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London 09: Wesley So takes it all!

by Sagar Shah - 19/12/2016

Wesley So played one of the best tournaments of his life, scored a +3 result and went back home with US$175,000 and the title of London Chess Classic and Grand Chess Tour 2016. Fabiano Caruana finished second followed by Kramnik and Anand. Giri could not break his drawing streak and ended with nine draws out of nine! The moving story of the final round was the never-say-die spirit of Veselin Topalov, who won his first game of the event after six losses. Analysis and explanations by Aditya Mittal.

Wesley So drew his final game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and went back home with $175,000, London Chess Classic and Grand Chess Tour title

Wesley's play was extremely solid and he was praised by all the world class players including Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand

With a draw in the final round Wesley moved to a live rating of 2808 and is now number four in the world

One person who has always been on Wesley's side and has supported him tremendously is his foster mother Lotis Key. She makes sure that Wesley is able to focus and devote all his time to the game and doesn't have to think about other important things like communication, managing etc.

Vishy Anand made a quick draw with Vladimir Kramnik in the last round with the white pieces and finished fourth not only at the London Chess Classic but also in the Grand Chess Tour

We can truly say that in terms of opening preparation Anand was the best player of the event, flipping out new ideas in just about every encounter

Fabiano Caruana played some sparkling chess and finished second with 5.5/9

Anish Giri tried and tried but couldn't avoid 9.0/9 (draws of course!)

Aronian against Topalov was the only decisive game of the final round

The game went on right until the very end

A jubilant Topalov after the game

Veselin Topalov's victory was a story of immense fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude. After losing six games and being on just 1.0/8, he managed to pull himself together and scored his first win. That's the reason why Topalov is one of the best players in the chess world today.

Topalov sacrificed his knight on b4 with ...bxc4

Objectively the position is worse for Black but his central pawn phalanx looks quite imposing

43...h5!! was the super move made by Topalov that turned the tide in his favour

Let 10-year-old CM Aditya Mittal explain to you this complex encounter:

