CHESS #1353

Magnus Carlsen ripped off another dominating performance to take the first Grand Chess Event in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, with quite a lot to spare. Carlsen ended with a record score of 26.5 despite two losses to Maxime Vachier Lagrave. MVL and Hikaru Nakamura shared second-third with 23 each. Carlsen scored 15/18 in the Rapid (double-scoring) and 11.5/18 in the Blitz where MVL actually scored 12.   

Naka lost a clutch last round game to Carlsen when he looked set to take clear second. This takes the world champion to 2,900-plus on both Rapid and Blitz ratings. It’s the sixth tournament he’s played and won since defending the world title in October 2018. His next engagements are the Lindores Abby Tournament in Scotland, the Norway Chess and the second leg of the Grand Chess Tour in Zagreb, which is a 12-player classical. How long can the streak continue?  

Another genius, Vassily Ivanchuk took the Capablanca Memorial in Havana — the eighth time he’s won here. Ivanchuk (7/10) won a clutch last-round game against Baskaran Adhiban (3.5) to edge out Samuel Sevian and David Anton Guijarro (6.5) who shared second. It was a pretty bad event for Adhiban who started as top seed and loses a lot of rating.

Meanwhile the Bronze Riders of St Petersburg (17) won the Russian Teams championship ahead of Legacy Square Moscow (15), Sima Sverdlovsk (15) and Guardians of Law & Order, St Petersburg (11). Despite the hokey names, this is a well-supported event with serious firepower. Every team is supported by some oligarch or another and there are serious bragging rights for winning sponsors. 

The IMSA Mindgames in Hengshui China features chess along with Go, Draughts (10x10), Bridge, etc. Anton Korobov (8.5/11) won the Rapid ahead of Liem Le Quang (7) and Leinier Perez Dominguez (7). Alexandra Kosteniuk (8/11) won the women’s section ahead of Valentina Gunina (7). The Blitz starts on Friday.

The Grand Prix this year will be 16-player knockouts with prize funds of 130,000 euros each and an additional pay-off of 280,000 euros for placements in the four-event series and, of course, two places in the Candidates. Each match will be two classical games, two rapid tiebreaks if required, two Blitz if required and an Armageddon with draw odds for black and a time edge for white. Unfortunately, five top players declined their GP invitations — that includes Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik, Ding Liren and Viswanathan Anand. 

The diagram, White to Play (White: Topalov Vs Black: Carlsen, GCT Abidjan 2019) featured a “lucky” escape. Given the potential kingside pins, White could try 26. Ng2 and play could continue 26.-Ne7 27. Qd3 hoping to convert the extra pawn.  Instead, White played 26.Ne6?  Bxg3! 27.hxg3 Rxf5! 28.Qxf5 Rxg3+ (0-1), since 29 Kf2 Qe3 is checkmate.

Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player

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