Greetings Chess Players. My name is Chris Torres and this is my daily chess musing for Wednesday, May 26, 2021.

The FTX Crypto Cup is a high-level online bitcoin chess tournament and holds a record prize pot for an online tournament of $320,000. As you have probably heard, this is one of the strongest lineups ever assembled, featuring FIDE’s full Top 10 player. 

This clash of the Titans is on of the Meltwater Champions Chess tour, 10 online chess tournaments presenting the world’s top players, playing for a prize money pool of 1.5 million dollars. So far it has been quite an exciting series.

The three preliminary rounds have concluded and there were two games that I found particularly gripping. Let’s take a look before the Knock-out competition begins tomorrow. 

What a fantastic example of chess artistry! There is sure to be more to come in the next several rounds. Be sure to keep watching. The official tournament site is https://championschesstour.com/ftx-crypto-cup-worlds-first-bitcoin-chess-tournament/ and http://chess24.com/ has promised to provide free coverage with “multiple streams for chess fans of all levels and nationalities.” Additionally, FTX (https://ftx.com) will be displaying the fluctuations in the prize fund value in real-time throughout this event. 

[Event “FTX Crypto Cup Prelim”]
[Site “chess24.com INT”]
[Date “2021.05.23”]
[Round “1.8”]
[White “Pichot, Alan”]
[Black “Giri, Anish”]
[Result “0-1”]
[BlackElo “2780”]
[BlackFideId “24116068”]
[BlackTitle “GM”]
[ECO “B32”]
[EventDate “2021.05.23”]
[Opening “Sicilian”]
[Variation “Labourdonnais-Loewenthal (Kalashnikov) variation”]
[WhiteElo “2630”]
[WhiteFideId “110973”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]

