Online chess surges
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2020 - 12:00am

With the recent surge of internet chess activity and the frenzied support from all quarters, the second leg of the $1 million Carlsen online chess tour was held.

American Hikaru Nakamura topped the preliminary stage of the 12-player, all-play-all event with an unblemished 7.5/11.0 slate. Russian Sergey Kariakin took second with 7.0, followed by Yu Yangi (China), Wesley So (USA), Magnus Carlsen (Norway) and Ding Liren (China), at 6.0 apiece. Rounding out the top eight were Daniil Dubov (Russia) and Levon Aronian (Armenia), at 5.5 each. Other players in the table were Alexander Grischuk (Russia), 5.5; Alireza Firouzja (fide), 4.5; Jan-Kryzstof Duda (Poland), 4.0; and Wei Yi (China), 2.5.

The top eight players advanced to the best of three knockout quarterfinals, with Nakamura pitted against Aronian, Yangi against Liren, Carlsen vs. So and Dubov vs. Kariakin.  Quarterfinal matches, in progress at press time, can be watched live online with move-by-move commentaries.

The Carlsen grand tour is a series of major internet speed chess, culminating in August 2020 grand finals. Here are the prize money and schedule of the biggest online tournament in men’s chess: April 18-May 3, Magnus Carlsen Invitational ($250,000); May 19-June 3, Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge ($150,000); June 20-July 5, Online Chess Masters ($150,000); July 21-Aug. 5, Legends of Chess ($150,000); Aug. 9-20, Grand Finals ($300,000).

* * *

Carlsen did not do well in the preliminaries, losing to Yangi, Duda and Dubov,  and barely qualifying to the quarterfinals. This is the more brilliant point scored against him, a very fine performance by the Chinese young gun.

Lindores Abbey Challenge 2020

W) Yu Yangi (China)

B) M. Carlsen (Norway)

QGD Semi-Slav Defense

1. d4                      d5

2. c4                       c6

3. Nf3                    Nf6

4. Nc3                    e6

This, the Semi-Slav Defense against the QGD is reachable by one transposition or another....

5. e3                      Nbd7

6. Qc2                    ....

6. Bd3 is another popular system of development for White.

6....        a5

The immediate 6....Bd6 must be the best move and probably enough for equality. The text is a rare bird in top level competition.

7. a4                       Bd6

8. Be2                    O-O

9. O-O                   dxc4

10. Bxc4                e5

11. Ba2                  Qe7

12. h3                    Bb4

13. dxe5               Nxe5

14. Nd4                 c5

15. Ndb5              ....

After the preliminaries, the ensuing middle game is rich in possibilities for both sides.

16....                      Be6

16....Rd8 is considered best by the engine.

16. Bxe6               fxe6

17. e4                    Nh5

18. Ne2                 g5

19. Be3                 g4

20. Ng3                 Qh4

21. Nxh5              Qxh5

22. f4                     gxf3

23. Nc7                 fxg2

23....Rf6 is stronger, according to the engine., e.g., 24. Nxa8 Rg6 25. Rxf3 Nxf3ch 26. Kh1 Ne1, Black has the upper hand.

24. Qxg2ch          Kh8

25. Nxe6              Rg8

26. Bg5                  ....

After 26. Ng5 Nc4 27. Nf7ch Qxf7 28. Rxf7 Nxe3 29. Qxg8ch Rxg8ch 30. Kf2 Nc4 31.Rd1 Nd2 , Black stands slightly better.

26....                      Rxg5

27. Qxg5               Qxg5

28. Nxg5               Rg8

29. h4                    h6

30. Rf5                  Nd3

31. b3                    hxg5

32. hxg5               Kg7

33. Rd1                 c4

34. bxc4                Nc5

Here Black wins two pieces for his Rook, but the whole business is none too clear. There is some kind of uneasy balance in the position  due to White’s two passed Pawns and active Rooks.

35. Re5                 Rc8

36. Kg2                  Rc7

37. Rd8                 Nxa4

38. Ree8!             ....

A painful invasion, as White’s two Rooks on the eight rank is equally all-powerful.

38....                      Nc5

39. Kf3                  a4

40. Kg4                  a3?

A fatalistic reply in time trouble. Correct is the engine’s 40...Rd7, and after 41. Rg8ch Kf7 42. g6ch Kf6 43. e5ch Kxe5 44. g7 Kf6 45. Rxd7 Nxd7 46. Rb8 Ne5ch 47. Kh5 Kxg7 48. Rxb7ch Be7 49. Rxe7ch Kf8 50. Rc7 a3 51. c5 Ke6 52. Ra7 Kd5, Black is by no means loss.

41. Rg8ch             Kf7

42. Kf5!                 ....

This ends the story, as White’s mating attack, starting with 43. g6ch, is indefensible.

42....                      Nd7

43. g6ch                Ke7

44. e5                    1-0

The threat of 45. Rge8 mate is too much to handle.

Solution to last week puzzle

White to play and win.

White=Kb1, Qg4, Rd1, Re2, Ng7, Pa2, Pb2, Pc2, Pf5, Pg2, Ph2

Black=Ke7, Qc4, Rc7, Rh7, Pa5, Ba7, Pb4, Pe5, Pf6, Pf7

1. Re5ch!             1-0

If 1....fxe5 (1....Kf8 2. Re8 mate) 2. f6ch Kxf6 (2....Kf8 3. Rd8 mate)

3. Qf5ch Ke7 (3....Kxg7 4. Qg5ch Kf8/Kh8 5. Rd8 mate) 4. Qxe5ch Kf8

5. Rd8 mate.

* * *

White to play and win.

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