The Streets of San Francisco - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


Despite already having won the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title last month, Magnus Carlsen isn’t exactly resting on his laurels when it comes to the final event of the 2022 season. It may well be a sealed deal for the World Champion, but he has a point to prove and honour to uphold as there’s still a street-fight going on for who takes the most Majors on offer on the Tour this season.

In the third and final Major of the 2022 season, the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Final that’s currently ongoing at the SHACK15 building, with its impressive glass frontage that overlooks the streets of downtown San Francisco, the newly-minted Tour Champion seems to be saving his best for last in a determined effort to win a second Major.

After beating Wesley So, 2.5-1.5, in a close opening day match, Carlsen went on to thrash Indian teenager Arjun Erigaisi, and, best of all, a silky-smooth performance to demolish Azeri big beast Shakhiryar Mamedyarov. It was just the perfect start that a determined Carlsen was looking for – but he’s not having it all his own way, nor does have the outright lead!

That’s because also matching Carlsen with a perfect start is Poland’s World Cup victor Jan-Krzysztof-Duda, who, with a trifecta of wins – over Erigaisi, Mamedyarov, and Anish Giri respectively – joins the Norwegian in the joint-lead as the tournament reaches its mid-point. And with a big 3-point lead over the chasing pack, Carlsen and Duda, the two runaway leaders, and coincidentally also the two frontrunners in the 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, and with one Major apiece, are now matching each in a battle royal going into the second half of the tournament.

Now, with a Major apiece to their names, the big question remaining is who is going to end the season with the bragging rights to a second Major: will it be Carlsen or will it be Duda? All will be revealed in the coming rounds, and more so with the eagerly-anticipated final round clash between the leading two 2022 Tour rivals on Sunday.

Going into the decisive weekend, play begins each day at 12pm in San Francisco (3pm ET, 21:00 CEST, 01:30 IST). As ever, there’s live coverage at the official Meltwater Champions Chess Tour site, with commentary from the regular Tour Oslo studio team of Kaja Snare, GMs David Howell, Simon Williams, and IM Jovanka Houska. Over at Chess24, GM Peter Leko will be joined by GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

1-2. M. Carlsen (Norway), JK, Duda (Poland) 9/9; 3-5. A. Giri (Netherlands), R. Praggnanadhaa (India), Liem Lie (Vietnam) 4; 6-7. S. Mamedyatov (Azerbaijan), W. So (USA) 3; 8. A. Erigaisi (India) 0.

GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Wesley So
Meltwater Tour Final, (1.3)
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 If you are looking for dynamic play, then this is now the way to play, as it avoids the so-called “Berlin Wall endgame” and the early exchange of queens after 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 that’s notoriously tough for White to breakdown. Instead, Carlsen wants to keep the queens on with this tepid looking little move that’s grown in popularity over the last few years. 4…Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.0-0 Nd7 Avoiding any awkwardness with a Bg5 pin, whilst at the same time looking to bolster e5 with f6. 7.c3 a5 8.Bg5 f6 9.Bh4 Bd6 10.d4 Qe7 11.Nbd2 g5 12.Bg3 h5 13.h4 g4 14.dxe5 fxe5 This recapture does open up a lot of possibilities on the kingside. I kind of think that, with the benefit of hindsight, better was 14…Nxe5 15.Nxe5 fxe5 and taking the battle from here.15.Ng5 Nb6 16.a4 Bd7 17.b4 c5 Alternatively, 17…axb4 18.a5 Nc8 19.Nc4 at least a set of knights have been removed from the fray and no opportunity for a Ng5 incursion. 18.bxa5 Rxa5 19.Qb3 There’s really not much in the game; it’s even-steven, according to the engine – but there is the feeling that there’s a lot of open wilderness on Black’s kingside that just one slip could potentially lead to a disaster. 19…Bxa4 20.Qa2 Ra6 Here the engine does come up with the ingenious plan of 20…Kd7! to connect his rooks, as the king is actually safer in the middle of the board. 21.Rfb1 Bc6 22.Qb3 Ba4 23.Qb2 0-0?! It’s not losing per se, but the engine still thinks that the better call was 23…Kd7! 24.Nc4! [see diagram] The tactical point is that 24…Nxc4? 25.Qxb7 Rfa8 26.Qd5+ Kg7 27.Qxc4 sees the return of the piece and the sacrificed pawn – and also leaving Black’s remaining pawns all weak and vulnerable. 24…Kh8?! Is this a sign of buyers remorse from Wesley? It could well be, as from here, his position just gets more and more compromised. Better was 24…Rfa8 although after 25.Nxd6 cxd6 26.Qa2+! Kh8 27.Qf7 Qxf7 28.Nxf7+ Kg8 29.Nxd6 Bc2 30.Rxa6 Rxa6 31.Re1 Black has problems in the endgame with so many pawns looking weak and vulnerable – but certainly this is defendable, unlike in the game. 25.Ne3 Rfa8 26.c4 Opening up the possibility of a tactical hit on e5 – but most players would have just cut to the chase with 26.Nf5 with White’s knights looking very menacing on their outposts. 26…Bc6 27.Rxa6 Rxa6 28.Nd5 Qe8 And definitely not 28…Nxc4?? 29.Nxe7 Nxb2 30.Nxc6 and Black has lost a piece. 29.Qc3 Nd7 30.f3 Qa8? Ultimately this is the fatal mistake, with So blind to a little tactic that allows Magnus to exploit all the holes around his insecure king. But the position isn’t easy from black, as the better alternative of 30…gxf3 sees 31.Rf1! Bxd5 32.exd5 Kg8 33.Qxf3 Qg6 and Black has to play very careful to navigate safe passage through the difficulties of his insecure king. 31.Nf7+! Kg8 32.Nxd6 cxd6 33.Nc7 Ra3 34.Qc1! If So missed this strategic retreat, then he will soon pay the price for the oversight. 34…Qa5 35.Qg5+ With no defence for So’s king, Magnus easily finds the win, as his queen and knight combine to set up the mating net. 35…Kf8 36.Ne6+ Kf7 37.Nd8+ Kf8 No better was 37…Ke8 38.Nxb7! Bxb7 39.Rxb7 and soon – as in the game – it will be the queen and rook combining for the mate. 38.Nxc6 bxc6 39.Rb7 1-0 And So resigns with mate being unavoidable.



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