Malcolm Pein on…A Fright at the Opera


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Malcolm Pein returns to the semi-final stage of Opera Euro Rapid Tournament in today’s Daily Telegraph chess column and presents a fright at the opera.

Malcolm Pein on…A Fright at the Opera

It was more of the same in the semifinals of the Opera Europe Rapid on Chess24 as Magnus Carlsen continued to blunder, but still prevailed, while Wesley So smoothly progressed to the final.

Carlsen needed a tie-break to get past Maxime Vachier-Lagrave after he lost games three and four of the second set.

Test Your Strength

The world champion just blundered a piece in one of the games but settled the match in Armageddon in this position after 26.Be5 Bc8.

Carlsen to Play and Win

How did Carlsen (White, to play) win material?

Wesley So had a much shorter day at the computer. Having won the first set 2.5-1.5, he ended Teimour Radjabov’s resistance by winning game three of the second set.

The Champion Slips

M. Carlsen – M. Vachier-Lagrave
Gruenfeld Defence 15+10

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bd2 Bg7 6.e4 Nb6 7.Be3 0–0 8.a4 (A rare move but well motivated. After a7–a5, the knight on b6 loses stability if Black plays c7–c6. The downside is that Black now has a great square on b4 for a knight. 8.h3; 8.Be2; 8.Bb5; 8.Nf3; 8.f4 are the usual choices) 8…a5 9.h3 Nc6 10.Nf3 Nb4 11.Be2 c6 12.0–0 Be6 13.Ng5 (On Chess24, Peter Leko proposed 13.Qc1 Nc4 14.Bh6, which looks nice for White) 13…Bc4 14.Rc1 Rc8 15.b3 Bxe2 16.Nxe2 Nd7 (Trying to counter White’s space advantage with e7–e5. Carlsen prevents this) 17.f4 h6 18.Nf3 e6 19.Ne5 c5!? 20.Nxd7?! (20.Nc4 cxd4 21.Nxd4 was better for White) 20…Qxd7 21.dxc5 Qc6! (Attacking e4 and preparing Rf8–d8 and Nb4–d3) 22.e5 Rfd8 23.Nd4?? (23.Bd4 Bf8 24.Rc4 Bxc5 25.Rxc5 Qxc5 26.Bxc5 Rxd1 27.Rxd1 Rxc5 28.Ng3 holds the draw because if 28…Rc3 29.Ne4 Rxb3 30.Rd8+ Kg7 31.Nf6) 23…Qe4

A Fright at the Opera

24.Qd3 0-1 A mouse slip, but even after 24.Qd2 Bf8 the white knight is in a terrible pin and if 25.Rc4 Nd5 26.Re1 Nxe3 27.Rxe3 Qxf4 White continues to suffer; The only chance to resist was 24.Re1 Nd3 25.Rc4 Nxe1 26.Qxe1.

The Opera Europe Rapid is the third leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and has a prize fund of $100,000 (£74,000).

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

Carlsen continued 27.Qh6! threatening Ng5 and after 27…Rf6 28.Bxf6 he won smoothly.

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