by Sabrina Chevannes
12/11/2016 – We’ve been blessed with an incredibly exciting start to the London Chess Classic this year, with six decisive games from the first two rounds! This time last year, there was only one! The commentary room was buzzing yesterday, with spectators coming from all over the world to see their favourite chess players in action. However, there were also many visiting to see the British Knockout Championships. Report by Sabrina Chevannes…

This is a significant event in English chess, since it is a sign that chess is going in the right direction in England. The British Chess Championships has been somewhat abandoned in previous years, and doesn’t attract the players it used to. Furthermore, it is a very long event (2 weeks) and many players believe that the Swiss system is a fair way to determine the champion. Even though, the ideal format may be to have a 10 player all-play-all, this knockout is an exciting addition to the English chess scene and the players are grateful for this opportunity.

One player who may be more grateful for this competition than the others is GM David Howell, last year’s British Knockout champion. Taking home £20,000 in prize money was a nice Christmas present and after yesterday’s victory against GM Gawain Jones, he has secured himself a place in this year’s final and guaranteed at least another £10,000.

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Naturally, Gawain was gutted to be knocked out two years in a row, by the same player. Especially as if you take a quick look at the stats of previous meetings, Gawain has a decent plus score against David. All Gawain could manage to say was:

“If you’re a pawn down in an ending, don’t blunder another one”.

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Painful words from Gawain Jones, but I’m sure he will be back next year for some revenge!

Meanwhile, Luke McShane and Nigel Short were battling it out in the other semi-final and they had to have a play-off to determine who would be in the final. It appeared that Luke’s nerves got the better of him, as he had a nice position in the first game but then his pieces gradually started retreating towards the back rank. In such a quick time control, with the extra space, activity and time advantage, Nigel was able to score a full point with the black pieces. Knowing that it was all-or-nothing in the next game, Luke made some bold choices in the opening, but Nigel comfortably went onto victory.

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Nigel Short

 

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Luke McShane

 

Yesterday was also the start of the Chess in Schools conference, where educational speakers from all over the world discuss how chess can help children.

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The conference was extremely well-attended and most of the CSC tutors were also present, to absorb new information on how to improve their chess teaching skills.

Check out the conference’s website, where you can download slides from the event, plus teaching resources that you may find useful yourself.

In the main event, most were in good spirits yesterday, despite the way the games went. However, Topalov is probably having the toughest time of them all. There was clear tension between himself and Kramnik in the first game, and their turbulent history is no secret. Perhaps his inability to let go of the past is affecting his play.

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Yesterday, his game against Caruana was truly incredible and the drastic change in the position led many spectators at the Classic to speculate about what is going on. I am yet to catch up with Veselin himself, but spectators are all intrigued as to what is going through his mind.

Understandably, Fabiano was buzzing after the game and felt great about the finish. All his American fans even made #Re8! trending in chess streams!

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Meanwhile, Wesley So finally joined the 2800 club!! He was feeling on top of the world yesterday and was off out to celebrate with his family.

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