The year 1990 is the highest-quality vintage for births of chess grandmasters. World champion Magnus Carlsen, French world No 5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and England’s former prodigy and triple British champion David Howell, plus four others from the world top 100, have all celebrated turning 30 this year — in Carlsen's case with a defeat in the final of the Skilling Open.

This week, when over-the-board chess resumed in Moscow with Russian men’s and women’s championships at the Central Chess Club, the vintage generation struck again. With just one round to go, the world No4 Ian Nepomniachtchi and the defeated 2016 world title challenger Sergey Karjakin, both 1990-born, were clear of the field and had the race between them. 

In the final round, Nepomniachtchi judged it right, settling for an early draw by repetition at a moment when Karjakin was embroiled in a complex game with the creative Daniil Dubov. His reasoning was that if his rival drew, it would be a long game tiring out Karjakin for the mandatory two-game speed play-off.

In the event, Dubov won in fine attacking style, adding to his reputation as a favourite with online spectators and securing third prize for himself. Karjakin, despite all his other achievements, has never won the Russian title, and the long wait for the “minister of defence” continues. One player, Mikhail Antipov, dropped out after testing positive for Covid, but the rest continued. “Nepo” is joint leader, with Vachier-Lagrave, of the ill-fated candidates tournament, halted at halfway when the pandemic struck in April and currently postponed until spring 2021.

Puzzle 2398

How can White’s full army of 16 checkmate the lone black king in just four moves? Composer Julian Guisle was for decades the specialist chess bookseller in Paris on Rue St Jacques, and lived until 99. This puzzle, his only known composition, won Le Figaro's first prize in 1956.

Click here for solution


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