While everyone readies themselves for next month’s world title clash in Manhattan between Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen of Norway, before that the World Champion first has to deal with arguably one of the most eagerly anticipated showdowns when he takes on America’s Hikaru Nakamura this coming Thursday, in what many believe could well be the biggest online chess battles ever.
The chess.com ‘Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship’ saw eight of the world’s top grandmasters specially invited to take part in a knockout with a prize pool of $40,000 and the ultimate online blitz title - and now it all comes down to the dream final of Carlsen vs Nakamura (which already has been dubbed as ‘the Ali vs. Frazier of online speed chess’), as the two rivals meet in a series of five-minute, three-minute and one-minute bullet games spread over three hours.
The first game in each segment will be Fischer Random or 960 chess, where the back-row piece placement is by chance. The match starts on 27 October at 10AM Pacific/7PM Central Europe and there’s extensive online commentary with coverage available on Twitch.tv/chess, where you can watch the agony and the ecstasy on the faces of both players on their live webcams.
In a major article earlier this week for forbes.com, the magazine claims that “in the Esports era, chess is alive and thriving”, and they specifically mention the attraction of the upcoming Blitz Battle Championship final, especially as the semifinals pulled higher Twitch numbers than Call of Duty, highlighting the growing interest in online chess when it is properly supported and presented to a worldwide fanbase.
Meanwhile, from virtual reality to the real world, the 69th Russian Championship Superfinal looks to be heading for a tense finish, as surprise joint-leaders Alexander Riazantsev and Vladimir Fedoseev take what could well be a crucial half-point lead over the chasing pack going into Thursday’s final round.
Leaderboard: 1-2. Vladimir Fedoseev, Alexander Riazantsev, 6/10; 3-6. Alexander Grischuk, Dmitry Jakovenko, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Peter Svidler 5.5; 7-8. Nikita Vitugov, Aleksey Goganov 5; 9-11. Grigory Oparin, Ernesto Inarkiev, Dmitry Kokarev 4.5; 12. Dmitry Bocharov 2.5.
GM Vladimir Fedoseev - GM Dmitry Bocharov
69th Russian Ch. Superfinal, (10)
Caro-Kann Defence, Advanced Variation
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Few lines are as assertive and aggressive as the Advanced Variation of the Caro-Kann - just the thing to play if you are looking for a win, such as here with Fedoseev facing back-marker Bocharov. 3...Bf5 4.Nf3 The Short Variation. In the early 1990s British GM and 1993 World Championship finalist Nigel Short devised this slower system to great effect; Short's idea being to treat the position a little like the Advanced Variation of the French Defence. 4...e6 5.Be2 h6 6.0-0 Ne7 7.Nbd2 Nd7 8.c3 Bh7 9.b4 White looks to put the 'big clamp' on the freeing option of ...c5. Black now has to chip away elsewhere at White's position, notably e5. Easier said than done, because if Black isn't careful he can be steam-rolled on the queenside - and this is exactly what happens in the game. 9...a5 10.Nb3 axb4 11.cxb4 Ng6 12.Bd2!? More usual here has been 12.a3 with the idea of not committing White's dark-squared bishop for now, as perhaps later it may well be better placed on e3. However, Fedoseev has a cunning plan in mind with his TN. 12...Be7 13.a4! And here is Fedoseev's plan - he intends to play for a quick a5 and a firm grip on Black's queenside. 13...0-0 14.a5 f6 Black now has to chip away at e5 in the hope of generating counterplay for his bishops. If his mission fails, then White will indeed roll him over on the queenside. 15.exf6 Bxf6 16.Rc1 e5 17.dxe5 Ndxe5 18.Nfd4! This was the drawback to Black's only hope of chipping away at e5: Suddenly, White now has wonderful outposts on d4 and c5 for his knights. 18...Qd6 19.Nc5 Rf7 At least Black can defend b7 and perhaps prepare to double rooks on the f-file - but Black's activity has to come swiftly, otherwise White will consolidate and take advantage of his queenside advantage. 20.Nf5 Qf8? It's never nice to retreat your queen all the way back to your own back-rank, but Black chose the wrong back-rank square! He would perhaps have faired better for now keeping his queen on the more active b8-h2 diagonal, where at least you can defend b7 and perhaps frighten White with mating ideas. So, better was 20...Qb8 21.f4 Nd7 22.Nxd7 Rxd7 23.Bg4 Rd8 where at least Black is still in the game, though still facing an awkward time unravelling his rook on a8. 21.f4! Simply winning a pawn - and a big one at that, as White's passed a-pawn now becomes a monster to deal with. 21...Nd7 22.Nxb7 Bb2 23.Rb1 Rxf5 24.Rxb2 Qf6 If it wasn't for the omnipresent threat of the a-pawn running down the board, Black would still be in the game - but now it is a lost cause, save for some cheap tricks. 25.Qc1 Nh4 26.g3 Re8 27.Rf2! By far the best defence to the tricks - now Black is in a fix. 27...Rxe2 28.Rxe2 Nf3+ 29.Kg2 Nd4 30.Re8+ Kf7 31.Re1 A bit over-cautious over the defence of his rook on b2, as more clinical would have been 31.Qe1! as Black can never play a ...Qxb2 because he'd likely get mated with the queen and rook on the e-file. 31...Ne5 It's all smoke and mirrors. Black is trying to frighten White into believing he has something. He has nothing - but White does have that very big passed a-pawn! 32.a6 Rh5 33.a7 Ndf3 Marginally better was 33...Nef3, but after 34.h4! Nxh4+ White holds his nerve and simply plays 35.Kf2! Nhf3 36.Rh1! and there's no attack and White's ready to queen the a-pawn. 34.Rxe5! A simple solution to all the annoying Black pieces around White's king - and Fedoseev can easily afford this sacrifice of material to stop the tricky threats, as he has the luxury of that unstoppable a-pawn. 34...Nxe5 35.Bc3 Be4+ 36.Kf1 Bd3+ 37.Ke1 Nf3+ 38.Kd1 Black runs out of checks...but meanwhile in the land of reality, White is soon going to have an extra queen on the board. 38...d4 39.a8Q dxc3 40.Qe3 Re5 Black at least stops the threat of Qe8 mating. 41.fxe5 cxb2 42.Qa2+ 1-0