Chess Room Newsletter #911 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #911

Gens Una Sumus!




Newsletter #911

Mar 27, 2020

By Abel Talamantez

Table of Contents


Mechanics' Institute Defeats Marshall Club In Online Rematch 63.5-42.5

On Thursday March 26, Mechanics' Institute (MI) held a rematch with the Marshall Chess Club in New York. The match was played on, and each team had 53 players! The format of this match was different in that anyone affiliated with the club in some way could participate, and there were no restrictions in rating. Players were paired with similarly opponents, and each player played the same opponent twice; playing one with white and one with black with a time control of G/15 +2. The Mechanics' lost a very close match in our first encounter, but we were decisive winners in the rematch, defeating Marshall by a score of 63.5-42.5. 

As with our match with the Charlotte Chess Club last week, we had strength in numbers, as the middle part of our lineup was stacked with strong club players rated 1600-2000. This group of players, many of whom play our Tuesday Night Marathon, helped carry us to victory. Leading the charge for Mechanics' team was GM James Tarjan, who has also been recently playing our regular online events as well. Here is one of his games from the match, as he was paired against IM Jay Bonin from the Marshall Chess Club. Annotations by GM Nick de Firmian.

(1) IM Jay Bonin (Boninknights) (2322) - GM James Tarjan (Tirantes) (2463) [D00]
Live Chess, 26.03.2020

1.d4 d5 2.Bg5 f6 3.Bf4 Nc6 4.e3 An unusual opening, but it can work our. Black now plays very energetically, looking to take the center. 4...e5 5.Bg3 Nge7! Diagram


6.Bb5?! [White could maintain equality with 6.dxe5 fxe5 7.Nc3] 6...a6 7.Ba4 b5 8.Bb3 Be6 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Bxe5 fxe5 11.e4 Qd6 12.Nc3?! This causes White to lose time. Black uses that time to take valuable space on the queenside and center. [12.Nf3] 12...d4 13.Nce2 Ng6 14.Bxe6 Qxe6 15.Nf3 Be7 16.0-0 0-0 17.Ng3 c5 18.a4 c4 The black pawns are a strong force. White has the nice f5 square for the knight, but that's hardly compensation for the great control Black has over the rest of the board. 19.axb5 axb5 20.Nf5 Bf6 21.Qd2 Ne7 22.Qb4? [22.Nxe7+ Bxe7 23.h3 is worse for White but he is still well in the game] 22...Rxa1 23.Rxa1 Nxf5 24.exf5 Qd5! 25.Ra5 Rb8 26.h4 h6?! [26...e4! 27.Ng5 h6 28.Ne6 d3 would be a quick end] 27.h5?! [White has a chance to stay in the game with 27.Ra6! e4 28.Rd6 Qxf5 29.Nxd4 Qh5] 27...e4 28.Nh2 d3 29.cxd3 exd3 30.Nf3 Diagram


Black's position is a pretty picture. He wraps things up efficiently. 30...Qxf5 31.Nd2 Bd4 32.Nf3 [32.Qxc4+ bxc4 33.Rxf5 Rxb2 34.Nxc4 Rc2 will win the knight for the d-pawn] 32...Bc5 33.Qc3 Re8 34.Kf1 Re2 35.Rxb5 Rxf2+ 36.Ke1 Qe4+ 0-1

We want to thank Bryan Quick, the Director of the Marshall Chess Club for his work in helping organize this match. The club matches are a great deal of fun, and these types of matches are much needed right now in the chess community to bring people together. Special thanks to our GM of Youth Outreach and Events Judit Sztaray for organizing the match from our end. We are working hard to reach out to other clubs both in the U.S. and abroad to continue the club matches, more information will be coming soon. 

If you belong to another chess club and would be interested in a club match, please reach out to us.

For full results, please click here


Mechanics' Institute Hosts Second Tuesday Night Online Tournament

The second edition of our Tuesday Night Online got a surprise visit from GM James Tarjan (Tirantes). A total of 79 players participated, with a lot of strength at the top. This 5-round G/10 +2 online event featured many of our club regulars, with the only perfect 5/5 score coming from goldenpuppy, who currently remains anonymous. Below is a fine win from goldenpuppy against last week’s co-winner of the Tuesday Night Online Abhinav Penagalapati (qing29). Annotations by GM Nick de Firmian.

