Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So\'s 1. e4 (Part 1)
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Malcolm Pein on…The Elimination of the Favourites

Malcolm Pein returns to the Airthings Masters in today’s Daily Telegraph chess column. He finds some surprising results in the quarter-final matches, leading to the elimination of the favourites.

Just as we saw yesterday, Daniil Dubov is a danger to everyone, including the World Champion.

Malcolm Pein on…The Elimination of the Favourites

The three favourites were all eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Airthings Masters on Chess24.com. as Magnus Carlsen was defeated by 24-year-old Russian Daniil Dubov. The American duo of Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So lost to Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave respectively. Candidate Ian Nepomniachtchi also failed to make it to the semifinals, which lined up: Aronian-Vachier-Lagrave and Radjabov-Dubov.

Test Your Strength

Following a 2-2 draw in the first leg, Dubov won the second 2.5-0.5. Today’s puzzle is the conclusion of the first game. It’s Dubov, white to play.

How did he continue?

Game three was a great fight, with Dubov showing the aggression and originality which makes him such a difficult opponent.

D. Dubov – M. Carlsen
Catalan 15+10

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Nbd2 dxc4 6.Bg2 a5 7.a3 Bxd2+ 8.Bxd2 b5 9.a4 c6 10.Qc2 Bb7 11.h4!? (11.0–0 0–0 12.e4 gives very decent compensation for the pawn. Dubov has another idea)

11…Nbd7 12.h5 h6 13.Ne5 Nd5 14.Rh4 N7f6 (14…Nxe5 15.dxe5 Qc7 looks better, and if 16.Rg4 Qxe5)

15.Kf1 Qc7 16.Kg1 Nb4 17.Qc1 (Carlsen has been outplayed somewhat, he cannot castle in safety)

17…Rd8 18.axb5 cxb5 19.Bxb4 axb4 20.Ra7 Nd5 21.Rg4 Rg8 22.Qc2 (It might have been better to play 22.Qb1! and if Ra8 23.Qh7 Nf6 24.Rxg7!! Nxh7 25.Rxg8+ Nf8 26.Rxb7, although 22.Qb1 Ra8 23.Qh7 Rf8 24.Rxa8+ Bxa8 25.Rxg7 c3 26.bxc3 bxc3 27.Rg8 Qe7 28.Kh2 is completely unclear)

22…c3 23.bxc3 bxc3 24.Ra3 (If 24.Qh7 Nf6 25.Rxg7 Nxh7 26.Rxg8+ Ke7 27.Nc6+ Kf6 28.Nxd8 c2 wins)

24…Rc8 25.Nd3 Nf6 26.Bxb7 Qxb7 27.Nc5? Rxc5! 28.dxc5 Nxg4 29.c6 (The best chance to cause confusion and it does)

29…Qxc6 (29…Qb6 hitting f2 was winning)

30.Rxc3 Qb6 31.e3 Ke7 32.Rc6 (Again the best chance. Not 32.Rc7+ Kd6 33.Rxf7 Ne5)

32…Qd8 33.Qc5+ Kf6 34.Rd6 Qe7? (34…Qa5! threat Qe1+ and Qxf2+ wins after 35.Qd4+ Kg5 36.Qf4+ Kxh5 37.Qxf7+ g6)

35.Qd4+ Kg5

36.f3!! f5 (36…Nf6 37.Qe5#) 37.fxg4 Rc8 38.Qf4+ Kf6 39.Qxf5# 1–0

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

41.Rxb7! with the point 41…Bxf2 42.f4+ Kf6 43.Rbf7#. The game ended 41…Rf8 42.Qxe3+ 1-0

Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So\'s 1. e4 (Part 1)

Chessable Awards 2020: The Winners

The inaugural Chessable Awards certainly sparked a lot of interest and debate.

26 Chessable courses made it to the shortlist for the category of Course of the Year and the top of the leader board changed several times as we approached the voting deadline.

Chessable Awards 2020 Winners Revealed

Without further ado, here are the most successful courses of 2020, as voted for by you, dear readers. Click on the pictures to find out more about each course.

Third Place

In Third Place we have…The Checkmate Paterns Manual, by CraftyRaf and International Master John Bartholomew.

Chessable Awards Course of the Year Third Place

This extremely popular course fought off plenty of Grandmaster opposition to claim this highly meritorious place.

Second Place

In Second Place, we have The Magnus Touch: Chess Strategy by none other than the World Champion himself, Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, assisted by International Master Christof Sielecki, International Master John Bartholomew and Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen.

Chessable Awards Second Place

This course was always going to be a serious contender for first place. However, it fell just a little short.

First Place

The winner of Course of the Year in the Chessable Awards for 2020 is…

Lifetime Repertories: Najdorf Sicilian by the one and only Grandmaster Anish Giri!

