The London Chess
Classic has an unexpected final match-up. After four draws under classical controls, Ding Liren comprehensively beat Levon Aronian in rapid and blitz play to book one final slot. In the other semi-final match, Maxime Vachiver-Lagrave and Magnus Carlsen also played out four classical draws and then, the French GM prevailed at shorter time controls. So it’s Ding Vs MVL and there’s shock and awe at the thought that Carlsen has actually lost a match.
Ding has played extraordinary chess
in the past six months. He’s got a huge plus score against Carlsen incidentally in short time-controls, with the latest win in Kolkata at the Tata Steel. This could make him an interesting challenger if he comes through the next Candidates.
MVL is, of course, a terrific blitz player but he wasn’t expected to beat Carlsen. Unfortunately, the “Frenchman with two names”, as he was called by Viktor Korchnoi, has not qualified for the Candidates. It’s possible that he will get a wild card entry. In other news
involving world class players, Vladimir Kramnik says he will play the World Blitz and Rapid championship “for fun” though he remains officially retired.
In the concurrent London Classic Open Swiss, the prodigious Praggnanandhaa and the slightly older Aravindh Chithambaram are both doing well. With one round to go at the time of writing, Pragg shares the lead with Anton Smirnov (both 7 points from eight games). Aravindh (6.5) is in third spot. Pragg’s performance here pushed him above the 2600 Elo mark, which is no mean achievement for somebody who is still months away from his 15th birthday. Incidentally, his elder sibling, Vaishali (6), is also doing well.
Koneru Humpy has started well at the Monaco Grand Prix. She’s scored 2.5 from her first three games in the 11-player round robin. Dronavalli Harika (2) is also doing well. The overall GP winner would qualify for the next women’s candidates and this is Humpy’s best route back into the world title cycle, after a long hiatus when she became a mother.
The Diagram, White To PLAY, (White: Ding Liren Vs Black: Aronian , London Classic Rapid 2019) features an over-the-board sacrifice by the Chinese GM. Instead of pulling back the Ktd5, he went 17. Ng5! exd5 18. Bxd5 Ra7 19. b4! Bxb4 [pulling the bishop to an unprotected square].
White sacs again with 20. Bxf7+! Rxf7 21. Nxf7 Qf8 22. Nd6 Bxd6 23. Qe6+ Kg7 24. Rxd6 Rc7 25. g3 Qf7 ? This loses for sure 25.– b5 instead may hold. The game concluded 26. Rc6 Rxc6 27. Qxc6 Qf8 28. Rc1 Nc5 29. Qxb6 Ne6 30. Qc6 Nd4 31. Qc7+ Kh6 32. Qxc8 Qe7 33. Rd1 Nf3+ 34. Kg2 Qe4 35. Kh3 Nd4 (1-0).
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player