Mexican Standoff - First Move Chess -First Move Chess

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It was all too predictable. Magnus Carlsen further upped the ante in his ongoing cheating allegations levelled at 19-year-old Hans Niemann, as the world champion added to the furore by resigning their eagerly anticipated round six clash in the Julius Baer Generation Cup after playing just one move against the leading US junior!

The two were playing online, using the Chess24 platform via Microsoft Teams, when, after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4, Carlsenʼs webcam suddenly switched off while everyone was expecting him to make his second move. It all left the commentators puzzled and perplexed, with “What happened? That’s it” coming from Chess24’s GM Peter Leko, and Tour talking head Jovanka Houska accusing Carlsen of “pouring more fuel on the fire” of this ongoing saga.

Going even further on live Norwegian TV, Carlsenʼs former teammate, friend and aide, Jon Ludvig Hammer, made a direct call for sanctions. “Itʼs the most unacceptable behaviour to lose on purpose,” he said. “Itʼs the most unsportsmanlike thing you can do.” It’s believed that the reason Carlsen opted to make just a single move was to technically fulfil his tour contractual obligations, as not making a move would have counted as a default and not a completed game – and this would have come with likely sanctions from the organisers, possibly even a ban.

After Carlsen sensational walkout in the Sinquefield Cup earlier this month after losing to Niemann, and now this, the latest spat in a bizarre dispute/moral stand, now the game’s governing body, FIDE, have announced they will be making a statement on the matter within the next couple of days.

Despite the self-inflicted zero, Carlsen is storming the latest leg of the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, and going into the final day of the 16-player all-play-all Julius Baer Generation Cup prelims, he’s already assured of a place in the quarter-finals – and with his actions, he could well have also gifted Niemann’s a coveted place in the final eight.

And that in itself posses another major conundrum. It’s very possible we could see a third Carlsen v Niemann clash this weekend, perhaps even the quarter-final itself. If that scenario happens, then all bets are now off as to what Carlsen will do next in what’s fast turning into a ludicrous Mexican standoff.

There’s full coverage of the final day of the prelims – and potential yet another Carlsen-Neimann showdown in the KO stage – on chess24.com/tour and on chess24’s Twitch and YouTube channels. There’s also commentary from the Oslo Studio tour team of host Kaja Snare and talking chess heads GM David Howell and IM Jovanka Houska.  And for added variety, Chess24 will also have a team of top Grandmaster commentators.

Standings:
1. M. Carlsen (Norway) 25/36; 2. A. Erigaisi (India) 24; 3. Liem Le (Vietnam) 20; 4-6. R. Praggnanandhaa (India), V. Keymer (Germany), SK. Duda (Poland) 19; 7. H. Niemann (USA) 18; 8. A. Giri (Netherlands)16; 9-11. C. Yoo (USA), R. Wojtaszek (Poland), V. Ivanchuk (Ukraine) 15; 12-13. D. Navara (Czech Rep.), L. Aronian (USA) 14; 14. I. Saric (Croatia) 10; 15. A. Baskaran (India) 8; 16. B. Gelfand (Israel) 7.

GM Quang Liem Le – GM Magnus Carlsen
Julius Baer Generation Cup Prelim, (4)
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defence
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.Bg5 Nf6 5.e3 Be7 6.Nc3 Nbd7 This solid defence was christened “orthodox” by Dr Siegbert Tarrasch back in the early 1920s, who was poking fun at the accepted dogma of the day. It arguably reached its peak of popularity during the 1927 World Championship Match between rivals Capablanca and Alekhine, where just about ever game was a QGD Orthodox Defence. 7.Bd3 In days of yore, we would normal see 7.Rc1 first – but the little twist allows Carlsen to transpose into a sort of Anti-Meran set-up. 7…h6 8.Bh4 Liem could have played à la Petrosian with 8.Bxf6 Nxf6 9.c5 which is another game. 8…dxc4 9.Bxc4 b5 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.e4 b4 12.Na4 c5 13.e5 A little more awkward looked 13.Bxf6!? Nxf6 14.Nxc5 Bxc5 15.Bb5+ Kf8 which is likely to peter out to a drawish position after 16.dxc5 Qa5 17.Qa4 Qxa4 18.Bxa4 Bxe4 19.Ke2 but Black has to keep a careful watch on the c-pawn. 13…Nd5 14.Bxe7 Qxe7 15.dxc5 0-0 16.Rc1 Rac8 If anything, Carlsen has “won the opening” after Liem’s 13.e5: his king is safe, he’s connected his rooks, and his pieces look to have better potential than Liem’s – especially with …Nf4 swinging in. 17.0-0 Nf4! 18.Qd2? Liem panics, and Carlsen swiftly moves in to take a big advantage. White had to play 18.Bb5 Nxc5 19.Qd6 at least removing the queens from the board, and a resulting position of 19…Qxd6 20.exd6 Nxa4 21.Rxc8 Rxc8 22.Bxa4 Rd8 23.d7 Kf8 24.Nd4!? (Otherwise 24.Rd1 Bxf3! 25.gxf3 Ke7 26.Bb5 a6 and Black has a big endgame advantage.) 24…e5 25.Nb3 Bxg2 26.Rc1 Bd5 27.Rc8 Ke7 28.Na5 Ne2+ 29.Kf1 Nd4 and with all the threats covered, Black is set to corral the d-pawn in the long-term. 18…Nxe5! 19.Be4 The tactics are all working in Carlsen’s favour. If 19.Nxe5 Qg5! White is either going to get mated or lose his queen. 19…Bxe4 20.Qxf4 Nxf3+ 21.gxf3 Bc6! There’s no mating attack, but Carlsen leaves Liem with a wrecked pawn structure and a miserable endgame to have to somehow defend. 22.b3 Rfd8 23.Rfd1 Rxd1+ 24.Rxd1 Bxa4 25.bxa4 Rxc5 26.Kf1 a5 27.Qe4 Qg5 28.h4 Qf5! Defending against the sneaky back-rank mate and forcing the trade of queens and an easily-won R+P ending. 29.Qxf5 Rxf5 30.Rd8+ Kh7 31.Kg2 Kg6 32.Rb8 Rd5 Making way for the king to cross the board via e5. 33.Kg3 Kf6 34.Rb7 Ke5! [See diagram] Carlsen’s endgame technique is flawless. The f-pawn is not important for Black as his king and rook swiftly head over to the queenside to pass the b-pawn. A clear case of “look and learn” with a mini-masterclass on how to win a R+P ending. 35.Rxf7 Rd2 36.f4+ Kd4 37.f5 exf5 38.Rxf5 Rxa2 39.Rxa5 b3 If the Black king was cut-off on, say, f6, White might have had chances of saving this ending – but here the king does the support work to allow the passing of the b-pawn…and Carlsen does it with just a dash of élan. 40.Ra7 b2 41.Rb7 Ra3+ 42.Kg4 Rxa4! 43.Kf5 Taking full advantage of the fact that 43.Rxb2 allows the deadly discovered check 43…Kc3+ winning. But the game is long lost anyway. 43…Kc3 0-1 And Liem resigns, as Black will soon be playing …Rb4 and then shield the king from checks with …Kb3 and the b-pawn passes with impunity.

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