Chess: Alireza Firouzja leads Riga as he campaigns for Carlsen crown | Chess

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Alireza Firouzja, the 18-year-old contender for Magnus Carlsen’s world crown, comes close this weekend to the most important victory of his short career as the former Iranian, who now represents France, leads the Fide Grand Swiss to 108 players in Riga. by a solid point, on an unbeaten 6.5 / 8 with three laps to go.

Friday’s ninth round, starting at noon and free and live to watch online, features the critical duo of world No.3 and seed, American Fabiano Caruana, playing the white pieces, against Firouzja, who is Now to No. 4 worldwide.

The nine players who share second place with Caruana on 5.5 / 8 also include current Russian champion Nikita Vitiugov and only English player David Howell, who has won his last three games, including impressive victories against the former Fide champion Ruslan Ponomariov and the Russian 19- Rising star Andrey Esipenko, one year old.

3788: Trisha Kanyamarala vs. Roderick McKay, Forest Hall 2021. White to move and win. Ireland’s Tarun Kanyamarala, 17, won the international at North Tyneside, while his sister, 16, scored in this week’s puzzle.

Howell showed great resilience and stamina to come back so strong with three straight wins after his 142-move marathon at the start and one loss in the fifth round. The Sussex Grandmaster’s commentator and online interview roles with Carlsen and Judit Polgar have helped his game, although his Grischuk battles with time pressure remain a concern. In Friday’s ninth round, Howell will face the Whites against Ukraine’s No.1 Anton Korobov.

If Firouzja wins or draws against Caruana, he may only need to halve his last two games to finish in the top two places after the 11th and final round on Sunday (early noon). The top two in Riga qualify for the eight-player contenders in the spring of 2022, the winner of which will challenge the defending champion later in the year.

Whether that champion is Carlsen, a prohibitive 1-4 in betting, or the Norwegian’s Russian challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi, will be settled by their $ 2 million 14-game streak which kicks off in Dubai on November 26.

The potential stakes are enormous. Success in Riga at such a young age would immediately make Firouzja a favorite among the contestants, creating an opportunity to win the title on his first attempt and thus become the youngest world champion in chess history. This record has been held since 1985 by Garry Kasparov, who at 22 defeated Anatoly Karpov in their 24th and last match. The youngest female world champion was Hou Yifan at 16.

There are parallels today between Firouzja and Bobby Fischer in 1962, when the American won the Stockholm interzonal by a wide margin, became the frontrunner of the candidates, failed and blamed it on a Soviet conspiracy. Both are committed to the goal of becoming champions, spending many hours a day looking to improve and studying the games of potential opponents.

Both have had contact with officials, in the case of Firouzja his feud with the organizers and referees of Wijk 2021, which may have led to his name being conspicuously absent from the list of invitations to the Wimbledon failures for Wijk 2022. That could still change, as Wijk retained a place. vacant.

Even in dress code, there are similarities in behavior. Fischer appeared in t-shirts and sneakers as a teenager, which was suddenly transformed at the Leipzig Olympics in 1960 when Miguel Najdorf bragged about his 16 costumes and Fischer decided he wanted 17. Savile Row was his main motivation for a visit to London after Leipzig and for accepting the BBC’s £ 50 fee for an eight-hour consultation game. Firouzja also dressed in casual teenage outfits, but in Riga he wears a stylish suit and shirt and looks like a well-groomed young champion.

Fischer had a straightforward, classic style of play with extensive knowledge of openness and few mistakes, while Firouzja’s formidable reputation stems from his labyrinthine sacrifices in the tradition of Mikhail Tal.

However, even that has changed in Riga. In the seventh round, Evgeny Najer picked the Petroff 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 which he had only played once before, but Firouzja was perfectly prepared and followed a key match: Wesley So vs. Yu Yangyi of Jerusalem 2019 which favored the whites.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is also multiple tied for second place after eight rounds. The Frenchman, whose online pseudonym is LyonBeast, has been the favorite of the last contestants (2020-21) for more than a year. He led the tie-break in Yekaterinburg when the pandemic halted the tournament halfway through, and still finished second when the tournament resumed and ended a year later.

Vachier-Lagrave scored a great victory in Riga in a game that featured a hot opening line, the improved Milner-Barry Gambit in the 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 Advance French, which was discussed in this column on August 27, as well as information on the amateur gentleman who created the bet.

Meanwhile, Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi will push their first pawns in Dubai in just three weeks. Carlsen ended his classic preparation to excess last Friday with a Norwegian League game against Benjamin Notkevich, ranked almost 400 points below the No.1.

The script was written, but Notkevich did not follow it. Carlsen chose the Caro-Kann 1 e4 c6, which was encountered by the once popular but now abandoned Panov-Botvinnik attack 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 c4. The position was level for a long time, and there was a scare for the world champion on stroke 26, when the engine briefly showed +2.31 for Notkevich, who then slipped to defeat through passive play.

Carlsen also played for just over a minute under his Internet handle of DrNykerstein, and won 10 games in a row, for which the technical term is “possessed”, against GM speed specialist Andrew Tang.

3788 1 Qxf6 +! Kxf6 2 Rxh7 Rxc1 + 3 Nxc1 Rf8 4 Ng4 mate.


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