- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Alvin Clarence “Titanic” Thompson, a fine golfer and an even more legendary hustler, was famed for running a con in which he would torture a poor mark on the golf course by winning several holes and keeping up an insulting line of patter as he did so.

Finally, when the target was at the breaking point, Thompson would proclaim, “Why, you’re so bad, I’ll give you 5-1 odds my caddy could beat you.” After the chump grabbed the bait, it turned out Thompson had already recruited some of the finest young players in the area — including for a time the great Lee Elder — to be his “caddy,” and the victim would be relieved of whatever money was left in his pockets.

Young Russian GM Daniil Dubov is nobody’s idea of a chess caddy, but he did serve as a second to Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen in his epic 2018 title defense against American GM Fabiano Caruana.

And it was the second who finished first at the recently completed Lindores Abbey Chess Challenge, part of the summerlong online Carlsen Chess Tour to keep the top players busy with the coronavirus crisis shutting down virtually all over-the-board play for the foreseeable future. Dubov, the 2018 world rapid champion, upset U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura in last week’s final, one round after Nakamura knocked Carlsen out of the event.

If Nakamura, one of the world’s best at faster time controls, was feeling confident of his chances after dismissing the world champ, Dubov disabused him of that notion in Game 2 of the four-game finals, winning a nice game from the Black side of a Sicilian Dragon line.

Chances are roughly even for most of the early middlegame, but Black’s two bishops constitute a real threat should the play ever open up. An uncharacteristically timid move from Nakamura — 24. Nb6 c5 25. Rd2?!, instead of the more forcing 25. Rc4! — allows Dubov to flip the position.

Thus: 25…g5! 26. Rd5 (a tacit admission his last move was a wrong turn) gxf4 27. Rxc5 f3! 28. gxf3 Bxh3, and it turns out Black’s h-pawn, helped by the double-bishop escort, will prove far more potent than White’s queenside pawn array.

White’s rook proves singularly incapable of holding back the pawn, and it’s over on 41. a5 Bxf3 42. Rf1 Rf4 43. a6 (Ng2 Bxg2! 44. Rxf4 h3, and the pawn can’t be stopped) Bd4 44. Re1? (a losing move in a lost position) Re4!, and the pin costs White a full piece; Nakamura resigned.

The American bounced back to send the finals to a winner-takes-all Armageddon blitz match, with Nakamura getting draw odds with the Black pieces and four minutes on his clock to White’s five. Dubov said afterward he felt his opponent was aiming for the Armageddon finale right from the start of the match, and if so, the confidence proved to be badly misplaced.

White smartly avoids drawish opening lines with the King’s Indian Attack, and catches out Nakamura with a variation on a well-known tactical motif just out of the opening: 11. f4 exf4?! (see diagram) 12. Bxd5! (a new move in this position, and a good one; White have previously tried 12. Nxf4 Nxf4 13. Bxf4 Qd7, with not much to show for it) Bxd5? (losing material; Dubov said Black had to try 12…fxg3+ 13. Nxg3 Bxd5 14. Qh5 Ne7 15. Nxd5 Qxd5 16. Qxd5 Nxd5 17. Rf5 0-0-0 18. c4 Nb4 19. Rxc5 Nxd3 and hope to survive) 13. Nxf4 (remarkably, the Black bishop has nowhere to hide — 13…Be6? 14. Nxe6 fxe6 15. Qh5+ picks up the other loose bishop on c5) Ne7 14. Qh5 c6 15. Ncxd5 cxd5 (see diagram) 16. Ne6!, forking queen, bishop and g-pawn and leaving Black essentially busted.

It only gets worse for Nakamura after 16…Qd6 17. Nxg7+ Kd7 18. Rxf7 Raf8 19. Bf4, and Black must now relinquish his queen since 19…Qc6? 20. Qf5+ Kd8 21. Rxf8+ is curtains. With a queen and two pawns for the bishop, the only issue for Dubov is wrapping things up before his flag falls.
More pawns fall to the marauding White queen, leaving Black helpless at the end: 42. Qe8 Rf8 43. Re7+ Bc7 44. Qb5+ Rb6 45. Rxc7+!, and Black resigned as 45…Kxc7 46. Qc5+ collects the rook on f8.

There are two move events in the online summer cycle, and Dubov and Carlsen are now two of the four players guaranteed a slot in the concluding $300,000 Magnus Chess Tour Grand Final to be played in August.

Nakamura-Dubov, Game 2, Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge Finals, June 2020

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8. Bb3 Re8 9. Nxc6 dxc6 10. h3 Qc7 11. f4 b5 12. e5 b4 13. Na4 Nd5 14. Qf3 Nxe3 15. Qxe3 a5 16. O-O-O Qa7 17. Qe4 Bf5 18. Qc4 Qe3+ 19. Kb1 Be6 20. Qd4 Qxd4 21. Rxd4 Rad8 22. Rhd1 Rxd4 23. Rxd4 Bc8 24. Nb6 c5 25. Rd2 g5 26. Rd5 gxf4 27. Rxc5 f3 28. gxf3 Bxh3 29. Rxa5 Rd8 30. a4 bxa3 31. bxa3 e6 32. Ka2 h5 33. Ra4 Bxe5 34. Re4 Bf6 35. Re1 h4 36. Rg1+ Kf8 37. Nc4 Bf5 38. Rh1 Rd4 39. Ne3 Bg6 40. a4 Bh5 41. a5 Bxf3 42. Rf1 Rf4 43. a6 Bd4 44. Re1 Re4 White resigns.

Dubov-Nakamura, Armageddon playoff game, Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, June 2020

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 Bc5 4. Bg2 Nf6 5. Nge2 d6 6. d3 a6 7. O-O Be6 8. h3 h6 9. Kh2 d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. f4 exf4 12. Bxd5 Bxd5 13. Nxf4 Ne7 14. Qh5 c6 15. Ncxd5 cxd5 16. Ne6 Qd6 17. Nxg7+ Kd7 18. Rxf7 Raf8 19. Bf4 Rxf7 20. Bxd6 Rf2+ 21. Kh1 Bxd6 22. Re1 Rhf8 23. Qg4+ Kc6 24. Ne6 R8f6 25. Nd4+ Kb6 26. Re2 Rf1+ 27. Kg2 Nc6 28. Nxc6 bxc6 29. c3 R1f5 30. b4 Kb7 31. Qg7+ Rf7 32. Qxh6 Bc7 33. Qe3 Bb6 34. d4 Bc7 35. h4 a5 36. a3 a4 37. Qd3 Rf1 38. b5 R1f6 39. bxc6+ Kxc6 40. Qa6+ Bb6 41. Qxa4+ Kb7 42. Qe8 Rf8 43. Re7+ Bc7 44. Qb5+ Rb6 45. Rxc7+ Black resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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