Carlsen keeps Gashimov reign
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - April 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Playing in world championship form, Magnus Carlsen of Norway went undefeated through nine rounds, including impressive victories in the final three, to win handily the sixth Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan.

Securing the title with a round to spare,  Carlsen lived up to billing and scored seven points, a whopping two points ahead of Chinese Ding Liren and Russian Sergey Kariakin with five apiece.

It was Carlsen’s second consecutive Gashimov Memorial plum and his fourth overall since its inception in 2014. His classical rating rose to 2861, edging closer to his career best of 2889. And with the elite Grenke (Germany) classic set to start next week, along with major classical events slated this summer, the world champion will be in position to reach or even surpass the 2889 goal.

The rest of the field finished as follows: Anand (IND), Radjabov (AZE) and Grischuk (RUS), 4.5;  Topalov (BUL) and Navara (CZE), 4.0; Mamedyarov (AZE), 3.5 and Giri (NED), 3.0.

* * *

In the following game, Carlsen avenged himself of the only player holding a plus score against him.

For many years, Giri boasted of his lifetime plus score against Carlsen. The world champion leveled the score in 2016, and has now established a superiority, having won the latest.

2019 Gashimov Memorial

W) M. Carlsen (NOR)

B)  A. Giri (NED)

English Opening

1. c4          e5

2. Nc3                          Nf6

3. Nf3                           Nc6

4. g3                            d5

5. cxd5                        Nxd5

6. Bg2                          Bc5

7. O-O                         O-O

Now the opening has transposed into a Sicilian Dragon, colors reversed.

8. d3                            ....

An interesting alternative is 8. Nxe5!? Nxc3 9. bxc3 Nxe5 10. d4 Bb6 11. dxe5 Qe7, with probably a balanced middle game.

8....                              h6

9. Nxd5                        Qxd5

10. a3                          a5

11. Bd2                        Qe6

12. Rc1                        Qe7

13. Bc3                        Nd4

14. e3                          Nxf3ch

15. Qxf3                      Bd6

16. Qh5                       c6

17. f4                           exf4

18. gxf4                       Qxe3ch?

This appears to be the fatal error. Black not only opens up the e file for White’s Rooks, but also hands over to White an important tempo, Instead, either 18....Bc5 or 18....Kh7 is preferable.

19. Kh1                        Rd8?

And here’s the losing move. 18...f6 is considered best by the engine, with these possibilities, 20. Be4 Qh3 21. Qg6 Bg4 22. Qh7ch Kf7 23. Bg6ch Ke6 24. Rce1ch Kd7 25. Qxg7ch Kc8, and though Black is inferior, the game continues. 

20. Rce1                      Qc5

21. f5!                          ....      

The star move, confronting Black with these problems: (a) how to develop his Q-side pieces (b) how to keep his Queen and Rook in rapport and (c) how to save his King. ....

21....                            Bf8

22. Be4                        ....

22. Re5! is stronger according to the engine.

22....                            Rd5

23. Rf3                         b5

24. Rg1                        Ra7

25. Bf6       g6

26. Qh3                       ....

26. Rxg6ch! wins right off according to the engine, e.g., 26....fxg6 27. Qxg6ch Rg7 28. Bxg7 Qc1ch 29. Kg2, etc.

26....                            Rd6

27. Qh4                       Rxf6

28. Qxf6                      Be7

29. Qxc6                     ....

We draw the line here as White’s material advantage is overwhelming.

29....                            Qxc6

30. Bxc6                      Kg7

31. fxg6                       fxg6

32. d4                          a4

33. d5                          b4

34. Be8                        Bg5

35. h4                          Bxh4

36. Rxg6ch                  Kh7

37. Rc6                        Bg4

38. Rf4                         Rg7


The rest of the story would be 39. Bg6ch Rxg6 40. Rxg6 Kxg6 41. Rxg4 ch.

Solution to last week puzzle

White to play and win.

white=Kg1, Qb3, Rd5, Ba1, Ne5, Pb4, Pe2, Pf2, Pg3, Ph2

black=Kg8, Qe6, Rf8, Bg7. Nc6, Pb7, Pf5, Pg6, Ph7

1. Nxc6!     bxc6

If 1....Bxa1 2. Nd8! Rxd8 3. Rxd8ch Kf7 4. Rf8ch Ke7 5. Re8ch Kxe8 6. Qxe6ch.

2. Rd7!                         Qxb3

3. Rxg7ch                    Kh8

4. Rxg6ch                    Rf6

5. Bxf6 mate.

* * *

White to move and draw.

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