Lagrave rises

LET’S PLAY CHESS By Edgar De Castro

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won his final round game, and the 2017 Sinquefield Cup Friday in St. Louis (Missouri), USA, finishing a half point clear of Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen, for his first grand chess tour title.

The 27-year-old Frenchman made an impressive 6.0 points on three wins and six draws record, after nine rounds of the strongest individual tournament in men’s chess. He also earned 15 rating points and moved to second spot with 2804 in the world chess rankings.

Anand, 48, a former world champion and the grand tour’s oldest player, started the final round tied for first, but could only draw, for a 5.5 aggregate score. Tying Anand but with a lower S.B. score, was the reigning world champion Carlsen of Norway.

Sergey Kariakin of Russia and Levon Aronian of Armenia were tied for fourth-fifth with 5.0 apiece.

Other scores were Peter Svidler (Russia) 4.5, Fabiano Caruana (USA), 4.0, Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 3.5, Wesley So (USA) 3.0 and Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) 3.0.

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The following game was considered the gem of the tournament. Its every facet sparkles with light and fire. Sinquefield Cup 2017

W) V. Anand, Viswanathan (IND) 

B) F. Caruana, Fabiano (USA)

English Opening

1. c4                  e5

2. Nc3                   Nf6 

3. Nf3                    Nc6 

4. g3                     d5 

5. cxd5                 Nxd5

6. Bg2                   Bc5!?

An unusual move in the Sicilian Reversed. Standard here is 6...Nb6 with fairly even chances. 

7. O-O                  ...

An interesting line is 7.Nxe5!? Nxc3 8. Bxc6ch bxc6 9. bxc3 Qd5 10. Nf3 0-0, when Black has to demonstrate compensation for his pawn deficit.

7...                          0-0

8. d3                     Bb6

9. Bd2                   Bg4

9...Re8 is a promising alternative.

10. Rc1                Nxc3 

11. Bxc3               Re8 

12. b4                   Qd6 

12...a5 13. b5  Nd4 14. Bxd4 exd4 15. a4 Qe7 probably leads to equality, according to the engine.

13. Nd2                Qh6 

14. Nc4                 Qh5 

14...Rad8 15. Nxb6 axb6 16. Re1 e4 is about even.=Engine.

15. Rc2                 Rad8 

16. Nxb6              cxb6 

17. f3                    Be6 

18. Qd2                b5 

19. f4!                   ...

A strong move which offers White good chances for initiative.

19...                       Bg4?!

Herewith, Black desperately introduces complications, which, unfortunately backfire. Safer according to the computer is 19...exf4 and after 20. Rxf4 f6 21. Bxc6 bxc6 22. Bd4 Qd5 23. Bxa7 Ra8 24. Rd4 Qg5 and White is slightly ahead.

20. Bxc6               bxc6 

21. fxe5                ...

White simply picks up a pawn without difficulty.

21...                       f6?

Black’s position still looks playable, but that impression quickly wanes after this mistake. Now comes a series of combinations in which White wins by force.     

22. exf6!               Rxe2 

23. f7ch                Kf8 

24. Bxg7ch!         Kxg7 

25. Qc3ch            Re5?

Better is 25...Qe5, but White wins after 26. Rxe2 Qxc3 27. Re8 Qd4ch 28. Rf2 Qxb4 29. f8Qch Qxf8 30. Rfxf8 Rxd3 31. Rg8ch Kf7 32. Ref8ch Kg6 33. Ra8 Be6 34. Rxa7ch Kf6 35. Rf8ch Kg6 36. a4 bxa4 37. Rxa4, etc.

26. Qd4!               ...

Black is only skimming the surface, while White’s moves show depth and foresight. White’s last is a crusher.    

26....                      Qg5

There’s no satisfactory continuation anymore. For instance 26...Be6 (26...Qf3 27. Qxd8) 27. Qxd8 Bxf7 28. Qf6ch Kg8 29. Rxc6, White wins. Or 26...Rf8 27. Rc5 Rxf7 28. Rxe5 Rxf1ch 29. Kxf1 Bh3ch 30. Kf2 and White comes off triumphant.    

27. Rc5                Rxd4

Or 27...Qe3ch 28. Qxe3 Rxe3 29. Rg5ch Kh6 30. Rxg4 and White wins.

28. f8Qch             Kg6

29. Qf7ch             1:0

29...Kh6 is met by 30. Rf6ch.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to move and win.

White=Kh1, Qf1, Rb7, Bd3, Bh2, Pd4, Pe6, Pg2

Black=Kg8, Qa2, Rc8, Ne7, Bg5, Pa5, Pd5, Pf5, Pg7, Ph6

1. Rxe7!                  Rc1

If 1...Bxe7 2. Qxf5 Rc1ch 3. Bg1 Rxg1ch 4. Kxg1 Qa1ch 5. Kh2 Bd6ch 6. g3  Qb2ch 7. Kh3 Qb8 9.e7!  Bxe7 10. Qxd5ch Kh8

(10...Kf8 11. Be6 white wins) 11. Qe4 Kg8 12. Qxe7 and wins.

2. Re8ch Kh7 3. Bxf5ch g6 3. Qxc1 Bxc1 4. Be5 gxf5 5. Rh8ch Kg6

6. e7  followed by 7. e8Q and wins.

White to move and win.

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