- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Without pushing a pawn, Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Russian Alexander Grischuk last week booked a berth to the 2018 world championship hunt.

The two grandmasters were on the bubble but not in the field at the fourth and final FIDE Grand Prix tournament that ended Monday in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, hoping to secure the final two slots in the candidates tournament in March for the right to challenge current titleholder Magnus Carlsen of Norway.

GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France and Teimour Radjabov, Mamedyarov’s compatriot, could have qualified with a top result in Spain. But both fell just short, with Vachier-Lagrave losing a heartbreaking final-round game to Russian GM Dmitry Jakovenko that left him on the outside looking in. Jakovenko and Armenian GM Levon Aronian — who has already qualified for the March tournament in Berlin — shared first prize in the event at 5½-3½.

Two Americans will be in the candidates field in Berlin, an eight-grandmaster double round-robin. Both Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So qualified on the basis of their high ratings. Aronian, Mamedyarov and Grischuk will also be joined by Russian GMs Sergey Karjakin, Carlsen’s 2016 challenger and Vladimir Kramnik and China’s Ding Liren. The host city for the title match has not been announced.


Kenya became a global running powerhouse after Kipchoge Keino and Naftali Temu won gold medals in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Bjorn Borg’s Wimbledon successes inspired a generation of Swedish tennis stars. And now Carlsen’s amazing success may be birthing a new chess powerhouse in Norway.

The Nordic nation now boasts two world champions after 18-year-old GM Aryan Tari captured the world junior crown last week in Tarvisio, Italy, earning a congratulatory tweet from Carlsen himself. Tari earned the gold medal on tiebreaks over Manuel Petrosyan of Armenia and India’s Aravindh Chithambaram. On the girls’ side, Virginia’s Jennifer Yu earned a bronze medal after a hard-fought loss to new girls junior champ IM Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan.

Tari, whose parents emigrated to Norway from Iran, had perhaps his diciest moment against Ukrainian GM Kirill Alekseenko in Round 6, when both players had chances in a double-edged Moscow Variation Sicilian. We cut right to the chase as the strategic battle over Black’s weak a-pawn comes to a head.

Tari as White plays 25. Qc4 (Rxa6 looks premature after 25…Rxa6 26. Rxa6 Qxb2 27. Qc4 Rb8!, and Black can challenge White along the seventh rank) e4 26. Rxa6?! Rxa6 27. Rxa6 Qxb2 28. Ra7 (see diagram), when Black could have turned the tables with the tricky 28…Bh6! 29. Bf2 (Bxh6 Qb6+ is the idea) Qxc2 30. h3 Bf4 31. g3 e3! 32. Be1 Qc1 33. Qf1 Bxg3 34. Bxg3 Qxc3 and Alekseenko is winning.

Given a second chance, White finds the path to victory with a powerful queen-rook invasion: 31. Qc7 Qf6?! (better was 31…Kh8 32. Qxd6 Qb1+ 33. Kf2 f4 34. Bc1 Qxc2 35. Re7 Rf8 and the struggle continues) 32. Bd4 Qf8 33. Kf1 Rc8 34. Qd7 Rd8 (Rxc2 35. Bxg7 Nxg7 36. Nd4 Rc1+ 37. Kf2 h5 38. Ne6+ Nxe6 39. Qh7 mate) 35. Qe6+ Kh8 36. Rf7 Qg8 37. Bxg7+ Nxg7 38. Qf6, and Black resigns. His paralyzed pieces are unable to offer a defense after 38…Ra8 39. Nf4 Ra1+ 40. Kg2! (Qxa1?? Qxf7 throws away the win) Ra8 41. Ne6, and White must win major material.

Tari-Alekseenko, World Junior Open, Tarvisio, Italy, November 2017

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. a4 Ngf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. a5 Bg7 7. a6 O-O 8. O-O Ne8 9. d4 bxa6 10. Bxa6 Bxa6 11. Rxa6 cxd4 12. Nxd4 Qc8 13. Ra2 Nef6 14. Qe2 Nc5 15. Rd1 a6 16. f3 Qb7 17. Be3 Rfd8 18. Qf2 e5 19. Nde2 Ne6 20. Nd5 Nxd5 21. exd5 Nf8 22. Nc3 Nd7 23. Qe2 f5 24. Rda1 Nf6 25. Qc4 e4 26. Rxa6 Rxa6 27. Rxa6 Qxb2 28. Ra7 Nh5 29. Ne2 exf3 30. gxf3 Re8 31. Qc7 Qf6 32. Bd4 Qf8 33. Kf1 Rc8 34. Qd7 Rd8 35. Qe6+ Kh8 36. Rf7 Qg8 37. Bxg7+ Nxg7 38. Qf6 Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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