Last year, as the pandemic lockdown inspired Magnus Carlsen to create his own online signature tournament, the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, there was another Chess24 legend who was feverishly plotting away in his top-secret ice-fortress lair in Northern Sweden, and thought to himself that if a Norwegian can do it, then “why can’t I have an invitational too?”
It could only be “MrDodgy”, the Twitter wit and resident Court Jester of Chess24. Only his tournament, the MrDodgy Invitational, had to be different: there was a great deal of cyberbullying involved to secure the gratis services of 8 of the world’s top players (including the top Chess24 live commentary team), over 3 days in what was billed as “one joke that went too far.”
And at a time when the popularity of online chess was witnessing serious megabucks prize-money being up for grabs, the lure of the MDI proved to be nothing more than the levity of a small cash prize reward and a picture of a man on a horse – but it was a very special man on the horse, it was MrDodgy himself!
To clear up who the mysterious figure is, he’s Michael Duke, formerly of Little Scotland of Blackrod, Bolton, in England, who in 2016 moved to Skellefteå, after he and his girlfriend fell in love with the Swedish countryside – and his inaugural invitational was nothing short of hilarious shenanigans from its launch right through to the end and beyond, with Anish Giri capturing his “dream prize”.
And flushed with the success of last year’s tournament, there just had to be a redux – and the Prestigious MrDodgy Invitational 2.0 (Bigger Better Harder) took place late last week, running 12-16 May on Chess24, with 16 top players and organised by self-proclaimed“Tournament Dictator” MrDodgy himself, who says “he’s just as confused as you as to why it’s even happening.”
The cosmopolitan 16-player all-GM field doing battle for a picture of the organiser on a horse (there was some prize money, but apparently that wasn’t “important or interesting”), included: Anish Giri (Netherlands), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Daniil Dubov (Russia), Peter Svidler (Russia), Laurent Fressinet (France), Simon Williams (England), Peter Heine Nielsen (Denmark), Vidit Gujrathi (India), Pepe Cuenca (Spain), Nils Grandelius (Sweden), Alexei Shirov (Spain), David Navara (Czech Rep.), Baskaran Adhiban (India), Jorden van Foreest (Netherlands), David Howell (England) and Baadur Jobava (Georgia).
But history repeated itself, as after beating Baadur Jobava 3-7 in Sunday’s final, Anish Giri won the MDI 2.0 and a picture of a man on a horse… again!
GM Anish Giri – GM Baadur Jobava
MrDodgy Invitational 2.0 | Final (1)
Petrov’s Defence, Marshall variation
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 Before Vladimir Kramnik rehabilitated the Berlin Defence in 2000 during his successful title challenge against Garry Kasparov, the Petrov Defence was the solid and boring option at elite-level for Black player’s looking to get a balanced game. 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Bf5 12.Bg5 Qc7 13.Nh4!?N A novelty that was suggested by the Indian Grandmaster Sethuraman in his Chessable course ‘1.e4 – Part 1‘. 13….Bc8 The engine bravely tells you that Black should play 13…Bxh2+!? 14.Kh1 Bf4 15.Nxf5 Bxg5 But it quickly gets somewhat uncomfortable for Black after 16.f4! Bd8 (An “ugly” move to have to make, but it is the only move. If Black could simply play 16…Bf6 then he would be doing OK – but he can’t, as after 17.Qh5! The immediate threat is the rook lift Rf1-f3-h3 and a mating attack. So now 17…g6 18.Qh6 Qa5 19.g4! And again there’s no answer to Rf1-f3-h3 winning – and 19…Qxc3 only delays the inevitable, as now 20.Rac1! Qa5 (If 20…Qb2 21.g5! Bh8 22.Ne7#) 21.Rc2 and Rh2 mating down the h-file can’t be stopped.) 17.Qg4 g6 18.Nh6+ Kg7 19.Qh3! with a very promising attack for the pawn. 14.h3 Bh2+ 15.Kh1 Bf4 16.Nf3! Nd7?! This move just looks and feels like a wrong ‘un; Jobava surely had to try 16…Bf5 with the plan to hold the defence by putting his bishop on g6. 