(2) Abhinav Penagalapati (qing29) (2017) - goldenpuppy (2044) [A45]
Live Chess, 24.03.2020

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d5 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2 e6 6.Ngf3 Bd6 7.Bg3 Diagram


We have another game from the London System, which has become a very popular opening. White's bishop retreat to g3 attempts to exchange the bishops in a favorable manor. If Black exhanges right now then the open h-file would help White. 7...0-0 8.Bd3 b6 9.e4 [9.Ne5 is an alternate plan, keeping things closed for now.] 9...Be7 10.e5 Nh5! The knight can take the dark squared bishop at a safe time. 11.0-0 Bb7 12.a3 Nxg3 13.hxg3 a5 14.Kh2 g6 15.Qe2 h5 16.Qe3 Kg7 17.Ne1? Going backward is the wrong direction. White should try [17.Rae1 Qc8 18.Rh1!? or 17. Rh1 immediately] 17...Ba6 18.f4 Bxd3 19.Nxd3 c4 20.Ne1 Rh8 21.Kg1 b5 22.Nef3 b4 Diagram


Black is safe on the king side and has a clear initiative on the queenside. A very enjoyable positon to play. 23.axb4 axb4 24.Rfb1 Qb6 25.Ne1 Rxa1 26.Rxa1 bxc3 27.bxc3 Qb2 28.Rb1 Qa2 29.Rb6 Rc8 30.Nef3 Bd8 31.Rb1?! [31.Rb7] 31...Ba5?! [31...Na5! leaves the bishop back for defense and keeeps control] 32.f5! White is in trouble and siezes the right moment to get counterplay. For one pawn he gets chances against the black king. 32...exf5 33.e6 Qa3! A fine defensive move! Black needs help around his king so the queen prepares to help on e7. 34.Rb7? Unfortunately this active move just leads to the exchange of rooks, which lessen the attacking chances. Better was [34.exf7] 34...Rc7 35.Rxc7 Bxc7 36.exf7 Qe7! 37.f8Q+ Qxf8 38.Ng5 Nd8 39.Ne6+ Nxe6 40.Qxe6 Qf7 Careful defense has left Black with a winning endgame. 41.Qe3 f4 42.gxf4 Bxf4 43.Qe2 Bxd2 44.Qxd2 Qf5 45.Qe2 Kf6 46.Qb2 Kg5 47.Qd2+ Qf4 48.Qb2 Qe3+ 49.Kh2 h4 50.Qb4 Kg4 51.Qa5 Qf4+ 52.Kg1 Kg3! Diagram


The king attacks! The game is over. 53.Qa3 Qe3+ 54.Kh1 Qe1# 0-1

Starting soon we will also be giving out Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for the top 3 spots in our Tuesday Night Online. These medals carry substantial social value, is they are the only prize given out in any of our online events. Sign up for a chance to earn one of these fine pieces of hardware.

Lauren Goodkind also played the tournament and did her own streaming, click on this link to see.

For full results from this event, please follow this link:

Thank you to all the participants!

Mechanics’ Online Event Recap

In addition to the events already covered, the Friday Night Blitz on March 20 drew 85 players, and was won by FM Eric Li (wepkins) with 8.5/10. Tied for 2nd and 3rd spots were ChessyInstinct and FM Thijs (Thijs) Laarhoven with 8/10. Results can be found here:

Our Wednesday Late Night Blitz Showdown on March 25 was won by GM Cristian Chirila (TheCount) with a score of 7.5/8. In sole 2nd place was NM Vinesh Ravuri (SoggyCheese12) and in 3rd was NM Ruiyang Yan (Jij2018) with 6/8. Chirila sealed the tournament with a win over FM Josiah Stearman in the final round.

Here is a fine win by Chirila over Ravuri from round 6, annotations by GM Nick de Firmian.

(3) GM Cristian Chirila (TheCount) (2624) - NM Vinesh Ravuri (SoggyCheese12) (2307) [C60]
Live Chess, 25.03.2020

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nge7 An offbeat line of the Ruy Lopez, but the Count knows how to react. 4.c3 g6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.0-0 Bg7 9.Re1+ Be6 10.Bg5 Qd6 11.Nbd2 0-0 12.Ne4 Qb4 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Ne5!? White goes right for the weakeness on c6. Safer would be [14.Qc1 as White is not worried about 14....Bxd4 15. Nxd4] 14...Qxb2 15.Nc5 Rfe8 16.h3 f6?! [16...Nc3! should give Black an edge. e.g. 17.Qd3 Bf5 18.Qc4 Ne2+! 19.Qxe2 Qxd4! 20.Nxc6 Rxe2 21.Nxd4 Rxe1+ 22.Rxe1 Bxd4] 17.Ned3 Qa3?? Diagram


