2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS (Quarterfinals)
1 Ding Liren
CHN
1½-½
Alexander Grischuk
RUS
2 Yu Yangyi
CHN
5-4
Vitiugov, Nikita
RUS
3 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
2½-1½
Levon Aronian
ARM
4 Teimour Radjabov
AZE
1½-½
Jeffery Xiong
USA
Official Brackets

Xiong’s run is over… Russia is out… China guaranteed a finalist

One of the most remarkable stories of the 2019 World Cup has been the performance of Jeffery Xiong, the 18-year old rising star from Plano, Texas, USA. As with any tournament with elite players, one has to traverse many landmines and have a bit of fortune on one’s side.

Xiong took his share of chances, won several beautiful games and in the end, had a performance of a lifetime. His loss to Teimour Radjabov did not tarnish his tournament and it may have given observers an idea of his fighting resolve. He indeed made a graceful exit.

Yu Yangyi’s win guarantees a Chinese finalist
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

One of the developments that has shown the changing balance of power in chess is the presence of China’s two semi-finalist despite only starting with seven players. On the other hand, Russia started with 28(!) players and none got past the quarterfinals. This also happened in 2017 World Cup in Tblisi, Georgia. As shocking as it may seem, it appears that the era of Russian dominance is long past.

Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan is one product for the Russian School of Chess having been a child prodigy made famous by beating Garry Kasparov at Linares at age 15. He actually created a small controversy when Kasparov protested his winning of the “most beautiful game” prize. In playing Xiong, Radjabov avoided being on the other side of history. He will face Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (MVL) in the semifinals.

MVL ousted aspirant Levon Aronian after the Armenian blundered in a fit of time pressure. It was a very disappointing end for Aronian who was the defending champion and also won the World Cup in 2005. In fact, Aronian beat MVL in the semifinals in 2017.

Facing further tiebreaks, Aronian uncorked an exchange sacrifice hoping to capitalize off of white’s exposed king with his powerful knight. In fact, MVL blundered with 30.Rxe3 giving black a winning attack. After 30…Qxe3+ 31.Kh2 black missed the powerful 31…Ne4! initiating a mating attack on the white king. The white queen can only look on helplessly.

Aronian had outplayed the Frenchman with the exchange sacrifice, but lost the thread after 37…h5?? with 38.Rf3 winning a piece.

Aronian played 31…Qe2+?! and could’ve repeated the winning idea, but snapped the pawn with 32…Nxd3? helping to rid white of a barrier to protect his own kingside. In addition, the move set the knight on the wrong course. Lost for an idea, Aronian played 37…h5? and white seized a chance to stitch together a defense with 38.Qd1. Suffering from a blindspot, Aronian played 38…h4?? and tossed a piece after 39.Rf3. Overcome by his oversight, he played on seeking to liquidate pawns and set up a blockade, but it would not be. MVL finished the game in fine style.

Aronian wasn’t the only player by a blunder.

Nikita Vitiugov and Yu Yangyi had a fierce battle that carried all the way to the Armageddon game. Both had played spirited game, but neither could gain an edge. There was a trade of wins in the 10’+10″ segment. After a couple of draws in the 5’+3″ the to went to the final Armageddon game. White would have five minutes to black’s four, but would have to win to advance. Black need only a draw to win the match.

Something very strange happen. Perhaps fatigue had set as we saw in the MVL-Aronian battle. In the opening moves, the Chinese player had a total mental lapse…

Unbelievable!

After 9.Be4?? 10.Nxg2 Kf2 10.Nxf4, Yu was down two pawns by move nine. This was not a sacrifice and there was no compensation in sight! When one is losing in blitz, it’s important to complicate matters as much as possible. Yu went forward to do this and took chances. Nevertheless, Vitiugov had a chance to end the game immediately after 17…Qc5! threatening to win the Nd4 and a deadly discovered check on the Qh5.

After Vitiugov’s 34…Rc8?? Yu played 35.Rg8+!

After this missed opportunity, Yu used the open lines created by the missing f- and g-pawns to penetrate black’s camp. Soon he had doubled rooks on the seventh! Yu had a chance to win the exchange with 32.Rce7 and 33.Nd7+, but missed it. As the Russian realized he had allowed white a winning position, he scrambled to simplify and played 34…Rc8?? Yu pounced with the cute 35.Rg8+! and after 35…Rxg8 36.Rxc8+ white wins a rook after 37.Nxg8. Vitiugov played on a few more moves seemingly by reflex, but resigned the humiliating game. The aftermath of the game was even more crushing than the loss itself. Vitiugov was seen sitting in his seat shellshocked after everyone had left the hall. Brutal loss that will sting for many years to come.

The tournament will continue tomorrow with a Chinese derby Yu-Ding and MVL-Radjabov.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

GM Jeffery Xiong at 2019 World Cup
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

Jeffery Xiong’s run at the 2019 World Cup is over, but will not be forgotten for a long time. In perhaps his biggest moment on one of the world’s biggest stages, the 18-year old exceeded all expectations by reaching the quarterfinals. His combination of creativity, courage, and principled play won the hearts of many fans who were seeing him for the first time.

Many of us in the U.S. have seen Jeffery as sure as we saw Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana trod the halls of American Swiss tournaments. In fact, Jeffery has cut his teeth on these competitive events and was most recently captured in a tiebreak against Le Quang Liem during the 2019 World Open. A 2016 U.S. Junior Champion, he is rounding out a banner year and now sits on a 2712 live rating surpassing Sam Shankland.

(Then IM) Jeffery Xiong defeating GM Lazaro Bruzon at 2015 Chicago Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Jeffery’s run in Khanty-Mansiysk was accented by wins over Anish Giri and Jan-Krzysztof Duda during which he showed courage and it paid off. His clinching win over Giri was a crowning achievement over an elite player.

