Magnus Carlsen of Norway won the 2015 London Chess Classic in a twist of fate favorable to him on the final day on December 13, 2015. It was Carlsen’s fourth LCC victory and he also finished as the winner of the inaugural Grand Chess Tour comprising of Norway Chess, Sinquefield Cup and London Chess Classic. For India’s 2014 champion Viswanathan Anand, the tournament turned out to be disappointing as he finished 9th in a pool of 10 players. In 9 rounds, Anand had just one win, three losses and five drawn games. In the first ever Grand Chess Tour, Anand was placed at no.8. The ninth and last round matches of 2015 London Chess Classic were played last Sunday and Magnus Carlsen had a must-win game against Russia’s Alexander Grischuk. But Carlsen’s victory over the Russian was no guarantee that he would win the tournament because, at best, the Norwegian could only end up tied at the spot with Dutchman Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. Luck, however, favored Carlsen on the final day; first against Grischuk and then in the 2-game rapid-play with Vachier-Lagrave. The Norwegian thus ensured the top spot by virtue of his best tiebreak score and won not just the LCC but the GCT as well.
Against Grischuk, Carlsen played in a wayward fashion and drew incredulous remarks from observers including the commentators. The Norwegian knew that anything less than an outright victory would take away his chances of winning the title and top finish in the GCT. The Carlsen-Grischuk game became a gripping round-nine showdown despite poor quality of play on either side. Carlsen began with an imbalanced opening to prevent Grischuk from finding any easy route for a draw and very soon obtained a comfortable edge against the Russian. Just when his victory seemed easy, the Norwegian committed a huge error in snatching a queenside pawn and exposing his kingside open to attack. Then in another crazy move, Carlsen moved one of his pieces away from the battlefield and gave Grischuk an easy chance to draw the game. However, fortune favored Carlsen at this juncture as Grischuk also erred and couldn’t execute some fairly obvious moves required for the draw.
After the lucky win against Grischuk, Carlsen’s tally of points became equal with MVL and Giri and therefore LCC title hinged on the result of a three-way play-offs. Up until then, the Frenchman and the Dutch were getting ready for title clash since they didn’t expect Carlsen’s victory over Grischuk. But Carlsen suddenly changed everything. The worst for MVL and Giri was the fact that rather than playing for the title, the two needed to compete with one another for the right to compete with Carlsen, since the Norwegian had bettered his tiebreak score by beating Grischuk! MVL and Giri returned to the board in a cruel twist of fate for two rapid games of 25-minute/5 second while Carlsen waited for his first play-off.
Now Giri had the enviable task of beating both MVL and Carlsen and he could take the LCC title as well as top spot in the GCT. For MVL, it was very complex. Even if he defeated Giri and Carlsen, he still needed to play another tie with Carlsen for the GCT win. As the events unfolded on Sunday, that complication was avoided. Giri and MVL couldn’t break the deadlock in the rapids and had to play the Armageddon. MVL chose to play black after the coin toss and had 5 minutes to White’s 6 with a 3-second increment from move 61. Giri had a poor opening choice and MVL took full advantage and beat the Dutchman, who had remained undefeated in his last 28 games.
Now MVL took on Carlsen for the final rapids play-off consisting of two games. In the first, Carlsen had Whites and until 47th move, MVL kept himself in fray. However, Carlsen forced him into an error and won the first game. In the second, Carlsen was simply ingenious while MVL tried to generate something for a win. In the end, they agreed for a draw and Carlsen emerged as the LCC winner and also the champion of the Inaugural Grand Chess Tour. The other LCC spots were taken by 2. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave; 3. Anish Giri; 4. Levon Aronian; 5. Alexander Grischuk; 6. Fabiano Caruana; 7. Michael Adams; 8. Hikaru Nakamura; 9. Viswanathan Anand and 10. Veselin Topalov.
Indian GM Vishy Anand had a rather bad outing after his 2014 victory at London. In the first three rounds, Anand drew with Michael Adams, Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen and lost to Hikaru Nakamura in the fourth. He scored his lone victory against Veselin Topalov in round-five before he suffered two consecutive losses. In round-six, Anand lost to Grischuk while MVL beat him in round-seven. Anand drew with Fabiano Caruna in round-eight and Anish Giri in round-nine to finish an eminently forgettable tournament.
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