The ninth edition of the London Chess Classic was won by the American GM Fabiano Caruana. After his win against GM Michael Adams in the final round, Caruana successfully caught up with the Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi for the first place and then won the blitz tie-breaker to lift the trophy.
Overcoming his poor form, Magnus Carlsen won his final round game against Levon Aronian to bag the overall Grand Chess Tour title.
Nepomniachtchi had had a brilliant second half at the event winning three back to back games from round 6 to round 8. Before the final round commenced, he was already half-a-point ahead of his nearest and rival, Fabiano Caruana.
The path ahead turned out to be a tough one since his final round opponent, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, needed to win at all cost to retain his chances for getting ahead of Magnus Carlsen and winning the overall Grand Chess Tour. Also, he himself needed to win in order to ensure he kept Caruana from catching up with him. One solace in this high-pressure situation was that Nepomniachtchi had the white pieces in the final round.
However, the Russian GM opted for a rather laid-back approach. Within less than 30 minutes into the round, he was seen signing the truce with Vachier-Lagrave. In a game lasted merely 19 moves, Nepomniachtchi went straight into one of Vachier-Lagrave’s pet lines in the Symmetrical English Opening and exploited a pin on black’s knight to force a repetition of moves.
After the game, Nepomniachtchi said he wasn’t happy about what he did. “When you’re half a point ahead, the best strategy is not to lose at least. And of course, I am not very happy with what I did today. I think no one really liked it; me neither,” he said.
He further explained that this was the only strategy he had, saying, “At some point, it could be a long game, which should end in a draw anyway. And then, in case Fabi wins, at least I will have some rest before the tiebreak – at least a bit more rest than him. That’s perhaps not the most brilliant strategy, but I didn’t have any other.”