Meltwater grand finals underway

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

A selection of the world’s elite players will see action as the prestigious Meltwater Champions Chess Tour grand finals gets underway. World champion Magnus Carlsen headlines a 10-player field in what promises to be a very competitive tournament.

Joining the Norwegian in the $300,000 chessfest are Wesley So (USA), Levon Aronian (ARM), Hikaru Nakamura (USA) and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE).

Also in the mix are Anish Giri (NED), Teimour Radjabov (AZE), Vladislav Artemiev (RUS), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) and Jan-Krysztof Duda (POL).

Format is a single-round robin, with contestants playing four rapid games every round, to be followed by two blitz tie-breaker and Armageddon, if necessary. Time control will be 15 minutes plus 10 seconds increment.

Opening-round pairings read: Carlsen vs Duda, So vs Mamedyarov, Aronian vs MVL, Radjabov vs Artemiev and Giri vs Nakamura.

Games can be followed live with commentaries starting today at 1700 cest, 11 a.m. EST.

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Meanwhile, the 2021 European Club Cup took place Sept. 18-24 with 40 teams competing. The seven-round Swiss System over-the-board tourney was hosted by the city of Struga, a popular tourist attraction in North Macedonia.

The big names this year included Carsen (Offerspill), Mamedyarov (Alkaloid), Alexander Grischuk (KPRF), Peter Svidler (Mednyi Vsadnik) and Pentala Harikrishna (AVE Novy Bor).

Mednyi Vsadnik, with Svidler at the helm, won the 36th edition by beating Team Xtracom, 3.5-2.5, played over six boards. The champion club amassed 14.0 match points. Ave Novy Bor came in second with 13.0 and Vugar Gashimov finished third.at 12.0.

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This is a stimulating classical game, replete with sacrifices (from start to finish), fought out in the recent European Club Cup.

European Club Cup 2021

W: D. Navara (AVE Novy Bor)

B: V. Fedoseev (Mednyi Vsadnik)

Caro-Kann Defense

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

The Advance Variation in which white aims to gain space advantage early by creating a pawn chain center.

3....       Bf5

This is black’s compensation, a free light squared bishop.

4. Nf3     ....

White employs the steady, but modest line, popularized by Nigel Short in the 90s. 4. Nc3 is a sharp alternative, replete with interesting possibilities after 4....e6 5. g4 Bg6 6. Nge2 c5 7. h4 h6 8. Be3 Qb6 8. Qd2 Nc6, etc.

4....       e6; 5. Be2     c5; 6. Be3     cxd4; 7. Nxd4    Ne7; 8. Nd2     Nbc6; 9. N2f3     a6

After 9....Be4 10. 0-0 Bxf3 11. Nxf3 Ng6 12. c4, the game is probably even.

10. O-O    Be4; 11. Rc1     Rc8

11....Ng6!? is worthy of attention..

12. c4     dxc4; 13. Bxc4   Nxd4; 14. Nxd4   Bd5; 15. b3     b5; 16. Be2    Bb7; 17. Nxb5!?  ....

An interesting piece sacrifice which exerts tremendous pressure on Black’s uncastled King.

17....      axb5; 18. Bxb5ch Bc6

After 18....Nc6 20. Qg4 Qa5 21. a4, the game still hangs in the balance.

19. Rxc6    Nxc6; 20. Qc2    Qd5; 21. a4      f5; 22. Rd1    Qe4; 23. Bd3    Qb4; 24. Ba6    Rc7; 25. Bb5    Be7

25....Qe4 deserves consideration.

26. Bb6    Rc8; 27. Bxc6ch Kf7; 28. a5     g5; 29. Kf1    ....

After 29. Rc1 g4 30. Qc4 Qxc4 31. Rxc4, white’s two connected passed pawns will rule the waves.

29....      Qf4; 30. g3     Qxe5; 31. Qc4    ....

After 31. Bd4 Qxa5 32. Bxh8 Rxh8, black extends the game.

31....      Bc5?

This loses outright, though after 31....f4 32. a6 f3 33. Qe4, White wins without much fuss.

32. Re1    Qd6; 33. Rxe6!   ....

This hammer blow will pry open the king position.

33....      Qd4

33....Qxe6 is met by 34. Bd5, while 33....Qd1ch loses to 34. Re1ch.

34. Re7ch! 1-0

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to play and win.

White=Kc1, Qd4, Rf1, Rf3 Bd7, Pa2, Pb2, Pd5, Pe4

Black=Kf8, Qh2, Ra8, Rh7, Nc8, Pa7, Pc7, Pf7, Pg6, Pg5

1. Qh8ch!        Ke7

If 1....Rxh8 2. Rxf7ch Kg8 3. Rf8ch Kg7

4. R1f7ch Kh6 5. Rxh8 mate.

2. Rxf7ch         Rxf7; 3. Qe8ch          Kd6; 4. Qe6ch          Kc5; 5. Qc6ch          1-0

If 5....Kd4 (5.....Kb4 6. Qb5 mate)

6. Qc3ch Kxe4 7. Re1ch Kxd5 (7....Kf4 8. Qe3 mate)

8. Qc6ch Kd4 9. Re4ch Kd3 10. Qc4 mate.

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