Carlsen marches on

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Not unexpectedly, the favorites are safely through the third round of the $1.9 million FIDE World Cup after another day of action in Sochi, Russia.

Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen showed no sign of weakness as he marched into the third round by dismissing Croatian GM Sasa Martinovic, 2-0, while Fabiano Caruana (USA), Alexander Grischuk (RUS), Anish Giri (NED) and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) all booked their spots in the third round.

The No. 2 seed Caruana had an easy day, winning by forfeiture against Indonesian GM Susanto Megaranto, who was tested positive for COVID-19.

No. 3 seed Levon Aronian of Armenia also tested positive and had to default his match against Australian GM Bobby Cheng. Grischuk, the No. 5 seed, had to work hard against Federico Perez Ponza of Argentina before finally clinching a 1.5-0.5 victory in 96 moves and five hours of play.

It was a different story for the sixth seeded Giri, who blitzed past Russian GM Boris Savchenko, 2-0, while MVL, winner of the Grand Chess Tour (rapid and blitz), held last week in Zagreb (Croatia), extended his winning run by outplaying Iranian Eishan Moradiabadi, 2-0.

In the women’s event, local bets Aleksandra Goryachkina and Kateryna Lagno, the top two seeds, defeated their respective opponents to advance to the third round.

They were joined by Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia and the Muzychuk sisters, Anna and Mariya of Ukraine, who moved forward to the next round.

Matches can be followed live (including tiebreaks), starting at 8 a.m. EST, at various chess websites.

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For this issue, we present a stimulating game from the ongoing FIDE World Cup. From more than 400 games played thus far, surely we should glean some interesting games from this chessic harvest.

FIDE World Cup 2021 Round 02-01

W) S. Mareco GM (ARG)

B)  J. Cori GM (PER)

Caro-Kann Defense

1. e4           c6; 2. d4           d5; 3. e5           ....

This, the Advanced Variation, has become quite usual lately.

3....            Bf5; 4. h4           h5; 5. Bd3         Bxd3; 6. Qxd3       e6; 7. Bg5         Be7; 8. Nf3          Nh6; 9. c4           dxc4; 10. Qxc4      Nf5

This sharp variation of the Caro-Kann leads to interesting by-paths.

11. Nc3        Nd7; 12. Rd1        a5; 13. Ne4        Nb6; 14. Qe2        Nd5; 15. O-O        a4; 16. a3           Qa5; 17. g3           Bxg5; 18. Nfxg5      Rd8; 19. Rd3         Nc7; 20. Rfd1        Nb5; 21. Nf3          O-O?

The purpose of castling is to provide safety for the king. It was quite the reverse here as black castles into a dangerous attack. A safer alternative is 21....Qa7.

22. Nfg5        g6; 23. Nf6ch      Kg7; 24. Nxh5ch!   ....

This is the first of a series of hammer blows to pry open black’s king position..

24....            gxh5

Accepting the sacrifice works out poorly, but black has no satisfactory alternatives., e.g., 24....Kh6 25. Nf6 Kg7 26. h5 Nbxd4  27. Qe4 Qb6 28. h6ch, white wins material.

25. Qxh5      Nh6; 26. Rf3         Nd6

After 26....Nxd4 27. Rf6 Ndf5 28. Nxe6ch! white is winning.

27. exd6       Qd5; 28. Rf6!         ....

Here white lashes out with some sizzling moves. His last stroke is a crusher.

28....            Kxf6

Black has no good choice.

29. Qxh6ch   Kf5; 30. f3!           ....

As the early chess writer used to say, combinations where even a meek little pawn plays an important role in the mating attack are particularly attractive.

30....            Rh8; 31. g4ch       1-0

31....Kf4 is met by 32. Nxe6ch Kxf3 (32....Kg3 33. Qf4ch mate follows) 33. Qf4ch Ke2  34. Rd2ch Ke1 35. Qf2 mate.

Solution to last week’s Puzzle:

Black to play and draw.

White=kh4, Rf5, Be5, Ng3, Pg4

Black=Kg8, Qc2

1....          Qh2ch; 2. Kg5      Qh6ch!; 3. Kxh6     Stalemate.

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