The recent Sinquefield Cup was rocked by a potential cheating scandal that witnessed Magnus Carlsen, after losing to leading US junior Hans Niemann, staging a dramatic walkout – and even inspired one high-tech graphic anatomical theory by billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk that has now become the butt of jokes in the media and social media resulting in much hilarity on the late-night chat shows.
Carlsen’s unexpected loss to the teenage underdog also ended his 53-game unbeaten streak and opened the way for another top junior in Alireza Firouzja to benefit from the world champion’s hasty exit, with the 19-year-old going on to claim the top prize in and also winning the 2022 Grand Chess Tour to add to his amazing Saint Louis Chess Club trophy haul of Sinquefield Cup, Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz titles, on top of his .
And as one tour ends, another continues with the seventh leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour throwing up an intriguing conundrum, with both Carlsen and Niemann in the line-up for the Julius Baer Generation Cup running from September 18 to 25.
The new Tour leg is an eight-day competition with a twist, with an intergenerational clash of ages featuring 16 world-class players. Topping the bill is defending tour champion and current leader Carlsen with Indian teen sensation Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa – and man of the moment 19-year-old Niemann will also compete.
Two legends of the game in Boris Gelfand, 54, and Vasyl Ivanchuk, 53, are also in the line-up; while at 15, another leading US junior, Christopher Yoo, is the youngest competitor in the $150,000 competition.
The full line-up is: Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Liem Le (Vietnam), Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (India), Leveon Aronian (USA), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Asjun Erigaisi (India), Vincent Keymer (Germany), David Navarra (Czech Rep.), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Vasyl Ivanchuk (Ukraine), Ivan Saric (Croatia), Boris Gelfand (Israel), Hans Niemann (USA), Christopher Yoo (USA), and last but not least the qualifier from this week’s MPL Indian Chess Tour Leg 3, winner S. L. Narayanan (India).
Every move will be streamed live and for free on chess24.com/tour and on chess24’s Twitch and YouTube channels. There’s also commentary from the regular 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.
GM Alireza Firouzja – GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
9th Sinquefield Cup, (6)
English Opening, Keres Variation
1.c4 e5 2.g3 More usual in the English Opening is 2.Nc3 followed by g3 and Bg2 – but this was the recommended set-up endorsed by English GM Tony Kosten (mainly to avoid the rather annoying 2…Bb4) in his wonderful 1999 book, The Dynamic English. 2…Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 And this is one of the main drawbacks to Kosten’s way of playing the English Opening – this line, named after the Estonian, then Soviet, perennial World Championship Candidate, Paul Keres. The idea behind it is not too dissimilar to the Alapin Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.c3). If not disturbed, Black will play …d7-d5 and answer Nf3 with … e5-e4. 4.Nf3 e4 5.Nd4 d5 6.cxd5 Qxd5 7.Nc2 Qh5 8.h3 Qg6 9.Nc3 Bc5 10.b4 Bb6 11.Bb2 0-0 12.Ne3 Re8 13.Qc2 Nbd7 The e4 strongpoint is the key to Black’s promising position – but marginally better was the slightly unusual manoeuvre 13…Na6 14.a3 (If 14.b5 cxb5 15.Nxb5 Bd7 16.Nd6 Re6 and Black stands well with the e4-strongpoint plus the better and more harmonious piece development.) 14…Nc7 with the idea of swinging the c7-knight into the ideal d5 square. 14.Rd1 a5?! Perhaps a tad over-ambitious – better was the more reserved 14…a6 with a solid position. 15.b5 Bd4 16.Rb1?! Firouzja seems to be pre-occupied about what to do about his b-pawn – but moving the same piece twice within a couple of moves is never a good sign. Much better was the simple plan of 16.0-0 because if 16…Bxc3 17.dxc3! cxb5 18.c4! and with the pawn sacrifice, the game is beginning to open up to White’s advantage, especially with that juicy big hole on d6 that’s an ideal landing pad for a rook or knight. 16…c5 17.h4 It is not the best move to make, but Firouzja has more-or-less painted himself into a corner with some strange choices in this game, that he feels he now has to play with an element of risk attached to it. 17…h5 18.Ncd5? But this is too risky and, quite frankly, should be losing. Like it or nor, Firouzja now had to continue with 18.0-0 Nb6 19.Rfc1 Bf5 and try to hold from here, where at least his king is secure and he’s connected his rooks. 18…Nxd5 19.Nxd5 Bxf2+! 20.Kxf2 Qf5+ 21.Ke1 Many commentators began wondering whether Firouzja, with his blunder allowing …Bxf2+, might have overlooked the fact that 21.Nf4?? lost on the spot to 21…e3+! so had to retreat at the last moment with his tail between his legs. Sounds plausible – but remarkably, the game now takes a very strange twist. 21…Qxd5 22.Rf1 Nf8? Take your pick, as either of 22…b6 22…c4 or even 22…Qd6 looks very promising for Black. But alas we now see yet another spectacular collapse from Mamedyarov to add to his back-catalogue of historic tragedies that have so inexplicably plagued his career. 23.Qc3 Ne6 24.Rf4! f5? It’s hard when you clearly know you had a won position, let the win slip away, but don’t believe it and press on as if you still are winning. It happens frequently at all levels in the game. Instead, Mamedyarov should have admitted he’s misplayed this and instead go for 24…Bd7 25.Rxe4 (Alternatively, if 25.Bxe4 Qd6! 26.a4 Rad8 and Black is clearly better.) 25…Qf5! 26.Rc1 Qg6 27.a4 b6 28.Qf3 Rad8 and Black is still better thanks to the insecurity of the White king. 25.d3! [see diagram] It didn’t take Firouzja long to figure out why Mamedyarov’s last move was a lemon. And with the dramatic turnaround of the position, Firouzja has acquired the talents of a skilled alchemist! 25…Nd4?? Losing practically on-the-spot. There was, however, survival chances with the immediate 25…Qxa2 and now if 26.Ra1 Qd5 27.dxe4 Qd4 28.Qxd4 Nxd4 29.Bxd4 cxd4 30.exf5 Rd8 31.Bf3 a4 and the a-pawn could well save Black. 26.e3 Qxa2 Now Mamedyarov is in dire straits – and worse was 26…Ne6 27.dxe4 Qd7 28.Qc4! Kh7 29.Rxf5 and it is doubtful if Black can survive for very much longer. 27.Ra1 Qe6 28.dxe4 1-0 And Mamedyarov resigns, not wishing to play out the hopeless scenario of 28…Qg6 29.exd4 cxd4 30.Qxd4! Qxg3+ 31.Qf2 Qd3 32.Bf3 Qxb5 33.Bxh5 Re7 34.Qd4 etc.