Carlsen, Anand, and Kramnik top seeded
Viswanathan Anand will become the first reigning World Chess Champion to play in a major tournament in London since Anatoly Karpov in 1984 when he joins the eight-player field for the second London Chess Classic, which runs from 8-15 December 2010 at the Olympia Conference Centre.
Alongside him will be World Number one Magnus Carlsen, former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, US number one Hikaru Nakamura and the top four English players Michael Adams, Nigel Short, Luke McShane and David Howell.
IM Malcolm Pein is back as tournament director. He shared, “I am delighted to announce that the 2nd London Chess Classic will be held at the Olympia Conference Centre. I have managed to put together an even more illustrious field than last year for what will indisputably be the strongest chess tournament ever held on these shores. Seven of the eight players from last year will return but Ni Hua of China will be replaced by Vishy Anand. The prize fund has also been increased from €120,000 to €145,000 with 1st prize being worth €50,000.”
Vishy Anand is the one change from the stellar field which brought spectators flocking to London to watch elite chess in December 2009. The great Indian player, who will turn 41 during the tournament, recently retained his title as the undisputed champion of the world by defeating Veselin Topalov in the latter’s home city of Sofia, Bulgaria. In London he will meet his immediate predecessor as champion, Vladimir Kramnik, 36, of Russia, and also the young man who is currently riding high as the world’s highest rated player and widely tipped to be Anand’s next challenger – Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who will be 20 by the time the tournament starts.
London is thus privileged to witness a clash of the past, present and likely future chess champions. At the time of writing Carlsen is world number one on the FIDE (World Chess Federation) Rating List, Kramnik is number three and Anand number four. Looking forward, London is also bidding to host the 2012 World Championship title match, so Anand’s clashes with Carlsen and Kramnik could well be a preview of what happens in London’s Olympic year.
Five more players make up the field of eight, all of whom played in the exciting 2009 event. Each one earned his place for his fighting play last year. The fourth non-British player is Hikaru Nakamura, USA, who will turn 23 during the London event. The American is known as the ‘H-Bomb’ for his explosive and totally uncompromising style of play. He has won the US Championship twice and also won major events in San Sebastian and Gibraltar in the past couple of years. He is improving all the time and can be expected to press hard for wins against the leading trio of players.
Kramnik, Adams, Short and McShane
England has an established quartet of elite players and all four will be playing in London. Michael Adams, 39, from Cornwall, has recently wrested back his position as England number one and he spent a number of years as the world number four. He is fresh from winning the prestigious Gibraltar International. Nigel Short, 45, became a chess legend when he broke the Kasparov-Karpov stranglehold on world title matches, beating Anatoly Karpov on the way to a title match with Garry Kasparov in 1993. He is still one of the most entertaining players on the circuit – and not to be missed in the commentary room after the game! Luke McShane, 26, started a financial career after university but couldn’t resist the lure of the international chess scene. He is now re-establishing his status as one of the most talented of the world’s young grandmasters. David Howell, 20 in November, had a sensational elite tournament debut in this event last year when he finished third behind Carlsen and Kramnik. He had recently won the British Championship by a handsome margin and has subsequently shared first at Hastings and won the British Rapidplay Championship for the second year in succession.
World Champion Anand
Viswanathan Anand became the undisputed world chess champion in 2007 and has since defended the title twice in matches with Vladimir Kramnik in 2008 and Veselin Topalov in 2010. In an age when more and more players are playing professional chess, with infinitely more sophisticated training resources and information available to them, his achievement in defending the top spot from all comers is as impressive as any of the successes of his championship predecessors.
Vishy, as he is affectionately known to colleagues and fans, is a hero in his native India, putting him on a par with the nation’s top cricketers. From Tamil Nadu, he was taught the game by his mother when he was six and made rapid progress. His intuitive sight of the board and super-fast speed on the move marked him out as a future champion from his mid-teens. He became national champion in 1985, world junior champion in 1987 and a grandmaster in 1988.
Anand joined the chess super-elite in the early 1990s and he qualified to play Garry Kasparov in the PCA World Championship of 1995. Against all the odds he took the lead in the match in the ninth game but eventually ran out the loser by 7½-10½. Vishy pursued the FIDE version of the title and had a near miss in 1999 against Anatoly Karpov despite some unfortunate tournament scheduling which required him to play the final match immediately after a gruelling qualification event. In 2000 he won the FIDE version of the title in Tehran and held it until 2002.
Following the reunification of the chess world championship in 2006, Anand won a world championship match-tournament in 2007 ahead of the reigning world champion Vladimir Kramnik. Though the latter graciously ceded all claim on the title to his rival, many purists amongst pundits and fans longed to see the championship decided under traditional matchplay rules. Their wish was granted in 2008 when Anand and Kramnik played a match in Bonn. The Indian made no mistake, defeating his Russian opponent fair and square, and thus becoming only the second world champion ever to have won the world title in both tournament and match formats. Anand duly defended his title in a match in 2010 against world number two Veselin Topalov, on his opponent’s home ground in Bulgaria. His next challenge is due in 2012, when it is hoped that the match will be played in London.
