While the first official online FIDE World Corporate Championship (hosted on chess.com) proved to be a resounding success story for the game’s often beleaguered governing body, the novel event, with its huge rating disparities and many miss-matches, did have a quaint air about it of reading Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur, the instructive classic tome from Dr Max Euwe and Walter Meiden (Dover, 1962).
The event attracted 288 teams of four, playing for many famous brands from the Fortune Global list. And to prevent anyone hiring in ‘ringers’, only one member could be a 2500-rated plus pro, plus the other three had to be employees on the payroll, and include at least one female player for each match.
But with World Champion Magnus Carlsen supporting the FIDE initiative, it was always going to be successful. And many chess lessons were demonstrated with the difference in playing strengths – none more so than the champion’s Round 1 game that pitched him against Indian amateur Santosh Hassan Sampath, a senior assistant financial controller for Oracle in Bangalore, who only got to learn who his opening round opponent was going to be when the organisers urgently telephoned 10 minutes before the start asking for a photograph!
Representing Kindred Group, the Norwegian company which sponsors him through Unibet, Carlsen scored 5.5/6, only denied a perfect score by GM Anton Korobov in a tricky rook ending. His No 2, Justin Tambini, contributed an invaluable 5/6, yet despite the high-scoring on the top boards, Carlsen’s team failed to make the cut to the ‘business end’ of the KO stage as Kindred’s lower boards were simply out-rated, outclassed and out-scored.
But overall it was a fun event with a very serious side to it, as not only did it help raise money for charity, it also helped to make closer connections – or ‘networking’, if you like – with many of the world’s leading corporate businesses and brands who could well become future sponsors and backers of chess.
And it also helped to raise the game’s profile across many corporate social media platforms, with many messages of support for the event and the amateur players representing their respective companies, such as Oracle’s Sampath Santosh Hassan!
GM Magnus Carlsen – Sampath Santosh Hassan
FIDE Online World Corporate Championship, (1)
King’s Gambit Declined
1.e4 e5 2.f4 There’s no greater romance in chess than the venerable King’s Gambit – and I’m sure Carlsen played it for this reason. 2…Nc6 If you are really intent on playing …Bc5 in the KGD, then the best time to do so is now, with 2…Bc5. 3.Nf3 Bc5 4.fxe5 d6! 5.d4 Carlsen is taking some liberties here with his amateur opponent, as there’s a very tricky tactical escape from what looks like a dominating move from the world champion. 5…Bb6? It’s a brave amateur who wants to call the world champion’s bluff on move 5! But bluff it is, and the big tactical solution was the early doors piece sacrifice with 5…Nxd4! 6.exd6 (The knight is taboo. After 6.Nxd4? Qh4+ 7.g3 Qxe4+ picks up the h1 rook – though it is still a little tricky after 8.Qe2 Qxh1 9.Nb5! but as long as Black holds his nerve with 9…Kf8! then after 10.Nxc7 Rb8 11.Bf4 Bh3 Black’s big material advantage will easily win.) 6…Nxf3+ 7.Qxf3 Qxd6 8.Nc3 with Black edging it a little better in an equal game. 6.exd6 Qxd6 7.c3 The “moment” has come and gone, and now Hassan faces a monumental uphill task as Carlsen emerges with an extra pawn and a big pawn center to develop his pieces around. 7…Bg4 8.Nbd2 Nge7 9.Nc4 Already Black is in a bad way, as when the Bb6 is exchanged off, Carlsen will have added a bishop-pair on top of his extra pawn and impressive pawn center controlling the middle of the board. 9…Qd7 10.a4 a6 11.Nxb6 cxb6 12.Bd3 0-0 13.0-0 With his king safely castled, it is just a matter of time now before Carlsen finds the crush. 13…Rae8 14.h3 Bh5 15.Bf4 Ng6 16.Bg3 Rd8 17.Qb3 Nce7? Hassan is totally busted, and the game now takes on an illusion of being one of those big simultaneous displays where the world champion effortlessly makes natural quick moves, whilst the amateur fumbles and struggles with a series of awkward moves – the only difference here is that it is a once-in-a-lifetime battle and not a simultaneous display, and Hassan can at least tell his grandchildren of the time he once went one-on-one with the mighty Magnus Carlsen! 18.Qxb6 Nc8? 19.Qc5 Nge7?? Hassan, by now hopelessly lost – and just to please Yasser Seirawan, who I can confirm is not as au fait with 17th century English criminal code class as he really ought to be! – opts to hang for the sheep as the lamb by also blundering away his bishop. 20.Qxh5 Ng6 21.e5 Rde8 22.Ng5 h6 23.Nxf7! [see diagram] Easily winning or not, against the Chess Amateur the Chess Master will always find the most ruthless way to force the win! 23…Rxf7 24.Qxg6 Rff8 25.Qh7# 1-0