CHESS #1393

Ding Liren lost to his compatriot Wang Hao in round one, who lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 2.
The Candidates, which was touch and go, started under strange circumstances with an odd clause. If any participant contracts Covid-19, the event will be “frozen” and finished six months later with the scores standing where they were at the time of the infection. 

The hall is empty though spectators can wander around other parts of the venue. There’s a 500,000 euros pot, which is generous, given that the winner gets a crack at the title (which itself is worth a reasonable amount). 

Anyhow, the event began with a bang. Ding Liren lost to his compatriot Wang Hao in round one, who lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 2. Just when it looked like the second seed was in terrible form, he smashed top seed, Fabiano Caruana in round three. Anish Giri lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi and barely survived a losing endgame to Wang. Kirill Alekseenko, the wild card, who is also the lowest rated, nearly took down Nepomniachtchi in round three after being crushed in round two by Caruana. Alexander Grischuk is the only man without a decisive game.

Three rounds in, Vachier-Lagrave, Wang and Nepomniachtchi share the lead with 2 each in the eight-player double round-robin. There’s superb commentary at several places, not least by Viswanathan Anand. It’s been a marvellously exciting event so far.

The virus has led to the cancellation of umpteen other events. The next phase will involve another surge in online play, even though everybody plays online anyhow. The Women’s Grand Prix at Lausanne managed to complete.

Nana Dzagnidze and Aleksandra Goryachkina (both 7/11) tied for first. This leaves Goryachkina leading with the GP, with 398.5 GP points. Koneru Humpy is in second with 293.5, but Goryachkina has completed her quota of three GPs while Humpy has one left. Alexandra Kosteniuk (193.5 from 3 GPs) and Dzagnidze (180 from 2 GPs) are in third and fourth. Two players qualify for the Candidates. Goryachkina is already in, as the loser of the last title match. Humpy should make it unless she has total loss of form in the last GP, which is scheduled for mid-May. There’s a fair chance of postponement. 

The Diagram White to play (White: Caruana Vs Black: Alekseenko, Candidates 2020) is a position, on the verge of explosion. White played 19. g4!? Bxg4 20. hxg4 Nxg4 21. Bd3 Nxh2 22. Bxe4 Nxf1 23. Qxf1 Bxd6. So far, forced. Is the piece worth more than the pawns? The game continued 24. Nd5 g6 25. Qh3 Kg7 26. Kh1 Ne5 27. Nh4 h5 ?! This weakness gives white a winning attack. He finished with 28. Rg1 Bf8 29. Nf4 Ng4 30. Nxh5+ gxh5 31. Bf5 Be7 32. Bxg4 hxg4 33. Qxg4+ Bg5 34. Qh5! (1-0)  Since 34.-f6 35. Nf5+ Kf8 will force mate.

Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player

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