Lindores Abbey: Four leaders after day one

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/20/2020 – The four first rounds of the Lindores Abbey Chess Challenge were played on Tuesday, and four players are sharing the lead on 3 points. Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura won with white and drew with black, Wesley So also won two despite playing three times with black, while Sergey Karjakin won three games and lost one. The twelve-player round-robin that continues until Thursday will eliminate the bottom four before the knockout kicks off after a rest day. | Photos: Lennart Ootes

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Eight spots up for grabs


The Lindores Abbey Chess Challenge started this Tuesday. Twelve players are taking part. After a three-day preliminary, the best eight players will advance to the deciding knockout section. The time control is 15 minutes for the game, with a 10-second increment per move.


This is the second tournament of the Magnus Carlsen Tour, a series of online events launched by the world champion amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike the first event, this and the coming two tournaments will put more emphasis on the knockout phase, with twelve players first competing in an all-play-all section to decide who reaches the quarter-finals. 

After four rounds, Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin are sharing the lead with 3 points apiece. During these three days of the preliminary stage, however, a lot of attention will be put on the bottom of the standings table — currently, Wei Yi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Daniil Dubov and Alireza Firouzja are the ones more in need to add to their tallies, as they scored 1 out of 4 on day one.

Round 1: A bloody start

Five out of six games finished decisively in the first round of the event, with all of them favouring the rating favourite in the match-up. Carlsen, Nakamura, So, Ding Liren and Levon Aronian got full points out of the gate. 

Firouzja had attacking chances with black against Aronian, with his doubled rooks on the h-file menacing White's king position. However, the youngster failed to find a difficult manoeuvre on move 42, letting his advantage slip away:

 

The tricky 42...R5h4 was Black's best shot, planning to invade with the queen if White grabs the rook, but the more human 42...e5 was also good. Instead, Firouzja chose 42...g5, allowing Aronian to force the exchange of queens with 43.Qe5 (note that 43.Nxf6 is not possible due to 43...R5h2#).

After the queen trade, Aronian took over, and Firouzja resigned after blundering a rook:

 

Black's 50...Re3 gave way to 51.Ng4+ and the game was over.

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Round 2: Carlsen on the attack

All but one of the decisive games of round one had seen the player with white getting the full point, while all four winners of round two marshalled the white pieces to score a victory. Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk bounced back from losses, while Carlsen and So were the only ones to keep a perfect score after playing two games.

So scored a fine win with white over Wei out of an Italian Opening, although the Chinese grandmaster missed a chance to slow White's attack with 30...Rxe5:

 

Capturing the e5-pawn would have made things harder for White, while Wei's 30...Rf7 was responded with the strong 31.Bb3 and So went on to get the full point.

In the meantime, Aronian put forth a Petroff against the world champion. Carlsen went for the attack from the get go with 10.h4, and when the Armenian opened up the h-file by capturing a piece there was no way to escape the invasion on the kingside:

 

Black's king is in trouble on all fronts, but 16...hxg5 led to a quick demise — 17.hxg5 Ne4 18.Qd1 Bxg5 19.Qh5 and Aronian resigned three moves later. 

 

All games from round two

Round 3: Blundering mate-in-one

Carlsen came from winning twice with the white pieces, and Nakamura followed suit by beating Firouzja in his second game with white. Much like Carlsen, the five-time US champion placed his queen on h5 with decisive effect:

 

Firouzja played 20...Ra4 and resigned after 21.Qh5 — giving up the exchange with 20...Rg8 would only have delayed the inevitable. 

Coming from two losses at the outset, Yu Yangyi beat Dubov, while his compatriot Wei had a better position against Karjakin...until he fatally blundered mate-in-one:

 

The game was suddenly over after 41.Rh7 Ne1#.

 

All games from round three

Round 4: Carlsen almost ends the day with a bang

After three rounds with plenty of decisive results, only Karjakin got a win — his third straight — in round four. Co-leaders Carlsen and Nakamura were facing off, and the world champion got the upper hand with the white pieces. 'Naka' showed off his resilience in a miserable position, until Carlsen eventually faltered:

 

The fact that even Carlsen fails to convert clearly superior positions from a position of strength [Ed.] demonstrates how difficult chess actually is. Here, instead of 46.Qd5, he had 46.Rb8 when White has a better ending after 46...Qd6 47.Qxd6 Nxd6 48.Rb6. In the game, Nakamura got to save a key half point, especially from a psychological point of view, as he is likely to face the perennial favourite in the knockout phase. 

 

All games from round four

Standings after Round 4

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.