The FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial
The world of online chess tournaments continues to grow. This week’s FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial event features a refreshing mixture of players, with an Open section and a Women’s section.
The players have just three minutes on each clock but there is a two-second increment after each move. Draw offers are not allowed before move 30. This is not unusual for modern tournaments but it does fit in nicely with Steinitz’s fighting spirit. This was ably demonstrated many times by the first World Champion, never more so than in the first of his two title matches with Mikhail Chigorin, which brought 16 decisive games out of the 17 played. The solitary draw came in the final game of the match.
Blitz chess tends to bring a reduced amount of draws anyway, partly because more mistakes will be made at the faster time limit.
The current scores for both sections can be found over at Chess24. Today we shall focus on some interesting snippets from the games of day one.
All eyes were on Magnus Carlsen, as usual. He had allowed himself some experiments in the recent Magnus Carlsen Invitational event and had endured burned fingers more than once. What would be his plan for this tournament?
His plan seemed to be to win as many games as possible! He stormed to 2.5/3 on the first day of action, with this crushing attack being a particular highlight.
Carlsen – Mamedyarov
The London System is all the rage at the moment. It was the scourge of local chess clubs before the lockdown and I am sure it is still waiting in the wings for when clubs return to action.
Indeed, club players will be familiar with the straightforward nature of White’s attack here, which features the clear intention of switching the queen into a very dangerous area. Sometimes during club matches one sits back and thinks, this has to be too early. How would a top Grandmaster refute it all? It turns out that matters are not so simple, even at the elite level.
One More Trick Up Carlsen’s Sleeve
Fast forward a few moves and we can see a critical moment of the game.
Carlsen’s attack has reached its height but care is required. One can imagine Steinitz looking down on the game, urging Carlsen to continue the attack. Naturally, the current World Champion knew exactly what was required.
This sacrifice, highly reminiscent of Kasparov in his prime (who always seemed to have just one more trick up his sleeve at the end of an attacking sequence) effectively ends the game.
18 …Rxf7 19 Bg6+ Kg8 20 Bxf7+ Kxf7 and now, the sting in the tail 21 Qxd6, picking up not only the undefended bishop but also a winning advantage; 1-0 (34)
Anyone wanting to know more about this opening may like to investigate our growing range of London System Courses.
A slip against the dangerous Korobov, dropping an exchange and then the game, brought Carlsen’s only defeat of the first day. He wasted no time in bouncing back, as proved by a victory in the very next game, against Anton Guijar.
In Honour of Steinitz
This game caught my eye, given the context of the tournament. Carlsen was White and the opening moves were:
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 d3 Bc5 6 c3 d6 7 Nbd2 0–0 8 Nf1 d5 9 Qe2 b5 10 Bb3 d4 11 Ng3
Carlsen – Guijar
None of this looks particularly noteworthy but the point is that Carlsen is paying (a presumably intentional) homage to Steinitz, a nice touch in the FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial.
One of the first world champion’s favorite setups in the Ruy Lopez an early d3, c3, Nbd2 and Nf1. This stemmed from Adolf Anderssen, who was influential on Steinitz.
Compare the White position with this one, from inaugural champion himself.
World Championship Match, Havana, 1892
It looks like a slow system for White but the knights are more than capable of running roughshod over the black position. Steinitz won this game in 33 moves.
Look where Carlsen’s knights ended up just a few moves later.
Carlsen’s advantage eventually told; 1-0 (42).
The Ruy Lopez has certainly stood the test of time. Find out more about this fine opening via our Chessable courses.
Thus Carlsen led the dangerous field after the first day, but there were clearly lots of tough tests yet to come.
As impressive as Carsen’s opening salvo of 4/6 undoubtedly was, it was not the most impressive score of day one.
Alexandra Kostenuik stormed to a hugely impressive 5.5/6 in the Women’s section.
Sheer determination is often the deciding factor in tournament play. This position looks to be heading towards a draw, but tactics are always lurking, just beneath the surface.
Cori – Kostenuik
True, Black is more active than White and the latter will naturally be seeking some chances of more active play but it was time for a typically staunch Steinitzian defence with 50 Rb1. In Blitz chess, instincts can take over and 50 Rb6?? has the outward appearance of being a very active move indeed. Kostenuik now unleashed 50 …Rxf2+! 51 Kxf2 Bc5+, winning a whole piece.
It can still go wrong for Black, who needs to ensure the game doesn’t boil down to a position with bishop and unqueenable rook’s pawn, but there was no danger of Kostenuik letting the win slip away.
In fact pawn promotion became an irrelevant feature, as the game ended in a snap checkmate.
60 Kh4 Bd8 checkmate.
No doubt there will many more adventures before the FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial tournament reaches its conclusion and we will return soon with more highlights from day two.