Chess: Carlsen closes in Wijk as women’s team leads Battle of the Sexes

Magnus Carlsen closes in on another victory this weekend as the Norwegian world champion leads Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee by half a point with three sets remaining. The 31-year-old has already won the ‘Wimbledon in Chess’ seven times.

Carlsen, 31, started slow but was at his best in the middle rounds, especially using his active rounds to defeat world No. 7 Shak Mamedyarov when the pair were tied for the lead. The No.1 attributed his strong form to using up scraps from his world title defense in Dubai last month.

However, even these impressive results showed how difficult Carlsen had embarked on when he declared his next ambition in chess was to set an all-time record of 2900. He started Wijk at 2965 , scored an undefeated 7/10 with three rounds to go, while his rating rose to . . . 2966.

Anish Giri is just half a point behind Carlsen after two lucky moments for the Dutchman. First, Fabiano Caruana blundered into a winning position, then Danill Dubov missed his seventh-round match. One of the Russian’s assistants caught Covid, so organizers asked Dubov to wear a mask while awaiting his test result, but he refused on principle as it wasn’t specifically stated in his contract. The test came back negative.

Wijk’s last three rounds can be watched free and live online (13:00 GMT Friday and Saturday, 11:00 Sunday). For this event, I recommend you look at chess.com, which features close-ups of the game room.

The annual Gibraltar Open is one of the strongest and most popular events in Europe, but due to Covid and a change in venue its format has been changed for 2022. Gibraltar organizers have introduced the innovative idea of ​​a battle of the sexes between teams of 10 players of men and women, of equal average age and international Fide rating.

The two teams average around 2400, the international masters standard. Among the men are Joe Gallagher, a former British champion who now represents Switzerland, and Ravi Haria, the rising star of English chess, but some of their colleagues are lesser known. The women almost all rank in the top 50 in the world and include two former world champions. However, among the two powers of women’s chess, there are no Chinese players and only one Russian.

The prize money is £100,000, to be split 75-25 rather than 60-40 which is normal in the World Championship. It will probably be the best chess payday of a lifetime for some of the lesser-known participants, which guarantees a highly competitive game. There was a shock early on when the women’s team won rounds one and two (out of 10) by a wide margin of 6.5-3.5, but the men’s team then fought back in the third round with a score of 7-3, despite the black pieces. in every game.

First round in action here on flickr.

Levon Aronian v Loek van Wely, Tata Steel Wijk 2014. Puzzle-finding Black’s winning move. Black is down two pawns, while White’s queen and rook look to checkmate Qg8, but Aronian hasn’t noticed a hidden tactic.

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