Jon Speelman: To and fro - 2023 and 2024

by Jonathan Speelman
1/7/2024 – As the new year gets underway, it's traditional to look both forwards and backwards. 2023 saw Magnus Carlsen abdicate his world title, Ding Liren capture the vacant crown after a nail-biting match against Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ju Wenjun retain her world title also by a narrow margin after defeating her countrywoman Lei Tingjie. Jon Speelman looks back to 2023 and forward to 2024. | Photo: Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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The most significant moments of 2023

[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

The previous year, Uzbekistan had won the Chess Olympiad in Chennai and as China gained both world titles for the first time, the centre of gravity of world chess does seem to be moving east, with India in particular the home to an extraordinary flowering of young talent. Indeed as we look forward to the Candidates tournament in Toronto in April, three of the eight players are Americans and three are Indians.

The battle last month for the final spots in the Candidates has been discussed on ChessBase and throughout the chess world in minute detail. What I would say, is that FIDE rather obviously needs to make better rules. You simply can't expect professional games players not to game regulations which are so patently gameable....

The battle to reach Toronto was perhaps all the keener because the winner will play Ding rather than Carlsen. Shorn of the glorious responsibility of being champion, Carlsen had a tremendously successful year except for some games in huge open tournaments in which impertinent players rated in the 2500 and 2600s very much refused to roll over and die.

Being the first Chinese champion must be a massive responsibility and Ding has hardly played since the match. At least he is scheduled to be in Wijk aan Zee at the end of this week.

By the end of April we'll know who will challenge Ding next year. I guess that Fabiano Caruana is the favourite, but a priori it looks very open.

In the meantime there will be furious action in 2024 both over the board and virtually including the 45th Olympiad which will be held in Budapest in September. With so many emerging talents, this is a very exciting time to play and follow chess and there should be some glorious battles.

For now here are a some of not necessarily the best games but the most significant moments of 2023. I've got three of the world championship games, a win by Magnus Carlsen during his world cup triumph and one of his losses against a young gun in Qatar; and one of Vidit Gujrathi's wins in the Isle of Man. These are the annotations I already had in my databases and I've added small introductions as well.

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Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3

The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.


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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.
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