Carlsen stays on top; Vishy drops
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2018 - 12:00am

Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen stayed comfortably at No. 1 in the Jan. 2018 world chess rankings that provided significant change at the top.

Carlsen’s ratings (2834) remained the same for the period. 

The rest of the top 10 underwent reshuffling, with former world champion Vishy Anand (India), dropping out of that select group. The current world blitz champion has fallen out of the top 10 for the first time since 1991, ending a top 10 streak of 25 consecutive years.

American Fabiano Caruana (2811), moved up two notches to No. 2, replacing Levon Aronian, 2797 (Armenia), who fell two spots to No. 4. Azeri Shakriyar Mamedyarov (2804), again ranked third, while Frenchman Maxime Vachier Lagrave (2793), Wesley So (2792), USA and Russian Vladimir Kramnik (2787) were ranked fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Hikaru Nakamura (2781), USA, Ding Liren (2769), China and Russian Peter Svidler (2768), rounded out the top 10. Russian champion Svidler, was new to the elite group.

* * *

This is probably the most popular brevity game of 2017. One reason it is echoed so often is that the finish, an offer of a Queen, is strikingly brilliant. Another reason for its popularity is the fact that it caught by surprise last cycle’s world championship challenger. A sparkling performance by the 15-year-old, world under-16 champion.

2017 World Rapid Championship

W) S. Kariakin (RUS)

B) A. Esipenko (RUS)

Caro-Kann Defense

1. e4        c6 

2. Nf3              d5 

3. Nc3            ...

The Two Knights Variation, favored by Fischer. It is an aggressive line of play, and lively chess is almost always the rule in this variation.

3....           Bg4 

4. h3       Bxf3 

5. Qxf3           Nf6 

The alternative is 5...e6 with a slight edge for White after 6. exd5 cxd5 7. Bb5ch Nc6 8. d4. An interesting line is 5...e6 6. d4!? dxe4 7. Nxe4 Qxd4 8. Bd3 Nf6 9. c3 Qd8 10. 0-0 Be7 11. Rd1 Nbd7 12. Qg3 Nxe4 13. Bxe4 g6 14. Bf4 and White’s superior mobility compensates for the pawn deficit.   

6. d3       ...

After 6. d4!? dxe4 7. Qe3! Qa5!?, the position is unclear.

6....           e6 

7. Bd2            Qb6 

8. O-O-O        d4 

9. Ne2            c5 

So far, the opening has run into well known paths. White’s next move takes it to uncharted waters.

10. e5             ...

More usual here is 10. g4, when White has an advantage after 10...Nc6 11. Kb1 h6 12. Qg2 0-0-0 13. f4 Kb8 14. h4= Engine.

10....         Nd5 

11. Nf4            Nb4 

12. Kb1          ...

After 12. Bxb4 cxb4 13. Nh5 Nd7 14. Qg3 g6 15. Nf6ch Nxf6 16. exf6 0-0-0 17. Be2 Bd6, the game is probably equal, according to the engine.

12....         Nd7 

13. Qe4          Nc6 

14. Nh5          O-O-O 

14...Ncxe5 leads to unclear consequences after 15. f4 Nc6 16. f5 e5.

15. f4        c4!?

Black sacs the c pawn in preference to obtaining the initiative. Double-edged and therefore interesting.

16. dxc4        Ba3 

17. Bc1          ...

Seems questionable as it gives Black’s pieces maximum prospects. 17. b3 should have been tried.

17....         Nc5 

18. Qf3           d3!

Another fine pawn sacrifice, played to enlarge the bridgehead for Black’s Q-side operations.

19. cxd3?      ...

White goes astray. 19. Qf2, as the engine suggests, probably holds, although Black retains the initiative after 19...dxc2ch 20. Qxc2 Rxd1 21. Qxd1 Rd8 22. Qc2 Nd4, etc. Now Black wins with a series of forced moves.   

19....         Na4

20. Rd2          Nd4 

21. Qf2           Nc3ch

22. Ka1          Qb3!!

Note the logic in Black’s move. Not a single tempo is wasted, like a symphony conductor who doesn’t miss a single beat. His last move is a crusher, as capturing the Queen is punished by instant mate. 

23. bxc3        ...

23. bxa3 is met by 23...Qb1 mate. Resignation is honorable at this point.

23....         Qxc3ch

24. Bb2          Bxb2ch

25. Rxb2        Qc1ch

26. Rb1          Nc2ch 

27. Qxc2       Qxc2

28. g3             b5

29. cxb5        Rd4

0:1

* * *

White to move and win.

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