We all know that old saying, “Save the best for last.” Perhaps for the majority of us, we say it in passing with a hint of sarcasm attached to it. But is there any evidence behind the concept that the last is actually the best? Well, when it comes to the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, this definitely falls into that particular category with the fourth and final leg being the “Legends of Chess”.
It all kicks off early next week, with an incredible star-studded line-up that’s set to excite the ever-growing online chess fanbase for Carlsen’s pandemic-inspired $1m signature tour. Greats of the past and present, including the last three undisputed world champions, get set to duke it out in the “Legends of Chess“, a unique super-tournament screened live on the tour host site Chess24.com, which begins on July 21 with a $150,000 prize fund.
Amongst the legends, Carlsen tops the bill as the reigning world champion, and he’ll be joined by his predecessors Vishy Anand, 50, and 45-year-old Vladimir Kramnik, who will come out of retirement to play in the intriguing battle of the generations that also includes Boris Gelfand and Peter Leko (both defeated world championship challengers), plus multi-time candidates Vasily Ivanchuk and Peter Svidler. Carlsen, winner of four of his last five online tournaments, including the Chessable Masters, and also making up the numbers from that last tour leg is the other semi-finalists Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Anish Giri.
And with Svidler vacating the commentary booth, we are also told to expect special guests – including more legends, to be announced later – also being lined up for the coverage which will be broadcast in 10 languages by Chess24.com.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Svidler has vacated his normal perch in the commentary booth to play. In mid-June, the eight-time Russian champion took part in the ‘fun’ eight-player blitz knockout also staged on Chess24.com, the ‘Mr Dodgy’ Invitational, where he was surprisingly blown away 7-2 in the semi-final by David Navara. The Czech Rep. #1 though went on to lose the final to a ruthless Giri by a similarly onesided 7-2 scoreline.
GM Peter Svidler – GM David Navara
MrDodgy Invitational semi-final, (2)
Reti/King’s Indian Attack
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Bg4 A good solid option for Black against the Reti/King’s Indian Attack, with the plan to develop like a reversed Torre Attack. 4.0-0 Nd7 5.d3 Ngf6 6.Qe1 The queen looks a little misplaced on e1, but this is normal in the Black-side of the Pirc/Modern Defence set-up, the idea being to simply get out of the pin quickly, and looking to push for e4 by defending the pawn. 6…e5 7.e4 Bd6 8.h3 Bh5 9.Nh4 Another reason for Qe1 is to indirectly defend the Nh4 after an f4 push. 9…0-0 10.a4 a5 11.Nd2 White can also try to ‘mix it up’ a little with 11.g4!? Bg6 (Unfortunately 11…Nxg4? backfires to 12.Nf5! Bb8 13.hxg4 Bxg4 14.Ne3 and White has a big material advantage.) 12.g5 Nh5 13.Nxg6 hxg6 14.exd5 cxd5 15.Bxd5 Nc5 16.Qe2 Nf4 17.Bxf4 exf4 18.h4 Qd7 with chances for both sides – White has an extra pawn, but Black has potential attacking chances on the kingside. 11…Re8 12.Ndf3 dxe4 13.dxe4 Nc5 14.Nh2 Now was the last chance to go for 14.g4!? Bg6 15.Nxg6 hxg6 16.Ng5 but after 16…Nh7! Black still looks to have the better off it. 14…Ne6 15.Be3 Bb4 16.c3 Bc5 17.Nf5 Qc7 18.b4?! Safer looked 18.Bxc5 Nxc5 19.Qe3 b6 20.Ng4! Nxg4 21.hxg4 Bg6 (If 21…Bxg4 White simplifies with 22.Nxg7! Kxg7 23.Qg5+ Kh8 24.Qxg4 and complete equality.) 22.Rfd1 Red8 23.Rxd8+ Rxd8 and only now 24.b4 with equality. 18…axb4 19.cxb4 Bxe3 20.Qxe3 Bg6 21.Nf3 It doesn’t look so obvious right now, but, long-term, White is going to have a problem defending the advanced queenside pawns. 21…Red8 22.Rfc1 h6 23.a5 Bxf5 24.exf5 Nd4 25.Nxd4 Rxd4 26.b5 Also worth a punt was 26.f4!? more or less forcing 26…Re8 27.b5! Nd5 28.Bxd5 Rxd5 29.bxc6 bxc6 30.a6 Qd7 31.a7 Rd3 32.Qe4 Ra8 33.fxe5 Rxg3+ 34.Kh2 Rb3 and it is more than likely Black will be able to contain the a-pawn, as either, it will be rounded up; or, in a more likely scenario, Black will be able to bail-out with a draw due to the exposed White king. 26…Rxa5 27.Rxa5 Qxa5 28.Qxe5 Rd8 29.Rb1 The safety-first ending to the game should have been 29.Ra1! Qxb5 30.Qxb5 cxb5 31.Rb1 Ne8 32.Rxb5 Rd1+ 33.Kh2 Nd6 34.Rb2 b5 and a draw now looms large. But by keeping the queens on the board, Svidler just gives Navara chances he shouldn’t have had to win – and a win that seemed to totally demoralise Svidler. 29…Re8 30.Qb2 Re1+! 31.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 32.Bf1 Ne4! [see diagram] It is amazing how, in an endgame scenario, the queen and knight combining together can usually make for a more potent force than queen and bishop. 33.Kg2 The alternative was 33.bxc6 Nd2! forcing White into the lost K+P ending now with 34.Qb5 bxc6 35.Qe2 Qxf1+ 36.Qxf1 Nxf1 37.Kxf1 Kf8 38.Ke2 c5 39.Kd3 Ke7 and with the c-pawn as a decoy, the Black king will hoover up on the kingside. 33…c5 34.Qc2 b6 35.Bd3 Nd2 36.Qa2? It is not so obvious in the mutual time scramble, but Svidler fails to see that it was crucial to keep the queen where it was. After 36.g4! and despite a little pressure still, it is not so easy to see how Black can possible even think about winning this. 36…c4! 0-1 Ay, caramba! as Bart Simpson would say. Svidler resigns, faced with 37.Bxc4 (If 37.Bc2 Qf1+ 38.Kh2 Nf3#) 37…Qe4+ 38.f3 Qxf3+ 39.Kh2 Nxc4 40.Qxc4 Qf2+ 41.Kh1 Qxg3 42.h4 Qf2 White is simply lost now, being a pawn down and the remaining three left weak and vulnerable in the Q+P ending.