1.e4 c5 { Giri opts for the Sicilian } 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4
{ and Pichot playing the usual open sicilian ideas } 3…cxd4 4.Nxd4
{ [%cal Gg8f6,Gg7g6] } 4…e5
{ Giri choosing 4… e5 which is a far less popular move than Nf6, e6 or g6
however it was all the rage in the 1940’s. If your inteserested in this
approach, I suggest taking a look at the exciting Louis-Charles Mahe de La Bourdonnais and Alexander McDonnel match from 1834 i9n which 4… e5 was on
prominent display. } 5.Nb5 d6
{ This is the Kalashnikov Variation in which black accepts the backward
pawn on d6 in exchange for time earned while chasing white’s knight. } 6.c4
{ [%cal Gc4d5,Ge4d5,Rc6d4,Re5d4]Pichot chooses 6. c4 instead of the calmer 6. N1c3. This pawn formation is known as the Maroczy Bind. Made famous by Geza Maroczy, white’s c and e pawns control the d5 square making it difficult for black to play the freeing pawn to d5. However, the disadvantage of this approach for white is a weak d4 square. }
{ Giri must have done secret prep on this rarely played move. Black almost
always chooses to post their bishop on e7 rather than finachettoing it. }
7.N1c3 a6 { white’s knight must retreat to a3. } 8.Na3 Bg7 9.Nc2
{ a much better square for the knight than a3 in which it guards against
black playing Nd4. } 9…Nf6 10.Be2 O-O 11.Be3 Be6 12.O-O
{ both sides have developed their minor pieces and castled. } 12…Rc8
{ This is a fairly common approach in these kinds of postions. The idea is
placing the rook into the c-file before the b5 pawn break. Aditionally,
black can evaluate Na5 or Ne7 to put direct pressure on the c4 pawn. } 13.f3
{ solidifying white control of the light squares but black has some
tempting dark squares to eyeball. } 13…Nh5
{ [%cal Gh5f4,Gg7d4]Giri certainly could’ve gone with the afformentioned Na5 or Ne7 plan, but instead, he moves his knight to h5. From here, Nf4 looks like a great outpost for the knight and this move also opens allows the dark squared bishop greater influence. }
14.Nd5 { Pichot places his knight on the nice d5 outpost. } 14…Bxd5
{ Giri says “No thank you” to his opponent’s plan and captures with the
bishop. } 15.Qxd5
{ If white captured back with the c-pawn then perhaps black couldretreat
the knight to b8 with the idea of redeveloping it to d7. } ( 15.cxd5 Nb8 (
{ Is a typical move in the Kalashnikov where black gives up a pawn but
after: } 16.Nxd4 exd4 17.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 18.Qxd4 Nf4 { threatening the bishop. }
{ and here we see some good attacking chances gained for the prioce of the
pawn. For instance: } 19…h5 20.Kh1 h4
{ [%csl Re2][%cal Gd8g5,Gc8c2]Black’s queen seems poised to move to g5 and black’s rook on c8 is quite powerful. White has an extra pawn but their bishop on e2 isn’t looking very good at all as it is being blocked by its own pawns. }
) 16.Qd2
{ [%cal Gh5f4,Gf7f5]Unifying rooks and now white seems pretty good here. It’s hard to say whether Giri would have continued by placing his knight on the f4 outpost or advanced f7-f5 or maybe a combination of both such as: }
16…Nf4 17.Na3 f5 18.Nc4 b5 19.Nb6 Rc7
{ Would have been an interesting continuation and is worthy of
consideration. } ) 15…Nd4
{ [%csl Rd5][%cal Gd4c2,Gd4e2]Traps white’s queen by blobking it’s escape while threatening both the bishop on e2 and knight on c2. }
{ An obvious response to the fact that the knight and bishop were under
attack is to use the bishop to defend the knight. } ( 16.Nxd4
{ doesn’t work. } 16…exd4
{ [%cal Ge3d2]and white would be forced to play Bd2 because } 17.Bxd4
{ leads to a nasty fork. } 17…Nf4 { [%cal Gf4d5,Gf4e2] } ) 16…b5
{ Giri would have probably liked to have played Qd7 here to protect the b7
pawn with the idea of Rc5. However if black plays 16… Qd7: } ( 16…Qd7
{ then black allows white’s queen to escape to a5. So, to solve this
problem, Anish Giri played b5 on move 16. } ) 17.Nxd4 { and if Bxd4 then… }
( 17.Bxd4 Nf4 { Black drops a fork on him. } ) 17…exd4
{ Black threatens the bishop on e3 and remeber that white’s queen is still
stuck in the middle. } 18.Bg5 { threatening Giri’s queen. } 18…Qb6
{ which moves to b6 taking b7 from white’s queen. } 19.cxb5
{ the alternatives would’ve also have lost material. } ( 19.e5 bxc4 20.Bxc4
Bxe5 21.Bd3 Bf4 22.Bxf4 Nxf4 { [%cal Gf4d5,Gf4d3] } 23.Qe4 Nxd3 24.Qxd3 Qxb2
{ Was likely the best continationg for white but still leaves black
winning. } ) ( 19.g4 { Is exciting but doesn’t work because of: } 19…Rc5
20.gxh5 bxc4 21.Bxc4 Rxd5 22.Bxd5 d3+ { and black is firmly in command. } )
19…Rc5 { [%cal Gc5g5]Everything from 16… b5 was leading to this moment. }
20.Qb3 Rxg5
{ Giri is now up a piece. However, is still tricky beause of white’s next
move. } 21.bxa6
{ and Pichot has a deep passed pawn so Giri must employ excellent
technique. } 21…Qxb3
{ trading queens while ahead material is a good start. } 22.axb3 Nf4
{ [%cal Gf4d3,Gf4g2,Gg5g2]now the knight moves to the outpost with a fork. }
23.Bc4 Rxg2+ 24.Kh1 Rxb2
{ [%cal Gg7a1]an important capture which opens up a discovered attack for the bishop on g7. }
25.Rfb1 Rc2 26.Rc1 d3
{ [%cal Gd3c2,Gg7a1]a beautiful pawn push which supports the rook on c2 while exposing white’s rook on a1. }
27.Rxc2 Bxa1 { Giri makes the most precise capture. } 28.Rc1 Bd4
{ [%cal Gf4g2,Gd4g1,Gd4a7]finds safety while keeping white’s king boxed in the corner and guarding a7. }
29.Rd1 Bc5 30.h4 { Pichot’s King can enter the endgame. } 30…Kg7
{ but so does Giri’s with an extra piece at his disposal. } 31.Kh2 Kf6 32.Kg3
Ke5 { and Alan Pichot resigns as his loss is inevitable. } 0-1

[Event “FTX Crypto Cup Prelim”]
[Site “chess24.com INT”]
[Date “2021.05.24”]
[Round “8.2”]
[White “Carlsen, Magnus”]
[Black “Grischuk, Alexander”]
[Result “1-0”]
[BlackElo “2776”]
[BlackFideId “4126025”]
[BlackTitle “GM”]
[ECO “A01”]
[EventDate “2021.05.23”]
[Opening “Nimzovich-Larsen attack”]
[Variation “modern variation”]
[WhiteElo “2847”]
[WhiteFideId “1503014”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]

