Chess Feasts in Europe and America

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The world chess champion Magnus Carlsen came to Berlin this month to defend his other two world titles: in the rapid and blitz play. The Norwegian grandmaster succeeded marvelously in the three-day rapid event, finishing undefeated and scoring 11.5 points in 15 games. He left his next rival, Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, 1.5 points behind. Third was the Azerbaijani Teimur Radjabov.

The blitz world title went to Alexander Grischuk of Russia. A notorious time-trouble addict, he proved he can move fast and well, scoring 15.5/21. That was a half point ahead of his compatriot, the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, and the French grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

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From left: Vachier-Lagrave, Kramnik, Grischuk. Photo by Nailya Bikmurzina.

Carlsen finished in a group with 14 points. His problems began at the end of the first day when he was outplayed by the 2015 World Cup winner Sergey Karjakin. On the last day, Carlsen scored 50 percent, not enough to end on the podium.

Karjakin as Black could have finished the game with Carlsen with an amazing blow, instantly suggested by computers.

Carlsen,Magnus - Karjakin,Sergey
World Blitz Championship, Berlin 2015

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The black Queen is a monster, forcing the overloaded white heavy pieces to work overtime: the white Queen has to protect the pawn on f2 and the Rook must guard the square g2. The Knight is too far away to help the white king. You can almost hear the thunder and the computers come up with it in no time.
31...Ra1!!
A double-deflection! This piece of chess tactics is seen rarely and one would not expect it in blitz games where steady play, not flashy moves, is rewarded. Black threatens to exchange the rooks and mate on g2, and Carlsen cannot do anything about it.
But Karjakin, probably seeing only a single deflection of the white Queen, missed it here and on two following moves. He also could have returned to it later in the game, throwing his Rook to different squares along the first rank.
Instead he played 31...Kg7? 32.cxd5 cxd5 33.b4 Rb8 34.Na6 Rb6 35.Nc7 Rxb4 36.Qa2 Ra4 37.Qb2 Ra5 38.Ne8+ Kg6 39.Nc7 h5 40.Qc2 Kh7 41.Qb2 Qf6 42.Rc1 Qf3 43.Rg1 Qf5 44.Rc1 Ra7 45.Ne8 Qf3 46.Rg1 Ra6 47.Qc2 Re6 Carlsen resigned. Finally, Karjakin was able to make the Queen deflection work: 48.Nc7 runs into 48...Rc6! picking up the Knight.
32.Qxa1 [32.Rxa1 Qg2 mate.] 32...Qxf2+ 33.Kh1 Bf3+ mates.

The top U.S. players played in the Millionaire Open in Las Vegas that clashed with the Berlin Bonanza. The U.S. champion Hikaru Nakamura eventually prevailed in this popular event, collecting the $100,000 first prize.

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Photo by David Llada

Nakamura, rated number two in the world on the FIDE rating list, had to qualify for the top four group by defeating the last year's winner Wesley So. In the semifinal he had to overcome Yu Yangyi of China, but won the decisive game in the final against the Vietnamese grandmaster Quang Liem Le with beautiful tactical sequences.

Nakamura,Hikaru (2816) - Le,Quang Liem (2697)
Millionaire Chess Final, Las Vegas 2015

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Alexander Alekhine got a similiar position with Black from the Cambridge Springs defense during the world championship match against Raul Jose Capablanca in 1927, aiming his bishop pair at the queenside and looking for a pawn break.
Le should have waited with the rook move, perhaps 22...Rab8, but he decided to attack with 22...a5, playing straight into Nakamura's hand.
23.d5!
A nice refutation based on various pins and double attacks. Nakamura pounces on the weak b6-pawn.
23...Rxd5
Black also has problems after 23...exd5 24.Nxb6 Rab8 (24...Ra7? 25.Nxd5 Qb7 26.Nxe7+ Qxe7 27.Rxd8 Qxd8 28.Qxa7 wins.) 25.Nxd5 Qb7 26.Nxe7+ Qxe7 27.bxa5 and White has a big advantage similar to the game.
Giving up the exchange 23...cxd5 24.Nxb6 Qb7 25.Nxa8 Rxa8 was the best way to continue.
24.Rxd5 exd5 25.Nxb6 Rd8
After 25...Ra7 26.Nxd5 cxd5 (26...Qb8 27.Nxe7+ Rxe7 28.bxa5+-) 27.Bxh7+ Kxh7 28.Rxc7 Rxc7 29.bxa5 White should win.

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26.Nxd5!
Tactician's paradise: double-attacks and pins.
26...Qb7
On 26...Rxd5 comes 27.Qe4 Nf8 28.Qxd5 winning.
27.Nxe7+ Qxe7 28.bxa5
White is clearly winning and Hikaru secures the passed a-pawn with beautiful tactics.
28...Ra8 29.a6! Nf8
Another double attack wins after 29...Rxa6 30.Bxh7+ Kxh7 31.Qd3++-.
30.Bd3 Ne6
30...Qxa3? 31.Bh7+ wins.
31.Nd4 Nxd4 32.Qxd4 Rd8
After 32...Qxa3 33.Rb1 the a-pawn secures White a full point.
33.Qc3 Game over. 33...c5 34.Bf1 Rd5 35.Qa5 Bc6 36.a7 Ba8 37.Rb1 Kh7 38.Rb8 c4 39.Qa6 Rd2 40.Rxa8 Qc5 41.Rh8+ Kxh8 42.a8Q+ 1-0

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The world's top rated woman, Hou Yifan of China, dominated the FIDE Women's Grand Prix in Monaco. The former women's world champion scored 9/11, ending two points ahead of the current champion Maria Muzychuk of Ukraine and Humpy Koneru of India.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis will organize two exhibition matches with different time limits, November 12-15, between the top two U.S. players Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, and between Hou Yifan and Parimarjan Negi, an Indian grandmaster studying at Stanford University.

Note that in the replay windows below you can click either on the arrows under the diagram or on the notation to follow the game.

Images by Nailya Birkmurzina, David Llada and official websites in Monaco and Berlin.