Magnus Carlsen has once again proved a class apart from his rivals as the world champion dominated the “chess Wimbledon” at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, totalling an unbeaten 9.5/13 for a winning margin of 1.5 points over his nearest rivals. It was his eighth first prize in the top group at the small Dutch North Sea resort, where he has headed the table in more than half his appearances.

The Norwegian, 31, also edged his Fide rating ahead to 2868 in his recently announced campaign to achieve a record 2900 points, but as he observed later he had nine winning positions in the tournament and only converted five of them. 

Overall, Carlsen was pleased. Following his fine attacking game against Shak Mamedyarov featured here last week, which showed the powers of combined rooks in the middle game, he then scored late in the tournament against his old rival, the US No1 Fabiano Caruana

This time it was the Norwegian bishops which triumphed over the American rooks, illustrating an underlying theme that active pieces can control play against a nominally more valuable army.

Such subtle nuances have become more frequent in top class chess due to the influence of the neural network engines AlphaZero and Leela Zero, which are explained in GM Matthew Sadler’s books Game Changer and The Silicon Road to Chess Improvement.

This week the major chess action moves to Berlin, where the Fide Grand Prix opens on Friday. At stake are the final two qualifying places in the eight-player 2022 Candidates, which starts in Madrid on June 16, and where the 18-year-old world No2 Alireza Firouzja is the current favourite,

The Grand Prix will have two legs in Berlin and one in Belgrade. Its field is high class, with 19 of the 24 players rated above the recognised elite level of 2700

China’s world No 3 Ding Liren would have been the favourite in Berlin, but it has just been announced that he has withdrawn due to visa problems. A sad outcome for a high-class player. In Ding’s absence, the Grand Prix is wide open. The United States probably has the strongest hand with its trio of Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, and the former Armenian Levon Aronian.

Puzzle 2455

White mates in three moves, against any defence (by Fritz Giegold, 1971). Find White’s hidden first move, and the rest is simple. The German composer was known as “the riddle king” for his ingenious concepts. 

Click here for solution

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