So steps into world stage
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2018 - 12:00am

The Candidates Tournament, which selects the challenger for  the world championship, has  gotten underway in Berlin, Germany.

Eight of the world’s top 15 players are seeing action in the eagerly-awaited double round, all-play-all event, the winner of which becomes Carlsen’s official challenger.

Following is an analysis of the eight  contestants’ pertinent backgrounds prior to their encounters.

1. Shakriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), age 32, ranked second in the world, qualified through the FIDE grand prix.

2. Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), the oldest at 42, world No. 3 and FIDE-nominated wild card.

3. Wesley So (USA), world No. 4, the youngest at 24, qualified through FIDE ratings.

4. Levon Aronian (Armenia), age 35 and  ranked fifth in the world, qualified as the world cup champion.

5. Fabiano Caruana (USA), age 25, world No. 8 and qualified through FIDE ratings.

6. Ding Liren (China), age 25, world No. 11 and earned a spot as world cup runner-up.

7. Alexander Grischuk (Russia), age 34, ranked 12th in the world and qualified  through the FIDE grand prix.

8. Sergey Kariakin (Russia), 27 years old, world No. 13 and qualified as last world championship official challenger.

Opening round pairings (being played at press time), saw Kramnik vs Grischuk; Kariakin vs Mamedyarov; Aronian vs Liren and Caruana vs So.

* * *

Vishy Anand of India, emerged  on top at the 2018 Tal Memorial,  one of those major Russian-sponsored tournaments, which have become traditional in the international circuit.

Anand scored six points out of a possible nine, half-a-point clear of runners-up Mamedyarov  (Azerbaijan), Nakamura (USA) and  Kariakin (Russia).

The former world champion distinguished himself by essaying sacrificial lines, reminiscent  of Tal. Here he literally chewed up candidates  qualifier Alexander Grischuk in the beautiful  game below.

Tal Memorial 2018 

W) V. Anand (India)

B) A. Grischuk (Russia)

Sicilian Defense

1. e4             c5 

2. Nf3            Nc6 

3. Bb5           ...

The Rossolimo Variation, a well-known anti-Sicilian line, named after GM Nicolas Rossolimo  (1910-1975), many-time French  champion, who immigrated to the  United States in 1952 and became the 1955 US national champion

3....               g6 

The usual move, but there are also good alternatives such as 3...e6, 3...d6 and 3...Qb6.

4. Bxc6         ...

4....              dxc6 

In the game Anand-Dubov, same  tournament, play went 4...bxc6 5. 0-0 Bg7 6. Re1 Nh6 7. c3 0-0 8. h3 f5  9. e5 Nf7 10. d3 a5 11. Bf4 e6 12. Qd2 h6 13. h4, and White obtains a slight edge, 1-0 (35).   

5. d3             Bg7 

6. h3             Nf6 

7. Nc3          O-O

8. Be3          ...

Typical of Anand, quick Queenside development, castle long and pawn storm on the Kingside. The engine prefers the normal 8. 0-0.

8....              b6 

9. Qd2          e5 

10. Bh6        Qd6 

11. O-O-O     a5 

12. g4          a4 

13. Kb1        Be6 

Black adopts a waiting policy, not a good idea against Anand. Better seems the aggressive 13...b5.

14. Ne2        b5 

15. Ng3        Rfd8 

This cost valuable time. 15...b4 is preferable, according to  the engine.

16. Bxg7      Kxg7 

17. Qg5        Nd7

18. Nf5ch     Bxf5 

19. gxf5        a3 

20. b3           h6 

21. Qg3        Kh7 

22. Rhg1      Qf6 

23. h4          gxf5 

24. Qh3        f4 

25. Rg5        Qe6 

26. Rf5!         ...

The only move to maintain middle game tension. Obviously 26. Qxe6 gives Black a good game.

26....            Rg8? 

This move loses right off. Correct is 26...f6 with chances  to hold.

27. Ng5ch     ...

This second check of the game proves decisive.

27....            hxg5?

Allowing a beautiful finish. But there’s nothing else. 27... Rxg5 28. hxg5 Kg8 29. gxh6 is  hopeless for Black.

28. Rxf7ch!!   ...

A stunning Rook sacrifice that ends the game. Not 28. hxg5ch? Kg7 and Black escapes.  

28...             Qxf7 

29. hxg5ch    Kg7

30. Qh6 mate 1-0

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to play and draw.

white=Kh1, Pf4, Ph4

blacK=Kh6, Pf7, Pg5

1. hxg5ch           Kh5

2. g6!                 fxg6

2...Kxg6 3. Kg2 Kf5 4. Kf3 is draw.

3. f5!                 gxf5

4. Kg1!               ...

4. Kg2? Kg4 5. Kf2 Kf4 and Black has the opposition and should win.

4...                     Kg5

5. Kf1!                 Kg4

6. Kg2                 Kf4

7. Kf2 and draws. 

* * *

Black to move and draw

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