This is a blunder that loses a piece. Black must have an attack on the g5 bishop when White takes the piece on e6. SoggyCheese lets the attacked bishop move with tempo. [better was 17...Qb5 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.Nxe6] 18.Bc1 Qc3 19.Bb2 Qc4 20.Nxe6 Rab8 21.Nxg7 Kxg7 22.Rxe8 Rxe8 23.Qd2 An extra piece is plenty for the Count, who wraps up the game smoothly. 23...h5 24.Rc1 Qxa2 25.Rxc6 Qa4 26.Rc1 Qb5 27.Ba3 Re6 28.Nf4 Nxf4 29.Rxc7+ Kg8 30.Qxf4 Qb3 31.Bc5 Qd5 32.Kh2 g5 33.Qg3 h4 34.Qg4 Re4 35.Qh5 Qf5 36.Qf7+ Diagram



For full results from this tournament, follow this link:

To participate in our chess events, ask to join the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Online by clicking on this link:


Mechanics' Institute - Online Offerings For Our Scholastic community

Online Classes for group of 4-8 students via Zoom/Skype

Online Chess Tournaments - Free

Weekly fun chess assignments via email - Free 

Note on the in-person classes: ALL missed classes will be refunded!
We are on a holding pattern, waiting for a final decision on the status of our in-school programs, and if we will re-start our classes. If classes are not allowed to continue, we will process any refunds for all missed classes, prorated from the last class date. If your registration is through another organization (school/recreation center), they have reassured us that missed classes will be refunded to parents!
We thank you for your patience as we are waiting for updates in this very unusual situation.  
Any questions? Please, email to [email protected] and we'll respond very soon. Please, note that we are doing everything possible to offer alternative services to help keep the kids engaged with chess while we wait to learn how things will proceed.
1. Online Chess Classes for group of 4-8 students
Initial Trial Period: during March 23 - April 3 (two weeks)
$25/class for a 60 min class or $45/two 60min classes.
Coaches: Andrew Schley, Colin Shober, and David Flores Gomez
Time slots: Tuesday 3-4PM (Full), Wednesday 3-4PM, Thursday 3-4PM, Friday 1-2PM (Full)
Minimum 4 students to start the class, maximum 8 students in each class!
If the trial goes successfully as planned, we will add a regular class schedule for month of April. 
Pick your coach & pick the time slots. Information about the class, how to join, and details will be emailed to all who register. Registration closes 15 mins prior to class start time!

Coach Andy's first class on Tuesday, 3/24 was full with eight students online. Here are two pictures sent by Andrew's dad, showing us their setup and how he is participating in the class.

2. Online Chess Tournaments via - FREE - Safe & Secure platform for kids playing chess!
Tournaments on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 4PM. 
Format: 4 or 5 games each tournament.
We had more than 50 kids playing in our first four tournaments!
Congratulations to all players, who came online and participated in our fun scholastic online tournametns!

At every tournament, we are seeing new IDs, new kids playing, which makes us very happy!
There are some interesting and very exciting games! Keep up the great participation!

Upcoming schedule:

Time control: Two main format we are trying out:
Game in 5 minutes (5 min for each players) with 5 sec added with each move.
Game in 8 min (8 min for each players) with 2 sec added with each move.
Join (sign up) for the tournament: at 3:45PM - 15 minutes before the start time. First round starts 4PM sharp!
Look at upcoming tournaments:
  • If you already have an account: registration key: QCJJNH
  • Find the 6-digit Registration Key on the "Info" tab page of your Group. Give this code to the Kid.
  • Have the Kid log in to his own account & click the grey Settings icon. **They'll need to log in from a browser for access to this page.**
  • Enter the Kid's first & last name, and parent/guardian email.
  • Click "Do you have a Group Registration Key"
  • Enter the 6 digit Registration Key & click Save. The kid will be added to your Group. 
3. Weekly Chess Assignment via email by Coach Judit  - FREE  
Coach Judit is sending all those beginner students some fun chess assignments every Sunday. Print it out and have kids work through the pages during the week. Scan and send it back by Friday for individualized feedback! Be sure to sign up via google doc so that we can send you the assignment:
Any questions? [email protected]
Thank you so much for your continued support. It is wonderful that students are engaging and continuing to join MI for new and exciting ways to stay connected with chess.

