Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Qualification


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Malcolm Pein discusses Magnus Carlsen’s qualification for the semi-finals of the Skilling Open in today’s Daily Telegraph chess column.

Malcolm also presents memorable moments from the big clash between Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, including a position set as a challenge to our readers.

Carlsen’s Qualification

Only Magnus Carlsen qualified for the semi-finals of the Skilling Open without the need for a tie-break. Carlsen’s opponent Anish Giri again made the running in the second leg but struggled to create any clear winning chances. Carlsen secured four draws and his 2.5-1.5 victory in the first leg ensured his safe passage to the last four.

Vachier-Lagrave’s Fine Finish

Hikaru Nakamura showed tremendous resilience to overcome Maxime Vachier-Lagrave after this disaster. The American was seen on his webcam pacing the room and shaking his head afterwards but took the match in Armageddon.

M Vachier-Lagrave – H Nakamura

Skilling Open KO QF Play-off 5+3

Position after 38…Qxd5:

Skilling Open Play-off

39.Qxh6!! Qxf3+ 40.Kg1 f6

Skilling Open Play-off Victory

White to play and win

(The answer is at the end of the post)

Nakamura Advances

Nakamura advanced to face Wesley So who got past Teimour Radjabov in Armageddon. Ian Nepomniachtchi won the Blitz play-off 2-0 against Levon Aronian.

H Nakamura – M Vachier-Lagrave

Sicilian Najdorf  5+3

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bd3 e5 7.Nde2 Nc6 8.0–0 Be6 9.Ng3 d5?! 10.Bg5! dxe4 (10…Be7 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.exd5 Bxd5 13.Nh5 Be6 14.Ne4 is like the game) 11.Ncxe4 Be7 12.Bxf6 gxf6 13.Qh5 Qc7 (Equine occupation is inevitable, Black cannot defend f6) 14.Qh6 0–0–0 15.Nxf6 Nd4 16.Rad1 Bxa2 (Desperation, White could trap the bishop with 17.b3 but the f5 square was too inviting) 17.Nf5 Be6 18.Nxe7+ Qxe7 19.Rfe1 Nc6 (White’s dominating knight allows him to grab the h7 pawn) 20.Bxh7 Qb4 21.b3 Kb8 22.Qg5 Rd4 23.Be4 Rhd8 24.Rc1 Qc3 (White could also take on c6 and e5. Black is too hamstrung to stop the h-pawn) 25.h4 Ka8 26.h5 Rd2 27.Bd3  1–0  Nf6–e4 follows.

Highlight the space below this line to find the answer to todays puzzle.

Answer: 41.Qh8+ (Or 41.e6 Qd1+ 42.Kh2 Rxe6 43.Qh8+ Kf7 44.g8Q+) 41…Kf7 42.e6+ Ke7 43.Qxe8+ Kxe8 44.g8Q+ Ke7 45.Qf7+ Kd6 46.Qd7+ Kc5 47.e7 1–0

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