Carlsen remains on top

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

The FIDE has released its March 2021 world ratings list.

The list includes thousands of active players, including GMs and IMs from various member nations of the global chess body.

Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen was again the world’s No. 1 for the 10th year running despite losing 15 rating points in Wijk aan Zee. American Fabiano Caruana was again ranked second and Chinese top gun Ding Liren third.

The rest of the top ten underwent major reshuffling with one familiar name dropping out of that select group. Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave fell from fifth to fourteenth spot following a lackluster performance at the Tata Steel Festival. Levon Aronian, who just transferred to USCF, moved to fifth place from No. 7, Dutchman Anish Giri rose three slots to No. 7 and Azeri Teimour Radjabov moved up one slot to No. 10.

The biggest gains were registered by 17-year-old Iranian exile Alireza Firouzja (+21), Dutchman Jorden Van Foreest (+22) and Russian teenager Andrey Esipenko (+18). The biggest drops were MVL (-21) and Carlsen (-14)

The world’s best in 2021: Carlsen 2847, Caruana 2820, Liren 2791, Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) 2789, Aronian 2781, Alexander Grischuk (Russia) 2777, Giri 2775, Shakriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) 2770, Wesley So (USA) 2770 and Radjabov 2765.

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It is well known that the world champion loves endgames. Nothing delights him more than grinding out a win from only a smidgen advantage, as shown in the following game.

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Champions Chess Tour

Opera Euro Rapid - 2021

W) M. Carlsen (Norway)

B) M. Vachier-Lagrave (France)

Grunfeld Defense

1. d4 Nf6; 2. c4 g6; 3. Nc3 d5; 4. cxd5 Nxd5’ 5. Bd2...

The Exchange Variation Deferred, a very old line but with very modern tendency.

5....  Bg7; 6. e4...

The system’s well-known idea. White answers 6....Nxc3 with 7. Bxc3, without having the drawback of a weak c Pawn.

6.... Nb6; 7. Be3 O-O; 8. h3....

In Carlsen-MVL Rd. 6, Game 3, play went 8. a4 a5 9. h3 Nc6 10. Nf3 f5 11. exf5 Bxf5 12. Be2 Nb4 13. Rc1 c6 14. 0-0 Nfd5 15. Bd2, and White obtains a slight advantage, (1-0=40).

8....  e5; 9. Nf3 exd4; 10. Bxd4 Nc6; 11. Bxg7 Qxd1ch; 12. Rxd1 Kxg7; 13. Bb5 Nb4

13....Nd8 seems preferable, e.g., 14. Be2 Ne6 15. 0-0 Nf4, with chances to equalize.

14. a3 a6; 15. Be2....

After 15. axb4 axb5 16. Nxb5 Ra4 17. Nxc7 Rxb4 and Black regains the Pawn. with active pieces.

15.... Nc6; 16. Nd4 Nxd4; 17. Rxd4 Be6; 18. O-O Rfd8; 19. Rfd1 Rxd4; 20. Rxd4 Kf6; 21. f4 Ke7; 22. Kf2 Rd8; 23. Ke3 Rxd4?!

This simplifies White’s task, as it allows the White King to gain the opposition. Correct is 23....Bd7

24. Kxd4 f6; 25. h4 Nd7; 26. b4 h6; 27. a4 g5; 28. g3 gxf4; 29. gxf4 Nb8?

And here’s the losing move, as the Knight will be reduced to passivity. 29....Nf8 is better, though Black has to play accurately to stay in the game.

30. Nd5ch! Bxd5; 31. exd5 b6; 32. h5 a5; 33. bxa5 bxa5; 34. Kc5 f5; 35. Bb5!....

The clincher, as Black will soon run out of playable moves.

35.... Kd8; 36. Kd4 1-0

There’s nothing else to be done as White picks up Black’s Kingside Pawns.

Solution to last week’s Puzzle:

White to move and win.

White=Kh4, Bg5, Nf6, Ph6

Black=Kg6, Bf5

1. h7!          1-0

If 1....Kg7 2. h8Qch! Kxh8 3. Bh6! followed

by 4. Bf8!, 5. Kg5, 6. Kh6 and 7. Bg7 mate.

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