Opera Euro online underway

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2021 - 12:00am

The Opera Euro Rapid online tournament, the third leg of the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour, is underway with 16 top GMs participating.

Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen, the heavy favorite, will be seeking to win the top prize, and will be desperate to bounce back after a disappointing sixth-place finish at the recent Tata Steel Masters Festival.

Carlsen will be joined by first-leg champion Wesley So (USA) and second-leg winner Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan). Both players are in serious contention for the title.

Format calls for a single-round robin preliminary, with the top eight players advancing to the championship phase, made up of quarterfinal, semifinal and final knockout matchups. Time control is 15 minutes plus 10 seconds increment, and the total cash prize is $100,000.

Opening round pairings are So vs Carlsen; Bluebaum (GER) vs. Radjabov; Aronian (ARM) vs Ding Liren (CHN); Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) vs Dubov (RUS); Shankland (USA) vs Vidit (IND); Dominguez (USA) vs Nakamnura (USA); Duda (POL) vs Nepomniachrchi (RUS) and Grischuk (RUS) vs Giri (NED).

All games can be followed live with commentaries at various chess websites, starting at 1600 utc.

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Meanwhile, the Tata Steel Masters Festival held last week in the Netherlands paid off for Dutch chess.

Jorden Van Foreest, the third youngest local GM at 21, emerged on top of the yearly event that has become traditional in international chess circuits. Although tied with compatriot Anish Giri with 8.5 points, Van Foreest prevailed in the tie break playoff, and became the second Dutchman (after Jan Timman 1985) to win the prestigious title. Undefeated, he gained 30 rating points and has skyrocketed from 67th to 36th in the world chess rankings.

Russian teenager Andrey Esipemko wound up third with 8.0 points, nosing out Fabiano Caruana (USA) and 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja (FIDE) via tie break points.

*     *     *

Now let us take a closer look at the style and what is it that made Van Foreest the Wijk aan Zee champion at the age of 21.

Tata Steel Masters 2021

W) J. Van Foreest (NED)

B)  D. G. Anton (ESP)

Ruy Lopez

1. e4      e5

2. Nf3    Nc6

3. Bb5    a6

4. Ba4    Nf6

5. O-O   Be7

After 5....b5 6. Bb3 Bb7 7. d3 Be7 8. Nc3 0-0 9. a3 Nd4 10. Nxd4 exd4 11. Ne2 c5, the game hangs in the balance, Van Foreest vs. Carlsen, Rd. 4, same tournament, (draw 58).

6. d3      ....

This solid Anti Marshall line has become popular among leading GMs in recent years.

6....        b5

7. Bb3    d6

8. c3       ....

Van Foreest vs. Donchenko, Rd. 9 same tournament, went 8. a4 Bd7 9. h3 0-0 10. Nc3 Na5 11. Ba2 b4 12. Ne2 c5, with equal chances, (draw 32).

8....        O-O

9. h3      h6

10. a4    Bd7

11. Bc2  b4

12. Nbd2              Re8

So far, the opening has run in well-known paths as both players prepare for the ensuing middle game.

13. a5 Bf8, 14. Re1 Rb8, 15. d4 bxc3, 16. bxc3 exd4, 17. cxd4 Nb4, 18. Bb1 g6, 19. Ra3 Bg7, 20. Nf1 Rb5, 21. Ng3 Nh5, 22. Nxh5 Rxh5, 23. d5 c5, 24. Bf4 Bb2, 25. Rae3 Qf6, 26. Bg3 c4, 27. Qe2 Bb5, 28. e5 Bxe5, 29. Nxe5 dxe5, 30. Bxe5 Rexe5, 31. Rxe5 c3, 32. Qe3 c2, 33. Rxh5 gxh5, 34. Bxc2 Nxc2, 35. Qe5 Kg7, 36. Re4 Bd3?

This move loses a piece but after 36....Qxe5 37. Rxe5 Nd4 38. d6 Bc6 39. Kh2 Nb5 40. Rd5, White obtains winning chances.

37. Qg3ch            1-0

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Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to play and win.

White=Kd2, Rh1, Ba8, Pb4, Pc2, Pc6, Pf3, Pg2, Ph2

Black-Kg8, Ra7, Bc8, Pd4, Pe5, Pf6, Pg5, Ph7

1. Bb7    Bxb7

2. Ra1!! 1-0

If 2....Rxa1 3. cxb7 , or 2....Ba6ch 3. Rxa6 Rxa6 4. b5 Ra3 5. b6 . Finally, 2....Bxc6 3. Rxa7 and wins.

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