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Sports

Carlsen shines in Norway

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

Sunny Norway (Land of the Midnight Sun), which makes for sunny chess and Scandinavian interest in the royal game, is once more at its zenith.

Local hero Magnus Carlsen defended Norwegian colors by topping the ninth Norway Chess Classic (Cat. 21) held in the city of Stavanger. Carlsen accumulated 19.5 points in the six-player double-round robin tournament.

The world champion, who suffered a lone defeat from former challenger Sergey  Karjakin, settled down after a rocky first half, posting four straight victories and a draw (4.5/5) in the last five rounds to clinch his third consecutive Norway plum.

Eighteen-year-old Alireza Firouzja, a former  Iranian exile now representing France, registered 18.0 points to take sole second spot while Hungarian top gun Richard Rapport, who led the first seven rounds, took third with 16.5. Firouzja and Rapport climbed to ninth and 10th spots, respectively, in the live world ratings.

They were followed by World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) 12.0, Karjakin (Russia), 10.0, and hometown GM Aryan Tari, 7.0

*      *      *

Meanwhile, in the 2nd FIDE Online Olympiad, defending champion Russia scored a repeat by defeating the United States, 2-0 (3.5-2.5 and 4-2), in the finals.

Composed of Daniil Dubov, Vladislav Artemiev, Andrey Esipenko, Aleksandra Goryachkina,  Katerina Lagno, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Polina  Shuvalova and Garifullina Leya, the top-seeded  Russians ran away with the gold without dropping a match.

Four teams crowded one another in the knockout phase, with Russia eliminating China, 2-0, and USA ousting India, 3-2 in the semifinals.

Most of the world’s top players were absent. Americans Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez Perez preferred the Champions Showdown 9LX in St. Louis, while Nepomniachtchi and Karjakin were busy competing in the 9th Norway Chess Classic.

*      *      *

In the following game, black’s queen maneuvers in the opening was not enough for white’s excellent strategy and tactics. 2021 Norway Chess Classic W) I. Nepomniachtchi (RUS) B)  A. Firouzja (FRA) King’s Gambit Accepted

1. e4      e5

2.. f4      ....

The King’s Gambit, a very old opening with very modern tendencies, was one of the most popular openings until the late 19th century. White’s disappointing setbacks in recent years, however, led to its decline in popularity. Nowadays, the King’s Gambit is a rare bird in top level competitions.

2....        exf4

3. Nf3    Nf6

This is known as the Schallop Defense, pioneered by German master and author Emil Schallop (1843-1919).  More usual is 3....d5! 4. exd5 Nf6 5. Bb5ch c6!  6. dxc6 Nxc6 7. d4 Bd6 8. 0-0 0-0, with equal chances.

4. e5      Nh5

5. d4      ....

After 5. Qe2  Be7 6. d4 0-0 (6....d5? 7. exd6 Qxd6 8. Qb5ch white wins a piece) 7. Nc3 d6 8. Bd2 Bg4 9. 0-0-0 Nd7 10. Qe1 c6, black has gained the upper hand, (0-1 =23) Carlsen vs. Ding Liren,  2020 MC Online Invitational.

5....        d6

6. Qe2   dxe5

The alternative 6....d5 (6....Be7? 7. exd6 Qxd6 8. Qb5ch) 7. c4 Be6 8. cxd5 Bxd5 9. Nc3 Nc6 10. Bd2! Bb4 leads to sharp complications.

7. Nxe5 Qh4ch

8. g3!?   ....

An interesting exchange sacrifice which the Russian must have studied and assessed as satisfactory for white.

8....        Nxg3

Obviously, 8....fxg3? loses to 9. Ng6ch.

9. hxg3 Qxh1, 10. Bxf4 ....

Now black is exchange up, but white is ahead in development. The game is unclear.

10....      Be6?

Definitely the losing move, as now black faces too much danger for his poorly protected king. Better is 10...Be7, though white retains the initiative after 11. Nc3.

11. Nc3 g5, 12. d5 gxf4, 13. dxe6 ....

13. Nxf7! is stronger and leads to a winning attack, according to the engine.

13.... Bd6             14. O-O-O ....

Again, 14. Nxf7! is winning.

14....      Qh6

If 14....fxe6, 15. Ng4! is crushing.

15. Qb5ch            Nc6

After 15....Kf8 16. Nxf7 Qxe6 17. Nxd6 cxd6 18. Qxb7 is hopeless for black.

16. Nxf7 Qxe6, 17. Bc4 Qe3ch, 18. Kb1 ....

We draw the line here as white’s attack on the black king is overwhelming. The rest needs no comment.

18.... Qc5, 19. Nxd6ch cxd6, 20. Qxb7 Qxc4, 21. Qxa8ch Nd8, 22. Re1ch Kf7, 23. Qxa7ch Kg6, 24. gxf4 Qc5, 25. Rg1ch 1-0

*      *      *

Solution to last week’s puzzle

White to play and win.

White=Kf2, Bf3, Pa4, Pb3, Pc5, Pd6, Pe5, Pg5, Ph4

Black=Ke6, Bc2, Nc8, Pa5, Pd4, Pg6, Ph5

1. Bd5ch!       Kd7

If 1....Kxd5 2. d7 and wins.

2. c6ch          Kd8

3. Be6!          1-0

The threat of 4. c7ch followed by 5. d7ch is indefensible.

MAGNUS CARLSEN
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