Reflections on CBM 196: Chess in the virtual world

by Nagesh Havanur
8/29/2020 – It was not quite the apocalypse. But the pandemic wreaked death and destruction of a magnitude never seen before. While many are still struggling to survive, the worst is over. The human spirit remains indefatigable and there are efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate lives. Amidst this chaos chess has survived and indeed flourished in the virtual world. This issue offers coverage of two major events, the Magnus Carlsen Invitational and the FIDE Online Nations Cup and offers all available games (405 of them!) from the Silkway Online Blitz Cup, the proverbial icing on the cake. It includes games annotated by Anish Giri, Alireza Firouzja and Romain Edouard, just to mention a few. Our columnist Nagesh Havanur takes a look at some of the decisive encounters featured in this issue. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Magnus wins by a whisker

Even as I write these lines, Magnus has won the final set of the eponymous Carlsen Tour in an Armageddon tie-break with Nakamura. In fairness to the American, he showed his fighting spirit as never before and proved himself to be as good as the world champion. As for Magnus, he has come ahead of his opponents in each of the online tournaments he has played this year. We have known a few world champions of the past readily accepting challenge from rivals. Magnus has done more — he has invited challenge through his own initiative and in this endeavour he has been well-supported by sponsors and organizers. 

Admittedly, he has not had it easy in any of these events, but prevailed over his opponents with sheer will power, not to mention innate chess talent.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2020


In the Carlsen Invitational he took some appalling risks and paid the price in quite a few games, to Giri, Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren and Nakamura. Still, he managed to come first. This issue includes all the games from the event. It is not easy to pick and choose from the lot. Maybe the following game would do.


A nice game. Apparently, Magnus wanted both his opponent and the viewers to savour the last moment. So he walked into checkmate.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2020

The Carlsen-Ding Liren encounter in the semi–final was as engrossing. In the third round, Magnus essayed the King’s Gambit and lost, and now he was in danger of elimination. To his credit, he got back to beat Ding Liren in a dramatic game.


The dragon has the last word

The other major event was the FIDE Online Nations World Cup. In the end, it turned out to be a contest between China and the USA. In this issue Simon Williams offers commentary on the critical duel, Yu Yangyi versus Wesley So. It may be of interest to note that Yu Yangyi himself annotated the whole game in a recent issue of the New in Chess Magazine (#4, 2020). His commentary does offer an insight into the mind of the winner. But what about the loser? Surely, Wesley So too must have something to say about his painful defeat. As of now I have not been able to find any. Maybe he would reveal his thoughts in the next encounter with Yu Yangyi. 

To return to Simon Williams’ commentary in this issue, it is fairly instructive. However, I would have liked to see greater emphasis on the main flaw in Black’s opening play.


The final display has a magic touch appreciated by one and all. But how did Wesley So land up in such a terrible position? In all probability he was surprised by the theoretical novelty, 8.c6, and thought he could reduce White’s firepower with an exchange of knights. That was the flaw. The knight on d5 had neutralized the g2-bishop’s pressure on the diagonal and also retained the option of returning and defending the kingside. Once the knight was exchanged, the whole h1-a8 diagonal became vulnerable to pressure by the bishop.  It also cost Black precious tempi, and he remained behind in development.

One game that has received relatively less attention is the following encounter between the same Yu Yangyi and the talented Jan Duda.


A fine game that shows both the depth of Yu Yangyi’s opening preparation and superb attacking play. 

For reasons of space I have not done justice to several other games in this issue. 
Do not miss Magnus Carlsen-Anish Giri (a rare victory over the world champion that Anish Giri annotates himself), Fabiano Caruana-Hikaru Nakamura, Alireza Firoujza-Ian Nepomniachtchi and Vladislav Artemiev-Levon Aronian, to mention only a few.

When two lions fight

All this is serious stuff. How about some thrills and spills? Check out the games from the Silkway Cup in this issue. This was an online blitz tournament dedicated to the Republic Day of Azerbaijan (28th May), and Independence Day of Georgia (26th May). The 15-round competition brought together the best Azerbaijani and Georgian chess players including 25 grandmasters.

The mammoth event was won by Rauf Mamedov with a score of 11½/ 15 points ahead of Baadur Jobava (11/15 points) and Nijat Abasov (10½/15 points). But what happened to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, our warlord? He finished with “only” 10/15, sharing 4th to 6th places with other players. In the following game he was at the receiving end:


A rousing battle in which the loser deserves as much credit as the winner! Later Mamedov was to say that this victory gave a real boost to his confidence. 

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Rauf Mamedov


Back in the old days it was much more exciting to face each other and go into battle!

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Rauf Mamedov

Photo: Chess Room, Mechanics Institute /

“We are buddies, off the board!”

Not all games from this event are of the same standard and quite a few have incomplete scores. However, if you see the games of those warriors, Mamedov, Jobava and Mamedyarov from this event, you won’t be disappointed.
In the second part of the review I shall deal with the rest of the magazine. 
Watch this space.

To be continued

ChessBase Magazine 196

Analyses from the Magnus Carlsen Invitational and FIDE Nations Cup by Giri, Duda, Firouzja, Adhiban and others. CBM Special: Boobby Fischer! 11 articles with new repertoire ideas. Videos by Werle, King and Marin. Training: tactics, strategy and endgame!


Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.


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