The London Classic began with some exhibition games: the Pro Am event in the morning was won by Matthew Sadler and Daniel Lindner from Barclays. As it coincided with the very welcome BarcIaycard sponsorship deal with Chess in Schools and Communities this seemed appropriate. This tremendous achievement was a fitting reward for the work Malcolm Pein and others have done with the charity.
I was originally going to be playing with Edgar Davids in the celebrity event but he arrived a little too late to play. It was nice to meet him however, and he is clearly a keen player who attended the tournament on a few other occasions. Instead I played with 2 school children Jamie and Lily against Lethal Bizzle and Hikaru. They came out on top in an eventful game, and Lethal celebrated with a victory rap!
The more serious fare began the next day, the tournament switched format to a group/KO rapidplay system this year, this worked well but I missed the classical tournament. Perhaps it is too much to hope both could take place in the same year.
I was drawn in a tough group , and started with 2 Black games, but this worked out well as I played well to win the all important first game with Andrei Istratescu, and managed to hold Vishy Anand in the second despite being under pressure on the board and the clock. The next day my encounter Luke McShane was clearly going to be key to qualification, the game was a bit of a rollercoaster.
In the evening session I managed to sneak a key win from a drawish position:
This meant I needed a draw to qualify in the return game with Luke, and after getting a nice opening and big clock lead, I managed to avoid too much danger. I got a bonus couple of points when Luke lost on time trying to avoid a repetition in a worse position. My last game was a dead rubber as both qualifiers were already decided, strangely only 1 group had live qualification issues at this stage. I tried the English for the first time in a while but couldn’t remember anything and got a rotten game. I somehow salvaged a draw with a piece less when my pawns started edging forward.
If Vishy had converted I would have played Peter Svidler, the tie meant a drawing of lots to decide the winner of our group and a pairing with Peter anyway! I guess it was inevitable.
I won the first game after Peter missed a good opportunity in the opening.
In the second I played inaccurately early on and my weak pawns gradually dropped off. That meant we were back for a tiebreak, in the first game where I had minimal pressure with White, Peter dropped a pawn and the game after his first major think. In the second his opening went horribly wrong and I progressed.
In the first game with Boris Gelfand things were going well until I made a rather serious error, perhaps
The return game was a bit of a debacle as things went wrong early on and I had no winning chances.