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 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.

Lifetime Repertoires: Queen\'s Gambit Declined

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