Larsen ends year with 2 crowns
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - January 6, 2019 - 12:00am

Right after the world rapid championships, the world blitz tournament took place in chess-conscious St. Petersburg (Russia). All participants of the previous tourney participated in the $150,000, FIDE Swiss system event.

Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen, who finished a disappointing fifth in the world rapid, bounced back and captured first this time to retain his title. He was undefeated, scoring 17.0 out of a possible 21.0. What’s more, winning St. Petersburg brought Carlsen’s record to two world title year-ending victories. He successfully defended his world championship crown against American challenger, Fabiano Caruana in London last November, not to mention keeping the No. 1. spot in the world chess rankings. The year 2018 was truly a Carlsen year.

Jan-Krzystof Duda, Poland’s brightest hope at 20, finished second, half-a-point behind the winner, while grand chess tour champion Hikaru Nakamura (USA), wound up third with 14.5 points.

Tied for fourth-seventh at 14.0 apiece were Peter Svidler (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Ian Nempomniachtchi (Russia) and Gata Kamsky (USA).

In the women’s championship, Russia’s top gun Kateryna Lagno, had to be around to assure the host’s creditable showing. Eventually, Lagno emerged sole winner, with an unblemished 13.5 points out of 17.0, one half point ahead of runner-up Sarasadat Khademalsharieh of Iran and a full point over third placer Lei Tingjie of China.

* * * *

In the following game, the struggle for supremacy is on the Queenside. When the decision comes through, it is on the Kingside, with razor sharp moves – sudden and unexpected. A sparkling performance by the tournament winner.

2018 World Rapid Championship 

W) Wang Hao (China)

B) D. Dubov (Russia)

Reti Opening

1. Nf3         Nf6 

2. c4          g6 

3. g3          Bg7 

4. Bg2                          c6 

5. d4          d5 

6. Nbd2                        ....

After 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. 0-0 Nc6 the game is probably equal.

6....            O-O 

7. O-O                         a5 

8. b3          Ne4 

9. Bb2                          Bf5 

Many moves have been tried for Black, but 9...a4 and 9....f5 are the most frequently encountered alternatives.Now comes middle game maneuvers for initiative. 

10. Nh4                        Nxd2 

11. Qxd2                     Be6 

12. f4                         Nd7 

13. f5                          gxf5  

14. Nxf5                       Bxf5 

15. Rxf5                       e6 

16. Rff1                        f5 

17. cxd5                      cxd5 

18. Rac1                      Nf6 

19. Bf3                         a4 

20. Qe3                       ....

After 20. Ba3 Re8 21. Bb4 axb3 22. Qxb3 Qb6, the position seems to be about even.

20....          Qd7 

21. Rc2                        axb3 

22. Qxb3                     Rac8 

23. Rfc1                       Bh6 

24. Rxc8                      Rxc8 

25. Rc5                        ....

The immediate 25. Rxc8ch is preferable, according to the engine.

25....          Bf8 

26. Rb5                        ....

Ceding the open c file to Black, who makes good use of it throughout. Hence 26. Rxc8 was necessary.

26....          Rc7 

27. Rb6                        Ne4 

28. Bxe4?!                   ....

Exchanging the only piece protecting the White King seems premature at this point. Correct is the engine’s 28. Qe3.

28....          fxe4 

29. Kg2                        Bg7 

30. Rb5?                      ....

The start of White’s ineffective maneuvering, spoiling his chances of survival. The passive 30. Qd1, to defend White’s Kingside, was in order.

30....   Qf7!

After spending most of the game on the Q-side, Black suddenly shifts his forces to the other wing, and White cannot adjust fast enough to the switch.  

31. Rb6     Bh6!

The quiet but powerful manner Black’s attack is building up is pleasant to follow. The text secures e3.

32. Qd1                       Be3 

33. Qf1                        Qh5!

The winning move, as the threat of 34....Rf7, followed by 35...Rf2ch is indefensible.

34. Rxe6?                    ....

This loses material, but White has no good reply. For instance 34. Rb3 Rf7 35. Qxf7ch Kxf7 36. Rxe3 b5 37. Kg1 b4, and Black should win handily.

34....          Rc2!

34...Rf7? allows White to escape with 35. Rf6! The text wins a piece by forced.

35. Kh1                        Rxb2!

This is the end. Not 35...Rxe2? when 36. Re8ch! Qxe8 37. Qxe2 gives White some hope of survival.

36. Re5                        Qf7!

Although Black is a piece ahead, he must play very well. Not 36....Qxe2? because of 37. Re8ch! 

37. Rf5                         Qe6 

38. Re5                        Qd7 

39. Qf6                        ....

39. Rf5 Kg7 40. Rf8 Qe6 offers no hope for White.

39.....         Rb1ch 

0-1

The rest of the story would be 40. Kg2 Rg1 mate.

Solution to last week puzzle

Black to play and win.

White=Ke5, Pc3, Ph4

Black=Kg4, Pb5, Pf5

1...             b4!

After 1...f4 2. h5 f3 3. h6 f2 4. h7 f1Q 5. h8Q, Black only draws.

2. cxb4      f4

3. h5          ....

3. b5 f3 4. b6 f2 5. b7 f1Q 6. b8Q Qf4ch and wins.

3....            f3

4. h6          f2

5. h7          f1Q

6. h8Q       Qa1ch and wins.

* * * *

White to play and win.

CHESS-CONSCIOUS MAGNUS CARLSEN
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