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07 Dec

Cursing Kirsan

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Could this be the beginning of the end for Kirsan? Well, we can only but hope so.  But for now, the damage has already been done to our game, with his dodgy dealings in Syria - and elsewhere - putting in jeopardy any hopes of a big sponsorship deal for Carlsen to defend his title in the media capital of the US.

Many over the years have wised up to the fact that Kirsan and FIDE are toxic, and have successfully worked around the problem.  And I suppose in a way his toxicity was the the catalyst for the Grand Chess Tour coming into being - and their approach to promoting chess with savvy live online coverage and commentary, top elite stars, wonderful venues in prime locations, and a big $1m plus prize fund are making chess fans sit up and take notice.

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And apart from cursing the bad Kirsan news on CNN, there’s also the positive chess news.  Magnus Carlsen will be interviewed on the rest day by CNN.com International on Wednesday 9th December. And guess what? CNN will be asking Magnus YOUR questions!  This is your chance to put a question to the World Champion! Just tweet your questions with the hashtag #AskMagnus and the best ones will appear on the CNN’s website.

The third and final leg of the Grand Chess Tour in London is heating up, as yet another loss from tour leader Veselin Topalov makes the race to the finish (and the bonus $150,000 prize for the top three in the standings) wide open, with any one of the top five in the standings in contention for the inaugural title.

Round 3:

Grischuk draw Giri
Vachier-Lagrave 1-0 Topalov
Caruana draw Nakamura
Anand draw Carlsen
Adams draw Aronian

Round 3 Standings: 1-2. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Anish Giri (Netherlands) 2/3; 3-9. Michael Adams (England), Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Vishy Anand (India), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 1.5; 10. Veselin Topalov 0.5.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Veselin Topalov
7th London Chess Classic
Sicilian Najdorf, Adams Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 This is the Adams Attack, named not after Englishman Michael Adams but American master and opening theoretician Weaver Adams (1901-1963) - and Bobby Fischer adopted Adams' line with considerable success after he abandoned 6.Bc4. There's two fantastic wins with 6.h3 you'll find fully annotated in Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games: Najdorf (Varna '62) and Bolbochan (Stockholm '62), the latter for which Fischer won the brilliancy prize. Despite Fischer's successes, it never really caught on until the early 1990s, when White players were running out of ideas on how to play against the labyrinth of the heavily analysed Najdorf variation. 6...e5 7.Nde2 h5 Played to prevent any White kingside expansion ideas with a possible g4. 8.g3 Nbd7 9.Bg2 b5 10.Nd5  Many thought this was perhaps a bit early - but with Black likely playing ...b4 in the not-to-distant future, MVL decided the Nd5 would come sooner rather than later. 10...Nxd5 11.Qxd5 Rb8 Another option was 11...Qc7 12.Be3 (Not 12.Qxa8 Nb6 winning the queen.) 12...Bb7 13.Qd2 which eventually ended in a draw, Navara-Djukic, Reykjavik 2015. 12.Be3 Be7 13.Qd2 Nf6 14.O-O O-O 15.Kh2 Bb7 16.Nc3 Rc8 17.a4 b4 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.exd5 Now with the knights off the board, we see that White has emerged with the better prospects: good bishops and plenty of Black pawn weaknesses to hone in on. 19...a5 20.Qe2 Bg5 21.Bxg5 Qxg5 22.h4 Of course, the cold, calculating silicon engine wants the immediate 22.Qb5 - but what does it know? It seems to me MVL's 22.h4 was a very pragmatic, human reaction. 22...Qf6 23.Qb5 Qe7 Topalov is not losing this -if anything, the game is equal. But a combination of time trouble and not having confidence in himself leads to his dramatic downfall. Topalov summed it all up after the game, really, and I suppose he is a victim of advancing years: "When I get in time trouble my reactions are not good." 24.Qxa5 Rxc2 25.Rac1 Rxb2 26.Rb1 Ra2 Perhaps Topalov was better taking his chances here with 26...Ra8 $5 27.Qxa8+ Bxa8 28.Rxb2 Qc7 29.Rfb1 - but even here, White is in control. 27.Qxb4 Ba6 28.Qb3 Bxf1 Far better was 28...Rd2 keeping the Black rook active on the seventh. 29.Qxa2 Bxg2 30.Kxg2 Ra8 31.a5! (See Diagram) The dust has settled; and yes, that running a-pawn is a huge problem for Black. 31...e4  Topalov's only hope now was ...e3 - but MVL quickly dashes any hope Topalov had. 32.Rb3 f5 33.Qd2 Another good move, preventing ...f4 while at the same time defending d5 and a5. 33...Qc7 34.Qb2 Rxa5 It was with much mirth in the VIP room when commentator Julian Hodgson thought Black was surviving with 34...Qxa5 35.Rb7 Qa1 with the Black queen "providing an x-ray defence of g7", only for wiser heads John Nunn and Jon Speelman to point out that the rook was also attacking g7! But realistically, this is Black’s best option, albeit also a hopeless one: 36.Rxg7+ Kf8 37.Qxa1 Rxa1 38.Rg5 and White has excellent winning chances. 35.Rb7 Ra2 36.Qb5 Rxf2+ There's no defence, as 36...Qc1 37.Qe8+ Kh7 38.Qxh5+ is winning easily. 37.Kxf2 Qc2+ 38.Qe2 1-0

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