Candidates Tournament

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - April 18, 2021 - 12:00am

Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) faces American Fabiano Caruana (3.5) while Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi (4.5) clashes with Dutchman Anish Giri (3.5) in crucial match-ups as the long-awaited resumption of the twice adjourned Candidates Tournament takes place tomorrow in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Tied at 4.5 points apiece, MVL and Nepomniachtchi lead the field by a point going into the final seven rounds of the eight-player event in which the winner will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world chess crown. The 14-game FIDE world championship match will be held in November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In other eighth-round pairings, Chinese Wang Hao (3.5) and Ding Liren (2.5) will meet while Russians Alexander Grischuk (3.5) and Kirill Alekseenko (2.5) play each other.

Total prize fund is 500,000 euros, and time control is 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and 15 minutes each to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment. Ties will be broken by,  (a) results of the games between the players involved,  (b) number of wins and (c) Sonneborn-Berger System.

Round eight starts at 7 a.m. Eastern and 4 a.m. Pacific time. All games can be viewed live in various chess websites with commentaries provided by top GMs, including Carlsen and former world champion Vishwanathan Anand.

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Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, India’s rising young star, at 15, ran away with the top prize at the Julius Baer Challengers Tour. Praggnanandhaa’s play has the compulsiveness of youth with attending thirst for complications. He is not afraid to mix it up. Witness the following game where he excels in tactics.

2021 Julius Baer on line challengers 

W) Jonas Buhi Bjerre GM (Denmark)

B)  R. Praggnanandhaa GM (India)

King’s Indian Defense

1. d4      Nf6 

2. c4       g6

3. Nc3    Bg7 

4. e4      d6 

5. Nf3    O-O 

6. Be2    Nbd7 

6....e5 7. 0-0 Nc6 transposes into the popular Classical Variation of the KID..

7. O-O   e5

8. Be3    ....

This is known as the Gligoric System named after the famous Yugoslav world contender Svetozar Gligoric. The text allows White to maintain tension in the center.

8....        c6 

9. d5      c5 

After 9.....cxd5 10.. cxd5 Nh5 11. Re1 Ndf6 12. h3 Nf4 13. Bf1, White is slightly better because of his Q-side prospects.

10. Ne1 Kh8 

11. g4    Ng8 

12. Qd2 f5 

13. gxf5 gxf5 

14. exf5                ....

Seems premature as it opens up the f file to Black’s army. A safer alternative is 14. f3, i.e., 14....f4 15. Bf2 Ndf6 16. Kh1 Nh5 17. Rg1 Bh3 18. a3 Qc8 19. b4 b6 20. bxc5 bxc5 21. Nd3 Qd7 22. Bh4 Bf6 23. Bxf6 ch Ngxf6 24. Nf2, and White has a good game.

14....      Ne7 

15. Kh1 Nf6 

16. Bd3 Bxf5 

17. Rg1  e4!

Now Black has more mobile pieces, and will activate his Knight bound for the vital e5 square.

18. Be2 Ng6 

19. Rg5  Qd7 

20. Nc2 Rf7 

21. Rag1               Raf8 

22. Qe1?!             ....

Not a good choice as the White Queen is badly placed here. Better is 22. Ne1, defending the square f3.

22....      Ne5! 

23. Qf1  Nf3 

24. Bxf3                exf3 

25. Ne1 Ng4!

The clincher with the immediate threat of 25....Nxe3 26. fxe3 f2!. followed by 27....Be4ch.

26. Bf4  Bd4!

Now Black’s pieces swarms on the Kingside, making life miserable for the poor White King.

27. Bg3  Rf6 

28. Nxf3?             ....

In a lost position, any move is bad. The text loses material.

28....      Bxc3

Here it’s time for White to resign as 29. bxc3 is refuted by 29....Be4. 

The rest needs no comment.

29. Nh4 Be4ch

30. f3     Rxf3 

31. Nxf3               Rxf3 

32. Qg2 Rxg3


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Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to play and win.

White=Kg1, Qd6, Re1, Bb3, Pa5, Pb4, Pd5, Pf4, Pg3, Ph4

Black= Kf7, Qc3, Bb7, Nf8 Pa6, Pe4, Pf5, Pg6, Ph5  

1. Qc7ch!             1-0    

 If 1....Qxc7 2. d6ch Ke8 3. dxc7 Kd7 4. Rc1 and White wins.

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