THERE IS STILL TIME TO START A SPRING PROGRAM!

John Henderson
By John Henderson

After defeating 86-year-old Dirk van Foreest during a specially arranged 1949 exhibition match held in The Hague between two of the oldest-living masters, the 84-year-old German-born English player, Jacques Mieses, famously commented: “Youth has triumphed!” Fast forward some 70-years and another Dutch tournament, youth is triumphing once again – and among the leading pack can be found the great-great grandnephew of that defeated three-time 19th-century Dutch champion!

The opening rounds of the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee has seen a real generation game taking shape, where Magnus Carlsen & Co. and are not having it all their own way. In the opening round, the only two victors turned out to be 16-year Alireza Firouzja – formerly of Iran, but now ‘stateless’ and playing under the FIDE flag – and 20-year-old Jorden van Foreest from the famous Dutch chess-playing dynasty. And in Round 2, Jeffery Xiong also got in on the teenage rampage, as the 19-year-old Texan beat van Foreest to join the leaders. And not content with being among the leading pack, the rising young US star then went on to prove he can handle the pressures of elite-level competition by holding Magnus Carlsen to a very creditable draw.

Although a little off the pace with his slow start of three draws, Carlsen at least keeps his live unbeaten streak intact.  He’s now matched Russian/Dutch GM Sergei Tiviakov’s record of 110 games unbeaten in Classical Chess – and in Round 4, on Tuesday, history beckons for the Norwegian, as he can set a new record of 111-games unbeaten when he faces the dangerous and unpredictable young 2016 Dutch champion van Foreest.

But right now the talk of the town is the stateless teenage star Firouzja, a player tipped by many from the newer generation to possibly become one of Carlsen’s future title-challengers. In Round 3, the 16-year-old once again showed his mettle with a very convincing win over Russia’s Vladislav Artemiev, and he now takes the early sole lead in the tournament.

Standings:
1. Alireza Firouzja (FIDE) 2½/3; 2-5. Jeffery Xiong (USA), Wesley So (USA), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Jorden Van Foreest (Netherlands) 2; 6-10. Anish Giri (Netherlands), Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Jan-Krzystof Duda (Poland), Vladislav Artemiev (Russia), Daniil Dubov (Russia) 1½; 11-12. Nikita Vitiugov (Russia), Vshy Anand (India) 1; 13-14. Yu Yangyi (China), Vladislav Kovalev (Belarus) ½.

Photo: It’s a standout-start for Texan teen Jeffery Xiong in his first elite tournament | © Alina l’Almi / Tata Steel Chess

GM Jeffery Xiong – GM Jorden Van Foreest
Tata Steel Masters, (2)
Sicilian Defence, Moscow Variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 It was, I believe, that great Soviet chess free-thinker David Bronstein who first played this way with a view to transposing into a Maroczy Bind set-up – his big idea was that after 5…Qg4 simultaneously attacking g2 and e4, White can simply play 6.0-0! where now 6…Qxe4 7.d4 gives White a very dangerous attacking initiative. 5…Nf6 6.Nc3 g6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 We have a Maroczy Bind set-up, the difference being that the light-squared bishops have been traded. 8…Bg7 9.f3 0-0 10.Be3 Nc6 11.0-0 a6 12.Qd3 The extra support for c4 is needed to counter the coming …b5. If 12.Qd2 Nxd4 13.Bxd4 b5! 14.cxb5 axb5 and Black has a much easier time of it. 12…Rfc8 13.b3 b5 14.cxb5 Ne5 Black sacrifices a pawn, but hopes to get compensation with his active piece-play. 15.Qd2 d5 The logical follow-up – Black has to open the game up as quickly as possible now and not allow White to consolidate his pawn advantage. 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.exd5 axb5 18.Rad1 b4 19.Qe2 Rc3?! This is a miss-step. Black can’t play 19…Qxd5 due to 20.Nf5! and the loss of the dark-squared bishop is going to be a problem defending his kingside. The correct call was first to play 19…Bf6! and then Black can safely next capture the d5-pawn, with a likely sequence playing out of 20.Rd2 Qxd5 21.Nf5 Qb7 22.Nh6+ Kg7 23.Ng4 Nxg4 24.fxg4 Rd8 and an equal game. And while 19…Rc3 looks ‘tempting’, it gives White the extra move and opportunity to consolidate behind the d-pawn. 20.Bf2 Bf6 21.Nb5 Rcc8 22.d6! [see diagram] Black is in big trouble now – he can recapture the pawn, but it comes at the cost of the position opening up in front of his queen and awkwardly-placed knight and bishop, as White’s knight now takes a dominating outpost on d5. 22…Rab8 23.Nc7 exd6 24.Nd5! From its impressive outpost on d5, the knight more resembles an octopus with its tentacles stretching across both wings of the board by threatening f6 and b6. 24…Bd8 25.f4! Now all of Xiong’s pieces converge for the kingside onslaught. 25…Ng4 26.Bd4 Rb5 27.Qf3 Qf5 28.Rfe1 Bh4 29.Bb2 Even better was 29.Ne7+ Bxe7 30.Rxe7 Nf6 31.Rde1 with a dominating position – but Xiong knows that his B & N is a deadly force for the Black king to reckon with. 29…Bf2+ Black can’t capture the rook with 29…Bxe1 as 30.Ne7+ wins the queen. 30.Kh1 Bh4 31.g3 Nf2+ 32.Qxf2 Rxd5 The danger from the knight may well be over, but it comes at the cost of a whole piece. 33.gxh4 Rxd1 34.Rxd1 Rc2 35.Qd4 f6 36.Rc1 1-0 Van Foreest resigns, as 36…Rxc1+ 37.Bxc1 Qb1 38.Qd2 Qe4+ 39.Kg1 Qf3 40.Qe3 Qg4+ 41.Kf1 Qd1+ 42.Kf2 and the White king escapes the checks.

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