Grand Chess Tour heats up

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - June 13, 2021 - 12:00am

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan exploited Levon Aronian’s endgame woes en route to a 40-move victory that gave him a share of the lead with Russian Alexander Grischuk at the 2021 Grand Chess Tour in Bucharest, Romania.

Mamedyarov and Grischuk (who beat Romanian Constantin Lupulescu) had four points each after six rounds on two wins and four draws.

American Wesley So was in sole third spot, half-a-point behind the leaders, followed by Azeri Teimour Radjabov, local bet Bogdan-Daniel Deac and Fabiano Caruana (USA) with three points apiece.

The rest of the standings read Anish Giri (NED), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA), Aronian (FIDE), 2.5 and Lupulescu (ROU), 2.0.

Dubbed as the Superbet Chess Classic (Cat. 21), the $325,000 10-player over-the-board competition is the first in a series of  Grand Chess Tour tournaments, and the strongest in the year’s second quarter. The next event will be held on June 16-23 in Paris, France.

Round seven is being played at press time, and can be watched live (1400 CEST ) with commentaries at various chess websites.

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In the following game, So, 27, bested Caruana, 28, in a bookish matchup, with both players showing good technique. 2021 Superbet Chess Classic

W) W. So (USA)

B)  F. Caruana (USA)

English Opening

1. c4            e5;     2. g3            Nf6;  3. Bg2          Bc5

The text is an improvement from the game Nepomniachtchi vs. Caruana, 2021 FTX Crypto Cup QF, which went 3....c6 4. Nf3 e4 5. Nd4 d5 6. cxd5 Qx5 7. Nc2 Bc5  8. Nc3 Qe5 9. 0-0 0-0 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 11. d4. and white stands slightly better, (1-0 = 57).

4. d3            c6;     5. Nf3            d6;  6. O-O          O-O;               7. Nc3          a5;    8. d4            exd4;               9. Nxd4        a4;   10. Rb1!?        ....

Intending to answer 10....a3 with 11. b4. The alternative 10. e3 a3 11. b3 Re8, probably will lead to a balance middle game.

10....            Re8; 11. e3            Qa5;               12. Bd2          Bg4;               13. f3            Bh5?!

Not a good square for the bishop. 13....Bd7 is necessary, according to the engine, e.g., 14. Ne4 Qd8 15. Nxc5 dxc5 16. Nc7 Ne6 the game is rich in possibilities.

14. Ne4          Qd8;             15. Nxc5        dxc5;            16. Ne2          Qd3

Black harps on this theme, but capturing the c pawn loses valuable time as will be shown in the actual game.

17. Nf4!          ....

Now white sacs the c pawn in preference to obtaining the initiative. His formidable center pawns and the bishop pair more than compensate for the pawn deficit.

17....            Qxc4;               18. b3            axb3;             19. axb3        Qb5;              20. e4            Bg6;               21. Bc3          Na6;                22. h4!          ....

Threatening to win a piece with 23. Bxf6 followed by 24. h5.

22....            h5?

A  huge positional error,  as it seriously weakens black’s kingside pawns. More to the point is 22...Rad8, according to the engine.

23. Qc1        Kh7; 24. Rd1        Rad8;              25. Qb2        c4;   26. Bxf6        gxf6;              27. Qxf6        Rxd1ch;       28. Rxd1      Qc5ch;  29. Kh2        Qe7

Now black is forced to swap queens into a lost ending or allow the queen and knight penetration on the kingside.

30. Qxe7      Rxe7;             31. bxc4        Kg7;               32. Bh3        Nc5; 33. Rd6        f6;    34. Ne6ch    Nxe6;            35. Bxe6      Be8?

The decisive mistake, after which white wins easily. Correct and prolonging the game is 35....Bf7, though white also wins the rook ending with 36. Bxf7 Kxf5 37. c5 etc. Now Wesley’s endgame technique becomes manifest. The rest needs no comment.

36. c5          Bf7;   37. Bc8        Re5; 38. Bxb7      Rxc5;              39. Rxc6      Rb5; 40. Ba6        Rb2ch;            41. Kg1        Be8; 42. Rc5        Kh6;        43. Kf1          Bd7;               44. Be2        Be8; 45. Kf2          Rb3;               46. Rd5        Ra3; 47. Bd3        Kg7; 48. Ke3        Rb3;       49. Kf4          Rb4;               50. Rc5        Bf7;  51. Rc7        Kg6; 52. g4          1-0

Solution to last week’s Puzzle:

Black to move and win.

White=Kh2, Qc2, Rb7, Nd5, Bf3, Pa7, Pa2, Pf2, Pg4, Ph3

Black=Kh8, Qf1, Rg1, Rf8, Bg7, Pd6, Pf4, Ph7

1....           Rg3!    0-1

If 2. fxg3 fxg3ch 3. Kxg3 Rxf3ch 4. Kh4 Rxh3ch 5. Kg5 Bh6 mate, or 2. Nxf4 Rxh3ch 3. Nxh3 Be5ch 4. Nf4 Bxf4 mate.

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