The Lindores Abbey Distillery in Fife, Scotland was an idyllic setting for an exciting rapid event last year, won by Magnus Carlsen. This year, the ‘views’ were of a different sort, as the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge was held online. The Tironensian Abbey is now a ruin, but a quaint entry in the inventory records from the 1480s makes note of ‘twa pairs of thabills wt thair men’, (probably: two chessboards with pieces), which suggests that the monks enjoyed a game too. The online reboot marked the second leg of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, following on from the Magnus Carlsen Invitational held in April and May. Three more events are planned in the coming months, culminating in a Grand Final in August, with a $1 million total prize fund across the series. Such a series of high-profile online events is unprecedented and timely, and I predict that online events will remain popular even when over-the-board play eventually returns.
‘It’s a bit weird winning … without beating Magnus,’ admitted Daniil Dubov, who narrowly defeated Hikaru Nakamura in the final, taking home $45,000. It marks a major career success for Dubov, though perhaps it does not surpass his victory in the 2018 World Rapid Championship. Nakamura had much to celebrate too, as it was he who knocked out Carlsen in the semi-final, overcoming the weight of his own dismal head-to-head record against the world champion. As Dubov graciously put it: ‘The one who beats Magnus gets all the respect.’
Dubov won his semi-final match against Ding Liren convincingly — the puzzle below was not the only quick win from their match! But he was especially pleased with the creativity he showed in the quarter-final against his Russian compatriot, Sergey Karjakin, in a seesaw match where nearly all the games were decisive. His brand of aggressive, dynamic play has made Dubov a valued sparring partner of Carlsen himself, but it is still remarkable to see Karjakin demolished so briskly with the white pieces.
Sergey Karjakin–Daniil Dubov
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, May 2020
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 The Scandinavian defence is an unusual guest at top level, but Dubov enjoys hunting for fresh ideas. 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 Nb5 Qd8 7 Bf4 Nd5 8 Bg3 a6 9 Na3 e5! Karjakin’s knight manoeuvre is not as silly as it looks. I’m sure he was hoping to bring the knight to c4 soon to tighten his grip on the centre. Dubov strikes while he can. 10 dxe5 Bb4+ 11 Nd2 h5! 12 h4 A reflex response to the threat of h5-h4, but 12 h3 was better to prevent Black’s next move. 12…Bg4! 13 Be2 (see diagram) A blunder, but 13 Qc1 Qe7 prepares queenside castling, with a huge lead in development. 13…Bxa3! Decisive, as 14 bxa3 Nc3 forks queen and bishop. 14 Bxg4 Bxb2 15 Bxh5 A further indignity: 15 Bf3 Nc3! traps the White queen. 15…Bxa1 16 e6 g6 17 Bf3 Bf6 18 exf7+ Kxf7 White is a rook down but limps on a few more moves. 19 Be4 Nc3 20 Qg4 Nxe4 21 Nxe4 Qc8 22 Qf4 Qf5 23 Qxc7+ Kg8 24 f3 Rh7 25 Qd6 Re8 26 O-O Bd4+ 27 Bf2 Rd7 28 Qa3 Rxe4 White resigns
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