Chess: ‘Game of the Year’ decides title as Covid-19 hits Russian championship – The Guardian

Chess Tournament

A game cast in the romantic mould of the nineteenth century and of the legendary Latvian Mikhail Tal decided first prize at this weeks Russian championship.

Its creator Daniil Dubov, 24, an aide to Magnus Carlsen for the 2018 world championship, played what has been widely hailed as the Game of the Year, as he took down Sergey Karjakin with a prepared gambit where Dubov blitzed out his first 13 moves and followed up with sacrifices of bishop and queen.

Dubovs 15 Bf6! and 19 Qxg6!! sacrifices were too hard to defend in practical play. The square g6/g3 was the setting for two of the classic queen sacrifices of chess history, Frank Marshalls golden coins Qg3!! game against Stefan Levitsky at Breslau 1912 and Alexander Alekhines Qxg6! against Emanuel Lasker at Zurich 1934.

Covid precautions have featured prominently in the handful of major international tournaments which have continued despite the pandemic. Some or all of flexi-glass screens, large size tables, face masks, daily virus tests and no spectators were the norm at Biel, the German Bundesliga, and Stavanger.

All successfully completed their schedules, but the virus struck back at Moscows historic Central Chess Club when Mikhail Antipov was forced to withdraw on the rest day after six of the 11 rounds. The reason for Antipovs departure was made public only on the final day, and the outcome could have been worse all the other competitors tested negative. The 23-year-old Muscovite, junior world champion in 2015, had played more than half his games, so his score stood, but he had already met all the top four finishers so the result was unaffected.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, the world No 4, won his second national title with 7.5/11,ahead of Karjakin 7, Vladimir Fedoseev and Dubov 6.5. Nepomniachtchi is 30, part of chesss 1990 vintage birth year which also produced the world champion, Carlsen, Frances world No 5, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and the 2016 world challenger Karjakin, for whom this week was another failed attempt at a tournament he has never won.

Nepomniachtchi has been less successful than Carlsen or the American duo Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So in the 2020 online Tour, but he is well placed for when over-the-board play resumes. The Russian is joint halfway leader in the Candidates, abandoned in April 2020 and planned for resumption in spring 2021, so has a serious chance to become Carlsens official challenger. If he does, he can expect stronger support than Karjakin got against Carlsen at New York 2016. There is now a new Fide president, Arkady Dvorkovich, who has been impressive in the job but also remains committed to helping Russia regain its pre-eminence of the Soviet era.

The Russian womens championship went to the favourite, Aleksandra Goryachkina, as Polina Shuvalova, who won all her first six games, could not win another in the second half, where she was caught in the final rounds then lost an Armageddon tie-break.

Englands 4NCL online league attracted 228 teams in six divisions in its second season which ended this week with a surprise winner. ChessPlus Kingston were the promoted second team of ChessPlus, which organises courses for actual and potential chess teachers in 14 European countries.

Its founder John Foleys contacts produced a strong team for the finals, led by two women whose careers have included Beth Harmon moments. Pia Cramling was within one move of defeating Viktor Korchnoi at his peak, while Dana Reizniece-Ozola beat the world No 1, Hou Yifan, at the 2016 Olympiad.

CPK won the semi-final against Guildfords youth team, then the final against Wood Green. The clincher came when CPK led 2-1 but Cramling had rook against the rook and two pawns of Englands youngest GM, Dan Fernandez. She considered resigning, but I had been telling my students not to give up early and Fernandez blundered into a draw.

The result is a disappointment for Wood Greens Loz Cooper, probably Englands best team manager, who helps many rising talents.This weekend Cooper is managing four teams of England women and girls in the 42-team Euro Club Cup for women.

A five-year-old boy who learnt the moves less than a year ago has set an age record by winning the London under-eight championship. This annual event, played online last weekend, started in the 1970s boom and launched the careers of Englands elite GMs Gawain Jones and David Howell.

Most chess talents tend to emerge at seven, eight or nine, occasionally at six. Globally, the top prodigy was Samuel Reshevsky, who gave simuls at six and later became the best US player before Bobby Fischer but there were claims that Reshevsky was born in 1909, not 1911.

Kushal Jakhria, five years eight months old and a first year pupil at the Pointer School, Blackheath, finished level with the top seed, Patrick Damodaran, on 6.5/7, but had a better tie-break. Both had winning chances during their drawn individual game.

Two years ago Damodaran, then five himself, missed out by half a point. He is now Englands No 1 ranked under-nine, with a very respectable 1750 rating, and has already represented England in world events. Jakhria, in contrast, has no over-the board graded games yet, as he only began competitive play during the pandemic.

His under-eight victory was not just a one-off. Jakhria also scored 6/7 in the London under-10, and has a lichess rating in the top 9% of the websites 250,000 rapid chess players.

Jakhrias South-East London school has also produced Englands best-known junior, Shreyas Royal. The Pointer chess coach, Fide Master Alexis Harakis, attributes his pupils success to his exceptional pattern memory, visual skills and stamina for his age.

3702: 1 Be2! h6 2 Rh4! h5 3 Kg5! Ke4 4 Bf3 mate.

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Chess: 'Game of the Year' decides title as Covid-19 hits Russian championship - The Guardian

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