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19 Aug

Stop The World

Stop the World - I Want to Get Off is a famous Broadway and West End musical by Anthony Newley. But fittingly, it could best fit an unexpected bombshell dropped last week by World Champion Magnus Carlsen before he left for his US training camp in advance of the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, the second leg of the Grand Chess Tour, which will run Aug. 22 through Sept. 3. 

FM4

Carlsen posted on his official Facebook page that there should be a new system to decide the World Championship. “I have, for a long time believed - and voiced publicly - that there should be a new World Championship cycle system, which is both balanced and fair,” writes Carlsen. “In short, I strongly believe the chess world should evolve to a more just system.”

He says he want an annual even like the World Cup, with knock-out mini-matches to decide the title. And while the World Champion has to be commended for a proposal that would make it less likely for him to retain his title, such a system proved to be a dismal title failure when they were tried in the 1990s by FIDE. Even in today’s game, the Women’s World Championship adopted a system Carlsen recommends every second year and the titleholder is considered more like a winner of a lottery, rather than the real Women’s World Champion.

Most worrying of all, is the fact that FIDE has welcomed Carlsen’s proposals - that alone should tell you this is a bad idea! But many wise heads disagree with Carlsen - such as ex-champion Vladimir Kramnik, quipping in with “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” - and fear his proposals could mean the end of a long tradition and lineage stretching back to the first official event in 1886 won by Wilhelm Steinitz, where the world championship title was decided by a match between two players.

What's interesting is that Carlsen’s bombshell was even met with concerns from his manager, Espen Agdestein. “For me as a manager, it is difficult to look at it because he could lose potentially a lot of money and the title. I do not like it,” Agdestein told Sjakboggen. “But at the same time I have respect for the fact that he feels this is an appropriate time to change the system.”

Meanwhile, ahead of that upcoming Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, Wesley So, the US. No.3 and tournament wildcard was at his brilliant best last week when he made an appearance in the Turkish Chess League, their national team championship.

Wesley So - Sergey Volkov
Turkish Super League, (2)
French Defence, Classical Steinitz Variation
1.e4 e6 Much of opening nomenclature in chess comes from our game’s rich heritage, such as the French Defence, so named after an 1836 correspondence match between the city of London and Paris chess clubs where the Parisian players were persuaded to move the e-pawn just one square rather than two, which was the de rigueur of the day. 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.dxc5 White's strategy in this line of the Classical Steinitz variation is to control and occupy d4 with a knight to prevent Black from any freeing ideas of ...d4 to unlock his "bad" white-square bishop. 9...Bxc5 10.Bd3 Qb6 The battle for control of d4 continues. 11.Bf2 Inviting Black into an exchange of queens and bishops on f2 - but this just leaves White with the better endgame prospects, as Black will be lumbered with the bad bishop. 11...Bb7 12.0-0 Rc8 13.Rae1 g6? A very bad error from Volkov, who really should know better that ...g6 will not prevent White from playing f5. Instead, he had to play 13...Ne7 as played in Wang Yue vs. Ding Liren in 2011. 14.f5! gxf5 Black has no other options: He can't castle as f6 and Qh6 mates quickly, and if he does nothing then 15.fxe6 fxe6 16.Qh6 and White is winning. 15.Bxf5! Bxf2+ If 15...exf5 16.e6! is quickly crashing through to win. And this is the only way to win, as 16.Nxd5? allows Black to swiftly and dramatically turn the tables with 16...Nd4! 17.Nxb6 Nxf3+ 18.gxf3 Rg8+ winning. 16.Rxf2 Na5? This time if 16...exf5 17.Nxd5 is winning: 17...Qd8 18.Nf6+ Kf8 (18...Nxf6 19.exf6+ will soon mate) 19.Qh6+ Ke7 20.Nd5+ Ke8 21.e6 and Black can resign here. And if 16...b4 17.Nxd5! Qa5 18.Ng5! Qxd5 19.Qxd5 exd5 20.e6 again crashes through to win. Black's only chance for survival was with 16...Qc5! 17.Bd3 h6 (to prevent Ng5 and Qh6) 18.Nd1 where White has the advantage, but there is still a lot of work to be done to convert the win. 17.Qh6 d4? The position may well be gone after 17...Rf8 anyway, but this turns the game into a miniature now. 18.Ne4 exf5 Black could have prolonged the inevitable for a few more moves with 18...Bxe4 19.Bxe4 - but all roads are leading to Rome for White from such a superior position. 19.Nd6+ Kd8 20.Nxf7+ Kc7 21.e6! (See Diagram) The threat isn't just the knight on d7; 21.e6 clear's the way for White to play the deadly Qf4+ soon. 21...Bxf3 22.Qf4+ Kb7 23.exd7 1-0 Black resigns as he is going to go an exchange down in a hopeless position.

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