Steinitz Memorial: Kosteniuk and Carlsen lead after day one

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/16/2020 – The FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial kicked off Friday with six rounds played both in the open and women's sections. Alexandra Kosteniuk had the best performance overall, getting a commanding lead after scoring 5½ points on day one. In the open, Magnus Carlsen is the sole leader on 4 out of 6. Three players stand a half point back — Bu Xiangzhi, Daniil Dubov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. | Photos: FIDE

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Kosteniuk dominant among the women

It is impossible to talk about favourites in a blitz tournament with twelve rounds to go, but Alexandra Kosteniuk's performance on day one of the Steinitz Memorial left a very strong impression. The former world champion employed her usual sharp style to win five in a row out of the gate, both scoring clean victories and seeing some of her opponents wasting good chances to beat her. 

Another former world champion is in sole second place, one-and-a-half points behind the leader. Tan Zhongyi is yet to a draw a game in the event, as she won four and lost two on opening day.

A less clear picture is seen atop the standings table in the open section. Magnus Carlsen blundered and lost against Anton Korobov in round three, but anyway finished the day in the sole lead on 4 out of 6. Daniil Dubov, Bu Xiangzhi and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov make up the three-player chasing pack a half point behind. While Dubov was sharing the lead before losing in round six (precisely against Bu), Mamedyarov racked up three consecutive wins at the end of the day to join the chasers.

FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial 2020

Participants of the women's section

Women's: A clear leader

Kosteniuk played convincingly throughout but, as it usually happens when a player gets an exceptional score, she also got lucky at some point. In round four, Elisabeth Paehtz failed to make the most of her advantage against the Russian, blundering a piece after having missed some chances earlier in the game:

 

Black had 43...Qxb2, when Black can escape an attack from White's queen and rook tandem while keeping the material edge. Paehtz instead faltered with 43...Nf6, losing the game at once, as White can simply capture the bishop.

The leader also got to mate a clearly out-of-form Deysi Cori in round three:

 

Kosteniuk played 60...Bd8# to score her third straight win of the day.

The leader, who was the women's world champion between 2008 and 2010, will face a crucial challenge at the outset of day two, as she will face second-placed Tan Zhongyi with the black pieces.    


Standings after Round 6 - Women's section

Rk. Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts.
1 Kosteniuk, Alexandra   - ½ - 1 - 1 1 1 1
2 Tan, Zhongyi -   1 0 0 1 - 1 1 - 4
3 Lei, Tingjie ½ 0   ½ 1 1 - - ½ -
4 Lagno, Kateryna - 1 ½   ½ - - 0 ½ 1
5 Sebag, Marie 0 1 0 ½   - 1 - - 1
6 Stefanova, Antoaneta - 0 0 - -   ½ 1 1 1
7 Abdumalik, Zhansaya 0 - - - 0 ½   1 0 1
8 Paehtz, Elisabeth 0 0 - 1 - 0 0   - 1 2
9 Khademalsharieh, Sarasadat 0 0 ½ ½ - 0 1 -   - 2
10 Cori T., Deysi 0 - - 0 0 0 0 0 -   0

All games - Women's section

 

Open: A tight race

Carlsen, the perennial pre-tournament favourite in any format, started the event trading blunders with Peter Svidler. First, the Russian failed to find mate-in-7:

 

Svidler played 37...Kc7 instead of the winning 37...Bf3, threatening mate on the back rank — perhaps the Russian missed, with little time on the clock, that after 38.Ke1 he had 38...Rd4 and there is no way to save the game for White.

About ten moves later, Carlsen returned the favour, failing to find a decisive fork:

 

The world champion, like his rival previously, faltered by making a king move — 49.Kf4 — when 49.Nc2 would have led to a quick resignation by Black. In the end, the point was split nine moves later.

Carlsen won three games in the remaining rounds of the day (over Le Quang Liem, Mamedyarov and David Anton) but, unlike Kosteniuk, could not go into round seven undefeated, as he blundered an exchange against fan favourite Anton Korobov:

 

16...Nd7 allows 17.Bc7, and the exchange is lost. Korobov went on to get a 47-move victory.

24-year-old Dubov was the early leader of the event, as he was undefeated until round six, when he lost against Bu. The Chinese is now sharing second place with Dubov and Mamedyarov on 3½ out of 6. Bu is also the first rival of Carlsen on Saturday — let us not forget that he knocked the Norwegian out of the World Cup back in 2017.


Standings after Round 6 - Open section

Rk. Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts.
1 Carlsen, Magnus   - - 1 - ½ 0 1 ½ 1 4
2 Bu, Xiangzhi -   1 ½ ½ - 1 - 0 ½
3 Dubov, Daniil - 0   1 - - ½ ½ 1 ½
4 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 0 ½ 0   1 1 - 1 - -
5 Xiong, Jeffery - ½ - 0   ½ - 1 1 0 3
6 Svidler, Peter ½ - - 0 ½   1 0 - 1 3
7 Korobov, Anton 1 0 ½ - - 0   0 1 -
8 Le, Quang Liem 0 - ½ 0 0 1 1   - -
9 Grischuk, Alexander ½ 1 0 - 0 - 0 -   1
10 Anton Guijarro, David 0 ½ ½ - 1 0 - - 0   2

All games - Open section

 

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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.