Charity Cup: Niemann and Le share the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/20/2022 – The first four rounds of the Charity Cup left Le Quang Liem and Hans Niemann sharing the lead on 10/12 points (a win is worth 3 points, a draw is worth 1 point). Remarkably, the 18-year-old Niemann defeated Chinese star Ding Liren in the third round. After the loss, however, Ding bounced back brilliantly, getting the better of Magnus Carlsen to end the day on 9/12, a point behind the leaders. | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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Another slow start for Carlsen

Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2022Known for his ability to come back from behind after slow starts, world champion Magnus Carlsen once again performed below his usual level at the outset of an online event. In the second tournament of this year’s Champions Chess Tour, the Norwegian finished day 1 in sixth place after collecting two wins, a draw and a loss in the first four rounds.

At the Airthings Masters, a month ago, Carlsen had obtained 4/12 points in his first four games before bouncing back with three consecutive wins. The world champion would eventually get second place in the preliminaries and would go on to win the event after beating Ian Nepomniachtchi in the finals.

In a field including players with ratings going from 2535 all the way to 2854, it was Hans Niemann and Le Quang Liem who emerged as co-leaders at the end of the day. Each of them grabbed three wins and a draw to reach the top of the standings table on 10/12 points. While Le, a former world blitz champion, only faced lower-rated opposition on Saturday, Niemann remarkably defeated Ding Liren in round 3.

Before losing to Niemann, Ding had scored back-to-back wins in his first two games. The defeat against the US grandmaster was surely unexpected for the experienced Chinese star, but that did not prevent him from beating Carlsen with the white pieces in the very next round. Ding is now in sole third place on 9/12.

Charity Chess Cup 2022

Castling to safety

Standing a point behind Ding are Jorden van Foreest and Vidit Gujrathi. Van Foreest kicked off the day with a tactical win over David Anton. Out of a Caro-Kann Defence, the Spaniard, playing black, failed to find the correct defensive idea in a sharp position.

 

After 16.Qxe6, 16...0-0 was the way to keep the dynamic balance for Black. Anton did not find the good-looking defensive manoeuvre though, as his 16...fxg6 was responded by 17.0-0-0 — Van Foreest did go for an unlikely castling move when the position called for it.

After 17...Nc6 18.Rxd5 it is White who has the stronger attack.

 

18...Qb6 threatens the white king, but Van Foreest can recover material and keep everything under control by force: 19.Qxg6+ Kf8 20.Bxe7+ Kg8 (the knight is pinned) 21.Ba3

 

The bishop returns to defend the monarch just in time. White needed twelve more moves to convert his superior position into a win.

 

Pawn races

Our in-house endgame expert GM Karsten Müller looked at a couple of pawn races from Saturday’s action. In round 2, Le beat Praggnanandhaa after the latter failed to make the most of his connected passers on the kingside.

 

Here Pragg would have won with the direct 53...f3+, since 54.Rxf3 fails to 54...Rc2+ 55.Kd3 Bxf3 56.Kxc2 g2 57.Rb1+ and the light-squared bishop is perfectly placed to skewer king and rook with 57...Be4+

 

In the first diagrammed position, Black’s overly careful 53...Ba8 gave up his advantage. Later on, the 16-year-old would falter again, and Le duly punished his mistake.

In the dynamic replayer below, find GM Müller’s full analysis of the game, and his annotations on another exciting pawn race seen in round 4’s encounter between Canadian streamer Eric Hansen and Czech star David Navara.

 

Ding’s king

In another instructive endgame, Ding got the better of the world champion by grabbing full control of the light squares. The Chinese activated his king along Black’s weakened colour complex to get a decisive attack.

 

Black is stuck. Ding patiently transferred his king to h6, as his rook both constricted the black monarch and kept an eye on the passer along the c-file.

GM Müller shows us where the world champion went wrong before this losing position appeared on the board.

 

Standings after round 4 (win = 3pts, draw = 1 pt)

 

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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.

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