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18 Dec

Fischer’s Footsteps

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During London, Carlsen also found the time to take part in an online Q&A session for CNN, whom the cable news channel described as “the international poster boy of chess.” Ordinary fans asked all the questions using the hashtag #AskMagnus. All the questions asked of and answered by Magnus can be found at CNN by clicking here.

And top of the list came from Gabriel Sam, who asked: “If you could play one of all the players in history, who would you play?” And Magnus promptly answered: "Probably Bobby Fischer at his best. Because the precision and energy that he played with is just unmatched in the history of chess. So Bobby Fischer from 1970 to 1972.”

Next year, the top three American players, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, and Wesley So are all already automatically qualified into the next Grand Chess Tour cycle by virtue of ending 2015 in the world’s top 10. And Carlsen vs. Americans could well become a theme for the coming year, because Nakamura and Caruana are among the favourites for the 2016 Candidates tournament, so there’s a good chance an American emerging to challenge for the world title for the first time since Fischer.

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But the one to watch for in 2016 could well be chess prodigy Sam Sevian, who won’t be 15 until Boxing Day, and he’s already following in Fischer’s footsteps by becoming the youngest American ever to become a grandmaster, which he achieved at 13 years, 10 months, and 27 days. Fischer was a relative veteran of 15 and a half when he achieved grandmaster status in 1958 - and in comparison, I rate Sevian in the same league as Fischer, Nakamura and Caruana.

Recently, Sevian took part in the very strong ACP Masters in Ashod, hailed as the strongest chess tournament ever to be held in Israel. The twelve-player rapid tournament (G15; +10s) included the likes of Boris Gelfand, Vassily Ivanchuk (who won the title), and Ian Nepomniachtchi. Sevian was the sole US representative, and was by far the youngest and the lowest rated player in the field, but he held his own in the “A” group.

Today’s game comes from the group stage, as Sevian belies his age by showing great maturity in beating the former Russian champion and 2012 European champ Dmitry Jakovenko.

GM Sam Sevian - GM Dmitry Jakovenko
ACP Masters, (3)
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 The much-vaunted Berlin "Wall" Defence - the weapon of choice now at elite level (witness the recent London Chess Classic) for Black players looking to draw. It is not easy for White to break this down. 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 h6 The Berlin has become filled with subtle, prophylactic moves; the idea being to prevent one side or the other getting certain moves and manoeuvres in - and this move takes away the g5-square from White's bishop and knight. 10.Rd1+ Ke8 11.Nc3 Bd7 12.Bf4 Rd8 13.Bh2 A new move; but not untypical in such positions after h3 has been played, as you London System-like tuck the bishop safely back on h2. Previously, Fabiano Caruana had this position twice against Magnus Carlsen and won with 13.Ne4 Be7 (Caruana commented that the critical move was 13...c5!?) 14.g4 Nh4 15. Nxh4 Bxh4 16.Kg2 Be6 17.f3 b6 18.b3 c5 19.c4 and Black's position came under great pressure and Caruana went on to win (1-0 in 53): Caruana-Carlsen, Shamkir 2014. 13...Bb4 14.Ne2 g5 15.g4 Ng7 16.Ng3 c5?! Dubious now, as the Black bishop spends too much time on the wrong side of the board and - as we shall soon see - d5 becomes a fulcrum point for White's pirouetting knight. 17.c3 This was played under a shortened time-control. But given more time, Sevian could well have been seduced by considering 17.e6!? Nxe6 18.c3 Ba5 19.Nh5 and although Black has a pawn, White has lots of good entry squares for his pieces that make things awkward for his opponent to defend against. However, given the time constraints, Sevian showed great maturity in what he played. 17...Ba5 18.Ne4 Bc6 19.Nfd2 Ne6 20.Nf6+ Ke7 21.Nc4 Bb6 22.Ne3! Heading for the superb outpost on f5. 22...Ng7 23.Ned5+ Bxd5 Pretty much forced, as a king move allows 24.c4 anchoring the knight on d5. 24.Nxd5+ Ke8 25.a4! The highly experienced, and much higher rated Jakovenko is nothing short of being outplayed here: Sevian is handling the game like an experienced elite player. 25...c6 26.Nf6+! Stronger than 26.Nxb6 , which also had its merits. 26...Ke7 27.Ne4 Ne6 28.Nd6 The knight, with wonderful outposts on d6, c4, e4 and f5, soon becomes a thorn in Jakovenko's side. 28...Rd7?! Not so good, as it falls into a forcing line. Black was concerned about his b7-pawn; but better was 28...Bc7, as Black has chances to hold this position.  Certainly not an easy job, but it was his only hope now. 29.a5 Bd8 Now, if 29...Bc7 30.Nxb7 Rb8 31.a6! is the big difference with the previous note. 30.a6 b5 31.Nf5+ Ke8 32.Kg2 c4 33.Rxd7 Kxd7 34.Rd1+ Kc7 35.Rd6 Black is hanging on - but only just. White's pieces are all involved in the game and are working at their full potential. Not so for Black, though - his pieces have become disjointed and not working together. 35...Kb6 36.Rd7 Kxa6 37.Rxf7 Kb6 38.Rd7 a5 39.f3! (See Diagram) It looks innocent, but there's a deadly sting to this move, as suddenly White finds a potential winning diagonal for his bishop on h2 to spring to. 39...Re8? Jakovenko finally cracks under the relentless pressure. He had to play 39...b4 40.Nd6 c5 and try to make something of the queenside pawns to complicate matters; though even here, White would still win. 40.Nd6 Rf8 41.Nc8+ 1-0 After 41.Nc8+ it is a forced mate: 41...Ka6 (41...Kc5 42.Bg1+ Nd4 43.Bxd4#) 42.Ra7#.

0 Comments December 18, 2015

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