Malcolm Pein Says…It’s A Blunderful Life
Alireza Firouzja dominated the world-class field at the Paris leg of the Grand Chess Tour when the Blitz got under way. The Iranian prodigy, who is resident in France, started with 5.5/6 and ended with 6.5/9 on day one to rise to join fourth overall. Firouzja had a torrid time in the Rapid section, failing to win a single game.
After his opening spurt, Firouzja’s last three games comprised losses to Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana and a victory over world title contender Ian Nepomniachtchi in one of the most blunderful games at the elite level that I have ever seen.
Nepo was winning, losing, completely winning again and finally contrived to lose. For today’s puzzle, how did Nepo restore a winning position? The preceding move was 31.c3-c4 Qe6-f6??
Test Your Strength
White to play
Vladimir Kramnik replaced Etienne Bacrot for the Blitz and was understandably rusty, although he did win this one:
V. Kramnik – P. Svidler
Sicilian Najdorf 3+2
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Be3 Qc7 8.Bb3 Nbd7 9.f3 h5 (9…Nc5 ensures the exchange of the dangerous bishop on b3) 10.a3 Ne5 11.Qe2 Bd7 (11…b5 12.0–0–0 Rb8 enables Black to play Ne5–c4 and block the bishop) 12.f4! Neg4 13.0–0–0 Nxe3 14.Qxe3 g6 15.Kb1 Bh6 16.Qf3 Rc8 (The best chance was 16…0–0–0 but even then 17.f5 gxf5 18.exf5 e5 19.Ne6 is pretty good) 17.f5 gxf5 18.exf5 e5
19.Ne6! Qc6 (19…fxe6 20.fxe6 is crushing, if 20…Rf8 21.Nd5 Nxd5 22.Qxh5+ Ke7 23.exd7 Qxd7 24.Qxh6 or 20…Bg7 21.Nd5 Nxd5 22.Qf7+ Kd8 23.Qxg7) 20.Nd5? (20.Qf2! first would have been decisive. If 20…Ng4 21.Qh4 Qxg2 22.Nd5 threatens Ndc7+ Rxc7 Qd8# and equally Black cannot survive 20…fxe6 21.fxe6 Ke7 22.exd7 Qxd7 23.Rhe1) 20…Nxd5 21.Bxd5 Qxc2+ 22.Ka1 Rg8? (All rather unlikely, but if Black had exchanged bishops, he could have ‘played around’ the equine invader after 22…Bc6 23.Qxh5 Bxd5 24.Rxd5 Qxg2 25.Rhd1 Rh7! threat Bc1 or 22…Bc6 23.Bxc6+ bxc6 24.Qxh5 Rb8 25.Rb1 Ke7) 23.Qxh5 Bc6 24.Nd4 Attacking the queen and threatening Qxf7+ so 1–0
Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.
32.c5 won a whole rook as if 32…Rxd5 33.Rxd5 wins the knight as well.