GM Hikaru Nakamura is the KING of London!
In a thrilling final, USA numero Uno defeated Israeli GM Boris Gelfand, conquering the title.
By GM Ben Finegold
The London Chess Classic changed its format this year, from a normal round-robin tournament to a 16 player event, with four sections of four players each, followed by elimination matches. Oh, and yes, the time control changed from slow chess to g/25 (with a 10 second increment). Rapid play is quite popular with many of the world's elite, since it is not slow FIDE rated, so they are not risking their rating, and its popular with many fans, since there are more blunders, more time trouble, and fewer draws.
I have not been to London in over 20 years, but since ICC admin Aviv Friedman and I were going to the 2013 World Youth in Al Ain, UAE, we decided to break up the trip and watch chess in London (well, it was Aviv's idea, but I went along!). In fact, I am in Al Ain now as I write this article, the Classic finishing last night!
The tournament was fantastic from everyone's point of view, and I spent almost 100% of my time in the VIP room, where you could not only see the players relaxing, but also highly rated/titled spectators like Julian Hodgson, John Nunn, Jon Speelman, David Norwood, Ken Rogoff, and many IMs and FMs.
After the four player double round-robin sections were finished, the top two from each group (8 remained) played knockout matches. There were few surprises in the groups, and the only non-British invited player to get knocked out was Judit Polgar, although she was ranked third in her section behind Hikaru Nakamura and Boris Gelfand. There were two qualifiers (Emil Sutovsky and Andrei Istratescu) from the Open, and they also were eliminated before the knockouts.
The tournament was quite exciting, as not only were there GMs galore in the VIP room, but there was a live commentary room, normally run by GM Danny King and another strong titled player, and the playing hall was normally quite filled up, often with children! Also, there was a 190 player Open tournament, with more than 15 GMs and many side events and simultaneous exhibitions with GMs. Another bonus for the spectator was a charity booth raising money for the Chess In Schools in Britain, where you could play a blitz game with a GM for 2 pounds. I was one of the featured GMs a couple of times, and the GMs would give all comers 5 minutes to 1. If you are going to go to any tournament to watch GMs and Super GMs, I highly recommend this event!
Hikaru won his quarter final match against Nigel Short, then had the unusual pairing of Vladimir Kramnik in the semis! The two highest rated players would normally meet in the finals, but it was not to be, and after a draw in game 1 (in which Hikaru could have had a large advantage at one point) it looked bad for the American in game 2, but in a much worse ending he held grimly, and with less than 1 minute on his clock, Kramnik made a terrible mistake then a horrible blunder, and the match was over! Hikaru awaited the winner of Boris Gelfand - Mickey Adams, and Boris was too tough for Mickey. Adams was the longest lasting British player, beating Peter Svidler in the quarters.
The finals was of great interest to everyone, and the VIP room was packed to the gills, as even Fabiano Caruana (knocked out by Gelfand) and Vishy Anand (knocked out by Kramnik) helped Hodgson evaluate positions. Hikaru won a very sharp first game against Boris in a complex Gruenfeld, and was able to hold with black in game 2, and the title went to the American, and world #3 (#1 in blitz!).
The tournament was held at a great venue, the Olympia Centre in the Kensington area of London, and I hope I can come back next year and watch this great event! I have not seen many of my friends in a long time, and it had been 20 years since I had spoken to Norwood or IM Andrew Martin!
|1||Dec 11|| GM Joel Benjamin
|2||Dec 12|| GM Lars Bo Hansen
|3||Dec 13|| GM Larry Christiansen
|4||Dec 14|| GM Ronen Har-Zvi
|5||Dec 15|| GM Alex Yermolinsky
Photos from the Official website.