Wednesday 6 December 2017

9th London Chess Classic: Finally, First Blood

As previously mentioned, the world's top players make big mistakes so rarely that it is very difficult even for their peers to put them under any pressure serious enough to lead to significant chances of forcing a victory.

The 10 players in the London Chess Classic are all from the absolute elite of world chess and it is perfectly understandable that the majority of games played between them will end as draws.

It is, however, unusual to go through very nearly four full rounds at the start of an event with all games ending peacefully. After 19 drawn games, we finally saw the first blood being drawn when Fabiano Caruana, as Black, defeated former World Championship qualifier Sergey Karjakin.

This notable victory has catapulted Caruana to the top of the tournament table.

When discussing the high percentage of draws in chess contests, it is traditional to mention the World Championship matches Capablanca - Alekhine, 1927 (25 draws from 34 games) and Karpov - Kasparov, 1984-5 (40 draws from 48 games) but commentators often overlook the closest parallel to the current situation, which was a four-player all-play-all-three-times affair at Beersheba in 1990, in which Viktor Korchnoi triumphed over Smyslov, Ftacnik and Greenfeld. All games in the tournament were drawn apart from a solitary win for Korchnoi against Greenfeld (in the very first round!). 17 draws from those 18 games definitely resonates with the current situation at the Classic.

Today's round - the fifth - will take us beyond the halfway stage. The Classic players will have their second and final rest day tomorrow (Thursday) before resuming their battles for the last four rounds from Friday - Monday.

The full tournament pairings and lots more information can be found here.

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