Viswanathan Anand made a comeback and Hikaru Nakamura made a statement in the premier event at the 5th London Chess Classic that ended Sunday, a rapid tournament pitting 16 of the world's best players in a star-studded knockout tournament.
The Indian ex-world champ jumped right back in the arena just weeks after his painful match loss to new Norwegian titleholder Magnus Carlsen, a loss that ended Anand's seven-year reign atop the chess world. Anand showed he shouldn't be written off just yet, easily qualifying to the quarterfinals before being eliminated in a tough pairing with fellow ex-champ Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, 1½ -½.
Nakamura, the highest-rated U.S. player since Bobby Fischer, took first in the event, defeating British GM Nigel Short, Kramnik and Israeli GM Boris Gelfand (Anand's 2011 challenger) on his way to the title. With his recent strong results at both rapid and classical time controls, Nakamura now is third in the world rankings, trailing only Carlsen and Armenia's Levon Aronian.
Anand, a legendarily fast calculator in his youth, remains one of the best in the world at the rapid (Game/25, 10-second increment) time controls, and he easily qualified from his four-player opening group to advance to the quarterfinals. He twice defeated GM Luke McShane in the qualifying, the second time with a bold, speculative piece sacrifice that posed overwhelming defensive difficulties for the English star.
In a Queen's Pawn Opening, McShane as Black appears to be doing fine after 18. cxd4 Qa5 19. Be3 Rfc8 20 Qe2 Qa6, with good prospects along the open c-file. But relying on his cramping pawn on e5 and the absence of Black pieces around the king, Anand makes a classic rapid-chess sacrifice, giving up material to seize the initiative: 21. Qg4 Kh8 22. Qh5 Kg8 (see diagram) 23. Bxh6!? gxh6 24. Ng4 Bf8 25. Re3 Rc4 26. Rd1. Owing to White's imposing center, McShane will have trouble getting more defensive help to the kingside, but White still has to justify the sacrificed material.
At the faster time controls, Black proves unequal to the defensive chore: 26...Qb6? (counterattack was mandatory with 26...Rc2! 27. Rf3 Qe2 29. Qxf7+ Kh8 29. Rf1 Bg7, when White probably has to bail out with the perpetual check on 30. Nxh6 Rf8 31. Qh5 Rxf3 [Qxf3?? 32. Nf7+ Kg8 33. Qxf3] 32. Nf5+ Kg8 33. Ne7+ Kf8 34. Ng6+ Kg8 [Ke8?? 35. Nf4+ and wins] 35. Ne7+) 27. Rf3 Rxd4 28. Rxd4 Qxd4 29. Rxf7 Qd1+ 30. Kg2 Qxg4 (Qd3 31. Rxd7 Qf5 32. Nf6+ Kh8 33. Qxf5 exf5 3.4 Rh7 mate) 31. Rxf8+!, giving White a queen and pawn for the rook and the knight.
Black has no time to organize a defensive fortress as the White queen goes marauding. The finale: 34. h5 Nf8 35. Qf4+ Ke8 (Kg7 36. Qf6+ wins the rook) 36. Qxh6 d4 37. Kf1 Rd5 38. Qf6, and McShane gave up as the White pawns can't be stopped in lines such as 38...d3 39. Ke1 d2+ 40. Kd1 Rd7 41. h6 a6 42. Qh4 b5 43. g4.
When an overworked chess columnist is rummaging through reams of game scores to fill a column on deadline (Mark Crowther's invaluable "The Week In Chess" website — theweekinchess.com — regularly compiles scores from 2,000 to 3,000 rated games around the world every week), one good tip-off for a fighting game is when the players castle on opposite flanks. Castling on opposite wings typically leads to competing attacks as the players tee off without fear of exposing their own king.
Check out today's second game, plucked from last month's play in the Austrian team championships, with rising Hungarian star GM Robert Rapport taking out Slovenian IM Matej Sebenik from the White side of a 1. b3 Nimzovich-Larsen Opening. After 10. Bxc6+ bxc6 11. 0-0-0, Black prepares to castle short and the battle is on. Rapport quickly transfers his rooks to the kingside while Sebenik readies his own break on the center and queenside.