[Event "London Chess Classic 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.12.18"]
[Round "9.5"]
[White "Aronian, Levon"]
[Black "Topalov, Veselin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A37"]
[WhiteElo "2785"]
[BlackElo "2760"]
[Annotator "Aditya Mittal"]
[PlyCount "106"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[TimeControl "5400+30"]
[WhiteClock "0:20:35"]
[BlackClock "0:00:40"]
{Finally, a break for Topalov! Wesley drew his game and won the London Chess
Classic. Today Topalov finally played a successful sac. Let's look at this
extremely interesting game!} 1. c4 g6 {0} 2. Nc3 {0} c5 {0} 3. g3 {0} Bg7 {0}
4. Bg2 {0} Nc6 {A symmetrical structure has arisen.} 5. Nf3 {0} d6 {0} 6. O-O {
0} e6 {0} (6... e5 {is the reverse of Veselin's style. He plays completely
different than positional chess. Aggressiveness is in his blood!}) 7. e3 {0}
Nge7 {0} 8. d4 {0} O-O {0} 9. Re1 {0} a6 {0} 10. Bd2 {0} Rb8 $5 {Topalov is
known for sacs, not accepting them!} (10... cxd4 11. exd4 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Bxd4
13. Bg5 $1 Bxc3 14. bxc3 $13 {and White has good compensation because of the
bishop pair.}) 11. Rc1 {0} b6 {334} (11... b5 $5 {was very well expected. I
was surprised to not see him play this.} 12. dxc5 (12. cxb5 axb5 13. a4 cxd4
14. Nxb5 dxe3 15. Bxe3 Bxb2 $10 {is comfortable.}) 12... dxc5 13. Ne4 b4 $5 14.
Nxc5 Bxb2 $13 {and it's an interesting position.}) 12. Ne2 e5 $1 {This is
different than the e5 mentioned earlier. Here it creates 'tension' in the
centre.} 13. Bc3 {0} h6 {612} 14. d5 {173} Nb4 {103} 15. Ra1 $1 {Now looks at
that! And it is the best move!} (15. a3 Na2 $15 {looks so aesthetically
pleasing!}) 15... b5 $5 {893 Completely fitting into Topalov's bill! Just what
the doctor ordered! After a passive draw in round 8, Topalov livens things up!}
(15... e4 {is what the engines have to say. White retains a slight pull after}
16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Nd2 Nd3 18. Nxe4 Nxe1 19. Qxe1 {with good compensation.}) 16.
a3 {400} bxc4 {46} (16... a5 $5 {was another way but I think the text is more
precise and more unclear as we shall see!}) 17. axb4 {35} cxb4 {41} 18. Bd2 {35
} Nxd5 {Black has three pawns for the piece but it is not enough as Aronian
will get one pawn soon, but of course....} 19. Qc1 {44} c3 $1 {653} (19... Nf6
{is the engine choice but I don't understand it.} 20. Qxc4 $16) 20. bxc3 b3 {
Kuch paane ke liye kuch khona hota hai! To get something, you need to give
something! Over here Topalov gets a big big passer.} 21. Qb1 $6 {955} (21. Qa3
$1 {or}) (21. Qb2 $1 {were good giving White good edge.}) 21... Nf6 22. Qb2 {
What was the point of the subtle Qb1-Qb2, may I ask, Mr Aronian?} Qc7 $1 {
Again a good move in contrast to the engine. Topalov is really getting on here!
} (22... Ne4 $6 {I don't like this. After} 23. Nxe5 Nxd2 24. Nxf7 $1 $14 {
You could say White has a safe edge.}) 23. c4 {537} Qxc4 {1055} 24. Nc3 $5 {
After this Topalov starts to become extremely precise.} (24. Ba5 $5 {was an
interesting option to activate the bishop.}) 24... Be6 $1 {303 From now on
Veselin develops his pieces quickly and shows the importance of it.} 25. Rec1 {
162} Nd7 {There is no good discovered attack!} (25... Rfc8 {directly is also
possible.}) 26. e4 {286} (26. Ra4 {At first this seemed to be very strong but
after} Rb4 27. Ra3 Nc5 28. Nb1 Qe2 $1 29. Re1 Qb5 $1 $13 {would Bea took down
for three pawns but very active pieces!!!}) 26... Nc5 {765} 27. Bf1 {373} (27.
Ne1 $5 {was also an interesting way but here also} Qb4 $1 $13) 27... Qb4 {300}
(27... Nd3 $5 {was another move to look at but I think Qb4 is more precise.}
28. Bxd3 Qxd3 29. Ne1 Qc4 30. Ra4 Rb4 31. Ra5 $1 {is complicated.}) 28. Be3 {
489} Rfc8 {164} 29. Nd2 $6 {A big inaccuracy! Better was} (29. Bxc5 $1 Rxc5 30.
Ra4 Qb7 31. Ne1 $1 $13 {with all three results in contention!}) 29... a5 30.
Bxc5 {Better late than never!} Rxc5 {242} 31. Ra4 {231} Qb7 {130} (31... Qb6 {
Many said this was better, but it doesn't really make much of a difference.})
32. Bc4 $6 {82 Aronian goes wrong! What great pressurising chess by Veselin!} (
32. Ncb1 $1 {was more precise. After} Rbc8 33. Rxc5 Rxc5 $10 {The game is
roughly balanced.}) 32... Qc6 $1 {166} 33. Bd5 {431} Bxd5 {58} 34. exd5 {
35 A crucial decision. Black has a number of options at his disposal. Topalov
finally goes wrong!} Qd7 $6 {55 Actually, not wrong! It is just an inaccuracy.
The best option was} (34... Qc7 $1 35. Nde4 Rc4 $15 {and Black is already
better. Whereas the most interesting line was....}) (34... Rxd5 $6 35. Nxb3 e4
36. Nxa5 Rxb2 37. Nxc6 Rc5 38. Nd4 $13 {with a very unclear ending!}) 35. Ra3 {
110} a4 $1 {215 But Topalov wasn't going to back down. He came back with full
force!} (35... e4 $5 {could also be considered.} 36. Rxb3 Rxb3 37. Qxb3 Qc7 38.
Ndxe4 Rc4 39. Rd1 Bxc3 40. Nxd6 $1 Rb4 41. Qc2 Qxd6 42. Qxc3 {After a long
forced sequence this is a completely drawn position.}) 36. Nxa4 {41} Rxd5 {127}
37. Nxb3 {209} e4 {55} 38. Qa2 {194} Qf5 $1 {90 Topalov is simply playing
amazing! How come this sudden change?} (38... Rd3 {was what I was seeing but
after} 39. Nd2 $1 Rxa3 40. Qxa3 $14 {White has a safe and stable edge.}) 39.
Re1 {441} Rdb5 {78} 40. Rc1 {0} d5 {0 Topalov described this position as "just
equal".} (40... Rb4 {is the engine top choice and might be better.}) 41. Nac5 {
0} d4 $1 {0 Practical chess at its best. Everyone will be scared on seeing
this pawn avalanche.} 42. Ra7 {0} (42. Ra5 $1 {was better.} Rxa5 43. Qxa5 Qd5
$13 {is extremely unclear.}) 42... d3 {0} 43. Rc7 $6 {0 Now Topalov goes back
to how he played in Saint Louis! Such strong chess!} (43. Ra5 {was still
better though Black already has the initiative.}) 43... h5 $3 {0 It does feel
like Topalov is back. What a way to win!} 44. Qa4 {0} h4 {0} (44... e3 $5 {
was possible.} 45. fxe3 Bh6 {with the initiative.}) 45. Qxe4 {83} Qxe4 {0} 46.
Nxe4 {3} Rxb3 $15 {0 Black has reached a better endgame.} 47. gxh4 $4 {75 The
decisive mistake.} (47. Rd7 $1 {was the best chance.}) 47... Bh6 {0} 48. Rf1 {
235} R3b4 {0} 49. f3 {169} Rb2 {0} 50. Nf6+ {693} Kg7 {0} 51. Ng4 {5} d2 {0}
52. Rd7 {308} Re8 {0} 53. Nf2 {116} Re1 {0 What a game by Topalov! We must
give him credit. Elsewhere we had draws and with it finished the London
Classic!} 0-1

Aditya Mittal analyzed five games in great depth for ChessBase India for the London Chess Classic 2016. He treated the readers to some wonderful commentary and analysis. We offer him a software of his choice for his efforts.

The final standings at the London Chess Classic 2016 
The Grand Chess Tour final standings. Wesley So won $100,000 and Hikaru Nakamura won $75,000

The schedule of the Grand Chess Tour 2017

Six players who have qualified for the Grand Chess Tour 2017 

All annotated games from the London Chess Classic 

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