Though a number of prominent tournaments are ongoing or winding up, including the finals of the US Chess League, the Women’s World Championship, and the Grand Prix tournament in Uzbekistan, there is special interest in the London Classic 2012, which started Dec.1, because the contestants and the rivalry are so familiar to us. FIDE moved the Candidates’ tournament for the world championship to March 2013 to accommodate this favorite event. First, in the Classic there will be Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the No. 1 player in the world, and Judith Polgar of Hungary, a sort of Goddess to the women players. She is very active again, after a substantial detour raising a family. She lost a mini-match to Carlsen in Mexico in November. She actually defeated him in the first blitz game, but then lost the blindfold game. This forced the match into blitz tie-breaker games, which Carlsen won.
Another aspect of the London Classic is that Hikaru Nakamura will be there, once again trying to defeat his nemesis Carlsen. American fans will be eager to see whether the intense Nakamura can make headway against the supremely calm Norwegian. Other players include world champion Viswanathan Anand, seeking to halt a declining image; Luke McShane, the only nonprofessional in the field; Levon Aronian, and Vladimir Kramnik. New to the field is the current British champion, Gawain Jones.
Elsewhere, the World Women’s Championship has found a new heroine. It has been a bit of a lottery, with entrants being eliminated by two game mini-matches (and blitz tie-breakers). World champion Hou Yifan, hampered by a cold, fell victim early in the event (possibly bothered further by the 1-degree temperature in the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk) to Monica Socko of Poland. Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria, a former champion from 2004-2005, and Anna Ushenina of the Ukraine arrived at the finals. Twenty-six-year-old Ushenina, only ranked 32d out of 64, was an undefeated member of the Ukraine women’s Olympic team in 2006.
In the four-game finals, Stefanova and Ushenina started off with two draws. In the third game, Ushenina, playing White against a Slav defense, had an easy time after Stefanova prematurely advanced her king’s bishop’s pawn. Ushenina split open the center with a knight sacrifice and easily dominated the board. However, in the fourth game, Stefanova recovered from her bad performance, with Ushenina’s help. In the blitz playoff, Ushenina held Stefanova to an 86-move draw and then won in 94 moves. She will defend her new title against Hou Yifan next year.
The US Chess League found the Seattle Sluggers and the Philadelphia Inventors facing each other in the final Interleague championship. The Inventors had found a way to the highest league score (9.5-2.5). Neither team has previously annexed the league championship. In a very tense match, the underdog Sluggers beat the Inventors, 3-1. The Sluggers were greatly aided by the play on the last board by 12-year-old (!) national master Roland Feng.
Brevity: H. Lyman v. Rheams (1949) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 Nxe4 5.dxe5 Qe7 6.0–0 Nxe5 7.Bd5 Nxf3+ 8.Qxf3 Nf6 9.Nc3 c6 10.Bg5 Qd6 11.Ne4 Qxd5 12.Nxf6+ gxf6 13.Qxf6; 1-0
Winners: Burlington Blitz, 1st, Alexander Ivanov 9.5 -.5; 2d, Mikhail Perelsteyn 7.5-2.5; Burlington Open, 1st, Alexander Ivanov 4-1, 2d, Eugene Perelshteyn 3.5-1.5;
Coming Events: Boylston, Saturday, Legends of Chess; and Dec. 22, Harry Lyman Memorial 240B Elm Street, Somerville; www.boylstonchessclub.org.; Sunday, Mass. Scholastic Qualifier, Crowne Plaza 15 Middlesex Canal Park Road, Woburn, firstname.lastname@example.org.