Magnus Carlsen has not competed on chess.com for more than a year, since the website is in direct competition with chess24.com, which is owned by the Play Magnus Group. So it was a shock when the world champion appeared unannounced on the starting line for this week’s Titled Tuesday, an 11-round blitz event with free entry to all internationally titled players.
The Norwegian used 1 b3 and 2 Bb2 (Larsen Opening) in every game as White, and 1…b6 and 2…Bb7 (Owen Defence) in every game as Black. He still outclassed the field with 10/11, conceding just two draws and defeating world top-50 opponents Jeffery Xiong, Grigoriy Oparin and Parham Maghsoodloo.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old’s long-standing rival and popular streamer Hikaru Nakamura has released his thoughts on whether Carlsen will decline to defend his title against the winner of the eight-player Candidates scheduled for Madrid in June-July. Nakamura’s “no way!” conclusion is based principally on Carlsen’s need to do more to confirm his status as clear all-time No 1 ahead of Garry Kasparov.
Alireza Firouzja, the youngest ever 2800-rated player at age 18 and favourite for the Candidates, took a five-month break from classical tournaments before returning as top seed in the elite Superbet Bucharest tournament which ends on Saturday. Bucharest is the first leg of the 2022 Grand Tour, which includes rapid/blitz tournaments in Warsaw and Zagreb before the Sinquefield Cup at St Louis in August.
Asked about his absence, Firouzja replied that he had been “living the life and preparing for the Candidates”, but his results at Bucharest have been subdued. One win, one loss, 3.5/7, plus several errors and miscalculations. Next month in Madrid could be a different story.
Wesley So and Levon Aronian were joint leaders in Bucharest with 4.5/7 two rounds rounds before the finish. So took a clear lead in round four with a neat tactic, while Aronian’s round-six miniature ended in a coup which is featured in this week’s puzzle.
Wesley So v Ian Nepomniachtchi, Bucharest 2022. So is a pawn up, but with opposite coloured bishops it looks hard to win. What was So’s winning move? See puzzle solution below for the answer.
There was a surprise in Richard Rapport v Leinier Domínguez when the Hungarian chose 1 e4 e5 2 Ne2?! (Alapin Opening) to avoid his opponent’s 2 Nf3 Nf6 Petroff, while Fabiano Caruana became the latest top player to use the Dilworth, a system worked out by a Cheshire railway clerk in the 1940s which still remains viable for both sides.
India’s Dommaraju Gukesh, 15, winner of a trio of first prizes in Spain, and the USA’s Hans Niemann, 18, winner of the Capablanca Memorial in Havana and of last week’s Sigeman annual in Sweden, are the rising stars of the moment, with ratings fast approaching 2700. Next week’s Sharjah Open, with a large prize fund and at least 40 GMs rated above 2600, will test the new generation.
Some feared for England’s long standing No 1, Michael Adams, when the 51-year-old had to take on both Niemann and Arjun Erigaisi, also 18, at Malmö, but Adams played a fine tournament, one of his best in recent years, with six steady draws then a final round victory which took him to shared second prize and featured a winning advance of Harry the h-pawn.In contrast the other veteran, Alexei Shirov, finished last.
Many European cities have outside chess in parks and cafes, and London joined in on Thursday with chess tables in Russell Square Gardens. The popular all-day Chessfest in Trafalgar Square will also return on Sunday 17 July.
3815: 1…Na4! and the threat Rd8 mate gains decisive material. So v Nepomniachtchi: 1 Bxf7+! resigns. If Kxf7 2 Qc4+ and 3 Qxd4 or if Qxf7 2 Qg4+ and 3 Qxd4, when White, two pawns up with opposite coloured bishops exchanged, wins easily.