Some past world champions have become known to the general public for their off-board eccentricities and personal rivalries but not so Viswanathan Anand. Throughout his career he has shown himself to be the perfect Indian gentleman who dispels attempts to provoke or upset him with a disarming smile. Indeed, one of the major difficulties facing his rivals is that he is simply impossible to dislike! For example, when preparing for his 2010 world title match, his behind-the-scenes assistants included the previous champion Vladimir Kramnik, whom Anand had defeated two years earlier, and Magnus Carlsen. With the charm of Capablanca, the industriousness of Botvinnik and the natural talent of Kasparov, Anand will be a hard man to beat in London in 2010. He lives in Spain with his wife Aruna, who is also his manager.
Norwegian Magnus Carlsen is undoubtedly the hottest property in world chess. He rounded off a superb year in 2009 by winning the inaugural London Chess Classic and moving to the top of the world rating list. In doing so he bettered the achievements of Karpov and Kasparov, having previously become the youngest player ever to reach the illustrious 2800 Elo rating (and one of only five players in the history of chess to do so).
Carlsen was marked out as a future world champion from the moment he played his first international event and he became a grandmaster at the age of 13 years, four months, and 27 days. He achieved one of the outstanding tournament results of all time at the Nanjing Pearl Tournament in China in September 2009, where he scored a superb 8/10, winning every game with the white pieces. Big news in the same year was that Garry Kasparov was playing an active role in training the teenage star from Norway. In 2010 Kasparov continued to offer him assistance from afar as Carlsen added first prize at the highly prestigious Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, to his burgeoning list of successes.
At the beginning of his career Carlsen was trained by GM Simen Agdestein at the Norwegian College for top athletes NTG. Agdestein is the only GM to represent a country at both chess and football.
Carlsen lives just outside Oslo with his mother, father and two sisters who regularly travel the world with him to tournaments. He is a keen football fan and follows Real Madrid. He also enjoys playing football, skiing and showed some promise at ski jumping before chess took over.
Vladimir Kramnik, the 14th world champion is a product of the Soviet Chess School having studied under the ‘Patriarch of Soviet Chess’ Mikhail Botvinnik. He was relatively unknown when, in 1992, at the behest of Garry Kasparov, he was selected as reserve for the Russian team that won gold at the Chess Olympiad in Manila. His selection was controversial as he had not even secured the grandmaster title but he took an individual gold with a score of 8½/9.
A meteoric rise followed and having remained unbeaten in a world record 86 classical chess games, Kramnik was clearly the man to challenge long-standing incumbent Garry Kasparov. The match took place in 2000 just down the road from Olympia at the Hammersmith Studios and Kramnik won without losing a game to become the only player to have defeated Kasparov in match play.
Kramnik successfully defended his world title twice, in matches against Peter Leko in 2004 at Brissago and against Veselin Topalov at Elista in 2006.
Kramnik conceded his title to Anand at a world championship tournament in Mexico in 2007 and he was defeat by him in a match in Bonn in 2008. Since then, he has returned to form, winning the powerful Dortmund tournament for the ninth(!) time in 2009 and most recently the Tal Memorial in Moscow, one of the strongest events of all time. At the end of the year he finished second to Magnus Carlsen in the inaugural London Chess Classic and then was just pipped by him at Corus in 2010 when he lost a game to Vishy Anand. So he will relish renewing his rivalry with these two in London.
The two-times US champion is nicknamed ‘H Bomb’ for his explosive and totally uncompromising style of play, Hikaru Nakamura is widely recognised as one of the world’s greatest players, particularly at blitz chess. He is virtually unbeatable at ‘Bullet Chess’ where all the moves have to be played in one minute.
Nakamura always plays for a win, whether face-to-face or online, and usually refuses draw offers. He became a grandmaster at the age of 15 and comparisons have already been drawn with the late world champion Bobby Fischer as Nakamura has often enjoyed success in tournaments where all the other players were Russian speakers. Like Fischer he also likes to train largely on his own.
He spent the summer of 2009 playing a series of tournaments in Europe, and achieved several notable successes, culminating in an outright victory at San Sebastián ahead of a very strong field. Nakamura then travelled to Mainz in Germany, where he won the unofficial world championship of “Fischerrandom chess”, a form of the game where the pieces are arranged at random on the back row and a form of chess which is a real test of a player’s natural talent.
He started 2010 with a bang, top-scoring on board one for the USA at the World Team Championship in Turkey and leading his team to a silver medal behind Russia. He went to make a positive score at the Corus event in Wijk aan Zee.
Nakamura was home schooled. He plays tennis and spends time studying the financial markets. He is interested in maths and history. He is the author of ‘Bullet Chess: One Minute To Mate’. Nakamura’s stepfather is Sunil Weeramantry, one of the most successful junior chess coaches in the USA.
Born in 1971 in Truro, Michael Adams, known as Mickey, has a strong claim to being Britain’s best ever chess player. He broke all significant national age records to become a grandmaster and win the British Championship at the age of 17 in 1989. He is currently the top-rated player in the UK.
