Most chess activity right now is very much still confined to the confines of the internet, where if you are not getting your fix by binge-watching the exploits on and off the board of Beth Harmon (wonderfully portrayed by the always watchable Anya Taylor-Joy), in Netflix’s unlikely new global #1 runaway hit, The Queen’s Gambit, then there is always a couple of major blitz and rapid chess tournaments on the go or about to kick-off.
Despite being a mega-hit on the streaming behemoth, we’re very unlikely to see a second season of the delectable Ms Harmon on Netflix, as it was a one-off limited mini-series based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name – but there is a coming new season looming for Magnus Carlsen, with the first leg of the world champion’s revamped $1.5m Champions Tour being the Skilling Open, which gets underway next weekend and will run 22-30 November.
Teasing us each day or so with a new name, the star-studded field so far is: Ding Liren, Levon Aronian, Teimour Radjabov, David Antón, Sergey Karjakin, Le Quang Liem, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Vidit Gujrathi, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and – surprise surprise – Magnus Carlsen. The latest name revealed today is Ian Nepomniactchi, so now just three big star names to come.
And by contrast, the ongoing Chess.com Speed Chess Championship is eliminating a grandmaster every few days or so through November 1 to December 13, with the brutal whittling down process of their 16-player knockout final, which comes with a total prize fund of $100,000. These consist of 90 minutes of five-minute blitz with a one-second increment (“5+1”); 60 minutes of 3+1 and 30 minutes of bullet 1+1.
Also leaving the building since our previous column is US world #2 Fabiano Caruana, who crashed out to Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and Anish Giri, who lost to Vladislav Artemiev – with Artemiev now going on to meet Carlsen in the quarterfinals.
GM Vladislav Artemiev – GM Anish Giri
Chess.com 2020 Speed Ch., (11)
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bf4 The “Barry” is a relic from a century ago that was played by, amongst others, Capablanca in the 1920s, but it is the newer and more venomous version developed and pioneered by Mark Hebden, the veteran jobbing English GM, that brought it to prominence in the late 1990s. In fact, Hebden gave the opening its fleeting moment of respectability by defeating Dr John Nunn (avoiding his King’s Indian) twice in back to back Hastings encounters in 1996/97 and 97/98. Nowadays, it has become a potent and ideal weapon for Georgian GM Baadur Jobava, one of the most aggressive players competing in the elite circle. 3…a6 It looks a bit puzzling, but the reason for playing this move is that in a lot of Barry lines, throwing in an early Nb5 can be a bit awkward to meet. 4.e3 e6 5.g4 This, and early h4s are the reason that the Barry became so venomous – Black really has to tread carefully. 5…Bb4 6.Nge2 0-0 Accepting the pawn with 6…Nxg4 leads to complications after 7.Rg1 and a ready kingside attack. It’s not easy to respond to such brutal caveman antics. 7.a3 Be7 8.Ng3 c5 It’s the general rule of thumb in chess: When one side throws down the gauntlet with a flank attack, responding by countering in the centre is usually the best riposte. 9.g5 Nfd7 The other possibility with 9…Ne8 has its own problems, vis-a-vis 10.Qh5 Nc6 11.0-0-0 Qa5 12.Bd3 f5 (Not 12…g6? 13.Qh6 c4 14.h4!! and carnage looming down the h-file. 10.Qh5 Re8 It’s the old Bent Larsen maxim “It can’t be mate with knight on f8!” – rather than allowing Qh6 in the note above, if Bd3, Giri is going to play …Nf8 to not allow any weakening of his kingside pawns. 11.h4 Nc6 12.0-0-0 b5 It’s a typical blitz game, with both sides “going for it” early doors with opposing attacks – but who will win the race? 13.dxc5 b4 14.axb4 Nxb4 15.e4 Hoping to profit from the game opening up – but Giri rightly ignores it all and just gets on with it. 15…Qa5! Artemiev is in trouble, as Black’s attack is destined to crash home first. 16.Kb1 Nxc5 17.exd5 exd5 18.Qf3 Hoping the queen switch will bolster his defences – but Giri’s pieces are just too active. 18…Be6 19.Nge2? The only hope was 19.Bh3 seeking to trade the bishops – but it looks like Artemiev simply underestimated Giri’s next move, after which White is a dead man walking. 19…Bf5! 20.Nd4 Wrongly believing that from d4 the knight will cover c2 and gain time by attacking the …Bf5, but, unfortunately….. 20…Nb3!! [see diagram] Despite Giri losing this match, this brevity is by far the prettiest game and the prettiest move made in it. 21.Nxb3 Forced, otherwise …Qa1 is mate! 21…Bxc2+ 22.Kc1 Bxb3 23.Bd3 Qa1+ 24.Bb1 Na2+ [Equally effective was 24…Rac8. 25.Nxa2 Bxa2 26.Qd3 Rac8+ 0-1