Chessable Awards 1st Place Course

We featured this course recently and the lure of the fighting Najdorf Sicilian clearly remains as strong as ever with the voting public.

Is Grandmaster Giri’s first place in the Chessable Wards an omen for the forthcoming concluding phase of the FIDE Candidates Tournament?

The winner of the Chessable Author of the Year for 2020, as voted for by panel of Chessable experts, is…

Grandmaster Sam Shankland!

Sam Shankland Award

Grandmaster Shankland’s new course was featured here yesterday and the full range of his Chessable output to date can be found here.

The Chessable Panel’s Choice

We have had an exceptionally fruitful year and feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work with so many talented and hardworking authors over the course of 2020.

Before we write some nice words about our choice author, we would like to thank ALL of our published authors, past and present, for contributing to making Chessable the best online resource for chess learning!

It was not easy for our publishing team to pick a Chessable Author of the Year for 2020. In the end, we agreed that one author in particular stood out – and that author is Grandmaster Sam Shankland.

Sam’s dedication, his prolific output – he published four courses in 2020 and delivered the manuscript for his fifth course before the end of 2020 – together with his consistent commitment to delivering true value to his students is not only admirable, it is also exceptional.

Sam has never missed a deadline and he often delivers his manuscripts well before our agreed deadlines. Additionally, he has always stayed open and receptive to feedback to improve his work. He continuously updates and improves his existing courses based on his students’ feedback. And, he’s always ready to answer questions.

Most importantly, Sam is an eloquent teacher who can explain complex opening or strategic concepts in a way that appeals to thousands of chess fans. He is a versatile writer with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a penchant for brutal honesty; the mark of a true chess player!

Sam is not only a great teacher and educator but he is also a genuine lover of the game. For this we salute him and celebrate his work. Congratulations from all of us at Chessable!

It has been a great success this year. We are already looking to expand the number of categories for the Chessable Awards of 2021. Thank you, everyone!

Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So\'s 1. e4 (Part 1)

Malcolm Pein on….Carlsen vs. Dubov

Malcolm Pein reports on the big clash of Carlsen vs. Dubov in today’s Daily Telegraph chess column.

Daniil Dubov is featured in this column with increasing regularity. Indeed, we saw a game of his yesterday. Nobody is complaining though, as the young star’s games are always entertaining and in today’s encounter he gives a fine demonstration of the power of the Tarrasch Defense.

Over to Malcolm…

Malcolm Pein on….Carlsen vs. Dubov

Daniil Dubov again proved he can match Magnus Carlsen at Rapid Chess as he came from behind to secure a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their quarter-final tie at the Airthings Masters on Chess24.com. Carlsen won the first of the four games with some virtuoso endgame play, before Dubov missed winning chances in game two after Carlsen mistakenly turned down a repetition of moves.

Dubov took his chances in game three when Carlsen again spurned opportunities to simplify.

M. Carlsen – D. Dubov
Tarrasch Defense 15+10

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.e3 a6 5.d4 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.g3 (Not very challenging in combination with 4.e3. 7.Be2 is standard) 7…Nc6 8.Bg2 c4 9.0–0 Bb4 10.Ne5 0–0 11.Bd2 Re8 12.Nxc6 bxc6 13.b3 (Fighting for queenside squares. After 13.Re1 Bf5 Black is very comfortable and 14.b3 Ba3 15.Bc1 Bb4 16.Bd2 repeats moves) 13…Bxc3 (Improving on 13…a5 14.Qc2 cxb3 15.axb3 g6 16.Rfc1 Carlsen-Mamedyarov, Shamkir 2019, which was a draw) 14.Bxc3 Ne4 15.Rc1 a5! 16.bxc4 Ba6! (Regaining the pawn after which Black is already the more active) 17.f3 Nxc3 18.Rxc3 Bxc4 19.Rf2 Qg5

Meek Reply

20.Qc1 (Rather meek and most unlike Carlsen. There was no objection to 20.e4 Qe7 21.e5 c5 22. f4) 20…h5 21.Bf1 Bxf1 22.Kxf1 Rab8 23.Rxc6 h4 24.Kg2 (24.e4 Qh5!? 25.g4 Qh7) 24…Rxe3 25.Rc8+ Rxc8 26.Qxc8+ Kh7 27.Qd7 f6 (Black has some initiative and gets his pawn to h3. It’s hard for White to simplify now) 28.Qb5 Qf5 29.g4 h3+ 30.Kg3 (30.Kg1?? Re1+ 31.Rf1 Qxf3) 30…Qe4! 31.Qxa5 (31.Qf1 Qxd4 32.Qxh3+ Kg8 33.Qh5 Qe5+ 34.Qxe5 fxe5 35.h4 should be a draw, although Black has the active rook; 31.Qd7 Kg6 32.Kh4! Rxf3 33.Rxf3 Qxf3 34.Qe8+ Kh7 (34…Kh6?? 35.Qh5#) 35.Qh5+ = is also a draw) 31…f5! (Threatening Qxg4# and opening up the white king)

Carlsen vs. Dubov

32.gxf5 Qxf5 33.Qb5 Re6 34.Re2 Rg6+ 35.Kf2 Qf4 36.Qb1 Kh6 37.Qd3 Qxh2+ 38.Ke3 Re6+ 0–1

Test Your Strength

Today’s puzzle is from the So– Vachier-Lagrave quarter-final first leg which MVL won 3-1.

