There’s been a hiatus of sorts in the elite-tournament circuit following the late spring activity of speed chess that witnessed arch-rivals Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen sharing the honours respectively in the new Grand Chess Tour events in Paris and Leuven. But now the summer blitz begins, as the elite stars return to the fray once again with rivalling events starting next week in Germany and in the Spanish Basque Country.
First up is the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting (9-17 July), with a field that includes the world's #2, 3, and 4 players: Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Leinier Dominguez and Ruslan Ponomariov are also 2700+, and the line-up also includes Evgeniy Najer, former 2700-rated player Dieter Liviu-Nisipeanu, and local hope-cum-cannon fodder Rainer Buhmann.
But the Bilbao Chess Masters (13-23 July) sees an even more intriguing contest, as it features World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin, his Russian title challenger, as both meet in the only match-up between the two ahead of their title match scheduled for New York in November. And if that rivalry isn’t enough for you, then Carlsen’s rivalry with Nakamura also continues, with the former US champion in the six-player line-up for the double round-robin that includes Anish Giri, Wesley So, and new Chinese sensation Wei Yi.
Ahead of Bilbao, Carlsen got a little online practice in, as he trounced Armenian GM Tigran L. Petrosian by a score of 21-4 in their quarterfinal match-up in the Chess.com Blitz Battle. Carlsen won 6-2 in games played with five minutes plus two seconds per move. At a faster time limit of three minutes plus two seconds, he won 7-1 and in Bullet chess, with one minute on the clock, he won 8-1.
The match was broadcast live online with commentary from IM Danny Rensch and GM Robert Hess and with accompanying video showing all the highs, the lows and the emotions of both combatants in battle via webcams. Carlsen’s victory means that he is slated to play Alexander Grischuk in the Blitz Battle semifinals (with the dates to be announced soon). The victor there will meet the winner between the two and three seeds, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
GM Magnus Carlsen - GM Tigran L. Petrosian
Chess.com Blitz Battle (5m+2spm), (7)
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 This is a particularly aggressive line against the Modern Defence set-up rather than via the Pirc (where Black plays 1...d6 followed by 2...Nf6 attacking e4 forcing 3.Nc3), as after ...Nf6 White plays Qe2 defending e4 and then can play c3 and Nbd2 to retain a space advantage and keep his options open. 4...Nf6 5.Qe2 0-0 6.Bb3 A prophylaxis move, anticipating Black countering in the centre with ...c6 and ...d5. With the bishop tucked safely back on b3, when ...d5 comes, White can answer it with the advance e5. 6...c6 7.0-0 Bg4 8.Nbd2 d5 9.e5 Nfd7 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Nxf3 e6 12.h4 c5 13.c3 Nc6 14.h5! Carlsen rightly gains more space for himself on the kingside that forces Petrosian to urgently seek an exchange of queens. 14...Rc8 15.g3 Now we see where Carlsen's attack will come from. If Black does nothing, then there comes Kg2 and the rook to h1 followed by Qg4-h3 and a quick mating attack down the h-file. 15...cxd4 16.cxd4 Qb6 17.Rd1 Qa6 Left to his own devices, Carlsen will complete his development with Be3 followed by Rd2 and return to the idea ofKg2 and Rah1 etc. Not liking this, Petrosian would rather deal with the slightly worse endgame he now faces. 18.Qxa6 bxa6 19.h6! Much stronger than exchanging on g6, as it retains possible back-rank mating threats whilst locking in Black's bishop, thus forcing the weakening of the e6-pawn with ...f6 being forced. 19...Bh8 20.Ba4 It's amazing how Carlsen squeezes his opponent's by quickly assessing correctly when and when not to exchange off pieces for a better ending. 20...f6 21.exf6 Bxf6 22.Bf4 Nb6 23.Bxc6 Rxc6 24.Rac1 Rfc8 25.Rxc6 Rxc6 26.Be5 Be7 If 26...Kf7 27.Bxf6 Kxf6 28.Ne5 Rc2 29.b3! and Black can't play 29...Rxa2 as 30.Rc1 sees White's rook coming to c7 and hitting h7. And if Black keeps his rook on c2, then there comes the rook lift Rd3-f3 and again coming to the seventh. 27.Re1 Nd7 The obvious question to ask is what happens after 27...Rc2 and Black activating his rook along the seventh? The simple answer is 28.Bf4! with an excellent endgame in prospect for White. The point being that after 28...Kf7 29.b3! Rxa2 30.Rc1 and, again, White's rook coming to c7 is going to hoover up all those weak Black pawns - the main target being h7. 28.Bg7 Kf7 29.Re3 a5? [Petrosian cracks under the relentless Carlsen pressure - and a double pressure at that, with a trademark Carlsen squeeze combined with a lack of time. Better was 29...g5. 30.Rb3! Rc7 Carlsen takes full advantage of his rook infiltrating deep into his opponent's weak position, as Petrosian can't opposes it with 30...Rb6 as 31.Rc3! will be very strong. 31.Rb5 Bf6 If 31...Bb4 32.Ne5+ Nxe5 33.Bxe5 Rd7 34.Bf4! stopping ...Bd2, will leave Black in dire straits as there will come a3 kicking the bishop back and picking off the a-pawn. 32.Rxa5 g5 The immediate 32...Bxg7 fails to the Zwischenzug of 33.Ng5+! Kg8 34.hxg7 and the e6-pawn will fall. 33.g4 Kg6 34.Ra6 Black is in a bind, with Carlsen's active pieces squeezing his weak pawns. 34...Kf7 35.Kg2 Rb7 36.b3 Rc7 37.Kg3 Rb7 38.Bxf6 Kxf6 39.Nxg5!! (See Diagram) Carlsen can be brutal, even in position where there are very few pieces left on the board. 39...Nf8 If 39...Kxg5 40.Rxe6 threatens mate with f4+, forcing Black into a humiliating defeat with 40...Nf6 41.f4+ Kxh6 42.Rxf6+ Kg7 43.Rd6 and an elementary endgame win. 40.f4 The rest now is academic. 40...Rc7 41.b4 Rc3+ 42.Kf2 Rc4 43.Rxa7 Kg6 44.Rf7 Rc8 45.Rg7+ Kxh6 46.Rg8 1-0 Black resigns, as there's no way to meet the threat of Nf7 mate without losing the f8 knight.