Mechanics' Institute Online Events Schedule

The Mechanics' Institute Chess Club will continue to hold regular online events in various forms. Here is the upcoming schedule for players:

3/28 Saturday - Saturday Online Matinee
Format: 3 rounds of G/30  (Swiss) 
Join from 1PM via
Start: 2PM sharp! Approx. end 5PM.
3/29 Sunday - Sunday Late Night Showdown
Format: 5 rounds of G/5+2 (Swiss)
Join from 8PM via
Start: 9PM sharp! Approx. end 10PM.
3/30 Monday - Monday Online Arena
Format: 90 mins of G/5+2 - as many games as you can.
Join from 5:30PM via -
Start: 6:30PM
3/31 Tuesday - Tuesday Night Online Rapid
Format: 5 rounds of G/10+2 (Swiss)
Join from 5:30PM via
Start: 6:30PM sharp
4/1 Wednesday - Club Team Match Night
Format: Round robin with 3 other clubs
More info on our website:
In order to be selected to play, please sign up via Google form.
4/2 Thursday - Thursday Late Night Showdown
Format: 5 rounds of G/5+2 (Swiss)
Join from 8PM via
Start: 9PM sharp
4/3 Friday - Friday Evening Online Blitz
Format: 10 rounds of G/3+2 (Swiss)
Join from 5:30PM via - link coming soon, please check back.
Start: 6:30PM sharp
Before playing in our online tournaments, be sure to:
1. Sign up and log in to
2. Sign up to be a member of Mechanics' Institute Chess Club:
without being a member, you won't be able to play in our online tournaments!
3. Please fill out the Google Form, so we know who you are, and can inform you about changes, and ad hoc events:
Any questions? [email protected]


FM Paul Whitehead's Column

Early Chess Stories, Part 2

In 1972, my family was living in Scotland.  My parent, civilians, were teaching on an American military base, and I attended that same school along with my brother Jay.  During that Summer my parents and Jay went down to Morocco, and I flew to New York to stay with my maternal grandparents.

Mountaindale was a sleepy hamlet in the Catskills – almost deserted, really.   I spent the hot days riding around on a bike or exploring the woods behind the houses.  There was an outdoor pool in the community, but it was empty most of the time. I wasn’t big on swimming, anyway.

One day I was surprised to see another kid at the pool.  He was about my age, maybe a bit older, and like me he had a bike and was staying with his grandparents.  I don’t think we really took to one another, but seeing each other was just enough of a novelty that he took it into his head to invite me over to his house.

To play chess.

It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t.  I can’t recall that boy’s name or face or much else about him, but I remember his little wooden chessboard and pieces and the fact that he won effortlessly.  He had chess books too, and talked about the Sicilian Defense and the Ruy Lopez.  He told me about the Fischer vs. Spassky match going on in Iceland at that very moment, and switched the TV on. I saw players sitting around a chessboard in a studio, and using a demonstration board.  They were getting the moves by telex from Reykjavik.

I was spellbound.

I don’t remember if I ever saw that kid again.  I know we never played again, and I never went back over to his house.  But he had opened another world to me, the world-wide community of chess players, and for that I will always be grateful.  Chess brings sorrow – losing is so painful! – but chess brings joy as well – the pleasures of friendship.

I continued watching the Match of the Century on WNET-TV, NY (Channel 13) that Summer in upstate New York.  I doubt if my Grandparents could make head or tail of what had suddenly gotten into me. 

Chess-mad, I returned to Scotland and infected my brother Jay with my enthusiasm.

Sometime later that Summer or early Fall my parents took my brother and I up to Aberdeen where a chess master was giving a simultaneous exhibition.  It was our first experience of an organized chess event. My father took some pictures – I think you should be able to spot us quite easily.  I remember losing (and I remember feeling the disappointment at losing, too!).  But I cannot remember the chap giving the simul’s name.

So, help me out here folks: is there a Chess Detective in the house?

The year is 1972.  The place is Aberdeen, Scotland.

Who is that chess master in the white shirt and spectacles?

(To be continued)



GM Nick de Firmian's Column

Meet the Candidates!

This week: Ian Nepomniatchi

Ian Alexandrovich Nepomniachtchi is Russia’s bright new hope. The great Vladimir Kramnik has retired, and Sergei Karjakin has lost some rating points since his world championship battle against Magnus in 2016. Nepo (as Nepomniachtchi is often called) is a relatively late bloomer into the world of the very elite. He was born in 1990, the same year as Carlsen, yet only in the last few years has he been thought of as a contender. Karjakin, Carlsen, Nakamura, So and others battled the world’s best as teenagers or latest early 20’s. Nepo made waves though when he won the strong 2016 Tal Memorial, and then firsts in the FIDE Grand Prix tournaments of Moscow and Jerusalem last year. That qualified him for the Candidates Tournament and he is again surging into the lead. Thirty years old (which Nepo will be in a few months) used to be considered the prime age for a chess player, before the current age where wunder kinder abound. Perhaps now we will see players in their thirties dominate the game again, instead of wondering when they will be over the hill.

