Chess: Magnus Carlsen wins online and will face the new generation at Wijk

Chess: Magnus Carlsen wins online and will face the new generation at Wijk

Norway’s world champion made a clean sweep of his seven matches in the $210,000 Meltwater Tour final and will take on five of the world’s best teenagers at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee in January

Magnus Carlsen at Wijk aan Zee in 2022

Magnus Carlsen won all his seven matches at last week’s $210,000 Meltwater Tour online final in San Francisco, as the world champion continues to dominate internet events. Fast time limits suit his powerful and resourceful all-round game, his alertness to fleeting opportunities, and his ability to grind out endgame wins.

If online tournaments were rated like classical chess, his San Francisco performance would rank above or close to the record 2900 level he has twice narrowly missed over-the-board. Discounting tiebreaks, Carlsen won 14 games, drew nine, and lost only to Vietnam’s Le Quang Liem. His 18-move win against Shak Mamedyarov featured an early g7-g5 by Black, a move which Carlsen himself has used as a surprise but which here led to the black queen being trapped on e5.

Chess 3843

In contrast to his online superiority, Carlsen’s over-the-board rating topped out in August 2019 when it reached a peak of 2882, exactly equal to a previous peak in 2014. Since then, his performances have been on a plateau, albeit an exalted one. At the start of last year, when he renounced defending his Fide world title, he stated that his ambition was to achieve the 2900 rating which he had twice narrowly missed. Embarrassingly, the outcome is very likely to be that he will end 2022 with a lower rating than he started it.

There will be a new opportunity in 2023, starting with the “chess Wimbledon” at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, which Carlsen has won eight times in 18 attempts. The event, to be staged from 13 to 29 January, will be a major arena for a clash between the established GMs in their late 20s or early 30s and the new generation who jumped into prominence at the Chennai Olympiad. Carlsen, 32 next week, will be the second oldest competitor after Levon Aronian, 40. His nearest rating rivals will be China’s world No 2, Ding Liren, and the reigning US champion, Fabiano Caruana.

Five rapidly improving teenagers are in the field: Arjun Erigaisi, 19, who who qualified by winning the 2022 Wijk Challengers; fellow Indians Dommaraju Gukesh, 16, and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 17; Uzbekistan’s world rapid champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov, 18; and Germany’s Vincent Keymer, 18.

Wijk’s organisers are proud of their selection, and the tournament director, Jeroen van den Berg, said: “We are always looking for a perfect mix between the world’s best players and up-and-coming talent. In my opinion, we have succeeded in that”.

However, one of the missing names continues to be Alireza Firouzja, the world No 4 and at age 19 the world’s best teenager, who fell out with the organisers after a final-round incident in 2021 and then demanded financial compensation for it in 2022, plus a much higher start fee than the organisers were willing to offer.

China and Uzbekistan will contest Friday’s World Team Championship final in Jerusalem. In Thursday’s semi-finals, China beat Spain 5-3 while Uzbekistan defeated India 4.5-3.5. Despite the event’s global title, most of the 12 competing nations sent only second or third teams, which led to some surprises.

The United States and Israel were eliminated at the group stage. It was arguably the worst US result ever in international team competition, although the 4.5-15.5 disaster against the Soviet Union in the 1945 radio match was a much more painful and significant defeat.

The US team in Jerusalem won only one game out of 20, with 13 draws and six defeats. Hans Niemann on top board totalled 1.5/5. The team which has impressed most is China, whose squad had little international experience but won their group and their two knockout matches with the loss of only three games out of 36.

Chess 3843 (alternate)

England’s John Nunn faces a critical final two rounds on Friday and Saturday in the World 65+ Senior Championship in Assisi, Italy. The eminent author and former top-10 grandmaster led with 6.5/7 and four rounds left after winning some fine games earlier. He scored with a queen sacrifice in round three, with his favourite King’s Indian in round four, and by refuting unsound play in classical style in round five.

Round eight, against the 2012 world senior champion Jens Kristiansen, brought Nunn’s first defeat. He could have exchanged queens, but chose a riskier line, which the Dane refuted in style, sacrificing both rooks to reach a won ending in an incident-packed 24 moves.

It will be all to play for in the final two rounds, live and free to watch on Chess24.com starting 2pm Friday and 1pm Saturday. Nunn is sharing the lead with Kristiansen on 7.5/9, but has the inferior tiebreak and may need to win both his last two games. England already have gold medals in 2022 from the world 50+ and 65+ and the European 50+ team championships, so English fans will be eager for another.

At age 81, Nona Gaprindashvili is still competing in the world 65+ championship. After eight rounds she was unbeaten with 6/8 and leading all her male rivals in the 75+ category. The Georgian, women’s world champion for 16 years, scored a memorable offboard success earlier this year when her defamation lawsuit was settled out of court by Netflix, who in an episode of The Queen’s Gambit had portrayed her as never having played against men, whereas in fact she had faced more than 50 male opponents by the relevant year.

Two of the tournaments cited in her affidavit were at Hastings, where Gaprindashvili won the Challengers in 1963-64 and finished fifth, ahead of all the Englishmen, a year later. Hastings has staged its annual New Year congress for a century with breaks only for World War Two, though last year was played online due to Covid.

Its 2022-23 version already has a dozen grandmasters entered, along with the 21-year-old British champion, Harry Grieve, and many English amateurs.

Earlier this month Shreyas Royal, 13, scored the youngest ever English grandmaster result at the Bavarian Open and on Friday afternoon the teenager has another big opportunity.

Royal will compete in the online Mr Dodgy Invitational, a 32-player €15,000 event which includes the elite GMs Peter Svidler, Alexander Grischuk, Daniil Dubov and Samuel Sevian, plus a strong English representation with David Howell, Gawain Jones, Simon Williams and Lawrence Trent. Play starts 4pm daily from 24 November to 2 December and is viewable at Chess24.com.

3843: 1 Rxh7+! Kxh7 2 Rh4+ Kg8 3 Bxf7+! Rxf7 4 Q or Rh8 mate. 3…Kf8 4 Rh8+ lasts a move longer. Nunn v Birnboim: 1 Qb5! Resigns. White threatens 2 Qxe5 and 3 Qg7 mate. If 1…f6 2 Qb7! or 1…Qd1 (hoping for Qg4) 2 f3!