17.Re1 Bxg5 18.Nxg5 Giri now has a ready-made attack – but it is very instructive how the Flying Dutchman relentlessly pushes Jobava into a passive position that exposes his kingside weaknesses. 18…Nf6 19.Qd3 Stopping Jobava playing the freeing …Bf5 that would bring the bishop into the game and help shore up his kingside defences from g6. 19…h6 20.Nf3 Nd5 21.Bxd5 Giri has his own plan he’s set on – but just as good was 21.Bb3 Be6 22.c4 Nf6 23.Re5! Rfe8 24.Rae1 and again White is the one with all the free play. 21…cxd5 22.Re3 Giri’s idea is to play Ne5 to have the knight dominate the bishop while having the options of swinging the rook over to g3 or even doubling on the e-file – either is going to give Jobava a headache to have to deal with. 22…Be6 23.Rae1 Rac8 24.Ne5 The patient build-up from Giri is paying dividends, as he just goes about his business of improving his pieces in readiness for the coming attack – and the fulcrum for the attack is going to be dominant knight on its glorious e5 outpost. 24…Rfe8 25.Qd2?! A waste of time – Giri should just have cut to the chase with the thematic 25.f4! and there’s no stopping the push f5-f6 ripping open the Black king. 25…f6 26.Ng6 Kf7 Jobava is starting to worry about the safety of his king, but more accurate first was 26…Qd7! 27.Qc2 It’s easy to see what Giri is up to, but more accurate first was 27.Nh4! the point being that now after 27…Qd7 28.Qe2 and White has more attacking options than he has in the game. 27…Qd7 28.Nh4 Kg8! The safest move – and one that makes it difficult for White realise his advantage. 29.Qd3 Bf7 If Jobava can quickly trade as many pieces as he can, then life will be easier for him. 30.Nf5 Rxe3 31.Rxe3 Re8? After enduring all the discomfort, Jobava misses his golden chance to get a perfectly defendable position after 31…Bg6! 32.Ne7+ (Unfortunately , White can’t play 32.Nxh6+? as 32…Kh7! is a table-turner with Black winning now, as the White knight is lost.) 32…Qxe7! 33.Qxg6 Qd7 and Black has successfully weathered the storm. 32.Rg3! [see diagram] Now Giri should just be winning. 32…g5 33.Nxh6+ Kg7 34.Nf5+ Simpler was 34.Nxf7! Qxf7 35.f4! Qg6 36.Qb5 Re1+ 37.Kh2 Qb1 38.Qxb1 Rxb1 39.fxg5 and an easily winning R+P ending. 34…Kf8 35.Ne3 Kg7 36.Kg1 Bg6 37.Qd1 Re4 At least Jobava is putting up a spirited fightback. 38.Qb3 Bf7 39.Rg4 Rxg4 40.hxg4 Be6 41.f3 Kf7 With Jobava tied down to the defence of the d5-pawn, Giri ups the ante by finding further ways to ratchet up the pressure in Black’s position. 42.Kf2 Qc6 43.Qc2! The long b1-h7 diagonal, coupled with the knight coming to f5 or even h5, spells trouble for Black. 43…Kg7 44.Nf1 b5 45.Ng3 Something has to give now – Jobava can’t both stop Nh5+ ot Nf5+. 45…Bf7? A blunder from Jobava in a difficult position that only hastens his demise – a better try to hang on was with 45…Kh6!? and see if Giri can find 46.Qb2! with the winning plan of Qb4 (or even Qa3). 46.Nf5+ Kf8 47.Qb2 The clinical kill was 47.Qc1! which gives White the double whammy option of Qa3+ or even Qh1-h8+. 47…Qd7 48.Qa3+ Kg8 49.Qe7?! Time-trouble for both players is the likely reason for the shaky play that now follows; but for reasons that will soon be explained, the engine wants to keep the pressure on by keeping the queens on with 49.Qa6! forcing 49…Be6 50.Nd6 f5 51.gxf5 Bxf5 52.Nxf5 Qxf5 53.Qxa7 and with a little care White should win the Q+P ending. But, being human, Giri opts to take the more pragmatic approach by trading the queens, in the false belief that he’s simply winning the N v B endgame with the extra pawn and the dominating knight – but it is far from clear cut. 49…Qxe7 50.Nxe7+ Kf8 51.Nc6 a6 52.Nb4 a5 53.Nc6 a4 54.a3 Be8 55.Nb4 Bf7 56.f4 Ke7 57.Kf3 gxf4? It’s lost now, but after 57…Ke6! it’s difficult to see how White wins with no clear breakthrough for his king or his knight, for example: 58.Nd3 (The difficulty trying to convert can be seen right away after 58.f5+? Kd7 59.Nd3 Kd8 60.Nc5 Bg8 and there’s no breakthrough for White.) 58…Bg8 59.Nf2 Kf7 60.Nh3 Kg6 and I just don’t see how White wins. 58.Kxf4 Kd6 59.g5 fxg5+ 60.Kxg5 Be6 61.g4 1-0