The London Chess Classic is a relatively new addition to the world of elite invitational chess tournaments. In actuality, the Classic is a chess festival that includes many events, though the centerpiece is a round-robin competition featuring many of the world's top players. Traditionally, the London Chess Classic has been held in December at the Olympia Conference Centre in West Kensington.
In the first two years of the invitational tournament, eight players were invited: four top grandmasters from England, as well as four elite players from around the world. The format was changed slightly in 2011, when the tournament expanded to include a 9th player. This allowed each player to receive a bye; during their bye rounds, players spent time in the commentary booth offering their thoughts on the games being played.
One notable feature of the London Chess Classic is the usage of the 3-1-0 scoring system, which has also been referred to as "football scoring," as it is the scoring system used in most soccer competitions worldwide. Players received three points for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss. The idea behind such a system is to reward players for winning games, as a win is now worth three draws rather than the traditional two.
So far, however, the scoring system has not been critical in determining a winner in any year that the Classic has been held. In the 2009 version of the tournament, Magnus Carlsen won with a score of 13 points - one ahead of Vladimir Kramnik. Under traditional scoring, Carlsen would have won the tournament by a half-point.
Carlsen won a second consecutive title in 2010, when he once again scored 13 points, this time two ahead of Viswanathan Anand and Luke McShane. Under traditional scoring, all three players would have shared first with 4.5 points; however, as many tournaments use wins as a first tiebreaker, Carlsen would likely have been determined the official champion anyway (he won four games and lost two, while both Anand and McShae won two games with no losses).
2011 finally saw a new winner of the London Chess Classic, as Vladmir Kramnik was able to top the table with 16 points. That was good enough to finish a point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura, and two ahead of Carlsen. Kramnik would have finished with 6.0/8 in traditional scoring, a half-point ahead of both Nakamura and Carlsen.
Over the course of the first three years of this tournament, English players have struggled. An English player has finished in last place in each year, with the local talent occupying the last three spots in both 2010 and 2011. This is not surprising, as the English grandmasters tend to be playing against competition ranked among the top ten players in the world. However, Luke McShane has proven particularly tough in these events, never finishing lower than 5th and twice finishing in the top half of the tournament table.
Each year, there have been secondary events held during the London Chess Classic. Traditionally, these have including a Women's Invitational, as well as a FIDE-rated open tournament that anyone can play in (which has included many grandmasters). Simultaneous exhibitions have also been a part of the festival, with Victor Korchnoi twice doing so at the Classic.