Wesley closes in on leader
LETS PLAY - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - July 7, 2019 - 12:00am

Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, clung to a half-point lead after nine rounds, with American Wesley So closing in, at the 2nd Grand Chess Tour, in Zagreb, Croatia.

Carlsen, the reigning world champion and the event’s top-seed, scored 6.5 points, going into the final two rounds of the world’s biggest classical tournament in men’s chess. He moved into position for his second GCT title, and his fifth straight classical major of the year, including an amazing streak of 49 undefeated classical games.

So, the world’s fifth-ranked player, was half-a-point back at 6.0, but will have his chance, as he face off with Carlsen in the penultimate round. Both drew their ninth round matches. 

Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, who began the tournament with a perfect three out of three, was beaten by China’s Ding Liren (Rd.6) and Carlsen (Rd. 7), and fell into a tie for third-fifth at five apiece, along with Levon Aronian of Armenia and American Fabiano Caruana,

Other scores read Liren, 4.5, Sergey Kariakin (Russia), Dutchman Anish Giri and Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 4.0 each, Vishy Anand (India) and Azeri Shakriyar Mamedyarov, 3.5 and Hikaru Nakamura (USA), 3.0.

* * * *

In the following game, White’s preference for a close pitched battle was insufficient against Black’s excellent strategy. A sparkling performance by the world champion..

Grand Chess Tour (Croatia)

W) I. Nepomniachtchi (RUS)

B)  M. Carlsen (NOR)

Sicilian Defense

1. e4          c5 

2. Nf3                           Nc6 

3. Nc3                          ....

So far, the game has run into well known paths of the Sicilian, the next move takes it into less explored territory.

3....                              e5!?

Carlsen  throws the book away. But as the early chess writers used to say,  “world champions have the license to toy with opening theory, because as Alekhine once said, I am the book.”

4. Bc4                           g6 

5. d3                            h6 

6. h4                            ....

Not without a point, though the normal 6. Be3 is more promising, according to the engine. For example, 6....d6 7. a3  Bg7  8. b4!? with a slight edge for White.

6....                              d6 

7. h5                            g5

8. Nh2                          Bg7 

9. Ng4                          Nge7 

10. Ne3                        O-O 

11. Bd2                        Kh8 

Black’s intention is to play 12...f5.

12. g4                          Rb8 

13. a4                          ....

13. 0-0 is a better alternative.

13....                            Nd4 

14. Ncd5                      Nxd5 

15. Nxd5                      Ne6

16. f3                           ....

Seems passive.. 16. Qf3 is a good choice, which sets the chances as fairly even.

16....                            Nf4 

17. Qb1                       ....

A move of little significance. 17. Bc3, as suggested by the engine,  is stronger.

17....                            Be6 

18. Qa2                       Qd7 

19. Rg1                        b6

20. Bc3                        Bxd5 

21. Bxd5                      a6 

22. Bd2                        Qe7 

23. Rf1                         b5 

24. axb5                      axb5 

25. Kf2                         c4 

26. Bxf4                       exf4 

27. Rad1?                    ....

This error gives Black a dangerous initiative. Correct is 27. Kg2, with chances to hold.

27....                            f5!

This timely Pawn advance opens the door to a powerful  assault on the stranded White King.

28. gxf5?                     ....

And this blunder is indefensible. 28. exf5 may prolong the game, e.g., 28...Qe3ch 29. Kg2 Qe2ch 30. Kg1  Bd4ch .31. Kh1 Bf2 32. Qa1 Rbc8, Black has the upper hand, but the win is not easy.

28....                            g4!

This sharp Pawn stab paves the way for a painful Queen invasion.    

29. d4                          Qh4ch

30. Ke2                        Qh2ch 

31. Rf2                         gxf3ch 


* * *

Solution to last week puzzle:

Black to play and win.

White=Kc3, Nh4, Pc2, Ph2

Black=Ke4, Ne5, Pb5, Pf4

1...             b4ch!

If 1....f3 2. Nxf3 Nxf3 3. Kb4, or 1....Nc4 2. Kb4 Nd6 3. Kc3 Nf5 4. Nxf5 Kxf5 5. Kd3 and draws.

2. Kxb4        Ng6!


3. Nxg6/Ng2 is met by 3....f3 and  the Pawn promotes.

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