As if often the case in these battles, a lost tempo tips the scales: 20. f5 Qe7 21. Nd1 d4?! (Black was actually doing very well until now with his pressure on e3, but more consistent here would have been 21...c4! 22. Qd2 [Qd4? c5 23. Qd2 d4] Bb4 23. Bc3 Bxc3 24. Qxc3 c5, and Black has the initiative) 22. h4 Bd5 23. g5 Nf7 24. gxf6 Qxf6 25. exd4 Qh6+ (c4 26. bxc4 Qh6+ 27. Kb1 Be4 28. Qc3 leaves White better) 26. Kb1 Be4 27. Qc3 Bh2, and Black's queenside ambitions have been dashed while White's pressure aimed at g7 has grown alarmingly.
White offers material to speed along his attack: 28. Nf2 Bxg1 29. Ng4! Qxh4 30. Rxg1 Nd6 (the threat was 31. dxc5 Bxc2+ 32. Ka1! Ne5 33. Nxe5 Re7 34. Qxc2 and wins) 31. dxc5 Nxf5, and Black's overburdened pieces cannot hold the defense together much longer. Rapport wraps it up with panache.
Thus: 32. Nf6+ Kf8 33. Nd7+ Ke7 34. Rxg7+! Nxg7 35. Qxg7+ Ke6 (Kd8 36. Bf6+ spears the queen) 36. Nd4+ Kd5 37. Qf7+, and Black resigns facing 37...Re6 38. Qxe6 mate.
Anand-McShane, London Chess Classic, London, December 2013
1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 c6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. O-O Nd7 5. d4 e6 6. Nbd2 Ngf6 7. Re1 Be7 8. e4 O-O 9. h3 Bh5 10. c3 Bg6 11. e5 Ne4 12. Nxe4 Bxe4 13. Nh2 Bg6 14. h4 h6 15. Bf1 c5 16. Bd3 Bxd3 17. Qxd3 cxd4 18. cxd4 Qa5 19. Be3 Rfc8 20. Qe2 Qa6 21. Qg4 Kh8 22. Qh5 Kg8 23. Bxh6 gxh6 24. Ng4 Bf8 25. Re3 Rc4 26. Rd1 Qb6 27. Rf3 Rxd4 28. Rxd4 Qxd4 29. Rxf7 Qd1+ 30. Kg2 Qxg4 31. Rxf8+ Rxf8 32. Qxg4+ Kf7 33. Qa4 Rd8 34. h5 Nf8 35. Qf4+ Ke8 36. Qxh6 d4 37. Kf1 Rd5 38. Qf6 Black resigns.
Rapport-Sebenik, Austrian Team Championships, November 2013
1. b3 e5 2. Bb2 Nc6 3. e3 d5 4. Bb5 Bd6 5. f4 Qh4+ 6. g3 Qe7 7. Nf3 f6 8. Nc3 Be6 9. Qe2 a6 10. Bxc6+ bxc6 11. O-O-O Nh6 12. h3 e4 13. Nd4 Bf7 14. d3 exd3 15. Qxd3 Qd7 16. g4 O-O 17. Rhg1 Rfe8 18. Rdf1 c5 19. Nde2 c6 20. f5 Qe7 21. Nd1 d4 22. h4 Bd5 23. g5 Nf7 24. gxf6 Qxf6 25. exd4 Qh6+ 26. Kb1 Be4 27. Qc3 Bh2 28. Nf2 Bxg1 29. Ng4 Qxh4 30. Rxg1 Nd6 31. dxc5 Nxf5 32. Nf6+ Kf8 33. Nd7+ Ke7 34. Rxg7+ Nxg7 35. Qxg7+ Ke6 36. Nd4+ Kd5 37. Qf7+ Black resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at email@example.com.
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