Chess960 World Championship: Magnus Carlsen vs. Hikaru Nakamura!!
Everyone glued to watching the Winter Olympics? Not in Norway, apparently, where millions of TV viewers took time out from the lavish opening ceremony in South Korea to follow… Magnus Carlsen, playing Hikaru Nakamura! It’s being billed as an ‘unofficial world championship’ in the wonderfully quixotic Fischer Random, otherwise known as Chess960, on account of there being 960 possible starting positions.
Magnus, the challenger!
In the 16-game match, taking place over 5 days, Magnus – this time the ‘challenger’ to Hikaru, who won the last elite-level Fischer Random/chess960 tournament in 2009 – will be trying to take advantage of his famed ‘non-theoretical’ approach as the pieces get shuffled randomly around the back rank 15 minutes before the start of each game – foiling even bizarre attempts at opening preparation!
There’s nothing random about the prize fund, however, with nearly $200,000 at stake. To make things even more pulsating for the TV audience, Carlsen and Nakamura are being hooked up to a heart rate monitor – so we can see who can keep their cool as the seconds tick down!
Game 1 began with what is known as position 42 of the 960 (Hitchhiker’s Guide, anyone?) with knights on a1 and b1! But, after just 12 moves, the position looked like one you’d expect to see in “normal” chess. Control of the center and king safety being prioritized as we’d expect. The queens came off by move 23 and the symmetrical position was played out to a draw by move 50.
In game 2, Hikaru had the White side of “position 42” – keeping things fair – and decided against the artificial castling chosen by Carlsen, opting instead for a rook life with h4 and Rh3-g3. Ultimately we got a Q+P ending and a draw after move 42(!)
Game 3 gave Hikaru White with knights on d1 and e1 – another draw.
Finally we got a decisive game in game 4. Carlsen played some very direct attacking play, which Nakamura handled admirably. But, in typical fashion, Magnus created complications in the Q+P ending to break his rival’s resolve.
We have 2 more days of 2 games each at this time control (45 mins for 40 moves + 10 mins for the rest of the game) before we move into the final 8 games at 10 minutes + 5 seconds per move.
Advantage Carlsen. Will he add another world title to his collection?
This week’s free video shows Vishy Anand in action against Fabiano Caruana from the recent Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee, where the popular ex-world champ played a superbly controlled game crowned by some neat tactics. GM Eugene Perelshteyn explains just why the 48-year-old from Chennai, India is still one of the most dangerous Super GMs around.
Last week’s puzzle:
Did you find the winning sequence from Gupta-Ivanchuk? After 1. Rg8+! Kxg8 2. Qxd5 White emerges the exchange up, as 2…Kf7 is met by 3. Qxf5+.
This week’s puzzle:
This week’s puzzle is taken from a super-sharp Sicilian Poisoned Pawn variation at the Gibraltar Masters, where White has sacrificed a piece to create pressure against Black’s king. How did Bulgarian GM Ivan Cheparinov (Black, to play) turn the tables to foil Alan Pichot’s attacking ambitions?
Answer next time.