Asian Nations Cup ongoing
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2020 - 12:00am

In Stavanger, Norway, reigning Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen ran away with the top prize in the  eighth Altibox Norway Tournament.

Carlsen scored 19.0 points, clinching the title with still one round remaining.

Carlsen distinguished himself by essaying unorthodox opening lines that befuddled his opponents.

Biting the dust in second spot was the talented 17-year-old Iranian exile living in France, Alireza Firouzja, a full point behind at 18.0.

Other scores read Levon Aronian (ARM) 17.0, Fabiano Caruana (USA) 15, Jan-Kryzstof Duda (POL) 9.5 and Aryan Tari (NOR) 3.5.

* * *

In the meantime, the 2020 Online Asian Nations Cup, jointly organized by the UAE Chess Federation and FIDE is in full swing.

Third seeded Iran posted an impressive 11.0 match points (5 wins and 1 draw) to take the lead after six preliminary rounds in the two-stage, 38-nation team competition, where the top eight teams after nine rounds will advance to the knockout championship finals.

Australia and Kazakhstan were tied at second spot with 10.0, followed by India and Kyrgyzstan at 9.0 apiece. Indonesia, Mongolia and the Philippines rounded out the top eight with 8.0 points.

Teams are allowed to field four players in  every match. A match win is worth two points and a draw counted as one. Time control is 15 minutes plus five seconds increment.

* * *

In the following game, Carlsen avenged himself against the player who inflicted his first defeat in the tournament, ending his 125 classical games unbeaten record.

Altibox Norway Chess 2020 round 06

W) M. Carlsen (Norway)

B) J. Duda (Poland)

Queen’s Gambit Declined

1. d4      d5; 2. c4       c6; 3. e3       Nf6; 4. Nc3      e6

So far, the game has run in well-known paths of the Semi-Slav Defense. White’s next move takes it into less explored territory.

5. b3!?      ....

Carlsen obviously holds that this hypermodern line, played purely for surprise value, offers White satisfactory chances, if not more. 5. Nf3 is the standard continuation.

5....        b6; 6. Bb2      Bb7; 7. Bd3      Nbd7; 8. Nge2     Bd6; 9. O-O      O-O; 10. Ng3     c5; 11. cxd5     cxd4; 12. Nce4    Bxg3; 13. Nxg3    dxe3

After 13....Bxd5 14. Bxd4 Nc5 15. Bb5 Qe7 16. Rc1, White stands slightly better, according to the engine.

14. dxe6     exf2ch; 15. Rxf2     fxe6; 16. Qe2     Nc5; 17. Bc2     Ba6; 18. Qe1     Qe8

18....Nd5 19. Rxf8ch Qxf8 20. b4 Nd3 21. Qxe6ch Qf7 22. Qxf7ch Kxf7 leads to a fairly even endgame, as the engine suggests.

19. Rd1      Rc8; 20. b4       Nb7

20....Ncd7 is met by 21. Ba4!, which clearly favors White.

21. Ne4!     ....

Note the logic in White’s move, not a single tempo is wasted. His last move nets the upper hand.

21....        Nd5

Other tries also fails, e.g., 21....Qe7 22. Nxf6ch gxf6 23. Qe4 (threatening 24. Bxf6) and White has tremendous pressure.

22. Rxf8ch    Qxf8

There is no good reply. If 22....Kxf8, simply 23. Bb3! and the rest is going through the motions.

23. Bb1      Qxb4?

A fatalistic reply. The engine’s 23....h6 prolongs the game, though White retains maximum prospects.

24. Nf6ch!    ....

Black is only skimming the surface, while White’s moves shows depth and foresight. This one is a crusher.

24....        Kh8

There’s nothing better. If 24....Kf7 25. Qxb4 Nxb4 26. Rd7ch Kf8 27. Nxh7ch Ke8 28. Rxg7 Rc6 29. Bg6ch Kd8 30. Ng5 and White wins handily.

25. Qxe6     Ra8; 26. Qxd5     1-0

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

Black to play and draw.

White=Kb1, Rf7, Rg7, Bd5, Pa2, Pb2, Pe4, Pg4, Ph6

Black=Kh8, Qb8, Bg2, Pa4, Pe5, Ph7

1....      Bxe4ch!; 2. Bxe4    Qxb2ch!; 3. Kxb2    a3ch; 4. Kxa3    Stalemate.

* * *

MAGNUS CARLSEN
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