Nakamura, Carlsen on course

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2020 - 12:00am

Hikaru Nakamura (USA) and Magnus Carlsen (Norway), the top two seeds, have advanced to the semifinals of the 2020 Online Speed Chess Championship and stayed on a collision course for the finals.

Nakamura, the defending champion and seeded No.1, made light work of Russian qualifier Vladimir Fedoseev, 21.5-5.5, and will face compatriot Wesley So, who earlier defeated Jan Krysztop Duda of Poland, 16-10.

In the other quaterfinals match, Carlsen progressed after fending off another Russian qualifier in Vladislav Artemiev, 13.5-9.5, to reach the last four. He will next meet Frenchman and world No. 5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who beat Levon Aronian of Armenia, 14.5-11.5.

The $100,000 online tournament, which started last month, will run up to Dec. 13 and can be watched live with commentaries at the various chess websites.

* * *

Meanwhile, Wesley So defeated Magnus Carlsen, 1.5-0.5, in the deciding two-game tie-break to capture the Skilling open online tournament, the first leg of the $1.5 million Online Champions Chess Tour.

With the Norwegian world champion hot on his trail, So, the reigning US champion, dug deep and kept a comeback far at bay. The loss ended Carlsen’s amazing run in online tournaments.

In winning the tournament, So pocketed $30,000 and earned 46 tour points, putting himself in a position to lock down the first grand final spot.

The tour’s second leg, a major event, will take place on Dec. 26.

* * *

In inverse proportion to So’s gain in strength as the match progressed, Carlsen’s play deteriorated, as shown in the following classic game below.

2020 Skilling Open Game 4

W) W. So (USA)

B) M. Carlsen (Norway)

Sicilian Defense

1. e4       c5; 2. Nf3      Nc6; 3. d4       cxd4; 4. Nxd4     Nf6; 5. Nc3      e5

This, the Sveshnikov Variation occupies first place in Carlsen’s esteem, and has done very well for him in many games with an unblemished record. Pioneered by Russian GM and writer Evgeny Sveshnikov in the 70s, the system has become standard in recent years.

6. Ndb5     d6; 7. Nd5      ....

7.Bg5 is the usual continuation, which sets the game as fairly even after 7....a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 0-0.

7....        Nxd5; 8. exd5      Nb8

After 8....Ne7 9. c4 Ng6 10. Qa4 Bd7 11. Qb4, the game is probably even. Kariakin vs. Carlsen, 2019 Shamkir GM tournament.

9. Qf3!?     ....

A novelty? Perhaps, but even if the move had been played before, it was not given much attention by theoretical experts. In Caruana vs. Carlsen 2018 world championship match game 10, play continued 9. a4 Be7 10. Be2 0-0 11. 0-0 Nd7 12. b4 a6 13. Na3 a5 14. bxa5 Rxa5 15. Nc4 Ra8 16. Be3 f5 17. a5 f4 18. Bb6 Qe8 19. Ra3 Qg6, and the game hangs in the balance.

9....        a6; 10. Qa3!     ....

The point of White’s last move. The Queen is transferred to the Q-side, where it exerts immediate pressure on d6, thus disrupting the development of Black’s pieces.

10....       b6

The normal 10....Be7 seems better.

11. Bg5!     .....

This is the improved way of handling the opening, White mobilizes his Queen side first. The Bishop is taboo as 11....Qxg5? loses to 12. Nc7ch.

11....       Be7

After 11....f6 12. Be3 Be7 13. f4 0-0 14. Be2 Nd7 15. 0-0 Bb7 16. Nc3, White probably has a slight edge.

12. Bxe7     Kxe7; 13. O-O-O    Bb7; 14. Nc3      Nd7; 15. f4       Qc7; 16. fxe5      Nxe5; 17. Qb4      h5; 18. Be2      Kf8; 19. Rhf1      Re8; 20. Rf5       h4; 21. Rf4       Qd8; 22. Kb1      Rh6; 23. Rdd4      h3; 24. g3        Bc8; 25. a4        Kg8; 26. Rde4      Qc7; 27. Rh4       a5; 28. Qd4       Rxh4; 29. Rxh4      Bf5?!

Seems dubious. 29....Qc5 is best according to the engine, e.g., 30. Qd1 Qf2 31. Bb5 Rd8, and the game is close to equality.

30. Rh5       Qc8

After 30....Bg6 31. Rxh3 f6 32. Rh4, Black loses a Pawn without compensation.

31. Qxb6      Ng4?

This move loses by forced, though White is also winning after 31....Bg4 32. Bxg4 Qxg4 33. Rh4 Qf3 34. Qb5 Rc8 35. Qa6 Re8 36. Rxh3 Qh1ch 37. Ka2 Qg2 38. Rh4 Qxc2 39. Qb5 Rd8 40. Qb6 Ra8 41. Qb3 Qd2 42. Qd1, etc.

32. Ba6!       ....

This is the clincher as Black cannot prevent losing material.

32....         Re1ch; 33. Ka2       Qe8

Or 33....Qd7 34. Rxf5 Qxf5 35. Qd8ch Kh7 36. Bd3, winning the Queen.

34. Rxf5       Ne3; 35. Bb5       Qe7


The rest of the story (though Black is no longer interested) would be 36. Rh5 Qf8 37. Bd3.and White wins easily.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

Black to move and win.

White=Kh1, Qh3, Rf1, Be3, Pa4,Pb3, Pd4, Pe5, Ph2

Black=Kh8, Qg6, Rg7, Bh4, Pa5, Pd5, Pe6, Pf7, Ph7

1....        Bf2!; 0-1

The threat is 2....Qg1 mate. If 1. Bxf2 Qe4ch and mate follows.

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