com


London Chess Classic Day 6: Nakamura & MVL Draw Game 2, Setting Up Rapid & Blitz Showdown

LONDON (December 14, 2018) –
Accurate defensive play and good endgame technique once again featured in the second Classical Game of the London Chess Classic Final, with Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave drawing after 53 moves of an evenly-contested Ruy Lopez Berlin Wall variation.

As in Game 1, Black demonstrated full equality in a well-trodden main line of the queenless middlegame, leaving the players to dispute the merits of an ultimately level endgame that had elements of asymmetry, but not enough imbalance to create a serious advantage for either side. MVL’s 22 e6!? effectively led to simplification and further accurate play by both players ensured the draw.

As in the recent World Championship match, draws in Classical play now mean that the London Chess Classic, the concluding event in the Grand Chess Tour 2018, will be decided fully in the Rapid and Blitz portion of the match.

On Monday, there will be 2 Rapid and 4 Blitz games, and if required there will be a playoff of 2 more rapid games and ultimately an Armageddon game. The total prize money for the Final is $200,000.

The Third Place Playoff match between Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian, which has a prize fund of $100,000, also saw a draw in Game 2, with a draw by repetition after 21 moves as Caruana equalised comfortably with his trademark Petroff Defence.

Each Classical game counts for 6 points, while the Rapid games are worth 4 points and the Blitz games 2 points.

Live coverage of the London Chess Classic matches resumes at 14:00 UTC on Monday, December 17.

Full regulations governing the London Chess Classic Final and Third Place Playoff matches can be viewed here.


Joshua John
Joshua John, an England junior international who started playing chess through the Chess in Schools and Communities programme in Newham, plays the ceremonial first move for Maxime-Vachier Lagrave Game 2 of the Grand Chess Tour Final. (Photo: Lennart Ootes)

Londonchessclassic.com


LONDON CLASSIC DAY 2: FAB FOUR BECALMED, GAWAIN JONES STRIKES 

• Both Semi-Final matches in the London Chess Classic see draws on Day 2, leaving Fabiano Caruana & Hikaru Nakamura, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave & Levon Aronian, all tied with two draws each.

• The Semi-Finals go into a third and final day on Thursday, consisting of 2 rapid and 4 blitz games, with a total of 15 points required to secure qualification to the Final. Each Classical game in the match counts for 6 points, each Rapid game counts for 4 points and each Blitz game for 2 points. 

• Should matches still be tied, rapid playoffs and then an Armageddon game will decide. 

• In the British Knockout Championship, Gawain Jones defeats David Howell with a daring bishop sacrifice. Meanwhile, Mickey Adams is thwarted by dogged defence from Luke McShane, who holds a fortress to draw. 

• Live coverage of all matches can be viewed here from 14:00 UTC: London Chess Classic & British Knockout Championship. 

LONDON (December 13, 2018) – After the high drama of Fabiano Caruana narrowly failing to take the World No. 1 ratings spot on Day 1 of the London Classic, the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour 2018, on Wednesday the World Championship challenger comfortably held Hikaru Nakamura to a draw with his trademark super-solid Petroff Defence.

Nakamura, an acknowledged rapid and blitz specialist, steered the game towards early exchanges and a draw, meaning that the two players go level into a final day of 2 Rapid and 4 Blitz games on Thursday. 

In the other Classic game, Levon Aronian tried an enterprising central pawn thrust (9 d4!?) and later pressed in the endgame due to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s doubled e-pawns, but MVL held on to draw. 

All four Classic games have so far ended in draws, although three of them have been extremely hard-fought. 

Hikaru Nakamura shakes hands with Alex
Hikaru Nakamura shakes hands with Alex, who was invited to play the ceremonial first move for the US Grandmaster by Chess in Schools and Communities, before the start of Classical Game 2. Nakamura accepted Alex’s move, 1 e4.

The Grand Chess Tour format this year specifies that Classical games are worth 6 points each, Rapid games 4 points and Blitz 2 points. The winning line is reached when one player gets 15 points. 

