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Taut battles but no breakthroughs as Carlsen-Caruana title match kicks off

November 13, 2018

Three games, three draws in the scheduled 12-game world championship match in London between champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and American challenger Fabiano Caruana, but it hasn’t exactly been dull as the two prepare for Tuesday’s Game 4.

Surprising his opponent with the Sicilian, the champ pressed the play in Games 1 and 3, and should have broken through at least once.

The critical sequence in the opening game arose from the diagrammed position, where the engines and the human experts say Carlsen missed a clear chance to take an early lead. Short of time and under heavy kingside pressure, Caruana as White has just played 32. Kg2-f2 is a bid to get his king to safer climes.

There followed: 32...Bc7 33. Ke2? (White’s flight plan has a flaw; better was 33. e5! Kb7 [Bxe5?! 34. Qxc6+ Kb8 35. Qxh6] 34. Ke1 Bxe5 35. Nxe5 Qxe5+ 36. Qe4 Qc3+ 37. Kd1) Qg5! (getting out of the way of the h-pawn) 34. Nh2 h5?! (continuing with the plan, but the winning idea was to get the queen to the long diagonal and invade on the queenside: 34...Qe5! 35. Qf2 Qb2 36. Kd1 Rg3 37. Nf3 Qb1+ 38. Kd2 Qxa2 39. Kd1 Qb1+ and wins) 35. Rf2 Qg1?! (Qg7! keeps the queenside infiltration idea alive, in lines such as 36. Kd2 Qb2 37. Qxh5 Rg1, already threatening 38...Qc1+ 39. Kc3 Qa1+ 40. Kc4 [Kd2 Qe1 mate] Qd4 mate) 36. Nf1 h4 37. Kd2?! Kb7 38. c3 Be5?! (even here, the exchange sac 38...Rg3! 39. Nxg3 hxg3 40. Re2 Qa1 41. d4 Qxa2+ is very powerful for Black) 39. Kc2 Qg7 40. Nh2 Bxc3 41. Qxf4 Bd4 42. Qf7+ Ka6 43. Qxg7 Rxg7, and with the queens off White managed to hold a pawn-down rook ending.

As is his wont, Carlsen made his opponent earn it, but the game was finally drawn on Move 110.

Daily updates on the match are available at WashingonTimes.com.

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The marketing geniuses at FIDE have scheduled not one but two world championships this month, with Chinese women’s world champ Ju Wenjun part of the 64-player field for the Women’s World Championship Knockout Tournament now underway in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

Ukrainian GM Mariya Muzychuk joined Ju in the quarterfinals last week with a quality 2-1 match win over former women’s champion GM Antoaneta Stefanova, helped by a fine attacking game against the Bulgarian’s Petroff Defense.

Stefanova’s early queen sortie (14...Qa5?!) proves disastrous, as Black’s underdefended kingside proves easy pickings.

White’s attack is a master class in the art of suffocation, tying down Black’s pieces so badly they can’t help their besieged monarch.

Thus: 17. Rfe1! (“defending” the hanging bishop on f4 by attacking the hanging bishop on e7) Qxf4 (Bf6 18. Bd6 Rd8 19. Qd2 Ba6 20. Bc2 Qb5 21. Nbd4 Qb7 22. Nf5) 18. Rxe7 Rd8 19. Rce1, already threatening 20. Re8+ Rxe8 21. Rxe8+ Nf8 22. Bh7+ Kh8 23. Rxf8 mate.

It’s over on 20. Re8! Qc7 (Rxe8 21. Rxe8 Nbd7 22. Bh7+ Kh8 23. Bf5, winning material) 21. R1e7 Bd7 22. Bh7+ Kh8 23. Ne5! (too many attackers, too few defenders) Bxe8 (Qxe5 24. Rxf8+ Rxf8 25. Rxe5 g6 26. Bxg6! fxg6 27. Qxg6, and mate shortly) 24. Rxc7 Nxh7 (Black has decent material for the lost queen, but White’s attack is not done) 25. Rxf7! Kg8 (Bxf7 26. Nxf7+ Kg8 27. Nxd8 Nd7 28. Nxc6) 26. Qg6, and Black resigns just ahead of 26...Bxf7 27. Qxf7+ Kh8 28. Ng6 mate.

Muzychuk-Stefanova, FIDE Women’s World Championship, Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, November 2018

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. c4 c6 9. Qc2 Nf6 10. c5 Be7 11. Bf4 h6 12. h3 b6 13. Nbd2 bxc5 14. dxc5 Qa5 15. Rac1 Nfd7 16. Nb3 Qa4 17. Rfe1 Qxf4 18. Rxe7 Rd8 19. Rce1 Nf8 20. Re8 Qc7 21. R1e7 Bd7 22. Bh7+ Kh8 23. Ne5 Bxe8 24. Rxc7 Nxh7 25. Rxf7 Kg8 26. Qg6 Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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