Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Slip at the Skilling Open


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Malcolm Pein’s columns for The Daily Telegraph turn their attention to the Skilling Open, with extended coverage of the strong tournament in store for our readers.

The tournament comes with its fair share of blunders and brilliances. World Champion Magnus Carlsen did well to overcome a specific type of online blunder, with which I am sure we are all familiar.

Malcolm presents a very interesting game from the tournament and challenges you with a question. Over to Malcolm…

Carlsen’s Early Slip

Magnus Carlsen suffered the worst possible start to the Skilling Open, as he made a mouse slip when close to victory against Ian Nepomniachtchi. Such online fingerfehlers are painful at the best of times and it was far from the ideal way to begin the Champions Chess Tour, in which Carlsen is, of course, the clear favourite.

Carlsen also pressed with the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave before crushing Teimour Radjabov. He then had his third Black, but won easily after the early surprise leader, David Anton Guijarro, blundered.

Carlsen was delighted to win again in round five, defeating the young pretender, Alireza Firouzja. That left him level on 3.5/5 with Anton Guijarro, half a point behind Anish Giri who won rook and bishop against rook against Santosh Vidit.

This entertaining battle saw a reversed version of the famous Abrahams-Noteboom variation: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.e3 b5 6.a4 Bb4 7.Bd2 a5 8.axb5 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 cxb5 10.b3 Bb7.

A. Firouzja – W. So

Colle 15+10

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 c5 4.dxc5!? e6 5.b4 a5 6.c3 axb4 7.cxb4 b6! 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7+ Nbxd7 10.a4! bxc5 11.b5 (White’s connected passed pawns offset Black’s central majority) 11…Bd6 12.Bb2 0-0 13.0-0 Qc7 14.Nbd2 c4 15.Bc3 e5 16.a5!? (Offering the h-pawn to get his own pawns moving) 16…e4 17.b6 Qb8 18.Nd4 Bxh2+ 19.Kh1 Be5 20.Nc6 Qd6 21.Nxe5 Nxe5 22.g3 Nfg4 23.Kg2 Qe6 24.Rb1? (24.Bxe5 Nxe5 25.Nb1! and Nc3 maintains full compensation) 24…Rfb8 25.Qe2 Nd3 26.Rb5 Ra6 (26…f5! overprotects the knight on g4 and Black is clearly better)

Missed OpportunityQuestion: What did White miss here?

27.Nb1? h5? 28.Bd4! (Freeing c3 for the knight. Black is too slow) 28…h4 29.Rh1 hxg3 30.fxg3 Nh6? ((30…f5 31.Nc3 Rd8 was the last chance) 31.Nc3 Qd6 32.Rxd5 Qa3

Rook Sacrifice Skilling Open

33.Rxh6! gxh6 34.Qg4+ Kf8 35.Bg7+ 1-0

If 35…Ke7 36.Qd7# or 35…Kg8 36.Bxh6+ Kh7 37.Qg7#.

The 16-player Skilling Open will see the top eight qualify for a knockout stage. Play is at 4.00 p.m. each day and can be followed on all the usual chess portals. Jovanka Houska and David Howell commentate on Chess24 and Eurosport.

Highlight the text below this line to reveal the answer.

Answer: 27.Rxd5!! Nxe3+ (or 27…Qxd5 28.Qxg4 g6 29.Qxe4 Qxe4+ 30.Nxe4) 28.Qxe3 Qxd5 29.Qxe4 Qxe4+ 30.Nxe4 would have left White the exchange down, but with c4 falling and his passed pawns just too strong.

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