Charity Cup: Le leads, Pragg impresses

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/21/2022 – Le Quang Liem is the sole leader of the Charity Cup preliminaries after eight rounds. The Vietnamese grandmaster won six out of eight games so far to go into day 3 with an unbeaten 20/24 score. A full four points behind stand Magnus Carlsen and Jan-Krzysztof Duda in shared second place. The single round-robin continues until Tuesday, when half the participants in the 16-player field will move on to the knockout stage. | Photo: Andreas Kontokanis

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Carlsen and Duda in shared second place

Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2022A former world blitz champion, Le Quang Liem is not as active as he used to be in the world circuit. After graduating summa cum laude from Webster University in 2017, it did not take long for him to be appointed as the coach of the university’s chess team. Now that online tournaments have become a fixture in the yearly calendar, though, from time to time he shows his prowess as a specialist in quicker time controls.

In the first event of this year’s Champions Chess Tour, Le made it past the preliminaries before being knocked out by Magnus Carlsen in the quarterfinals, while in August last year he reached the final of the Chessable Masters where he was defeated by Wesley So. Before getting the ticket to the final match, Le remarkably knocked out none others than Alireza Firouzja and Levon Aronian.

At the Charity Cup Le has taken a commanding lead after scoring six wins and two draws in the first two days of the preliminaries. The Vietnamese is four points ahead of second-placed Carlsen and Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Duda is the only player other than Le to remain unbeaten so far in the online event.

Besides the aforementioned players, who all had strong showings on Sunday, 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa has left a good impression once again, as he beat Eric Hansen and Ding Liren to reach the top half of the standings table. Pragg will kick off day 3 with the tough task of facing the world champion — but let us not forget that the youngster defeated Carlsen in the preliminary stage of the Airthings Masters.

Charity Chess Cup 2022

Le on the attack

The sole leader played black in his first two games on Sunday. He collected 1½ points after beating Gawain Jones and drawing former co-leader Hans Niemann. Against Jones, Le swiftly punished his opponent’s slow play by breaking through with a mating attack on the kingside.

 

Jones’ 16.Ng3 gave way to the forcing 16...fxe5 (opening up the f-file for the rook) 17.dxe5 Nh4 18.Nxh4 Qxh4 19.Qd2, which was followed by a well-known attacking pattern.

 

With both bishops pointing at White’s kingside and the rook ready to infiltrate along the f-file, Le immediately went for 19...Bxh3, and there was no defence for White: 20.gxh3 Bxe3 21.Qxe3 Nxh3 22.Kg2 Rxf2+

 

After giving up his queen on f2, Jones went through the motions for three more moves before throwing in the towel. It was a great way to start the day for the now runaway leader of the preliminaries.

 

A deep attacking concept

In round 6, Duda scored his second win of the day by showing what GM Karsten Müller describes as “a deep attacking concept” in his game against Jorden van Foreest.

 

The e5-knight is under attack. Instead of jumping to safety or playing the immediate 23.Rg1, pinning the bishop, Duda went for the good-looking 23.Kc2. With this idea, he would later recover the piece while keeping a strong initiative — 23...Bxe5 24.Rag1+ Bg7 25.Rh2

 

Van Foreest tried 25...Nd5, which does not quite defend against White’s threats, but as GM Müller points out in his annotations “the alternatives also gave White a clear edge”.

The conversion of the advantage was no trivial task, but Duda showed great tactical resourcefulness to get a clean 58-move victory.

In the replayer below, find Karsten Müller’s analysis of this game, plus his annotations on a remarkable victory by Niemann over Ju Wenjun. In the second game, our in-house expert concludes: the rook’s pawn is the worst enemy of the knight.

 

Holes in the position

In a highlight from round 7, Carlsen had the black pieces against Richard Rapport, who comes from getting a fine victory at the Belgrade Grand Prix. True to his nature, the Hungarian took risks against his famed opponent. Carlsen’s position had holes on the dark squares, but he managed to fend off the attack while grabbing plenty of material along the way.

 

Rapport resigned after 29...Rg8, as Black is ready to place his rook on g7 if needed.

Going into the third day of action, Rapport is sharing sixth place with Praggananandhaa on 12/24 points.

 

Standings after round 8 (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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