Malcolm Pein on…Skilling’s Last Eight


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Malcolm Pein’s coverage of the Skilling Open for The Daily Telegraph continues today with a summary of the players who made it through to Skilling’s last eight places.

Malcom also presents two fine games from the event and sets readers a puzzle to solve.

Watch out for Nakamura’s memorable queen sacrifice!

Skilling’s Last Eight

Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura eased their way through to the last eight of the Skilling Open, the opening event of the Champions Chess Tour played online at Chess24. The two favourites finished with 9/15.

Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian (all 8.5/15), Teimour Radjabov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri (8/15) also qualified in what was a very close event.

In the final game to finish, teenage star Alireza Firouzja was eliminated despite his incredible run on day three when he defeated Candidates Ding Liren and Anish Giri and then 2016 WCC contender Sergey Karjakin, in successive games. The youngster looked all set to qualify, until he was poleaxed by a tactical blow from Hikaru Nakamura and could not recover in the 15th and final game, which he lost with White to Le Quang Liem.

Anish Giri was the leader on the third and final day, yet collapsed from a great position against Firouzja and only reached the eight on tie-break by the smallest of margins.

H Nakamura – A Firouzja

Caro Kann 15+10

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bf4 Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Bb4 13.c3 Be7 14.c4 Qb6 15.Bc3 Ngf6 16.Ne5 Rd8 17.Qe2 Bb4 18.0–0 Bxc3 19.bxc3 0–0 20.Rab1 Qc7 21.f4 c5 22.Qf3 Nb6 23.Rfd1 Nfd7! 24.Ne4 cxd4 25.cxd4 f5 (25…Nxe5 26.fxe5 Qxc4) 26.Nc5! Nxc5 27.dxc5 Qxc5+ 28.Kh2 Qc7 29.a4! Rxd1 30.Rxd1 Rd8?

Queen Sacrifice at Skilling

 31.Qxb7!! Qxb7 32.Rxd8+ Kh7 33.Ng6 Qc8 34.Rxc8 Nxc8


 Can you see how Nakamura won the game from this position?

Skilling's Last Eight Qualifying VictoryWhite to play and win

Radjabov’s no-nonsense approach refutes a dubious opening.

A Firouzja – T Radjabov

Four Knights

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.h3 Bb4 5.Bd3 d6 6.Ne2 0–0 7.0–0 Re8 8.c3 d5! 9.exd5 (9.cxb4 dxe4) 9…Qxd5 10.Bc2 e4 11.Ne1 Bd6 12.d4 exd3 13.Nxd3 Bf5 14.Nef4 Qc4 15.Bb3 Qa6 16.Nb4 (White is fatally lagging in development. If 16.Qf3 Be4 17.Qg3 Ne7; 16.Be3 Rad8 17.Qe2 g5 wins)  16…Nxb4 17.cxb4 Rad8 18.Qf3 Bxb4 19.Bxf7+ Kxf7 20.Qb3+ Be6 21.Nxe6 Rxe6 22.Be3 Be7  0–1

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

35.c5! (Trapping the black knight and presaging a triumphant king march. Not 35.Nf8+ Kg8 36.Nxe6 Nb6 37.Nd4 Nxa4 38.Nxf5 Nb6 when Black has good drawing chances) 35…Kg8 36.Kg3 Kf7 37. Kf3 Ke8 38.Ke3 Kd7 39.Kd4 a6 40.Ke5 Kc6 41.Kxe6 Kxc5 42.Kf7 Kb4 43.Kxg7 1–0


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