Leonard Barden on Chess

It has been like a long-distance race where everybody has planned for a sprint finish, so that nobody makes the running. After six of the nine rounds in the London Classic at Kensington Olympia, the two over-40s Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov trailed, but all the other eight grandmasters were covered by just half a point. Four of them, including the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, had drawn every game. With $150,000 for the top three in the overall Grand Tour winner plus $150,000 for first prize in London to yet to be decided, the final two rounds this weekend could see some serious action.

At least, one hopes so. With 80% draws in these six rounds, the Classic was also in contention for a place in chess history for the wrong reasons. Decades ago, there was an annual tournament at Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia which was mockingly known as the “Tournament of Peace” because so many games were drawn. Ever since then, some organisers have made sure that their participant lists included players with combative styles to ensure a good quota of interesting games and decisive results.

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