Magnus Carlsen’s classic performance at Wijk aan Zee earned the world champion three points in his quest for a world record of 2900. A week later, the 31-year-old Norwegian returned them all on a Saturday night in Oslo with an interest in Tallaksen Ostmoe, with a score of 399 points lower than No. 1.
The very first meeting 22 years ago between then nine-year-old sub-1000 rated Carlsen and 15-year-old Ostmoe rated over 2200 had also been a draw and an Elo tease, but that was the other way round.
In Saturday night’s game, Carlsen, White in a Caro-Kann 1 e4 c6, provoked a very early exchange of queens, gained a slight advantage… and then missed a one-move winner. can you do better
Carlsen’s progress toward 2900 has been hampered by his lack of 2800+ opponents, meaning his rating gain from a win is small, while a draw is guaranteed to drop rating points. Since 2014, when Fide’s Elo list featured 50 players 2700+ in March, there has also likely been some deflation at the top level of the Elo system, as opposed to only 38 players over 2700 in the current live Elo ratings.
It would be bizarre for the world champion to give up his 2900 target so soon after it was announced as the preferred alternative to meeting someone of his own generation in a title match, and there are signs that he is leaning towards the St. Louis-organized Grand Chess will be concentrating on tour this spring for his next major tournament before returning to his home country of Stavanger in June. He also competes in the Airthings Masters, the first event of the year as part of the online Meltwater Champions Tour, which Carlsen won in 2021, next Saturday, February 19th.
Yuri Averbakh became the first-ever centenary grandmaster on Tuesday as the 1954 USSR champion and famous endgame writer celebrated his 100th birthday. Last week’s column marked the veteran’s accomplishment with an elegant Averbakh riddle whose short answer is worth solving if you missed it.
Averbakh has written a dozen books but the standout for the budding player is Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge, around 120 pages and still widely available online for around £10.
The US grandmasters have dominated their Russian rivals in the group stage of the first leg (of three) of the Fide Grand Prix, which qualifies its top two for June’s eight-man Candidates Tournament in Madrid. Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian are in the semifinals this weekend, while Wesley So and Leinier Dominguex meet in a speed tiebreak on Friday (starting at 2pm GMT). Alexander Grischuk, Andrey Esipenko, Vladimir Fedoseev and Daniil Dubov were eliminated.
Aronian has been the standout player so far. The former Armenian not only won his group impressively with one lap to go, but is now neck and neck with Fabiano Caruana in a race to establish himself as the USA’s No. 1.
Nakamura sparked controversy when Fide President Arkady Dvorkovich chose him as his personal wildcard despite being expected to prefer Esipenko, 19. As it turns out, Esipenko came in via another withdrawal anyway, and when they met, Nakamura played what he called an “explanatory game” in response to criticism of his recording. White has 24 b4-b5! resulted in some well calculated tactics.
Nakamura’s strong performance in Berlin confused those who dubbed him just an online streamer who didn’t deserve his Grand Prix wildcard. The five-time US champion believes online chess is still the same game as over-the-board chess.
He said: “It’s nice to win games and prove to people that there really is no difference. Just look at who has won the most of these online tournaments. It was this guy called Magnus, and he seems pretty decent at over-the-board chess too!”
Thursday’s return match between Esipenko and Nakamura took place in the last round of the group stage. The Russian needed a win with the white pieces and the American only a draw to lead the group. Too much tension? The game proved chaotic and error-ridden as both GMs made numerous mistakes until Nakamura managed to reach a tie queen ending.
China’s world No. 3 Ding Liren, who was thought to be out of the current World Cup cycle after his trip to Berlin was halted over visa issues, could still have another opportunity.
If Ding makes the semifinals or better in the second Grand Prix stage in Belgrade, he would be eligible to fill a vacancy should one occur in the third and final stage in Berlin. A possible scenario would be that the second Chinese player, Yu Yangyi, performs poorly in Belgrade and is then eliminated.
The rules seem to state that if Dvorkovich resigns, he will decide who will be replaced. The politically savvy Dvorkovich will be aware of the importance of maintaining friendly relations between Fide and China, and that under certain circumstances Ding could get a chance at a head-to-head duel with Carlsen should the world champion refuse to become the designated candidate of the to meet fide.
3802: 1 Bg2! Ke3 (Kxg2? 2 h4 wins) 2 h4 Kxf4 3 Bf3! Ke5 4 h5 Ke6 5 Bd5+! (stops Kf7) Ke7 6 h6 Kf8 7 Kd2! and wins. The BK is kept away from g7/h8 while WK eats up Black’s pawns, leaving the BK in a tight spot and having to move away from f8 to allow the h6-pawn the queen.
Carlsen vs Ostmoe: 1lb6! wins. If 1…Bxb6 2 Ra8+ and 3 Rxh8. If 1…Bb8 2 Rxg7. If 1…Bd8 2 Bxd8 Rxd8 3 Rxg7, all with a hopeless ending for Black. Instead of 1 Ra8+? Bb8 2 Ba7 Kb7 leads to a balanced pawn ending.