If the players are still tied, Thursday will also see a 2-game match of rapid chess, with 10 minutes plus 5 seconds delay per move, followed by an Armageddon blitz game to decide the Semi-Finals if required. 

Full regulations governing the London Chess Classic Semi-Finals, Final and Third Place Playoff matches can be viewed here

In the British Knockout Championship, which is played with the same format and time limits as the London Chess Classic, Gawain Jones beat David Howell in an Italian Game with an interesting piece sacrifice (17 Bxh6!?) to go 9-3 ahead in their match. 

This means a win and a draw in the Rapid games on Thursday would be enough to see Jones into the Final. 

In the other British KO game, Mickey Adams looked to be on course to secure victory after gaining the advantage in a French Tarrasch and winning Luke McShane’s queen for rook and bishop. But he was denied by rearguard defence as McShane managed to set up a fortress. 

London Chess Classic, Grand Chess Tour Finals 
Semi Final 1, Game 2 
Nakamura 3 - 3 Caruana 
Score: Caruana 6 - 6 Nakamura 

Semi Final 2, Game 2 
Aronian 3 - 3 Vachier-Lagrave 
Score: Aronian 6 - 6 Vachier-Lagrave 

British Knockout Championship 
Semi Final 1, Game 2 
Adams 3 - 3 McShane 
Score: Adams 6 - 6 McShane 

Semi Final 2, Game 2 
Jones 6 - 0 Howell 
Score: Jones 9 - 3 Howell 


(The alternation of colours now switches, so each player will have the same colour in Game 3 - Rapid Game 1 - as they had in Game 2.) 

Londonchessclassic.com


LONDON CLASSIC DAY 1: CARUANA NARROWLY MISSES #1 SPOT 

• World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana is held to a draw by Hikaru Nakamura in the first semi-final game of the London Chess Classic, the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour, despite coming close to a decisive kingside attack on multiple occasions.

• The result leaves Caruana still just short of World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s No. 1 spot on the live ratings.

• Levon Aronian presses Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in an endgame but is also held to a draw in 74 moves.

• In the accompanying British Knockout Semi-Finals, Luke McShane forces a perpetual after mounting a strong counter-attack on Mickey Adams’ king. 

LONDON (December 11, 2018) – The big question on everyone’s lips at the start of play at the London Chess Classic Semi-Finals was whether Fabiano Caruana could win to overtake Magnus Carlsen – just 3 points ahead of him in the live ratings – to grab the coveted World No. 1 spot that the Norwegian has held for seven years. 

Caruana came very close to securing the win, playing aggressively against Hikaru Nakamura’s Queen’s Gambit Declined, and sacrificing the front of two g-pawns to mount a kingside attack against Nakamura’s king. Yet perhaps in an echo of Caruana’s World Championship match last month with Carlsen, the win proved elusive as even computer analysis showed no clear way through, despite giving Caruana a sizeable advantage. 

The other game in the Semi-Finals, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave playing a Ruy Lopez against double king-pawn specialist Levon Aronian, was eventually drawn despite the Armenian having a slight advantage in the endgame. 

Both games in the British Knockout Championship, which were played in the same auditorium at Google Deep Mind’s London offices, were also drawn. While David Howell versus Gawain Jones was a fairly sedate affair, Luke McShane’s game with Mickey Adams was an end-to-end running battle, with first Adams and then McShane taking the initiative on the kingside. An exchange sacrifice by McShane led to a forced draw, leaving all still to play for in Game 2 tomorrow. 

Both the London Classic and British Knockout follow the same Grand Chess Tour knockout format. After the second Classical game on Wednesday, play switches on Thursday to two rapid and four blitz games. If the players are still level, rapid playoff matches and if required an Armageddon blitz game will decide who goes through to the finals. 

Demis Hassabis
DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis plays the first move in Fabiano Caruana’s game with Hikaru Nakamura on Tuesday at the London Chess Classic. 

Londonchessclassic.com

 
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