Nepo has a pleasing, aggressive style which is evident in the game selection below. He plays actively and courageously, giving the chess fan a worthy show to watch. His favorite player was Tal, yet his style is not quite that crazy. He plays sharp but sound chess in the style of former Russian world champions Alekhine and Kasparov. This may be his time to reach the heights.

(1) Nempomniachtchi,Ian - Anand,Vishy [A23]

A game against Anand will show the true measure of a chess player. No other opponent of the last 25 years has had so much success. 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Bc5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Nf3 e4 6.Nh4 d5 Diagram


Black has a solid pawn wedge in the center, yet White has central pressure from his pieces. The knight on h4 looks funny, but as it can't be attacked now it is on a good square. 7.d4 Be7 8.cxd5 cxd5 9.0-0 0-0 10.f3 White needs to break up the pawn wedge. 10...exf3 11.Rxf3 Nc6 12.Nf5 Ne4?! "moving the same piece twice" The standard opening principle should have been obeyed here. Of course top players are free to break the rules, especially in the modern world of engine assisted opening preparation. Nonetheless, White now takes the initiative with a stronger center. [12...Bxf5 13.Rxf5 Qd7 14.Rf1 h6 would be a more normal continuation with reasonable chances for Black] 13.Rf1 Bf6 14.e3! Simple and strong - the white center is solid. 14...Nxc3 15.bxc3 Be6 16.Rb1 Qd7 17.e4! Diagram


All the white pieces come to life and the black center pawn is removed. 17...Rfe8? Black is under pressure, but this is weak. [17...dxe4 18.Bxe4 Bxa2 wins a pawn on the queenside at the cost of a greater white initiative. Either 19.Qh5 (or 19.Rb2 is very promising.) ] 18.Nh6+! Kh8 Diagram


[18...gxh6 19.Rxf6] 19.Rxf6! gxf6 20.Qf3 White is winning. Black will either lose a piece to 21. exd5 or get mated after 21. Qxf6 20...Kg7 21.exd5 Bxd5 22.Nf5+ Diagram




(2) Ian Nepomniachtchi (2749) - Li Chao (2720) [C42]
FIDE Grand Prix Sharjah Sharjah UAE (6.6), 24.02.2017

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 The solid Petrov's Defense. This is always an annoyance to the players of 1.e4, but Nepo just plows ahead, like Fischer in his heyday. 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Diagram


11...Bf5 Black could also play 11...Bg4. In both cases Black is solid with just a small disadvantage. 12.Bg5 Qc7 13.Re1 h6 14.Nh4!? Bh7 Diagram


15.Bxh6!? A bold move! The sacrifice puts maximum pressure on Li Chao. 15...Bxh2+? [It was better to calmly take the piece and defend. 15...gxh6 16.Qg4+ Kh8 17.Nf5 Bxf5 (17...Rg8? 18.Re8!) 18.Qxf5 f6 19.Re6 with good compensation for the piece, though Black is only slightly worse] 16.Kh1 Bf4 Diagram


17.Bxg7! [17.Bxf4 Qxf4 18.Qh5 Nd7 19.Re7 Nb6 is roughly equal] 17...Kxg7 18.Qg4+ Kh8 19.Nf5 Bxf5 20.Qxf5 Black's open king and lagging development leave White with much more than compensation for the piece. 20...Qd6 21.g3 Bh6 22.Kg2 A strong attacking move - the rook is coming to the h-file. 22...b5 [22...Nd7 23.Rh1 Kg7 24.Rh4! will win ] 23.Bb3 Qg6 24.Qxg6! fxg6 25.Re7 The attack is ferocious even in the endgame. The threat of 26. Rh1 forces the defense. 25...g5 26.Re6 Kg7 27.Rh1 Rh8 28.Re7+ Diagram


28...Kg6 [28...Kf6 29.Rhe1 g4 30.Bc2 Rg8 31.R1e6+ Kg5 32.Rf7 Kh5 33.f4 gxf3+ 34.Kh3 will checkmate in a few moves] 29.Bc2+ It's mate after 29...Kf6 30. Rhe1 and 31. R1e6. 1-0


(3) Peter Leko (2712) - Ian Nepomniachtchi (2725) [B90]
Hainan Danzhou GM Danzhou CHN (4), 11.07.2016

