Softly, Softly Catchee Monkey - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


We’ve seen it happen all-too-often in politics, and its creeping now into sports: Twitter barbs getting out of control that can be blamed for a lot of things that have gone wrong in our society today. But when it comes to Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri, at times you have to really think long and hard about the Twitter exchanges between these two rivals – but in the main, the banter is taken in good jest, enjoyed by the chess community…and only seem to have inspired both to play better chess!

The rivalry all goes back to Wijk aan Zee 2011 when the Dutchman was on the rise and won as Black in only 22 moves, and he boasted for years of his plus score against the world champion. The Norwegian countered by levelling their lifetime score at Bilbao 2016 and, for a touch of added vitriol, asked the Dutchman how many super-tournaments he’d won.

The answer was zilch, of course – although Giri did share first place with Carlsen at Wijk aan Zee in 2018, this didn’t count as the Norwegian won the playoff for the title. But in the same week – and almost in parallel – as Carlsen was turning in his epic performance at the Grenke Chess Classic in Germany, several continents away in China, Giri was similarly turning in a flawless performances to claim a long-overdue first super-tournament victory – and both rivals didn’t disappoint by wasting any time in trolling each other!

At the Grenke Chess Classic, during the closing rounds of the 3rd Du Te Cup, Carlsen joked that he was becoming “extremely worried” that Giri would win in China and called the tournament in Shenzhen to be “a bit of a soft super-tournament.” Giri hit back with: “…every tournament Magnus wins, it is like Shenzhen for me. Good tournament, but without Magnus. Soft!”

Joking aside, Shenzhen was anything but soft with a slightly higher average rating than Carlsen had in the Grenke Chess Classic – and a little more difficult with it being a six-player double round robin. Apart from Giri, the field also included top seed Ding Liren (China), Yu Yangyi (China), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Pentala Harikrishna (India) and Dmitry Jakovenko (Russia).

But 24-year-old Giri only took the title following a tense final round conclusion to the tournament. After a first-round draw and losing to the Dutchman (see today’s game), Harikrishna hit one of the best streaks of his career with four wins to storm into the lead. Giri kept pace though with the on-fire Indian No.2, and everything came down to a dramatic final round that saw Harikrishna going down in a tough battle to Ding Liren, and Giri, eking out an even tougher endgame win over Jakovenko, to finally claim his first super-tournament victory with an unbeaten score of 6.5/10.

Final standings:
1. A. Giri (Netherlands) 6.5/10; 2. P. Harikrishna (India) 6; 3. Ding Liren (China) 5.5; 4. R. Rapport (Hungary) 5; 5-6. D. Jakovenko (Russia), Yu Yangyi (China) 3.5.

Photo: Dutch star Anish Giri finally gets the monkey off his back by winning a super-tournament! | ©

