Malcolm Pein on…the Path to the Final


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Time to relax for the weekend, starting with Malcolm Pein’s Daily Telegraph column on the path to the final of the Skilling Open.

The matches have been tough all the way through the tournament, with even the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, having to work very hard to overcome stiff resistance.

Malcolm includes a game Sicilian Najdorf aficionados should enjoy and concludes with an interesting puzzle.

Malcolm Pein on…the Path to the Final

Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So reached the final of the Skilling Open on Chess24 with 2-2 draws in the second sets of their respective matches. Carlsen struggled again, but got past Ian Nepomniachtchi. So dominated Hikaru Nakamura and had taken the first set, as we saw yesterday and it was nothing short of miraculous that Nakamura did not lose games one and two in the return. So was also winning game four, but was content with a draw to close out the match.

Carlsen lost a crazy first game to Nepomniachtchi before striking back in game two. He also agreed a draw in a winning position to secure a place in the final. Nepomniachtchi certainly had his chances and summed it up on Twitter: “Another lesson: stop giving points for free.”

The Najdorf Bites Back

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s Sicilian Najdorf took a few hard knocks in the Skilling Open, so this must have been a satisfying game for the world number four. White’s ninth move makes his sixth move potentially a waste of time, yet it works out well

Le Quang Liem – M. Vachier-Lagrave

Sicilian Najdorf 15+10

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.g3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Bg5 Be6 9.f4!? exf4 10.Bxf4 Nc6 11.Qd2 0–0 12.0–0–0 Ne5 (12…Rc8!? 13.Bxd6 Bg4 looks playable) 13.Nd4! Bd7 14.Kb1 (14.Nf5!? looks good) 14…Rc8 15.h3 b5 16.a3 Qb6 17.g4 b4 18.axb4 Qxb4 19.g5

Le Quang Liem – M. Vachier-Lagrave Sicilian Najdorf

19…Rxc3! (After 20.Qxc3 Qxc3 21.bxc3 Nxe4 22.Re1 Nxc3+ Black is better) 20.gxf6 Rb8 21.Nb3 (Not 21.b3 Nf3! 22.Nxf3 Rxb3+! 23.cxb3 Qxb3+ 24.Kc1 Qb1# or 24.Ka1 Qa3+ 25.Qa2 Qc3+ 26.Qb2 Qxb2# but the desperado-like 21.Nb5! Bxb5 22.Qxc3 Qxc3 23.bxc3 Bxf1+ 24.Kc1 Bxf6 25.Rhxf1 leaves White slightly better) 21…Rxb3! 22.cxb3 Qxe4+ 23.Ka1? (After 23.Bd3 Nxd3 24.Qxd3 Qxd3+ 25.Rxd3 Bf5 26.Ka2 Bxd3 27.fxe7 Bb5 28.Bxd6 Black can try to hold the ending) 23…Bxf6 24.Bg2 Nf3 25.Qe3 Qc2 0–1 Black will take on b3 threatening Qa3+ etc.

Nakamura – So, leg two, game two, after 40…Qb1xb2 41.Nf4-h3. What is the simplest and quickest finish here?

The Path to the Final: Nakamura – So

Black to play

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

41…Rg7 or 41…Rg8 were winning 41…Rxf3 42.Nxg5+ hxg5 Qxf3 43.Qh2# was simplest or if 41…Rxf3 42.Nxg5+ hxg5 43.Qxg4 Rf6!

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