Carlsen sizzles online
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Top-seeded Magnus Carlsen of Norway enjoyed a successful start by whitewashing American Fabiano Caruana, 2.5-0.5, to take a one-set lead at the $150,000 Chessable Masters online best-of-three quarterfinal match play.

Russian world No. 4 Ian Nepomniachtchi won the other first-round quarterfinal encounter, beating compatriot Vladislav Artemiev, 2.5-0.5.

In other matches, Chinese world No.3 Ding Liren defeated Hikaru Nakamura (USA), 2.5-1.5, and Dutchman Anish Giri edged Russian Alexander Grischuk, 3.0-2.0, after an Armageddon tie-break play-off.

The Chessable Masters is the third leg of the 12-player, five-event $1 million online chess tour series, culminating in the tour’s grand finals in August.

Quarterfinal second-round matches (made up of four mini games), are being played at press time, and can be followed live at chess24 and various chess websites.

* * *

In the following game, Carlsen skillfully exploited his opponent’s dark square weaknesses, and avenged himself against the same player who ousted him in the Lindores Abby semifinals.

Chessable Masters 2020

preliminary round

W) M. Carlsen (Norway)

B) H. Nakamura (USA)

Queen’s Gambit Declined

1. d4      Nf6

2. c4       e6

3. Nf3                    d5

4. Nc3                    Be7

5. Bf4                     ....

This system of development, aimed at controlling the e5 square and exerting immediate pressure on c7,  has become popular in recent years, and a favorite of Carlsen.

5.....                       O-O

6. a3                       Nbd7

How Black proceeds is a matter of personal taste. Of the alternatives, 6....dxc4 is considered best by the engine. For example, 7. e3 Nd5 8. Bxc4 Nxf4 9. exf4 Nc6, and the ensuing middlegame probably hangs in the balance.

7. Nb5                   Ne8

8. e3                      dxc4

9. Bxc4                  c5

Not without a point, but it slightly weakens Black’s dark squares.though there’s no immediate effect. A more natural continuation which offers chances for equality is 9....a6, e.g., 10. Nc3 Nef6 11. 0-0 b5 12. Ba2 Bb7 13. Rc1, with only a slight edge for White, if any.

10. dxc5                a6

11. Nbd4              Bxc5

12. O-O                 Qe7

13. Rc1                  Bd6

14. Ba2                  Ndf6

15. Ne5                 ....

Here Black’s game looks playable and solid, that he does not even dream of being in danger.

15....                      Nd7?

And this is a fatalistic reply which concedes White a huge advantage. 15....g5  should have been tried.

16. Ndc6!!           ....

Now comes an astonishing move, combining power and elegance.

16....                      Qh4

After 16....bxc6 17. Nxc6 Qf6 18. Bxd6 Nxd6 19. Qxd6 Qxb2 20. Ne7ch Kh8 21. Nxc8 Qxa2 22. Qxd7, White simply wins material.

17. Bg3                  Qg5

18. h4                    Qf6

19. Ng4                 Qxb2

20. Bxd6               bxc6

Neither 20....Nxd6 21. Ne7ch Kh8 22. Qxd6 Qxa2 23. Nxc8 Raxc8 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Qxd7, nor 20....Qxa2 21. Ne7ch Kh8 22. Nxc8 Nxd6 23. Nxd6, could save Black’s game.

21. Rc2                  Qb5

22. Bxf8                Nxf8

When the dust cleared, White emerged exchange ahead, and should win without much fuss.

23. h5                    h6

24. Qf3                  Qxh5

24....Bd7 is necessary to prolong the game, but Black is lost anyway.

25. Qxc6               Nc7

26. Qf3                  Nd5

27. e4                    e5

28. Nxh6ch!        1-0

This simple finishing touch forces resignation, as the double-threat on a8 and f7 will be difficult ro parry.

Solution to last week puzzle

Black to play and win.

White=Kd3, Rd6, Pd5, Pf4, Pg3, Ph3

Black=Kb7, Ra2, Pa3, Pc5, Pf5

1....        Rd2ch!

2. Kxd2                 a2

3. Rd7ch               Kb6

4. Rd6ch               Kb5

5. Rd8                    a1Q

6. Rb8ch               Kc4


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