Peter Leko challenged for the World Championship in 2004. He has been one of the world's most solid players and a great opening theoretician. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Be3 Be7 9.Qd2 h5 10.Be2 Nbd7 The sharp line in the Najdorf Variation offers winning chances for both sides. 11.Nd5 Bxd5 12.exd5 0-0 13.0-0 Qb8!? 14.Kh1 Bd8 15.f4?! This opens up the king side. At first appearance that looks good for White, yet the black pieces are ready to post to good squares. Slower play with [15.a4 was better.] 15...Re8 16.c4 b5! Playing to sieze the initiative like the great Najdorf players of old (Fischer, Kasparov, Tal). 17.fxe5 Nxe5 18.cxb5 axb5 Diagram


Note how every black piece is already involved in the struggle over the entire board. 19.Nd4 Nc4 20.Bxc4 bxc4 21.Bg1?! Retreating is passive. Better to be aggressive with [21.Nf5] 21...Qb7 22.Qc2 Ne4 23.Rae1 [23.Qxc4? Nd2] 23...Qxd5 24.Rf5 Qb7 Black has a pawn for the moment and threatens 25...Ng3+ to win the exchange. Leko defends well now under pressure. 25.Rb5 Qe7 26.Rf1 g6 27.Nf3 Qe6 28.a4 h4 29.Nd4 Qd7 30.Qxc4 h3 31.Rf4 Nc5 Diagram


Nepo has given the pawn back to keep the initiative and open the white kingside. 32.b3?! Now the Black initiative is hard to stop. White needed to try [32.gxh3 Rxa4] 32...hxg2+ 33.Kxg2 Rc8! Making sure all the black pieces are on active useful squares. This threatens 34...Ne6 to win the exchange. 34.Qf1 Bg5 35.Rf3 Ne4 36.Rd3 Qg4+ 37.Kh1 Rc1 38.Qg2 Qh4 39.Rf3 Diagram


39...Be3 40.Ne2 [40.Rxe3 Nf2+] 40...Nf2+ 41.Rxf2 Bxf2 42.Nxc1 Bxg1 43.Qg3 Qd4 44.Qxg1 Qd2! Diagram


White is a knight ahead but he is lost as his pieces don't coordinate together. 45.Nd3 Qxd3 46.Rg5 Re2 White resigned as he will lose at least queen for rook, e.g. 47. Rg2 Qe4 and 48...Re1 0-1

Candidates Tournament Halted!

By GM Nick de Firmian

The impact of the coronavirus finally forced FIDE to stop the event at the midway point of the tournament. Russia will not allow flights for foreigners to return home after March 27, so FIDE president Dvorkovic ruled the players and arbiters will go home. The rest of the Candidates Tournament will continue at a later, unspecified date, likely several months in the future. The participants seemed unhappy at the event and as if they did not want to be there, but likely would have soldiered on if the tournament would have continued. The player who withdrew from the Candidates for fear of the virus, Teimour Radjabov, strongly expressed his criticism of FIDE and felt vindicated about his decision not to play. Nonetheless the event will likely continue with the results of the first half. Radjabov may get some compensation as the wild card entrant to the next Candidates tournament.

One can be certain the situation in Russia had a depressing influence on the players. Ding Liren and Wang Hao had to be there two weeks ahead of the start time, and this seems to have been particularly difficult for Ding Liren. Ding has been playing in poor form, affected more by the circumstances than the older Wang Hao. This is certainly not the first important chess event to be in the shadow of dark world events. St. Petersburg 1914 and the 1938 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires are two memorable examples.

There has been great chess played despite the circumstances. The focused, determined players Nepomniachtchi and Vachier-Lagrave have taken the lead with 4.5 points out of the 7 rounds. Four players are a point behind in the middle of the field with 3.5/7 – Giri, Wang Hao, Grischuk and our Fabiano Caruana. Tied at the bottom with 2.5/7 is the out of form Ding Liren and the wild card entrant Alekseenko.