Simplify to a won endgame

How did Black simplify to a won endgame?

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

44…Rxg2+!! 45.Kxg2 Rxg3+ 0-1 In view of 46.Kxg3 Qg6+ winning the rook.

Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So\'s 1. e4 (Part 1)

Lifetime Repertoires: Sam Shankland’s 1.d4 – Part 3

This week brings the release of Lifetime Repertoires: Sam Shankland’s 1.d4 – Part 3. This highly anticipated course concludes Grandmaster Shankland’s trilogy on mainline 1 d4 openings for White.

This part covers 1 d4 d5.

Lifetime Repertoires: Sam Shankland's 1.d4 - Part 3

Black wants an equal share of the centre at the very start of the game and has various options thereafter.

In a world where the London System seems to be taking over as the main weapon for White, it is good to see the main lines of the Queen’s Gambit receiving the star treatment of a Lifetime Repertoire course.

Black’s Options

White needs to be ready for the following:

Orthodox Defense (2 …e6, with Black unwilling to surrender any territory)

Queen’s Gambit Accepted (2 …dxc4, giving up the centre to gain active play for the pieces)

Slav Defense (2 …c6 a particularly solid brick wall)

Semi-Slav Defense (2 …e6 with …c6 to follow) and a number of other popular defenses.

The defenses after 1 d4 d5 2 c4 have stood the test of time and they need to be taken very seriously.

Grandmaster Shankland explains his approach:

‘Much like we saw in the first two parts, my goal is to fight for a strategic edge such as space advantage, a better structure, or the bishop pair, and this is not really a repertoire aimed at tearing Black’s head off.

But, given that Black has placed a pawn in the center on the very first move of the game, I find it harder to accomplish these goals, and I was actually surprised to find that even in some very solid variations, White ended up with some kind of attacking chances.’

Playing Against the Slav Defense

With that in mind, I decided to look at the recommendations against the Slav Defense, which starts with 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6.

Slav Defense

The Slav Defense

This is a very tough nut to crack, as any 1 d4 d5 2 c4 adherent will confirm. Vasily Smyslov, the Seventh World Champion, used the Slav throughout his lengthy career and he very rarely lost with his favourite defense.

The Exchange Variation with 3 cxd5 cxd5 is currently popular, but not everyone is confident about playing for a win from a symmetrical position.

This course doesn’t go down that route and it avoids the main lines too, which would follow from the moves 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 Nc3 dxc4 5 a4. Instead, Grandmaster Shankland prefers 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e3.

Lifetime Repertoires: Sam Shankland's 1.d4 - Part 3

One important aspect of this line is that if Black plays 4 …e6 then the game transposes to a Semi-Slav Defense. This dovetails very comfortably with the course’s recommendation against the Semi-Slav, which is also based on an early e2-e3. This rules out the intense and theoretically heavy lines with 5 Bg5, but they are not to everyone’s taste anyway.

If Black wants to keep the game firmly in pure Slav territory, then the options include 4 …g6, 4 …a6 and 4 …Bf5. The last of these is almost certainly going to be the most popular with club and tournament players.

Lifetime Repertoires: Sam Shankland's 1.d4 - Part 3

This is because they understand the difference between the Slav and the Orthodox Queen’s Gambit Declined; by playing 2 …c6 instead of 2 …e6, Black’s queen’s bishop can be developed very quickly. Why not as early as move four? Can White do anything about it?

It is important that White developed the queen’s knight first, because it applies pressure on d5. This makes 4 …Bf5 a riskier choice than if White had played 3 Nf3.

Grandmaster Shankland shows that Back has to sacrifice a pawn after the simple moves 5 cxd5 cxd5 6 Qb3.

Slav Defense 4 ...Bf5

The queen threatens the b7-pawn and applies more pressure to d5. Black can play 6 …Bc8 to protect the pawn, but that rather goes against Black’s desire to develop the bishop quickly. 6 …Qb6 would be the normal way to meet Qb3 in such positions, but here White simply wins a pawn with 7 Nxd5.

Pawn Sacrifice

This explains why Black has to seek chances with a pawn sacrifice, by playing 6 …Nc6.

