Ginger GM

Is chess becoming an increasingly elite game? GM Danny Gormally

21 December 2016 | 0 Comments

Unfortunately I was unable to play in the London Chess Classic this year. That’s because even though the grandmasters were offered £1250 to play in the FIDE open, you don’t get this money until after the event.

The way the fee structure is set up is that the £1250 is there as a guarantee against your prize. So therefore if you end up winning say £800 in the FIDE open, you don’t win anymore than the £1250 in any case. And as I didn’t have the money to afford to pay for a hotel in london for ten days, I had to withdraw.

When I told them I was pulling out you’d think they might have said “Oh, sorry to hear that, is there anyway we can help with your costs up front?” I know a lot of players are ok in this respect: some of them stay with someone for free, or have built up a formidable rota of sugar daddies who will bankroll their every event. Sadly I don’t have this option and are now in the situation where I’m even struggling to play chess tournaments.

You’re probably thinking “Well, surely if you’re a grandmaster you should be ok?” The problem is I have very little in the way of earnings, no money coming in and have not got to the stage where I’m thinking “Should I do something else with my life?” Maybe get some kind of crap job like working down the Co-op or in some sort of factory, something like that, because it seems pointless playing chess when you can’t even afford to get to tournaments.

I am playing Hastings which is just around the corner, I get accommodation plus a little bit of money for that which makes it easier, although still doesn’t completely cover the cost of travel plus having to feed yourself for ten days. If I fail to win a prize, a very likely outcome then the likelihood is I’ll go away with a decent loss, so there you see the difficulty of playing chess for a living.

Anyway, now I’ve tugged on your heartstrings enough I’ll get on with looking at the chess.


The strange mistakes were to continue. In round three Anand made a decision against Nakamura which was rather difficult to understand:


The London Classic was more entertaining this year than the borefests it had been in recent times, I wonder if that’s because the main organiser had a word with the players and said “Look guys, you’re boring everyone to tears here with your dreary Berlin’s, at least try to put on a show.” Or perhaps the presence of Topalov helped the decisive game count, as a player who is completely out of form can do that.

I think there should be a serious doubt about Giri being invited to these sort of tournaments, as drawing every game is just too much, even if he perhaps doesn’t deserve all the online abuse he seems to recieve for his excessively peaceful approach. A game that certainly wasn’t boring was Caruana-Nakamura:


You get the impression these days that Topalov has lost that key ingredient- motivation. Certainly it seemed so in London as apart from a last round win against Aronian, he was basically treated as the whipping boy by the other competitors.

The problem for an out of form player in an event like this is that there really is no hiding place. As wins are hard to come by, the other players will often be happy to draw with each other and target the player who is struggling. Topalov of course belongs to that “golden” generation of players like Kramnik, Gelfand, Ivanchuk and Adams and in the penultimate round he was brutally gored by his old rival, Anand.


Bacrot won the open, and his best game was surely against Bogner:


Bacrot was tied for first on 7.5/9 by his fellow Frenchman Sebastien Maze. Even though he lose to Keith Arkell in round four, he managed to win his last five games. I actually wonder if a loss at this early stage is rather like a delayed form of the “swiss gambit” where not only is the player assured of easier pairings but is also shorn of the normal competitive tension, as there’s a sense of relief that comes with losing a game along the lines of “It can’t get any worse”.

Keith by contrast only managed 2/5 after this game, and you have to reach the conclusion that his solid counter-punching style is set up better for playing higher-rated opposition.


The Russian player Valentina Gunina did a rather “hit and run”job on the FIDE open by flying in from Moscow and scooping the entire 5k first prize.

Watching her games live it was clear she went in with the intention of playing as quickly as possible and putting her opponents under pressure. As I don’t know her very well I have no way of saying whether she normally plays this quickly, but it was interesting to say the least to see her 2700 plus opposition completely struggle against this strategy; in most of her games she had hardly used any time while players like Bacrot, Howell and McShane were down to their final seconds.

It looked as if McShane would be the one to solve this approach as he did get a winning position, but the absence of any time to dwell on his advantage led to a catastrophic blunder:

About the Author GM Danny Gormally

    GM Danny Gormally

Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.

Danny’s first DVD for Ginger GM, Improve Your Practical Play was released in September 2013. His new book “A Year Inside the Chess World” is available now.