In the mid-1990s he advanced quickly up the world rankings, entering the top 20 in 1994 and the top 10 in 1996. In the new century he joined the absolute elite group of players at the top, demonstrating his remarkable consistency by remaining at fourth spot behind Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand. He also proved highly successful in FIDE’s (and PCA’s) world knock-out championship events, reaching three semi-finals.
His best knock-out world championship performance was in 2004 when he came within half a point of becoming the first British player to win a full world championship title, losing out narrowly to Uzbek grandmaster Rustam Kasimdzhanov on a tie-break in the final in Libya.
Adams’ list of tournament successes makes proud reading; his best was clear first at Dos Hermanas in 1999 and in recent years he has twice won the Staunton Memorial tournament at London’s Simpson’s in the Strand. He started 2010 in good style by winning the prestigious Gibraltar International Open.
He has long been an automatic choice for the England Olympiad team (10 appearances, six on board one). His performances for England have been consistently high and he has won 10 team/individual medals in major team events including team gold at the 1997 European Team Championship and an individual gold in the same competition in 2001.
A mild-mannered, unassuming man who prefers to let his pieces do the talking, Mickey also has a way with words in his Saturday column in the Daily Telegraph. He is hugely respected by fellow professionals and chess fans for his impeccable sportsmanship as well as his supreme skills on the board.
A grandmaster from the age of 19, Nigel Short was a child prodigy and is Britain’s most recognisable name in the chess world. He has had a distinguished career which includes standing on the edge of the chess summit when he played Garry Kasparov for the world title in 1993 at London’s Savoy Theatre.
More recently Short has recorded some fine performances for the national team and a stunning performance in August 2009, making by far the best score of the UK squad over the best of the Netherlands at Simpson’s in the Strand, the 19th century home of English chess.
As a junior, Short hit the headlines by sensationally defeating renowned grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi in a simultaneous display at the age of ten. At 14 Short tied for first place in the British Championships and shortly after became Britain’s youngest International Master.
His meteoric rise continued through his teenage years and he took the decision to play professionally. In 1992 Short defeated the legendary Anatoly Karpov and then the long-time top Western European grandmaster Jan Timman in matchplay to claim the right to challenge for the world crown. Facing Garry Kasparov, the greatest player in the history of the game, Short demonstrated some moments of brilliance but was well beaten.
Despite this setback, Short has an enviable list of international tournament victories and has been a regular fixture for the England Team. Married with two children, in 1999 he was awarded an MBE for Services to Chess, and has written columns and book reviews for a number of Britain’s leading newspapers. Currently ranked well inside the world’s top 50, Short has also found time to coach a number of chess prodigies including David Howell whom he faces in the London Chess Classic.
Born in 1984, it wasn’t long before Luke McShane established himself as Britain’s leading chess prodigy. Aged only eight, he won the World Under-10 Championship on a tie-break.
In 1997 he became an IM at 13 and came close to a GM norm in the same year. In 1998 he shared first place with John Nunn at the Bunratty Masters in Ireland ahead of his coach Jonathan Speelman. He became a grandmaster at 16, surpassing Michael Adams’ age record for a British player.
Continuing to mix top-level chess with his school studies, he represented England in the 2002 Bled Olympiad, scoring 6.5/11. In that year he came close to winning the British Championship and won the silver medal at the World Junior Championship in Goa. In 2003 Luke finished a fifth in a strong tournament in Reykjavik, ahead of
Michael Adams. Luke excels at blitz and amongst his successes was the 2003 British Blitz Championship, where he scored 14½/16.
Luke opted to go up to University College, Oxford to study Philosophy and Mathematics which inevitably slowed his development as a player, but he has continued to play in tournaments and meet strong opposition in the German and UK team leagues, as well as representing his university in the annual Varsity chess match. He has met world champion Viswanathan Anand three times in the Bundesliga in 2006 and 2007, scoring two draws and one loss.
In 2007 he joined Goldman Sachs, since then his chess has taken second place to his professional career, but inspired by his invitation to the London Chess Classic he has staged something of a comeback in 2009. He scored 3/3 in the 4NCL in May and then took part in the UK versus Netherlands match in August, scoring 4½/10. In October 2009 he represented England in the European Team Championship in Novi Sad, Serbia, scoring 4½/8 on board two. He is the UK’s third highest rated player. At the turn of the year in 2010, he shared first place in the Rilton Cup in Stockholm.
The youngest grandmaster in the UK, David Howell qualified for the highest status in chess at the age of 16. He was the youngest player in the world to beat a grandmaster when he defeated England international John Nunn in a blitz game in 1999.
Howell achieved further media attention when he drew with Vladimir Kramnik in an exhibition game in 2002 to become the youngest player in the world to score against a reigning World Champion.
Four-time English Chess Federation Player of the Year, in 2008 Howell came within one game of winning the World Junior Championship and is one of the highest rated juniors in the world. He is also the reigning 2009 British champion, having outclassed the field in August. He has twice won the British Rapidplay Championship.
David enjoys playing football, along with rugby, squash, and table tennis. Reading and Indie bands make up his interests off the board.
Photos: John Saunders Info: IM Malcolm Pein
Official website: http://londonchessclassic.com/