The Opera struggle has left strong players with an uphill battle to qualify for the next stage of the tournament.
Malcolm Pein on…The Opera Struggle
Having won four games in a row on the opening day of the Opera Europe Rapid, Magnus Carlsen was a little less impressive on day two. The world champion survived a perilous position against Ian Nepomniachtchi as he drew four games before unleashing a bolt from the blue to floor Hikaru Nakamura and maintain the overall lead.
That left Nakamura back on 50 per cent and with work to do to qualify for the knockout stage, in contrast to which Wesley So and Anish Giri were well placed on 6.5/10, just half a point behind Carlsen.
Najdorf Under Pressure
At Wijk aan Zee, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave lost three times with his beloved Sicilian Najdorf. He switched to 5…Nc6, the Classical Sicilian, but lost with it to Aronian and Giri.
A. Giri – M. Vachier-Lagrave
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.Kb1 Be7 10.Nxc6 Bxc6 11.f3 b5 12.h4 Qc7 13.Ne2 h6 14.Be3 d5? (Black’s thematic Sicilian break, but here it just leads to a bad version of a French Defence) 15.e5! Nd7 (15…Qxe5? 16.Bf4 Qf5 17.Nd4 is the problem) 16.f4 Nc5 17.Nd4 (White’s space advantage and grip on d4 outweighs the hole on e4) 17…Ne4 18.Qe1 Bd7 19.g4 0-0-0 (19…b4!? 20.Bd3 a5 offered some counterplay) 20.Bd3 g5?
(A misguided attempt to undermine e5) 21.f5!? (Crashing through. 21.fxg5 hxg5 22.h5! was also very strong, and if 22…Qxe5 23.Nf3 Qc7 24.Bxe4 dxe4 25.Nxg5) 21…gxh4 22.f6! Bc5 23.Rxh4 Qxe5? 24.Bxe4 Qxe4 25.Qc3 Kb7 26.Nxe6! Bxe6 27.Qxc5 (As so often, opposite-coloured bishops favour the attacker) 27…d4 28.Bxd4 Qc6 29.Qa7+ Kc8 30.Rh5! Rd5 31.Rxd5 Bxd5 32.Bb6 Re8 (If 32…Qb7? 33.Rxd5!) 33.Qxa6+ Kd7 34.Qa7+ Kc8 35.Qa6+ Kb8 36.a4!? bxa4 37.Ba7+ Ka8 38.Qa5 Bc4 39.Bb6+ Kb7 40.Qa7+ Kc8 41.Bc7 Qb7 (41…Qxc7? 42.Qa8+ Qb8 43.Qc6+ wins) 42.Qxa4 Bb5 43.Qa5 Be2? 44.Rd4! Qh1+ 45.Ka2 Qc6 46.Bg3 Bc4+ 47.b3 Ba6 48.Kb2 1-0
Test Your Strength
M. Carlsen – H. Nakamura
Black has just played 32…Re6-e1?? What had he overlooked?
Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.
33.Bxg6! 1-0 Not 33.Rxe1? Qxf2+, but 33.Bxg6 deflects the queen or wins material after 33…Rxd1 34.Bxf7+ Kxf7 35.Rxd1.