Chessable Masters: Twists and turns

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/24/2020 – Anish Giri, Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana reached the quarterfinals of the Chessable Masters. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Teimour Radjabov were eliminated from the competition — ‘MVL’ lost four in a row on Tuesday while Radjabov played well but could not recover from his subpar performance in the first half. Caruana is set to face Magnus Carlsen in the most anticipated matchup of the quarterfinals. | Photo: Austin Fuller

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Giri wins Group B


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.


World champion Magnus Carlsen joined the commentary team during the second half of the Group B preliminary round-robin played on Tuesday. Talking about the day’s action, he noted: “We’ve seen so many twists and turns already, and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last”. Carlsen was on point, as starting from round 7 it was not at all clear who would be eliminated at the end of the day in a closely contested group.

Except for Anish Giri, who finished undefeated with two wins, all remaining players were in danger of being knocked out at some point between rounds 6 and 10. Ding Liren disconnected and lost to Giri in round 7; Fabiano Caruana was defeated by Ian Nepomnachtchi in the same round; and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — who finished day one as co-leader — suffered four consecutive losses after drawing Giri in round 6.

Teimour Radjabov, who was in the cellar of the standings after round 5, could have qualified to the knockout phase had he beaten Ding in the last round — however, he drew that game to finish in fifth place. The other player to be knocked out was Vachier-Lagrave, who finished last in what was yet another poor performance during the online-tournament era.

The quarterfinals will kick off Thursday, with Caruana v Carlsen the stellar matchup. The highest-rated players in the world come from playing an exciting match to decide the winner of the Clutch Chess International. Carlsen won that face-off — Caruana tweeted:

 

Rounds 6-7: Chaos

While gaining excitement for the fans following live, rapid chess also results in a loss of precision during endgames, even for top players. In round 6, for example, both Caruana and Radjabov failed to convert positions that they would have very likely converted in games with a classical time control. Meanwhile, co-leaders Giri and Vachier-Lagrave drew their direct encounter. 

Then came round 7, the only one during the preliminary phase (in both groups) that saw all games finishing decisively. Radjabov beat Vachier-Lagrave with the black pieces after gaining a pawn in a queenless middlegame and duly converting his material advantage. Nepomniachtchi sacrificed a piece for two pawns on g5, and went on to win an attacking game against Caruana:

 

White’s 15.Qe1 prepared a queen infiltration. Caruana gave up an exchange to slow his opponent’s attack, 15...Rxg5, but the threats remained there — 16.fxg5 Ng8 17.Rxf7+ Kg6. A tactical struggle ensued. Caruana was obstinate in defence, but ‘Nepo’ never stopped creating threats and was rewarded with a 38-move win:

 

38.Rh6 and Black resigned.

In an unexpected development, Ding lost with the black pieces against Giri due to a disconnection, when the Dutchman was on the good side of a drawish 3 v 2 rook endgame. These results meant Caruana, Ding and Radjabov were tied in last place on 3 out of 6!

 

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Round 8: Bouncing back

Ding and Caruana — world numbers two and three — bounced back from their losses immediately. While Caruana took advantage of Vachier-Lagrave’s bad form to beat him from a very slightly better endgame, Ding found a nice tactical shot to get an edge against Nepomniachtchi:

 

26.Bxd6 turns White’s strategically superior position into a tangible advantage after 26...f5 27.Bxc5 Bxc5 28.Rxc5. The resilient Nepomniachtchi continued fighting, but Ding never gave his edge away and scored a key 48-move victory.

Radjabov signed a draw with white against Giri, who had the steadiest hand throughout.

With two rounds to go, ‘MVL’ and Radjabov were sharing last place, a half point behind Caruana, Ding and ‘Nepo’.

 

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Rounds 9-10: Radjabov plays brilliancy, and draws

For quite some time, Radjabov was the main practitioner of the King’s Indian Defence among elite players. In a must-win situation, playing black against Caruana, he relived his attacking days and was inches away from scoring a brilliant win:

 

In typical King’s Indian fashion, Black went for the nice-looking 38...Ng3. White has nothing better than 39.Ng1, to which Radjabov responded with the blunt 39...Rxf3 40.Nxf3 Rxf3. The computer favours White’s position, but having the initiative is much more relevant in a rapid game between humans. Caruana soon faltered and found himself under heavy pressure. However, Radjabov chose the wrong check on move 47:

 

There is no good defence for White against 47...Qf3+, while Radjabov’s 47...Qf5+ can be met by 48.Rg4 Qf3+ 49.Kxh4 and Black’s best alternative is to give perpetual checks and split the point. Carlsen said of this game while it was still going on:

Regardless of what happens in the game, this is awesome.

In the meantime, Ding beat Vachier-Lagrave.

Given the tiebreak criteria, Radjabov still had chances, as a win over Ding in the final round would have left the Chinese out of contention. However, it was Ding who was in the driver’s seat in the middlegame — the world number three pragmatically kept things under control and went for a perpetual check the first chance he got, securing qualification.

Nepomniacthchi was the only winner of round 10, as he inflicted Vachier-Lagrave’s fourth consecutive loss of the day.  

 

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Final standings - Group B

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Giri Anish 6,0 0,0
2 Ding Liren 5,5 1,5
3 Nepomniachtchi Ian 5,5 0,5
4 Caruana Fabiano 5,0 0,0
5 Radjabov Teimour 4,5 0,0
6 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 3,5 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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abhijeet95 abhijeet95 6/24/2020 08:22
Amazing article. Well written yo
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