GM Anish Giri – GM Pentala Harikrishna
3rd Du Te Cup, (2)
Giuoco Piano
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 The name Giuoco Piano means ‘quiet game’ in Italian – and chess-wise, it is also one of the oldest recorded openings, first recorded in the annals in the 16th century. And like its name, it is initially very quiet, with a slow build-up as both sides patiently position their pieces for the middlegame battle. 3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 The Marshall Attack-like plan offers Black active play. 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Re1 Bg4 9.Nbd2 Nb6 10.h3 Bh5 11.Bb3 Qxd3 12.Nxe5 Bxd1?! [A bit of a puzzle, as this tactical approach only offers White good chances. Better was 12…Qf5!? that offered Black better prospects with his more active pieces – and forces White into 13.Nef3 (Not 13.Ndf3? Nxe5 14.Rxe5 Qxe5! 15.Nxe5 Bxd1 16.Bxd1 Rfe8 17.Nd3 Be7 and Black, with the material advantage, stands clearly better.) 13…Rae8 14.g4!? Bxg4 15.hxg4 Qxg4+ 16.Kf1 Qh3+ and the prospects of a perpetual. 13.Nxd3 Bxb3 14.axb3 Some may well be surprised by Giri’s recapture, as 14.Nxc5 doesn’t corrupt his pawn structure. The only problem is that after 14…Bd5 15.Nxb7 Rae8! 16.Rxe8 Rxe8 the back rank weakness, coupled with the threat of …Bxa2, forces White into 17.b3 Nd4!? 18.cxd4 Bxb7 and although White has an extra pawn, it is doubtful anything can be achieved with the material advantage. 14…Be7 15.b4 At least the way Giri has gone, he has better control over the position with long-term threats on the queenside. 15…a6N A novelty from Harikrishna, but – in a tough position – it’s hard to see how better it can be than 15…Rfe8 16.Nb3 Rad8 17.b5 Rxd3 18.bxc6 bxc6 19.Rxa7 Kf8 20.Kf1 Bd6 as in Foreest,J-Ragger,M; St Petersburg 2018 – at least in that game, the pieces being traded off offered Black a lot of relief. 16.Ne4 Nd7?! This was just one of several strange moves from Harikrishna in this game. It was awkward with a knight heading to the superb outpost on c5, but a better try at holding the line was with 16…Rfd8!? 17.Nec5 Rab8 18.Bf4 Bd6 19.Rad1 h6 and with good chances of saving the game. But Harikrishna may well have thought that the rook being tied down to defending b7 would ultimately have failed. He could well be right – but the follow-up plan is to try and force White trade the bishop on d6 and recapturing not with the rook but rather …cxd6, where Black can shift the knight and then push on with …d5 and …d4 with an unclear position. 17.Bf4 Rac8 18.Rad1 Rfd8 19.g4 Bf8 Black is sort of holding everything together – but at a cost, as White has very active pieces and able to control a lot of real estate on the board. At least in the alternative noted above, Black gets relief with some exchanges – here he doesn’t. 20.Kg2 Re8 21.Bg3 f6 22.f4 Re7 23.f5 If anything, with ease, Giri looks to have achieved his optimum position, while the only thing Harikrishna seems to have achieved is a more awkward defence – certainly, that pawn on c7 has become a big millstone around his neck. 23…Rce8 24.Nf4! Nd8 Harikrishna decides he may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb now. If 24…Rxe4 25.Rxe4 Rxe4 26.Rxd7 Re7 27.Rd2! Rf7 28.Ne6 g6 29.Rd5! Ne7 30.fxg6 hxg6 31.Rd8 Nc6 32.Ra8 Ne5 33.Rb8 b6 34.Ra8 and when White wins one of the queenside pawns, Black faces a doomed endgame scenario. 25.Rxd7! [see diagram] A nice, timely tactic that sees Giri easily convert his advantage. 25…Rxd7 26.Nxf6+ gxf6 27.Rxe8 Kf7 28.Re3 Rd2+ 29.Re2 Rd1 There’s no relief in exchanging pieces for Harikrishna. After 29…Rxe2+ 30.Nxe2 c5 31.bxc5 Bxc5 32.Nd4, with Kf3-e4 followed by h4 and g5, White will soon convert his endgame material and positional advantage. 30.Ne6 Nxe6 Harikrishna is trying to find a way to engineer a rook and pawn ending with this move. And you can see why, as even although he might well have hung on a little longer with 30…c6, but after 31.Nxf8 Kxf8 32.Bf4 its hardly worth it, as Black has a miserable position anyway. 31.fxe6+ Ke8 32.Bxc7 Rd3 33.Bf4 Rd5 34.Kf3 Ke7 35.Re4 Bg7 36.Be3 f5 37.Bg5+ Bf6 Harikrishna has at least managed to get his rook and pawn ending – but it is all too little too late, as this one is losing for him! 38.Bxf6+ Kxf6 39.g5+ Kxg5 40.Re3 1-0 Harikrishna throws the towel in, faced with the prospects of a technically lost rook and pawn endgame after 40…Rd8 41.e7 Re8 42.Re6 f4 43.Re5+ Kf6 44.Kxf4 etc.


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