London Chess Classic: Viswanathan Anand crumbles under pressure; Magnus Carlsen impresses against Michael Adams
The biggest result of the round was the game between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Viswanathan Anand which the former won and joined Fabiano Caruana as the tournament leader.
In stark contrast with the previous rounds, round seven of the London Chess Classic saw as many as three decisive games. With this explosion in its antepenultimate round, the tournament title is now within the reach of seven out of the ten players. The biggest result of the round was the game between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Viswanathan Anand which the former won and joined Fabiano Caruana as the tournament leader.
Playing from the white side of an English Opening, Nepomniachtchi played ambitiously from the very start of the game. On his seventh move, the Russian Grand Master offered a pawn with the hope of generating an attack along the semi-open file that it would create. Anand accepted the offered sacrifice and felt his position was pretty good out of the opening.
But soon complications arose as Nepomniachtchi began his kingside attack along the g-file. In the opinion of the computers, this was still playable. From a human perspective, however, there were complications that needed to be taken care of and there was definite pressure on Anand’s position. And as has been the case with Anand lately, he cracked under this pressure and misjudged the position on move 27. A blunder on the 36th move forced resignation on the part of the Indian.
At one point, Anand even missed exchanging queens, which could have helped his cause. Although, Nepomniactchi thought the queen exchange would have given him better prospects in the endgame.
After his escape in the previous round against Hikaru Nakamura, Magnus Carlsen not only escaped another loss, but actually ended up winning from a dead lost position against Michael Adams. But a few slips by Adams allowed Carlsen to hang on for the time being.
Carlsen clearly wanted to stir things up against Adams who is one of the players at the bottom. Also, Carlsen has a dominating overall score against the English No 1 of 10 wins against one in favour of the world champion. So it’s natural that he wanted to try and win this one, especially since he needs to win games if he wants to catch up with the tournament leader, Fabiano Caruana.
Perhaps, therefore, Carlsen opened with the Bird’s Opening. Adams, however, was ready for the test it seemed as the otherwise solid English Grand Master went for some complicated variations and sacrificed a knight early in the game in order to catch white’s queen in a mouse trap. Soon, Carlsen's position began looking suspect and eventually it seemed the world champion was going to suffer his first loss of the tournament.
Whichever god Carlsen was praying to at this point, more than answered his prayers as Adams failed to find the right continuation and let Carlsen’s queen off the hook. Soon afterwards, both players made back to back blunders and reached a positon where Carlsen had a rook and two minor pieces against Adams’ two rooks. But in this endgame, Adams began making inexplicable errors one after another and eventually ended up conceding a full point to the world champion.
"I obviously miscalculated pretty badly. I thought I was basically lost, or close to lost if he played 14…Rac8 and then played 15…Bd4+ after that. I mean I can fight on, like 15.Qxa7 Bd4+ 16.cxd4 Qxd4+ 17.Be3 Nxe3 18.Kh1, but even if he just makes quiet move like 18...Bc6 or 18...Be6 or something I thought it should be basically lost. At least practically speaking I didn’t think I could possibly hold this,” said Carlsen about the initial phase of the game.
The third win of the day was scored by the French No 1, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Vachier-Lagrave is one of the contenders for the top spot of the overall Grand Chess Tour and winning this event will put him ahead of the current leader, Carlsen. This was therefore a welcome victory for him.
Playing with the whites, Sergey Karjakin, given the way this tournament is going for him currently, made an almost suicidal decision of going for a sharp topical variation of the Sicilian Najdorf, an opening in which Vachier-Lagrave is a world renowned expert. But amusingly, despite the players playing a sharp line, there weren’t too many tactical skirmishes in the game.
With this win, the Frenchman has kept the chances of winning not only the London Chess Classic but also the overall Grand Chess Tour alive while Karjakin, along with Anand and Adams, has no more hopes remaining of winning the title prize in London.
After this explosive antepenultimate round, there have been quite a few changes in the leaderboard. With back to back wins in rounds six and seven, Nepomniachtchi has raised his score up to 4.5/7 and joined Caruana in the lead. Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave are just half-a-point behind them with a score of 4.0/7. Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian have played really enterprising chess so far but haven’t quite been able to pull out a win. They remain at 50% with 3.5/7. Anand, Karjakin and Adams are at the bottom of the table with 2.5/7.
Crosstable after round 7
Viswanathan Anand believes career span of chess players has become shorter due to intense competition
Anand said the level of "physical tension" is much higher these days as compared to earlier times and so players need to be physically fit.
“I had help from the people analysing the game, computers... In hindsight, it was quite silly," tweeted Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath after "beating" Viswanathan Anand in a charity chess match on Sunday