Carlsen, Caruana ranked 1-2 before Chess Olympiad
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2018 - 12:00am

Last week, the FIDE released its monthly rating lists. Ratings were computed to enable the world chess body to work out seedings for the  upcoming 43rd chess Olympiad slated  on Sept. 23-Oct. 6 in Batumi, Georgia.  Seedings are based on the assessment  of the respective strengths of each team.

The September 2018 lists include 170,000 players, including 1,600 grandmasters.

While Norwegian Magnus Carlsen (2839) and  American Fabiano Caruana (2827) remained No. 1  and No. 2 in the world ranking, Shakriyar Mamedyarov  of Azerbaijan moved up to third with his rating rising to  2820 from 2801. The Azeri top gun played brilliantly in this year’s Biel Festival, leaving behind by 1.5 points  a strong field that included world champion Carlsen.

The rest of the top 10 underwent a major  reshuffling with two familiar names dropping out of that select group: Hikaru Nakamura (USA) and Sergey Kariakin (Russia).

Ding Liren (China) was in fourth spot with 2804. This is the highest world rating and ranking achieved by a Chinese player.

Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Armenian Levon Aronian and Dutchman Anish Giri rounded out the top seven with 2780 each.

They were followed by Russian Vladimir Kramnik (2779), Wesley So (USA) 2776 and Indian Vishy Anand (2771).

* * *

Ding Liren returned to competitive chess last month (he had a broken hip surgery in May) and  his amazing 82-game undefeated run continued by  beating Bulgarian former world champion Vaselin Topalov, 3-1, in a four-game match held  Aug. 11-14 in his hometown of Wenzhou (China).

In the following game, White’s pawn stake-out  formation allows him to close in on both sides,  finishing off Black’s resistance.

Wenzhou 2018

W) D. Liren (China)

B) V. Topalov (Bulgaria)

Catalan System

1. d4          Nf6

2. c4          e6

3. Nf3         d5

4. g3          Bb4ch

5. Bd2        Bd6

5...Be7 is the standard  continuation, though the text  is not necessarily bad.

6. Nc3        O-O

7. Bg5        c6

8. Bg2        h6

9. Bxf6       Qxf6

10. O-O     Qd8

Planning to capture with 11...dxc4.   

11. c5        Bc7

12. e4        b6

13. b4        bxc5

14. bxc5    dxe4

Seems premature as it  weakens Black’s Q-side pawns.  The engine recommends 14...Ba5 with these possibilities: 15. Qc2 Ba6 16. Rfe1 Nd7 17. e5 Qc7 and the game hangs in the balance.

15. Nxe4    Ba6

16. Re1      Bc4

17. Qa4     Bd5

Black harps on this theme, but seems not good enough.

18. Re3      Qc8

19. Nc3      Bd8

20. Rb1      Bf6

21. Bf1       Rd8

22. Nxd5    cxd5

After 22...Rxd5 23. Bd3 Rd7 24. Be4, White is slightly better.

23. Reb3         ...

White’s control of the open b file, plus a strong passed c pawn, leaves  him with every chance of winning.

23...           Re8

24. Rb7      Re7

25. Rxe7    Bxe7

26. Ne5      Bf6

27. f4         ...

Stronger according to the engine  is 27.c6!, e.g., 27...a5 28. Rb6 Bd8 29. Rb7 Bc7 30. Bb5 Qd8 31. Qc2 Qe7 32. Bd3 Na6 33. a3, and Black will soon run out of reasonable moves.

27...           g6

28. h4        h5

29. Kf2       Kg7

30. Ke3      a6

31. Rb6      Ra7

32. Bd3      ...

32. Qb4 Nd7 33. Nxd7 Qxd7 34. Rxa6 Bd8 35. Bb5 should win in the long run, but Liren wants more.

32...           Ra8

33. Qc2     Nd7

34. Rc6      Qe8

35. Rc7      Nxe5

The alternative 35...Bxe5 36. fxe5 Nxe5 37. dxe5 Qb8 38. Rc6 Qxe5ch 39. Kf3 seems insufficient, but probably a good try as Black  desperately needs counter-play.

36. fxe5     Bd8?

Missing the engine’s 36...Qb8!? whereupon 37. exf6ch Kg8 38. Rc6 Qxg3ch 39. Kd2 Qxh4, the game continues. Now White ends the game in brilliant fashion.

37. Rb7      Qc6

38. Qb1     Bc7

39. Bxg6!   Rg8

39...fxg6 is met by 40. Qb6! and wins.

40. Bxf7!    1-0

Again 40...Kxf7 loses to 41. Qb6.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to move and mates in 4.

white-Kd7, Rh7

black=Ka7, Pf7

1. Kc6        ...

1. Kc7? f6 2. Rh5 f5 3. Rxf5 Ka6 4. Rxf5 Ka7 and White mates in 5.

1....            Ka6

If 1...Kb8 (1...Ka8 2. Kb6 followed by 3. Rh8 mate) 2. Rxf7 Ka8 (2...Kc8 3. Rh8 mate) 3. Kb6 Kb8 4. Rh8 mate.

2. Rxf7       Ka5

3. Rf4         Ka6

4. Ra4 mate.

* * *

Black to move and win.

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