{ Magnus starts the game in hyper-modern fashion by preparing to fianchetto
the queenside bishop. } 1…e5
{ Grischuk responds conventionally by placing a pawn in the center on the
first move. } 2.Bb2
{ This first move b3 followed by a quick fianchetto is know as the
Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack named after the great hypermodern strategist Aron
Nimzowitsch and famously unorthodox Danish Grandmaster, Jorgen Bent Larsen. }
2…Nc6 3.c4 { 3. e3 is the mainline here. } 3…Nf6 4.Nf3
{ without a center pawn on e4, this developing move is begging Grischuk to
respond with a pawn push to e4 which gains space while attacking Carlsen’s
knight. } 4…e4 { Grischuk takes the free space and the intiative. } 5.Nd4
Bc5 { Black develops the bishop with a nice threat. } 6.Nf5
{ It looks a bit awkard that Magnus has moved his knight three times in the
early going. Of course, if white was more developed, the knight on f5 would
look more natural as it is teaming up with the bishop on the weak g7 square. }
{ Grischuk hits the center while opening a discovered attack on the knight
on f5. At first glance, the obvious choice for Magnus seems to be playing
Nxg7+. } 7.Nxg7+ { And he does. } 7…Kf8 { but now the knight is trapped. }
{ Magnus responds by also threatening to capture a knight but Grischuk has
an interesting move here. } 8…Bd4
{ and he plays it. Let’s take a look at the plan behind Bd4. } 9.Nc3 (
9.Bxd4 Nxd4 10.e3
{ [%csl Re3,Rf8,Rc6,Rb5,Rb3,Rc2,Re2,Rf3,Rf5,Re6,Re8,Rh5][%cal Gd4c6,Gd4b5,Gd4b3,Gd4c2,Gd4e2,Gd4f3,Gd4f5,Gd4e6,Gg7e6,Gg7f5,Gg7h5,Gg7e8]and now black’s knight is also trapped. In fact lets take a moment to admire how both sides have simultaneously threatened and trapped eachother’s knights. And if black moves his knight to f5… }
10…Nf5 ( 10…Kxg7 11.exd4 Qxd5 12.Nc3 Qxd4 13.Qe2 Rd8
{ Looks fine for black… } ) 11.Nxf5
{ white can clmly exchange his trapped knight. } 11…Bxf5 12.Nc3 Nxd5
13.Nxd5 Qxd5 14.Bc4
{ aand now white would have the initaitive while black’s lost the ability
to castle and has a compromised pawn structure. } ) 9…Ne7
{ Grischuk plays the prudent Ne7. } 10.e3 Bxc3 11.dxc3 ( 11.Bxc3 Kxg7 12.f3
{ Trying to develop the queen to f3 to add a second attacker on the pinned
knight. } 12…Nxd5
{ but black would get to capture on d5 while threatening white’s key bishop
on c3. } 13.Bb2 { white must step away in order to preserve the bishop. }
13…Qe7 { which gives black the time needed to turn the tables on white. }
14.Bc4 Rd8
{ and now black has the greater threats which is why Magnus played 11. dxc3
instead of Bxc3. } ) 11…Kxg7 { Now Grishcuk is up material. } 12.c4
{ Repins the knight on f6 while creating a pawn chain that acts as a shiled
against black’s counterplay. Now white can start a kingside attack. }
12…Ng6 { Grishuk starts to address his problems but… } 13.g4
{ Magnus is now on the attack. } 13…h6
{ defends against a pawn push g5 but only for a moment. } 14.h4
{ Because Magnus is just barreling forward with his pawns. } 14…c5
{ and unusual looking move which I’ll explain in a moment. } 15.Be2
{ Magnus develops his bishop to e2. But what if he simplied played pawn to
g5? } ( 15.g5 hxg5 16.hxg5
{ and now if black plays Rxh1, white gets to play Bxf6 check and forking
the king and queen. And This is why Grischuk played 14… c5. } 16…Qa5+
{ a check made possible by 14… c5. } 17.Qd2 Qxd2+ 18.Kxd2 Rxh1
{ and black is easily winning. Play might continue… } 19.Bg2 Rxa1 20.Bxa1
Kg8 21.Bxf6 Bf5 22.f4 exf3 23.Bxf3 Re8
{ and now black makes use of his extra rook and shouldn’t have earning the
full point. } ) 15…Kg8
