Candidates Tournament set

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2021 - 12:00am

The FIDE Candidates Tournament, suspended halfway last year due to the pandemic, will resume play April 19-29 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, the governing global chess body announced recently.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France and Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) shared the lead at 4.5 points apiece when play was adjourned after seven rounds.

Other scores on the table are Fabiano Caruana (USA), Anish Giri (NED), Wang Hao (CHN) and Alexanbder Grischuk (RUS), 3.5 each, Ding Liren (CHN) and Kiril Alekseenko (RUS), with 2.5 points.

The eight-player double-round robin event is being held to select the official challenger for the 2021 World Chess Championship slated  Nov. 24-Dec.16 in  Dubai, UAE.

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Meanwhile, American Wesley So won the Opera Euro online rapid last week for his second major victory at the Champions Chess Tour, closing with a 2-2, 2.5-1.5 two-set win over Norwegian Magnus Carlsen.

So, the 27-year-old US champion whose other Tour victory came in the November 2020 Skilling Open (where he beat Carlsen), recovered from 1-2 down, and saved the first set with a convincing triumph. He built a one-point lead in the second set and overcame late challenges from the world champion.

With his victory, the Philippine-born So pocketed the $30,000 top prize and moved ahead in the Tour’s overall standings.

The Tour’s fourth leg will take place on March 13 with a total cash prize of $200,000.

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In the following game, Black’s piece sacrifice in the beginning seemed dubious, and it proved unsound. Anyhow, this is an interesting and stiff battle between two great talents.

2021 Opera Euro Rapid Finals

W) W. So (USA)

B) M. Carlsen (Norway)

Sicilian Defense

1. e4      c5/ 2. Nf3     Nc6/ 3. Bb5     ....

The steady Rossolimo Variation, named after American GM Nicolas Rossolimo (1910-1975), who was responsible in making it popular half a century ago.

3....       e6

In So vs Radjabov, Game 3, semifinals, play went 3....g6 4. 0-0 Bg7 5. c3 Nf6 6. Re1 0-0 7. d4 d5 8. e5 Ne4 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. Be3 exd4 11. cxd4 Qb6 12. Qc1, and White has a slight edge, (1-0=57).

4. O-O     Nge7/ 5. c3      ....

After 5. Re1 a6 6. Bxc6 Nxc6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 d6 9. c4 Be7 10. Nc3 0-0 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bf4, White has the initiative, So vs. Radjabov, Game 1, semifinals.(1-0=46).

5....       a6/ 6. Ba4     b5/ 7. Bc2     Bb7/  8. Re1     Rc8/ 9. a4      b4/ 10. d4     cxd4/ 11. cxd4    Ng6/ 12. Nbd2   Na5/ 13. g3     Be7/ 14. h4     Bxh4?!

Embarking on some interesting, but unclear complications. A safer alternative is 14....Qc7, though after 15. Bd3 0-0 16. Rb1 f6 17. b3 Nh8 18. Qe2, Black has a totally cramped game to contend with.

15. gxh4    Nxh4/ 16. Nxh4   Qxh4/ 17. Re3!    ....

Very well played. Now this Rook will play an important role along the half open g and h files.

17....      f5/ 18. Rg3    O-O/ 19. Nf3     Qh5/ 20. Ne5!    ....

Forcing the Queen swap, thus reducing the pressure on White’s Kingside.

20....      Qxd1ch/ 21. Bxd1    d6/ 22. Nd3    fxe4

After 22....Bxe4 23. Nxb4 f4 24. Rg5, White keeps maximum prospects.

23. Nxb4   Nc4/ 24. a5     d5/ 25. Bg4    Rf6?

A fatalistic reply that ends the game abruptly.. Correct is 25....Rce8 and Black will try to thread the needle, though White retains winning chances. 26. Bg5!    ....

The clincher. Now the f6 Rook has nowhere to go, and White wins more material.

26....      Rg6/ 27. Bh5    Rxg5/ 28. Rxg5   1-0

With one Rook down without compensation, there’s nothing left for Black but resignation.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to play and mate in three moves.

White=Ke2, Rb5, Bh4, Nf3, Nh6, Pb2, Pc4, Pg3

Black=Ke4, Rh8, Bc8, Bg7, Nc7

1. Rf5!      ....

Threatening 2. Rf4 mate. If 1....Bxh6 2. Re5 mate.

1....        Bxf5

Or 1....Ne6/Nd5 2. Nd2ch Kd4 3. Rd5/Rxd5 mate.

2. Nf7!      ....

And Black has no defense against the double threat of 3. Nd6 and 3. Ng5 mate.

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