The eight-man world championship Candidates has begun this week in Ekaterinburg, Russia, amid controversy over whether it should have been postponed and doubts as to whether it will survive the virus until its planned finish on April 4.
Three Russians, two Chinese, and one each from the US, Netherlands and France are competing in the €500,000 event for the right to meet Norway’s Magnus Carlsen for the global crown at Dubai in December.
Even before a pawn was pushed, Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov withdrew after his request for a postponement was refused. China’s world No3 Ding Liren arrived two weeks early for the mandatory quarantine, while his compatriot Wang Hao came from Japan but arrived without his aides due to quarantine and visa problems.
Wang Hao had also wanted a postponement, so was not in the best mental state for the first round, when the rules stipulate that compatriots should play each other. But contrary to expectations, Ding mishandled the white pieces and was convincingly beaten, a big blow to his chances even though there are still 13 rounds to go.
The games are free and live to watch online daily with move by move grandmaster and computer commentary, starting 11am GMT.
Fabiano Caruana, the US world No2 and Candidates favourite, has made a good start with a draw with Black against France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and a convincing round two win against the Russian wild card Kirill Alekseenko.
White (to move) is threatened with instant mate by Qh2 or Qh1. How does he turn the tables and win? This ancient puzzle is from the 1745 book The Noble Game of Chess, whose author Philipp Stamma liked victories from seemingly hopeless positions.
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