(1) Nepomniachtchi,Ian - Wang,Hao [C42]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bf5 7.0-0 Be7 8.Re1 0-0 9.Nbd2 Nd6 10.Nf1 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 c6 12.Bf4 Na6 13.h4! Diagram


This pawn move takes a little space on the kingside. There is no quick way to crush the Petrov. To win on the white side you must plan for a slow squeeze. 13...Nc7 [13...Bxh4? 14.Nxh4 Qxh4 15.Bxd6] 14.Ng5 Bxg5 15.Bxg5 f6 16.Bf4 Qd7 17.Ng3 Rae8 18.Bxd6 Qxd6 19.Nf5 Qd7 20.Qh3 Kh8 21.h5 Rxe1+ Normally the player defending is happy to trade off pieces to decrease attacking chances. Here though a worthy alternative with the more active 21...Nb5. 22.Rxe1 Re8 23.Rxe8+ Nxe8 24.g4 a6 25.b3 Qe6 26.Ne3 Nd6 27.h6 g6 28.c4 dxc4 29.bxc4 Kg8?! Getting the king away from back rank check mates. Better however was to anticipate the white queen coming to the h2-b8 diagonal [29...Nf7! 30.Qh2 Qd6 defends] 30.Qh2 Kf7 31.c5 Nb5 32.Qb8 The white queen has invaded and Black must be very careful not to lose his h-pawn. 32...Qd7? [32...Qe7 33.Qh8 Ke6 forces White to slow down with 34. Nc2 as 34.f4? Nxd4 35.Qg8+ Kd7! would now be good for Black] 33.Qh8 Ke6 Diagram


34.f4! Proabably Wang missed this aggressive move. Black cannot capture on d4 with the queen as 37. Qe8 would be mate! 34...Nxd4 [Also 34...Qe7 35.f5+ Kd7 36.Kf2 g5 37.Nc4 is winning for White] 35.Qg8+ Qf7 36.Qc8+ Qd7 37.Qg8+ Qf7 38.Qd8! Qd7 This allows White to go into an ending with a knight for two pawns, yet Black had to stop 39. Qd6 mate. 39.f5+ gxf5 40.gxf5+ Nxf5 41.Qxd7+ Kxd7 42.Nxf5 Ke6 43.Ne3 Diagram


Wang now contemplated how to proceed, advancing his king or the f-pawn. He decided to resign as in both cases the white knight will win a critical pawn on h7 or b7, with the help of the white king advancing to contest the center. 1-0


(2) Alekseenko,Kirill - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxim [B80]
Candidates, 23.03.2020

Kirill Alekseenko got his place in the Candidates as the organizer's choice. He is clearly the lowest rated of the participants but nonetheless a fine player who can fight with the other participants. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 MVL's favorite Najdorf 6.f3 e6 7.Be3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.a3 h5 10.0-0-0 Bb7 11.Kb1 Be7 12.Rg1 Rc8 13.Be2 Nb6 14.Qe1 Nfd7 Diagram


15.g4! The action begins in this complicated Sicilian position. Alekseenko shows his courage. 15...hxg4 16.Rxg4 g6 17.Rxg6! Diagram


17...Rxc3! Clearly not 17...fxg6? 18. Nxe6 winning the queen. The players give us a display of fireworks. 18.Nxe6 Qc8 [18...fxe6? 19.Qxc3] 19.Ng7+ Kf8 20.Rh6 Rxh6 21.Bxh6 Rxc2 This fearless move is necessary. White has a dicovered check and a safer king for the sacrificed knight. 22.Nf5+ Ke8 23.Nxe7 Kxe7 24.Qh4+ f6 25.Bf4 Diagram


25...Rxb2+! White has a strong attack for the piece and MVL needs to counter attack to save the game. 26.Kxb2 Na4+ 27.Kb1 Nc3+ 28.Ka1 The only way to avoid the perpetual check. 28...Nxd1 29.Qh7+ Kd8 30.Qg8+ Ke7! 31.Qh7+ [31.Qxc8 Bxc8 32.Bxd1 Ne5 is just an even endgame.] 31...Kd8 32.Qg8+ Ke7 33.Qh7+ 1/2-1/2


(3) Nepomniachtchi,Ian - Ding,Liren [C77]

An important encounter. Nepomniachtchi has shown he is a serious threat to win the tournament. Ding needs to score against one of the leaders to get back in contention. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 0-0 9.Nc3 Na5 10.Ba2 Be6 11.b4 Bxa2 12.Rxa2 Nc6 13.Bg5 Qd7 14.Bxf6! Bxf6 15.Nd5 Diagram


