Chessable Masters: A tight race in Group B

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/22/2020 – The first half of the Chessable Masters Group B preliminary round-robin was played on Sunday. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri are sharing first place after five rounds, with 3 points each. Three players stand a half point behind on fifty percent, while Teimour Radjabov is in desperate need of wins in the second half if he wants to reach the quarterfinals. Four out of six players will move on to the knockout phase. | Photo: Justin Kellar

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Giri and Vachier-Lagrave in the lead


World Champion Magnus Carlsen and eleven more of the world's best chess players are competing in the Chessable Masters by chess24, the third event in the $1 million Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, taking place from June 20 to July 5.


No one really shone in the first half of Group B’s double round-robin. If anyone can be regarded as the protagonist it would be Fabiano Caruana, who won two and lost two on a day with five decisive results in total. In fact, the players who beat him are now leading the standings table on 3 out of 5 — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri.

Caruana is sharing second place with Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren, while Teimour Radjabov is alone in the cellar of the table with 1½ points. After Tuesday’s second half, four players will move on to the quarterfinals and two will be knocked out. Radjabov will need to overcome a one-point deficit, while the remaining five contestants have pretty much the same chances of advancing to the knockout.

Incidentally, all six players in this group qualified to this year’s Candidates Tournament, although Radjabov decided not to participate due to the looming coronavirus outbreak.

Chessable Masters 2020

You lead, you lose

Nepomniachtchi kicked off the event with a 57-move win over Radjabov, but went on to give up the lead to Caruana the very next round. Already in a superior position, the American found a good-looking tactical shot:

 

Caruana continued with 35.Re8 and Black cannot capture with 35...Nxe8 due to 36.Qxf7+ Kh8 37.Nxe8 Qxd4 38.Nf6 and game over. ‘Nepo’ went for 35...Qd7 and stubbornly played the clearly inferior position until move 64. But the result was never really in doubt.

In round 3, it was Caruana’s turn to lose the lead. Vachier-Lagrave beat him with white to leapfrog him and get sole first place. The Frenchman ended the game with a nice mating sequence:

 

Caruana needed to respond to the lethal 46.g6+ with 46...Kg8 in order to delay the inevitable, while his 46...Kxg6 gave way to a beautiful mate — 47.Nf8+ Kf6 48.e5+ Kxe5 49.R6d5+ Kf6 50.Rf5#.

‘MVL’ was the first one to retain the lead, as he finished the day with draws against Ding Liren and Nepomniachtchi. 

Caruana blunders, Giri joins the lead

After getting and losing the lead, Caruana returned to the top of the standings by beating Radjabov in a rook and bishop against rook endgame. His roller-coaster day ended with a loss against Giri, who came from drawing his first four encounters. Caruana was a pawn down in a complex position when he blundered away the game in one move:

 

Caruana’s 26.Nc5 loses immediately to 26...Rc4+ as White cannot capture the rook due to the mate on b1. 0-1

We will know who are the first two players to be eliminated from the event on Monday, when the last five rounds of Group A’s round-robin will be played. Alexander Grischuk and Pentala Harikrishna will try to climb up the standings table in a group that includes Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura — both currently on fifty percent. Will either of the favourites leave the tournament early on? We will soon find out.


Standings after Round 5 - Group B

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 3,0 0,5
  Giri Anish 3,0 0,5
3 Caruana Fabiano 2,5 1,5
4 Ding Liren 2,5 1,0
5 Nepomniachtchi Ian 2,5 0,5
6 Radjabov Teimour 1,5 0,0

All games - Group B

 

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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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