Sam Shankland 1 d4 Against the Slav

White has to accept the challenge with 7 Qxb7, otherwise Black just enjoys quick and easy development at no cost. Black now gains tempi on the queen with 7 …Bd7 8 Qb3 Rb8 9 Qd1.

Shankland's 1 d4

‘White got his queen back home and will remain a healthy pawn up if he can complete his development. Black should be very direct.’

Black’s best move is indeed direct. 9 …e5 A standard idea; open up the game while ahead in development. The course goes on to show a line in which White returns the pawn for other gains, leading Grandmaster Shankland to comment: The machines are claiming White is much better, and I won’t argue with them.’

I think this brief examination of the recommended line against the Slav Defense is indicative of what one can expect to see in the course. The recommendations are challenging for Black, despite not necessarily following the absolute main lines. At club level, they will pack a mighty punch.

Lifetime Repertoires: Sam Shankland’s 1.d4 – Part 3

Click the link to find out more about the course:

Lifetime Repertoires: Sam Shankland’s 1.d4 – Part 3

The first two parts are also available:

Part One

Part Two

Sam Shankland's 1.d4 - Part 3

There is also a Short and Sweet version of the course, which is free and can be found here.

Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So\'s 1. e4 (Part 1)

Malcolm Pein on…Taming Daniil Dubov

How does any player set about taming Daniil Dubov? It is plain for everyone to see how bold and explosive his play can be.

Malcolm Pein’s Daily Telegraph chess column examines a game in which a more experienced player manages to ride the waves of the tactics before finding a way through the complications to obtain a winning advantage.

Malcolm Pein on…Taming Daniil Dubov

The three favourites, Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, all qualified comfortably for the knockout stage of the Airthings Masters on Chess24.com. The target score to ensure certain qualification for the quarter-finals was 6.5/11 or +2, and the leading trio scored just that, with Ian Nepomniachtchi and Teimour Radjabov making half a point less.

Levon Aronian, with his dog Ponchik by his side, got through with a 50 per cent score. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Daniil Dubov only scored 5/11, but edged out Pentala Harikrishna and Alexander Grischuk on tie-break. David Anton and Anish Giri also failed to make the cut.

The preliminaries were not terribly interesting, with 54 draws and 12 wins for White; Black did not get a look-in. As Dubov finished eighth and Carlsen first, they play in the quarter-finals, a dream pairing for the spectators.

Another great opening idea from Dubov. Black secures two pawns for the sacrificed knight, while the white king is unsafe. Dubov is doing well before he gets too creative.

Too Creative?

I. Nepomniachtchi – D. Dubov
King’s Indian 15+10

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0–0 6.Be3 Nc6!? 7.d5 Ne5 8.f4 Neg4 9.Bd2 Nh6 10.h3 e6 11.dxe6 Bxe6 12.g4 Re8 13.Nf3 (Dubov planned 13.g5 Nxe4!! 14.Nxe4 Nf5 15.Nf3 Bxc4 16.Bxc4 Rxe4+ 17.Be2 Bxb2, which is good for Black and 15.Kf2 Bd4+ 16.Kg2 d5! can’t be bad either) 13…Bd7 14.g5 Nxe4!

Taming Dubov

15.gxh6 Bxh6 16.Nxe4 Rxe4 17.f5 Qf8 18.0–0 Rae8 19.Bd3 (Perhaps 19.Rf2!? Bxf5 20.Bd3) 19…Re3!? (19…Be3+ 20.Bxe3 Rxe3 looks at least as good with Qh6 and Bc6 to come) 20.Bxe3 Bxe3+ 21.Kg2 Bc6 22.Qe1 g5!? (Also 22…Qg7!? 23.Qg3 (23.Rb1 g5!) 23…Qxb2+ 24.Kh1 Qc3 25.Rad1 Bh6!) 23.Qg3 Bf4 24.Qg4 Re3 25.Rad1 Qg7 (Dubov gets carried away; 25…Qe8 26.Rf2 f6! was the way to achieve h7–h5 and this is completely unclear) 26.Rf2 Qh8 27.Qh5! Qg7 28.Kf1! Bg3

Test Your Strength

Transposition to a Winning EndgameHow did Nepomniachtchi force transition to a winning endgame?

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer to today’s puzzle.

29.f6! (Not 29.Qxg5 Bxf2; Blackfights on after 29.Nxg5 h6 30.Rf3 Bxf3 31.Nxf3 Qxb2 32.Qg4+ Qg7) 29…Qxf6 30.Qxg5+ Qxg5 31.Nxg5 h6 32.Nxf7 Kg7 33.Nd8 Bxf2 34.Kxf2 Rf3+ 35.Ke2 Rxh3 36.Rf1 Rh2+ 37.Ke3 Rxb2 38.Ne6+ 1–0

Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So\'s 1. e4 (Part 1)