White has voluntarily traded his bishop for knight to get the powerful knight on d5. 15...a5! 16.Rb2 [16.Nxf6+ gxf6 17.bxa5 Rxa5 18.Nh4 Kh8 is fine for Black despite the doubled f-pawns.] 16...axb4 17.axb4 Bd8 18.c4 Nd4 19.Nxd4 exd4 20.Qc2 Re8 21.g3 bxc4 22.Qxc4 c6 23.Nf4 Bg5 24.Ne2 d5 25.exd5 cxd5 26.Qb3 [not 26.Qxd4? Bf6] 26...h5 27.b5 h4?! This attack on the kingside turns out to be less important thatn the play that White gets from the advanced b-pawn. [27...Rab8 28.b6 Rb7 29.Rfb1 Bd8 30.Qa2 Re6 Keeps the passed b-pawn from becoming a problem.] 28.b6 h3 29.Kh1 Reb8 [29...Qb7!? is passive, but could be a better defense] 30.Rfb1 Bd8 [30...Qf5 31.Nxd4 Defends the mating threat and nets a pawn.] 31.Qb5! Diagram


The play from the b-pawn takes the action to the queenside. White can defend with little effort (though great care) of the attack from the black queen and h-apwn. 31...Qg4?! Black is in trouble in any case. More complicated is [31...Qf5 32.Nxd4 Qf6 33.b7 Ra3?! (33...Ra7 34.Qxd5 Bb6 35.Nf3 Raxb7 36.Ng1!) 34.Qe8+ Kh7 35.Qd7 Qxd4 36.Qxh3+ Kg6 (36...Kg8 37.Re2! wins e.g. 37...Qa4 38.Qc8) 37.Qc8 Qa7 38.Qg4+ is a very strong, probably winning attack.] 32.Qxd5 Ra5 33.Qc6! Rc5 34.Qe8+ Kh7 35.Ng1 Diagram


White's king is safe and so White is in control. Ding has only bad options and tries a piece sacrifice. 35...Rxb6 36.Qxd8 Rxb2 37.Rxb2 Rc1 38.Qh4+ The safety of the endgame. It looks like White is tied up, but a knight is a knight and Nepo can slowly wiggle out to get the h3 pawn. 38...Qxh4 39.gxh4 Rd1 40.f3 Diagram


Ding resigns since 40...Rxd3 41.Nxh3 Rxf3 42. Ng5+ is a fork. He could play on with 40...f6 but the ending is quite lost. 1-0


(4) Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime - Nepomniachtchi,Ian [C18]
Candidates, 25.03.2020

This 7th round matchup was already critical. Nepo had won 3 games with no losses. MVL was the only other plus score in the tournament. If Nepo could win he would be a full 2 points ahead of the field. 1.e4 e6!? playing the French Defense against a Frenchman! Nepo chooses this instead of the Najdorf, which MVL knows extremely well. 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.h4 Qc7 8.h5 h6 9.Rb1 b6 10.Qg4 Rg8 11.Bb5+ Kf8 12.Bd3 Ba6 Diagram


This position from the Winawer Variation is strategically complex. Theoretically White should have a small edge. In practice it is difficult to navigate the right path. 13.dxc5 Bxd3 14.cxd3 Nd7 15.d4 bxc5 16.Qd1 The retreat keeps some control of the queenside. 16...Qa5 17.Bd2 Rb8 18.Ne2 c4?! This sets the pawn structure which leaves White with the strong central pawn chain and the attacking chances that go with that. [18...Nc6 is more flexible.] 19.0-0 Rb6 [19...Qxa3 20.Ra1 Qb3 21.Rxa7 Qxd1 22.Rxd1 is a good ending for White] 20.Qc2 Rh8 [20...Qxa3 21.Nf4 is fine compensation for the pawn since the black king is stuck in the center] 21.a4 Ke8 22.Rb4 Nc6 23.f4! Diagram


23...Ne7 [also difficult for Black is 23...Nxb4 24.cxb4 Qa6 25.f5 Nf8 26.b5 Qb7 27.Ba5] 24.Rfb1 f5 25.Rb5 Qa6 26.Bc1 Kf7 27.Ba3 Rhb8 28.Bxe7 Kxe7 29.g4! try to pry open the weak king side 29...Rxb5 30.axb5 Rxb5 31.gxf5 Rxb1+ 32.Qxb1 exf5 33.Ng3 Qb6 34.Nxf5+ Kf8 35.Qa1 Diagram


White has a big advantage with the strong e5 pawn and the h-pawn restraining the black g and h pawns. 35...Qe6 36.Ng3 Qg4 active defense, but White will get there first with his queen, knight and e-pawn helping in the attack 37.Kg2 Qxf4 38.Qxa7 Ke7 39.Qa3+ Kd8 40.Qd6! Diagram


40...g5 desparation, but [40...Ke8 41.Qe6+ Kd8 42.Qxd5 is not better] 41.hxg6 h5 42.g7 Nepo resigned. With this important victory MVL ties for the lead and keeps the race close enough for Caruana and the others. 1-0



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