Malcolm Pein on…The Final Four

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Malcolm Pein’s coverage of the FIDE Candidates Tournament takes a short rest as he turns his attention back to the Four Nations Chess League in today’s Daily Telegraph column. Who are the final four? Over to Malcolm, to find out…

Malcolm Pein on…The Final Four

The top teams avoided any upsets as the pool stage of the 4NCL Online League concluded. Chessable White Rose I were the only side to finish on 100 per cent in Division One, as they qualified for the semifinal stage alongside their second team, Guildford Young Guns and Celtic Tigers & Sharks. The semifinals will take place on Tuesday, May 4; the final a fortnight later.

Internet chess is mainly the domain of the young, but not always; 63-year-old grandmaster Mark Hebden led the way with 6/6 for Guildford. White Rose’s Oskar Hackner also did very well to amass 6.5/7, while Calum MacQueen of Alba finished with 6/7.

Two IMs do battle in a critical line of the Caro-Kann, one where Alireza Firouzja has tried to make 6…h6!? work of late, although after 7.Nbd2 Nd7 8.Nb3 g5 9.Bd2, Black’s inferior development would eventually cost him in the brutal encounter; So-Firouzja, Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2021, as we saw last month.

J. Jackson – R. Pert
Barbican vs Brentwood

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 Ng6 7.Be3 Nd7 8.Nbd2 f6 (Consistent with 6…Ng6. 8…Be7? 9.Ne1 would menace g4 and f4) 9.exf6 Qxf6 10.Ne1 (Beginning to regroup. 10.Bg5!? Qf7 11.c4 is also possible) 10…h5!? (Simply 10…Bd6 11.Nd3 0-0 followed by …e5 looks very pleasant for Black) 11.Ndf3 Bd6 12.Bg5!

J. Jackson – R. Pert

(Occupying the hole and now the battle will revolve around the e5-square) 12…Qf7 13.Nd3 h4 14.Re1 Nf6? (The consistent as well as AlphaZero-like 14…h3! 15.g3 0-0 is quite nice for Black) 15.Nfe5! Bxe5 16.dxe5 Ne4 (Risky as the knight won’t have many squares, but 16…Bxd3 17.Bxd3 Nd7 18.c4! also leaves Black in trouble) 17.Be3 0-0-0!? (17…b6 would have created an escape square for the knight) 18.f3 Kb8

Test Your Strength

The Final Four: J. Jackson – R. PertWhite now sacrifices the queen. Can you spot the calm and strong idea he missed?

19.fxe4? dxe4 20.Nc5!? Rxd1 21.Raxd1 Ka8? (Far too materialistic, if not a mouse slip. 21…Kc8! 22.Rd7 Qxd7 23.Nxd7 Kxd7 may even slightly favour Black) 22.Rd7 Qe8 23.Rxb7 Nxe5 24.Rc7! (Black is simply too vulnerable on a7) 24…Rf8 25.Na6 Rf7 26.Rd1 (White dominates the board) 26…Qf8 27.Rxf7 1-0 If 27…Nxf7 28.Rd7 or 27…Qxf7 28.Rd8+ Kb7 29.Rb8#.

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

19.Rf1! followed by Qe1! leaves Black losing material, since if 19…b6 20.Nb4 or 19…Qe7 20.fxe4 dxe4 21.Bc5 Qe8 22.Bd6+.

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