{ [%cal Gb2h8]Grischuk moves the king out of the pin but his knight is still pinned to the rook. }
16.Qc2 { Magnus develops his queen to the most useful square. } 16…Rh7
{ and now Grischuk moves his rook out of the pin as well. } 17.O-O-O
{ Castling queenside gives Magnus access to attack with all of his pieces
while Grischuk’s position just looks disorganized. } 17…Nxg4
{ Opening up the g-file seems like a poor choice by Grischuk and is
actually a little bit of “hope chess.” Grischuk is hoping Magnus places a
rook into the g-file staright away in which case he would likely be able to esacpe with a draw. }
18.h5 { But Magnus doesn’t fall for it. } ( 18.Rdg1 h5
{ to which Grischuk simply supports the knight. } 19.Qxe4 Kf8 20.Bxg4 Bxg4
21.f3 Bd7 22.Rxg6 fxg6 23.Qxg6 Qe7 { Magnus needs to add more force. } 24.Rg1
{ and does… } 24…Qxe3+
{ but not before Grischuk grabs the initiative with a check. } 25.Kb1 Bg4
{ Beautiful interference with the queen and rook battery thus placing the
rook in peril. } 26.Rxg4 hxg4 27.Qxh7 Qg1+ 28.Bc1 gxf3 29.Qf5+ Kg8 30.Qxf3
Qg6+ { at this level, is very drawish which is why Magnus played 18. h5! } )
18…Nf8 19.Qxe4 f5 { to ward off the queen. } 20.Qc2 Nxf2
{ [%cal Gf2d1,Gf2h1] Fork but… } 21.Rhg1+
{ checks the king and is definately winning for white. } 21…Kf7 22.Rdf1
{ Puting the other rook into action of the f-file. } 22…Qh4
{ Grischuk defends the knight and is just trying to survive. } 23.Be5
{ a big mistake by Carlsen which leaves the door a crack open for Grischuk.
} ( 23.Rg2 { first threatening to win the knight. } 23…Nh1 24.Bd3
{ and then attacking black’s last line of defense, the critical f5 pawn. }
24…Ng3 25.Qf2
{ and now black must abandon his king from the f-file which means losing
the knight and the game. } 25…Ke8 26.Qxg3 Qxg3 27.Rxg3
{ all of white’s piees are in the game and black’s pieces are all poorly
placed. At this level, black can simply resign here. } ) 23…Qe4
{ Grischuk misses the opportunity. } ( 23…Qe7
{ would have threatened Magnus’ beautiful bishop. } 24.Qb2
{ so Carlsen could defend it. } 24…Nd7
{ and then Grischuk would’ve attacked it again. } 25.Bf4
{ and now the bishop must go. } 25…Nh3 { but even here it can be hastled. }
26.Bg4 { one last beautiful tactical try for white. } 26…Nxg1
{ fxg4 would lose so black would play Nxg1. } 27.Bxf5 Rg7 28.Bg6+ Kg8 29.Rxg1
Qf6 { to take away white’s diagaonal and checkmate threats. } 30.Qxf6 Nxf6
{ now black can shift away from survival and into defending a difficult
endgame. } 31.Bxh6 Ng4 32.Bxg7 Kxg7
{ of course white is still winning but black can put up stiff resistance
and potentially excape with a half point. } ) 24.Qc3 Nh3
{ and now, I’ll give you a minute to find Magnus’ winning move. } 25.Rg4
{ Boom! Magnus makes use of a pin and traps Grishuk’s queen. A brilliant
ending to a brilliant chess game. } 1-0

Alexander McDonnell vs Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais
“Labourdonnais Picnic” London (1834), London ENG
Sicilian Defense: Old Sicilian. ·  0-1

  1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. Bc4 Nf6 7. Bg5 Be7 8. Qe2 d5 9. Bxf6 Bxf6 10. Bb3 O-O 11. 0-0 a5 12. exd5 cxd5 13. Rd1 d4 14. c4 Qb6 15. Bc2 Bb7 16. Nd2 Rae8 17. Ne4 Bd8 18. c5 Qc6 19. f3 Be7 20. Rac1 f5 21. Qc4+ Kh8 22. Ba4 Qh6 23. Bxe8 fxe4 24. c6 exf3 25. Rc2 Qe3+ 26. Kh1 Bc8 27. Bd7 f2 28. Rf1 d3 29. Rc3 Bxd7 30. cxd7 e4 31. Qc8 Bd8 32. Qc4 Qe1 33. Rc1 d2 34. Qc5 Rg8 35. Rd1 e3 36. Qc3 Qxd1 37. Rxd1 e2 0-1

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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