MVL rules Sinquefield Cup

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

MANILA, Philippines — The 8th Sinquefield Cup (Cat. 20), a super GM joust held Aug. 17-26 in St. Louis (Missouri), was extremely successful.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave snatched first with a score of six out of nine, for another plume in his cap. He brought home the top prize of $90, 000.

At present, MVL is France’s top chess talent and is expected to compete in next year’s world championship cycle. In the rating list, the 30-year-old is currently ranked 10th in the world.

Americans Fabiano Caruana, Leinier Dominguez Perez and Wesley So, tied for second-fourth at 5.5 apiece. Richard Rapport (HUN), 4.5, Jeffery Xiong (USA), 4.0, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE), 4.0, Sam Shankland (USA), 4.0, Peter Svidler (RUS), 3.5 and Dariusz Swiercz (USA), 2.5, rounded out the top 10.

The $325,000 chessfest was the final event of the yearly Grand Chess Tour.

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MVL’s third win in St. Louis was very instructive, wrapping up the game with a crushing pawn stab on the 29th move.

Grand Chess Tour

2021 Sinquefield Cup

W) M. Vachier-Lagrave (FRA)

B)  J. Xiong (USA)

Ruy Lopez

1. e4          e5; 2. Nf3        Nc6; 3. Bb5        Nf6

The solid Berlin Defense, strongly recommended in the late 90s, but only former world champion Vladimir Kramnik succeeded in making it popular.

4. O-O        Nxe4; 5. d4            ....

In MVL vs. So, Rd. 8, play went 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 8. Rxe5 0-0 9. Nc3 Ne8 10. d4 Bf6 11. Re1 d5, with equal chances.

5....            Nd6; 6. Bxc6      dxc6; 7. dxe5      Nf5; 8. Qxd8ch Kxd8; 9. h3            ....

The text is in vogue, but there are also good alternatives such as 8. Nc3, 9. b3 and 9. Rd1ch.

9....            Bd7

The alternative is 9....Be7 10. Rd1ch Ke8 11. Nc3 h5, with fairly even chances.

10. Rd1      Be7; 11. Nc3        ....

After 11. g4 Nh4 12. Nxh4 Bxh4 13. Nd2 Kc8, the game is about even. Swiercz vs So, same tournament.

11....          Ke8; 12. g4        Nh4; 13. Nxh4    Bxh4; 14. Bf4        Rd8; 15. Kg2      Be7; 16. Be3      a5; 17. f4          h5; 18. f5          hxg4?!

The start of black’s trouble, as opening the h file clearly favors white. The engine considers 18....g6 as more accurate.

19. hxg4      g6; 20. Rh1!      ....

Now white seizes control of the open h file.

20....          Rf8?

Black goes astray, depriving his dark-squared bishop a safe place.. Correct is 20...Rg8, e.g., 21. f6 Bb4 22. Ne4 Bxg4 23. c3 Bf8, and though white has a positional advantage, black still holds.

21. f6          Bb4; 22. Ne4!      ....

This move is winning, as the threat of either 23. c3 or 23. a3 will be difficult to handle.

22.....        Be6

22....Bxg4 23. a3 Bf5 24. Kf3, leads to what actually transpired in the actual game.

23. c3        Bd5; 24. Kf3        Bd6; 25. c4!        ....

The clincher, in which black loses material without compensation

25....          Bxe4ch

Other moves leads to the same embarrassing result..

26. Kxe4    Bb4; 27. a3        Bd2; 28. Bc5      Rg8; 29. e6!        1-0

White’s last is a beauty, combining power and elegance. After 29....fxe6 30. Rh7!, there’s no answer to 31. f7ch.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

Black to play and win.

White=Ke2 Qb2 Pe4, Pf3, Pg2

Black=Kg7, Ra3, Ne5, Pd6, Pe7, Pf6, Pg5

1....         Re3ch!


If 2. Kxe3 Nc4ch, or 2. Kf2/Ke1 Nd3ch, and finally 2. Kd1/Kf1 Re1ch and Black wins.

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