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John Henderson
By John Henderson

Sometimes, all we need is the air that we breathe…well, that and a little love, as The Hollies global hit song of 1974 goes. But only last week in the UK, in a landmark ruling, a London inquest citied toxic fumes as the main reason for the tragic death of a child, nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died in February 2013 all too young.

But this judgment, which experts believe to be a world-first, also matters for the global fight against air pollution. Clean air is the foundation of health and well-being, but all too often children in towns and cities across the world are being overly exposed to unhealthy levels of pollution each and every day.

We will all rightly be concerned about such an environmental tragedy, but what does this have to do with chess, I hear you all ask? A lot, you’d be surprised to hear! The next leg of the Champions Chess Tour from the Play Magnus Group will have an ecological element to it, by monitoring air-quality checks for the first time from each of the homes of the players.

It comes with the launch of the Airthings Masters, the first $200,000 Major of the tour that kicks-off on Saturday, 26 December. The new innovation is part of a partnership between Airthings (https://www.airthings.com), makers of the best-selling indoor air quality and radon monitors, that will see Magnus Carlsen going all out for revenge over Tour leader Wesley So after his dramatic loss at the Skilling Open last month.

“Chess players expect perfect conditions during tournaments,” explained Carlsen. “Normally, the air quality is taken care of by those who organise the tournaments, and the conditions are the same for everyone. But, since we play separately, we have to take responsibility for this ourselves.

“By monitoring the air quality in the room, we can ensure that the air we breathe is good. I think it will be important to maintain a high level throughout the tournament.”

As the official Air Quality Partner of the Tour, Airthings will monitor and stream the air quality levels in the players’ homes to raise awareness about the importance of good indoor air and how it impacts our cognitive abilities, decision making, and health.

The all-star line-up will be: Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Wesley So (USA), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), Daniil Dubov (Russia), Pentala Harikrishna (India), David Antón Guijarro (Spain).

The 12-player tournament hosted on Chess24 with live GM coverage will run 26 December 2020, through to 3 January 2021, and has double the prize money up for grabs with $200,000 in total, with the winner picking up $60,000 and a guaranteed place in the grand final next September.

 

 

GM Daniil Dubov – GM Ian Nepomniachtchi
73rd Russian Ch. Superfinal, (9)
Exchange Grunfeld
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 The Grunfeld is one of the most complex and energetic modern chess openings, invented during the early hypermodern-era by Ernst Grunfeld, who first played it in 1922 against world champion-to-be Alexander Alekhine. 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bb5+ One of White’s most dangerous early divergence in the Modern Exchange Grunfeld. 7…c6 The principled reply; White fair’s much better after 7…Bd7. 8.Ba4 b5 Looking to make a dogfight of it; though safer was 8…0-0. 9.Bb3 a5 10.Nf3 0-0 11.0-0 a4 12.Bc2 c5 13.Rb1 Nc6 14.d5! An important improvement from “ideas man” Dubov. Nepo had no problems last year against Hikaru Nakamura after 14.Be3 cxd4 15.cxd4 Bg4 and Black has typical Grunfeld counter-attacking chances, Nakamura-Mepomniachtchi. GCT Paris Rapid & Blitz (draw, 31). 14…Ne5 15.Nxe5 Bxe5 16.Bh6 Ba6!? Nepo takes the radical approach of the exchange sacrifice – something of a thematic theme in several critical lines of the Exchange Grunfeld. The solid move was 16…Re8 and after 17.Qd3 Ba6 (If 17…b4 18.cxb4 cxb4 19.Qe3 Qd6 20.f4 Bc3 21.f5! White has a strong attack.) 18.Qe3 Qa5 19.c4!? b4 with a dynamic tussle ahead, with Black going for it on the queenside, and White on the kingside. 17.Bxf8 Kxf8?! It’s the critical point of the game, and Nepo picks the wrong recapture. We can understand this recapture, but more accurate was 17…Qxf8 18.f4 Bxc3 19.Rf3 Bd4+ 20.Kh1 Bc8 and Black has full compensation for the exchange, as opposed to the tsunami that now comes his way in the game. 18.f4! Dubov needs no encouragement to attack! Also good was 18.c4!? bxc4 19.f4 Bd4+ 20.Kh1 and with Qf3 and e5 looming, White has to be preferred. 18…Bxc3 19.Rf3 Qa5 20.e5 Dubov invested heavily on his clock here, and the reason is a simple one, as there’s an equally good alternative attacking option of 20.f5 to factor into the thought process. I think he was probably genuinely conflicted of what attack to go for, and opted just to lock Nepo’s dark-squared bishop out from the defence of his king. 20…Kg8? I just don’t get this move and immediately it highlights just how bad the recapture on f8 was. They say that attack is the best form of defence, and rather than going down meekly, Nepo should have at least tried 20…Bb7!? 21.Be4! Bd4+ 22.Kh1 e6 23.Rh3 Kg8 and with e6 prevented, and his bishops at least taking up active posts, all is not lost for Black, although there’s still a lot of hard work still to do to save the game. 21.Kh1 Prophylaxis, pure and simple – Dubov just wants to avoid the possibility of an annoying check. 21…Rd8 22.e6! Crashing open all the lines towards the Black king, Dubov decides this is his moment to “go for it”. 22…fxe6?? It’s a slim prospect, but the only chance to attempt to hang on was to ‘mix it’ up with 22…Bb7!? but after 23.exf7+ Kxf7 24.f5 the White attack looks to be crashing through. 23.Bxg6!! [see diagram] Deadly Dubov strikes again! Amazingly, the brutal manner in which way he takes down the eventual winner, and his “Game of the Year” brilliancy in the final round against Sergey Karjakin that gifted Nepo the title, you start to wonder why the young Muscovite didn’t win the title himself! 23…hxg6 24.Qc2 Gaining a vital tempo. 24…Bg7 25.Rg3 There’s just no way Nepo can organise his kingside defence with his pieces out of play on the queenside, looking like a bad production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. 25…g5 26.Qg6! The kill is swift and clinical from Dubov. 26…Qd2 27.Rxg5 Qc3 28.Qxe6+ Kf8 29.Re1! Dubov doesn’t miss a beat with his attack, and with it, Nepo now has to part with his queen. 29…Qxe1+ 30.Qxe1 Bf6 31.Qh4 Effectively it’s all over bar the shouting now – but Dubov missed the even cleaner kill with 31.Rh5! Rd6 32.Qa5! Kf7 33.g4 Bb7 34.Qxb5 Bxd5+ 35.Kg1 Bxa2 36.Qxa4 Bd5 37.h4 and Black can resign. 31…Rd6 32.Qh7 Ke8 Hopeless was 32…Bxg5 33.fxg5 Bb7 34.g6 Bxd5 35.g7+ Ke8 36.g8Q+ easily winning. 33.Qg8+ Kd7 34.Qa8 Bxg5 Forced, otherwise Rg8 is mating. 35.fxg5 c4 36.h4 b4 37.Qa7+ Ke8 38.Qb8+ Kf7 39.Qxb4 The win is trivial now. 39…Rxd5 40.Qxa4 1-0

 

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