The Chess Lady® Reminds You to Practice Online!

John Henderson
By John Henderson

The Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge is the online version now held on Chess24.com of the highly successful event won by Magnus Carlsen last summer in Scotland’s picturesque Lindores distillery at Newburgh, Fife. Now, due to the pandemic lockdown, it’s adapted and re-purposed to become the second leg of the new online ‘Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour’ – and the world champion almost suffered what would have been a humbling early exit from his own eponymously-named $1m tour!

Going into the final day of the preliminary rounds, a misfiring Carlsen was struggling to find some consistent form – and the Norwegian was further dealt a deadly blow by Daniil Dubov, with the young Russian playing arguably one of the best-played games so far of the tournament, as he completely outplayed Carlsen from start to finish. The defeat left Carlsen precariously placed on a below-par 50% score going into the last match of the day, and he desperately needed to win to avoid missing out on the ‘business end’ of the KO tournament.

In a must-win scenario, Carlsen had to dig deep to beat Alireza Firouzja, his 16-year-old newer generational rival, to advance to the final eight of the competition.

Meanwhile, at the top of the standings, Hikaru Nakamura took the early bragging rights to the competition as the sole first-place finisher, undefeated on 7½/11, a half-point ahead of Russia’s Sergey Karjakin – and you now get the feeling that of all the elite players playing in these new online lockdown super-tournaments, the reigning five-time US champion is perhaps the one adapting best of all to what’s now become the ‘new normal’.

As the top finisher, Nakamura now plays Levon Aronian in Saturday’s quarter-final clash. And with Carlsen set to play US’s Wesley So in the same side of the bracket (see below), we could be set next for a repeat of the ‘Magnus Carlsen Invitational’ final from earlier this month, with the prospects of a Carlsen-Nakamura semi-final showdown!

Saturday’s Lindores Abbey quarter-finals, starting at 16:00 CEST (10:00 EST, 07:00 PST), can be viewed online free with live grandmaster commentary in 10 languages on the official Chess24 site by clicking here.

Final preliminary standings:
1. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 7½/11; 2. Sergey Karjakin (Russia) 7; 3-6. Yu Yangyi (China), Wesley So (USA), Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Ding Liren (China) 6; 7-8. Daniil Dubov (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 5½; 9. Alexander Grischuk (Russia) 5½; 10. Alireza Firouzja (FIDE) 4½; 11. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland) 4; 12. Wei Yi (China) 2½.

GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Daniil Dubov
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, (10)
Philidor’s Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 The last grandmaster to play the ‘Romantic’ era Philidor’s Defence against a reigning world champion – and not lose – was England’s Ray Keene, who surprised Anatoly Karpov with it to score a well-earned draw at Bad Lautenberg 1977. 4.Nxd4 if we are talking ‘Romantic’ era, then Paul Morphy always preferred to recapture with 4.Qxd4 back in those days of yore. 4…Nf6 Another good line, and played by Keene in the aforementioned Karpov encounter, is 4…g6 that takes the game into a sort of hybrid Sicilian Dragon territory. 5.Nc3 Be7 6.g3 0-0 7.Bg2 Re8 8.0-0 c6 9.a4 a5 10.h3 Na6 11.Re1 Bf8 12.Bf4 Nc5 13.Qd2 h6 14.g4 Qb6 15.Rad1 Bd7 16.b3 Rad8 17.Bg3 Bc8 18.Kh2 g6 19.f3 Bg7 The game now resembles more closely one of those instructive King’s Indian Defence Fianchetto variations that David Bronstein did much to popularise in the late 1950s – but the crucial difference being that here, White doesn’t have c4 that stops a potential …d5 “happening”. And that “happening” of a ..d5 is just the cunning plan Dubov has in mind! 20.Qf2 h5!? A nice little ploy that starts to ‘mix’ things up for Carlsen, who certainly looked uncomfortable dealing with Dubov’s imaginative plan. 21.g5 h4! Dubov’s pawn sacrifice further confuses the issue – and with it, the young Russian takes Carlsen out of his comfort zone. 22.Bxh4 Nh5 The whole rationale of Dubov’s plan is to exploit the chronic dark-square weakness in the White camp. 23.Nce2 d5! And with this, Dubov now rips the game wide-open for his active pieces to give Carlsen nothing but a major headache. 24.exd5 Rxd5 25.f4 Rdd8 Dubov’s pieces are just superbly poised for a lethal strike to Carlsen’s very vulnerable position – and not unsurprisingly, facing the daunting prospect to have to defend this horrible position, the world champion burns and crashes. 26.Nf3 Rxd1 27.Rxd1 Qc7! Taking full advantage of the hanging Ne2 and the pinned f-pawn. 28.Nfg1 Agony, pure agony for Carlsen.  Opera heroines have died a less agonising, less painful death than the one Carlsen now endures. 28…Ne4 29.Qe3 Bf5 30.Bf3 Re7 The ‘safe’ option of defending the rook – but stronger was the engine recommendation of 30…Qb8! that forces 31.Bxe4 Bxe4 32.Qd2 b5! and White is basically running out of constructive moves to make. 31.Qc1 Qb6 32.Bxh5 As dangerous as it looks with all of Dubov’s pieces ideally poised to strike, better was the engine’s bold suggestion of 32.Kg2 – but then again, no human seeing all those active pieces swarming around his king would dare make such a brave move. 32…gxh5 33.Rf1 Re6 34.Nf3 [see diagram] You only need look at the diagramed position to see how superbly-placed Dubov’s pieces are compared to how miserable Carlsen’s are – and it only takes a couple of accurate moves now from the Russian to seize total control and an easy endgame win. 34…Qc5 35.Re1 Even although it cost a pawn, Carlsen may well have faired better trying to trade off some pieces to lessen the dangers with 35.Ne5!? Bxe5 36.fxe5 Qxe5+ 37.Qf4 it’s not great, but then again it is not entirely losing outright as now happens in the game! 35…Nc3! The knight is coming in for the kill. 36.Neg1 What else is there now? If 36.Nxc3 Qxc3 37.Rxe6 fxe6! and White is set to lose all of his queenside pawns after …Bxc2, as 38.Ne1?? Qxh3+ soon forces mate. 36…Na2 37.Qd2 Qxc2 38.Rxe6 Qxd2+ 39.Nxd2 Bxe6 With most of Carlsen’s pieces offside on the kingside, Dubov easily cleans up on the queenside. 40.Ne2 Nc3 41.Bf2?? Faced with a hopelessly lost ending after 41.Nxc3 Bxc3 42.Ne4 Bd4 43.Nd6 b5! 44.axb5 cxb5 45.Nxb5 Be3 46.Kg3 Bd5 and his king and pieces effectively locked out of the game, Carlsen opts for the ‘quick death’ by blundering a piece. But the position was hopelessly lost by now anyway. 41…Nxe2 0-1

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