Over-the-board action returns
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Norwegian world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen returns to over-the-board action as the 8th Altibox Super GM Tournament gets underway Oct. 5-16 in Stavanger, Norway.

Carlsen, the reigning world champion, headlines the six-player field that includes American world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana and world No. 7 Levon Aronian of Armenia.

They will be joined by 22-year-old Polish top gun Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alireza Firouzja, the 17-year-old Iranian exile living in France, and Norway’s rising young star, Aryan Tari, 21.

Carlsen, 29, who emerged co-champion with Wesley So in the recently concluded St. Louis online rapid and blitz, will be seeking his second consecutive Altibox Norway chess plum.

Format calls for a double round-robin, with classical time control of two hours for each player to finish the game, with ten seconds increment after move 40. A win is scored three points, a loss zero and draws will be decided by Armageddon play-off (white, ten minutes and black, seven minutes), where black wins in case of a draw. Armageddon win is worth 1.5 points and a loss 0.5.

This marks the first time that a major over-the-board individual tournament will be held since the 14-round Candidates Tournament was adjourned halfway last March due to the pandemic.

* * *

In the following game, Black adopts an opening which requires immediate counter play in the center, but indulges instead in ineffective maneuvering, and emerges with a seriously weakened pawn structure, resulting in a well-deserved victory for the tournament co-winner.

Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz 2020

Rapid Round 04

W) M. Carlsen (Norway)

B) L. Aronian (Armenia)

Grunfeld Defense

1. d4       Nf6; 2. c4       g6; 3. Nc3      d5

The Grunfeld Defense, named after pioneer and leader Austrian GM Ernst Franz Grunfeld (1893-1962).

4. Nf3      Bg7; 5. Qb3     ....

The well-known Russian Variation. Carlsen has recently displayed a flair for this ancient system, popularized in the 50s by Russian world champion Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-1995).

5....       dxc4; 6. Qxc4    O-O; 7. e4       a6!?

The principal alternatives are (a) 7....Bg4 8. Be3 Nfd7 9. Rd1 Nc6 10. Be2 Nb6 11. Qc5 Qd6, White has a slight advantage.(b) 7....Na6 8. Be2 c5 9. d5 e6 10. 0-0 exd5 11. exd5 Bf5, the game is about equal.

8. e5       b5; 9. Qb3     Ng4?!

Seems dubious as the Knight is more effective on the Queenside, e.g., 9....Nfd7 10. Be3 Nb6 11. Bd3 Be6 12. Qc2 Nc6 13. a3 Na5, and Black is ok.

10. h3      Nh6; 11. Bd3     Be6?!

Another tempo-losing move. 11....Bb7 is considered best by the engine.

12. d5      Nd7

This is Black’s idea, intending to meet 13. dxe6? with 13....Nc5!, but White’s next move refutes the plan..

13. Bb1!    ....

Putting an end to all Black’s hope for counter play.

13....       Bf5; 14. Bxh6    Bxh6; 15. Bxf5    gxf5; 16. O-O     e6?

With passive pieces and vulnerable pawn formation, Black is in dire straits, and with White’s two powerful center pawns moving in fast, Aronian decides its time to quit defending.

17. dxe6    Nc5; 18. exf7ch   Rxf7; 19. Qa3     Ne6; 20. Rad1    Qf8; 21. Qb3     Re8

Now with a pawn plus and huge positional advantage, White has a win.

22. Nd5     Bg7; 23. Rfe1     c5; 24. Qa3     Ra7; 25. Qa5     c4; 26. a4      b4; 27. Nf6ch    Bxf6; 28. exf6     Qxf6; 29. Qxb4    Rg7

29....Re7 is necessary to prolong the game, though White is also winning.

30. Qxc4    Kh8; 31. Rd6!     ....

Intensifying the pressure on Black’s pieces which are now pinned and attacked three times. Resignation is honorable at this point, and the rest needs no comment.

31....       Reg8; 32. Rexe6   Rxg2ch; 33. Kf1      Qxb2; 34. Qd4ch    1-0

Solution to last week’s puzzle: Black to move and win. White=Kb1, Qd4, Rd2, Rh2, Pb3, Pc2, Pe5, Pf4, Pg3, Ph6 Black=Kg8, Qa6, Ra7, Rc6, Pd5, Pe6, Pf5, Pg6, Ph7

1....      Rc3!!; 0-1

The threat is 2. Qa1 mate. If 2. Qxc3 Qf1ch 3. Kb2 Qa1 mate.

* * *

MAGNUS CARLSEN
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