Lindores Abbey: Karjakin and Nakamura in the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/21/2020 – No one scored more than 2½ points on day two of the Lindores Abbey Chess Challenge, as Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin remain as co-leaders after round eight. Magnus Carlsen had a subpar performance, losing to Yu Yangyi and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and is now sharing third place with Wesley So. In the fight to get a pass to the quarter-finals, Alireza Firouzja and Wei Yi will need to step up their game in the last three rounds of the preliminaries in order to stay in the tournament. | Photos: Georgios Souleidis / Amruta Mokal

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The Lindores Abbey Chess Challenge started this Tuesday. Twelve players are taking part. After a three-day preliminary, the best eight players will advance to the deciding knockout section. The time control is 15 minutes for the game, with a 10-second increment per move.


Only one player is still undefeated in the Lindores Abbey online event — Hikaru Nakamura scored a win and three draws on day two to keep his standing as co-leader. The multiple US champion is an online-chess expert and is known for his skills in rapid, blitz and bullet (one-minute games or faster). His strong performances in the two first events of the Magnus Carlsen Tour prompted Soviet chess history expert Douglas Griffin to tweet:

Of course, as the responses to this tweet indicate, Nakamura is nevertheless a strong classical player.

The American is currently sharing the lead with Sergey Karjakin, another quick-play specialist. Karjakin, in fact, was world rapid champion in 2012 and world blitz champion in 2016. On day two, the Russian drew his first three encounters before beating Alireza Firouzja to catch up with 'Naka' in the standings table.

Round 5: Nakamura takes the sole lead

Four players were sharing the lead after Tuesday, but only Nakamura started day two with a win. Karjakin and Wesley So drew their direct encounter, while Carlsen went from having a better position to getting caught in a mating net against Yu Yangyi:

 

Black needed to defend against the threats posed by the dangerous doubled rooks on the h-file either with 40...Rd7, planning to exchange one of the menacing rooks, or 40...Nd7, covering a number of key squares. Carlsen faltered by going for 40...a3 instead, and after 41.Rg8+ Kf7 42.Kf5 he played 42...Nd7, which is a blunder at this juncture. Yu quickly continued with 43.g6+ Ke7 44.e5 and the world champion resigned with mate-in-two on the board. 

Alexander Grischuk and Jan-Krzysztof Duda also kicked off the day with a win, taking down Ding Liren and Daniil Dubov respectively.

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Round 6: White wins

Following the trend of the tournament, all four decisive games of round six were won by the player with the white pieces — out of 26 decisive results after two days of action, only 5 favoured black. Three of the four winners bounced back from losses to even their scores of the day: Carlsen, Dubov and Levon Aronian, who had been defeated by Nakamura. Firouzja also won, getting a full point for the first time in the event by beating Duda.

In Dubov v So, the Russian played a rare line with white, to which So responded by leaving theory as early as move 6. Naturally, Dubov was better prepared to enter unexplored territory, and punished his opponent's error quickly after:

 

So got in trouble with 10...Bxc3, allowing 11.Rd8+ Ke7+ Rxh8. The American could have castled short or gone for 10...Bg4 in order to step away from a sharp struggle against someone much more used to this sort of complications. Dubov never let go of the initiative and got a much-needed 41-move win.

Meanwhile, Carlsen had white against an out-of-form Wei Yi, and the Norwegian made good use of this opportunity. The world champion clearly trusted his ability to outplay his opponent, as he avoided a triple repetition with a move we do not see very often:

 

The natural 27.Qd4, already played two moves earlier, would have been responded with 27...Qe4 again, when entering the ending a pawn down — but with the bishop pair — does not seem to be enough to fight for a win. Therefore, Carlsen went for 27.Qa1 and quickly activated his forces, until eventually getting the better of his young opponent.  

 

Round 7: Duda beats the world champion

After losing against Aronian in the previous round, Yu collected his second scalp of the day — and a big one at that — by defeating world number three Ding with the white pieces. Yu comes from showing what he is capable of at the Nations Cup and, although he is currently on fifty percent, he should not be underestimated as a challenger for the title, especially after his wins over Carlsen and Ding.

While Yu scored a second win, Carlsen was defeated for a second time in the day, and once again with black. In a strange position with four rooks and bishops of opposite colours against Duda, the Norwegian made an inaccuracy:

 

31...c6 would have prevented what happened in the game, as after 31...Re7 32.Rab1 it is too late for 32...c6 due to 33.Rxa4. Carlsen lost a pawn in a different way — 32...Bc4 33.Rxb6 cxb6 34.Rxb6 — and found himself in a difficult opposite-coloured bishops position.

Eight moves later, the world champion was again caught in a mating net:

 

42...Kh5 43.Kg3 and Black resigned, as Rh6# is unstoppable. Tarjei J. Svensen reported that Carlsen told the Norwegian press:

I am really pissed that I played so badly today. My good feeling over playing well on Tuesday is gone now. I am no longer following my intuition. It's frustrating. Completely unacceptable.

 

Round 8: Three decisive results

The day finished with wins for Dubov, Karjakin and Ding. The latter defeated Wei, who is almost out of contention in the fight to reach the quarter-finals — the 20-year-old is alone in the cellar of the standings table on 2 out of 8, with the eight-placed participant two points ahead and only three rounds left in the preliminaries.

Dubov collected his second win of the event after Grischuk blundered in a rook and bishop endgame:

 

White's 54.Rh6 loses immediately to 54...Rxc3+ 55.Kxc3 f2 and the rook cannot prevent the promotion of the f-pawn — 54.Rxh7+ would have prevented Black from going for this trick.

 

Standings after Round 8

 

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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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