Lindores Abbey: On to the quarter-finals

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/21/2020 – Four players dropped out of the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge after the preliminary single round robin finished on Thursday. Alexander Grischuk was eliminated on tiebreaks despite getting a last-round win over Wei Yi. Wei, Alireza Firouzja and Jan-Krzysztof Duda are also out of contention. The round robin was won by Hikaru Nakamura, who collected 7½ points in 11 games. The quarter-finals kick off on Saturday. | Photos: Lennart Ootes / Vladimir Jagr

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Nakamura wins round robin


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.


The three remaining rounds of the all-play-all section took place on day three of the Lindores Abbey online tournament. Hikaru Nakamura was the one player that finished the preliminaries undefeated and thus became the first seed in the quarter-finals. Eighth-placed Levon Aronian will be his rival in the first stage of the knockout.

Aronian scored 5½ (fifty percent) to finish eighth, the same amount of points obtained by Daniil Dubov and Alexander Grischuk. The latter, who recently won the strong Play for Russia charity event, was eliminated on tiebreak criteria. 

While Sergey Karjakin finished second after collecting 7 points, four players — including Magnus Carlsen — tied on 6 out of 11. The world champion lost for a third time in the event on Thursday, against Dubov. His rival in the quarter-finals will be Wesley So. 

Friday will be a rest day, and the matches of the quarter-finals will be played in pairs: Nakamura v Aronian and Yu Yangyi v Ding Liren will start on Saturday, while Carlsen v So and Dubov v Karjakin will kick off on Sunday.

Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge 2020

Round 9: Ding punishes Duda's experiment

The format of the tournament, with eight players qualifying to the knockout, makes the last rounds of the all-play-all section more about those stuck at the bottom of the table than about those fighting atop the standings. After two days of action, eight players had four points or less and were in real danger of being eliminated.

One of those in danger was Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who started the day playing white against Ding. The Polish star entered a strange variation and, apparently expecting to get winning chances later in the game, chose not to exchange knights when that was the most natural way to move forward:

 

Instead of 13.e3, White could have gone for 13.Nxc6 bxc6 and only then 14.e3. Given how the game progressed after this point, this was a particularly fateful decision — when Duda resigned on move 27, Black's knight (the one not exchanged on c6) was a thorn stuck deep inside White's position:

 

Duda understandably threw in the towel.

The rest of the games finished drawn, with Dubov v Firouzja an important match-up in the fight to reach the knockout. Firouzja was the one putting pressure in the middlegame, but the youngster could not break his rival's defences in a complex endgame with a bishop pair against a rook and an extra pawn.

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Round 10: Dubov and Firouzja get crucial wins

Four games finished decisively in the second round of the day. Yu was the fifth player to defeat Wei Yi in the event; Nakamura inflicted Duda's second consecutive loss; while Dubov and Firouzja obtained crucial victories, both with the black pieces.

Facing Grischuk with black, a fearless Firouzja played the King's Indian Defence. His Russian opponent employed a classical strategy, playing on the queenside and allowing Black to advance against his short-castled king. In the midst of a sharp struggle, Grischuk was imprecise, and Firouzja immediately moved forward:

 

White played 29.Ra1, allowing Black to attack his light-squared bishop — a key defensive piece in this case — with 29...Nxd5 30.cxd5 Ng5. Firouzja would later capture the bishop, putting White against the ropes once the g-file was open. In the diagrammed position, Grischuk could have played 29.gxh5 in order to avoid what happened in the game. With his win, Firouzja caught up with the Russian in the standings on 4½ out of 10.

Another complex struggle was taking place in Carlsen v Dubov. The world champion had also weakened his king, which meant he had to deal with Black's threats since the middlegame. After having defended for a while though, Carlsen blundered the game away in one move:

 

41.Bf2 Nxe2 and White resigned.

Round ten did not lack excitement, as Nakamura's win over Duda was also highly tactical. Coming from a painful loss, Duda knew he had to fight for a full point, but facing the leader of the event with black was no easy task. The Polish grandmaster allowed White to gain space in the centre with 32.d5 and then made the decisive mistake of the game:

 

Duda's 32...Rb2 placed the rook away from any potential defensive task and gave way to 33.Qh4 exd5 34.Nf6+, when White has a massive attack with his rook ready to infiltrate on the e-file. 'Naka' scored his fourth victory of the tournament after 40 moves.

 

Round 11: Carlsen beats Firouzja

Wei and Duda were already eliminated, while Grischuk and Firouzja were tied on 4½ points, with Dubov, Aronian and Carlsen only a half point ahead. Grischuk had black against Wei while Firouzja was playing white against Carlsen — the world champion had a good chance to show who is boss after the wunderkind had beaten him in a blitz match a little over a month ago.

Dubov and Aronian drew in their direct match-up, while Grischuk got the better of the hapless Wei — in the end, that was not enough to go through. Firouzja knew he needed a win, so he entered complications against the strongest player in the world. Carlsen got a better position in the middlegame and later found an impressive move to consolidate his edge:

 

33...Rb3 is the nicest — and most effective — way to defend the c4-pawn. The world champion went on to get a 50-move win, leaving Firouzja out of the quarter-finals. 

 

Final standings - Preliminaries

 

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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.