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Top international chess has been hit by a draw epidemic in recent weeks. Norway’s world champion Magnus Carlsen and his American challenger Fabiano Caruana drew all 12 classical games in their title match in London before Carlsen won the speed play-off, while the $300,000 Grand Tour final had a similar finish.
Hikaru Nakamura of the US and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave cautiously halved seven classical, rapid and blitz games before Nakamura trapped the Frenchman’s queen in the final blitz
The Grand Tour was originally planned as a circuit just of classical tournaments, but in 2018 speed events dominated the schedule and only St Louis remained of the original classical events. There, MVL drew all nine while Nakamura drew six and lost three, so the two finalists failed to win a single classical Tour game between them. The circuit will be more balanced next year when a new classical tournament in Croatia joins.
Meanwhile, Carlsen has told the state broadcaster NRK that he may not defend his crown in 2020. He blamed lack of motivation plus burn-out: “I have not played amazing in recent years.” He wants changes to the qualifying cycle, and shorter time controls in the championship match.
Etienne Bacrot v Wesley So, chesscom.2018. Material is level and there seems nothing decisive, but France’s No2 (White, to play) beat the US No2 with a concept several moves deep. Can you work out White’s winning plan?
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