Shocked at the result, Jeffery recounted in the interview that he had a strategy of playing for complications and getting Giri out of his preparation. For Giri, it was a disappointing end to what would have been an opportune time to qualify for the Candidates tournament. Nevertheless, the world discovered a new star on the horizon.

Traveling with his father Wayne Xiong, he advanced to face the Polish phenom Duda. This match reached epic proportions going eight games with six decisive games to start the match. After Jeffery staved off elimination twice, he won the last 5’+3″ blitz game in style.

Against Teimour Radjabov, he played one of the most exciting games of the round with so many twists and turns. In the end, he missed some crucial moves in the time scramble, but delighted fans with his positive attitude and humble demeanor. Leontxo Garcia wrote a nice article about the young American and marveled at the 45-minute postmortem.

Leontxo Garcia (left) watches the Radjabov-Xiong postmortem. Wayne Xiong is seated. Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

Thus, he ended with a solid result and won a legion of fans worldwide including a few more in the U.S. While the most of the chess world may have never heard of Xiong, he has long been touted as a supreme talent in the American chess scene. If Garcia’s article is prescient, Xiong’s curiosity about Europe may find him playing more high-level chess overseas. He will also be positioning himself for a spot on the U.S. Olympiad team for next year. A bright future awaits!

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS (Quarterfinals)
1 Jeffery Xiong
USA
1½-½
Igor Lysyj
RUS
2 Jeffery Xiong
USA
3-1
Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
3 Jeffery Xiong
USA
3½-2½
Anish Giri
ARM
4 Jeffery Xiong
USA
4½-3½
Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
5 Jeffery Xiong
USA
½-1½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
Official Brackets

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

Charisse Woods
Photo by Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press

Charisse Woods had her moment in the national spotlight when she was honored with five other Detroit girls in the All-Girls National Championship three years ago. At the time she was a 5th grader at University Prep Science & Math Elementary. Since then she has moved on to join four of the other girls at Cass Tech.

Woods will head to India for a big test at the World Youth Chess Championships in Mumbai, India. Last year she attended the same tournament in Chalkidiki, Greece and scored 4.5/11. Woods has been one of the bright spots in Detroit scholastic chess participating since she was in the second grade at Chrysler Elementary.


“The community definitely helps a lot.”
~ Charisse Woods


Kevin Fite has been the catalyst for chess advancement in the Detroit area and was Woods’ first coach. She eventually became the top player in the club and gained confidence to continue. It also helped her to sharpen her analytical skills and she aspires to be an engineer.

Woods hopes to continue to improve in quest of her goal to become a National Master. This trip would not have been possible without support from the larger Detroit community. The event will take place October 1st-14th, 2019 at the Renaissance Convention Centre Hotel, Mumbai.

Official: worldyouthchess.com

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS (ROUND 4)
1 Ding Liren
CHN
3-1
Kirill Alekseenko
RUS
2 Alexander Grischuk
RUS
2½-1½
Leinier Domínguez
USA
3 Ian Nepomniachtchi
RUS
½-1½
Yu Yangyi
CHN
4 Vitiugov, Nikita
RUS
1½-½
Wesley So
USA
5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
1½-½
Peter Svidler
RUS
6 Le Quang Liem
VIE
2½-3½
Levon Aronian
ARM
7 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
2½-3½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
8 Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
3½-4½
Jeffery Xiong
USA
Official Brackets

Then there were eight…

Starting with 128 competitors from around the world, the World Cup will be decided in about a week. Remaining are two Russians, two Chinese, one Armenia, one Azeri, one Frenchman and one American. Starting the competition, Jeffery Xiong would have been the most improbable American to reach round five, but his focus, cool demeanor and daring play has gotten him to the quarterfinals. He won a thrilling tiebreaker against Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland.

Jeffery Xiong at 2019 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Jeffery Xiong yielded one draw in eight games
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

This match lasted eight games with Xiong winning on demand twice and Duda once. It appeared that the American had more chances in the match gaining an edge in the first game, but losing his way despite being an exchange up. He also missed a winning attack in game five. In a match where white won every game, Xiong said he felt confident even after falling behind in the match twice. Such bloodletting is unusual in a match.

Why would Xiong play 28…Rh8-e8 removing his rook from an aggressive post to protect a measly pawn? It was one of the mysteries of the thrilling match.

Objectively, it wasn’t as much the dominance of white as it was some of the mistakes that were made in the match. In game four, Duda went 1.a3 and got a strange position against Xiong’s Dragon setup. Again… Xiong got a winning position only to drop an exchange and cede another tiebreak.

In game five, Xiong trotted out the Caro Kann and got another overwhelming position. After his pieces were aimed at the white king ready to deliver a knockout blow, he missed the winning 28….Ng3+! and inexplicably played 28…Re8?? To move an attacking rook on h8 to protect a pawn on e6 was strange indeed and gave Duda the time to unravel and focus on his own counterattack. The tables turned and Xiong had to win another game on demand.

Duda never quite equalized with his Petroff, but then Xiong took a chance with 18.Ne5!? At this point fatigue may have been setting in as mistakes were piling up. In a drawn ending, black allowed white to raid the kingside pawns and gain a passer which eventually morphed into a queen. Despite queening a pawn, Duda never got a chance to move his new queen and resigned two moves before checkmate.

After a draw, Xiong trotted out the Four Pawns Attack against the Alekhine, an opening you don’t often see at top level, but it is psychologically intimidating. Xiong got a strong attack against the king and the game became complicated, but salvageable. In the ensuing complications, Duda collapsed and crash out of the tournament.

Jeffery Xiong at 2019 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Jeffery Xiong showed courage and determination
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

In the Ding-Alekseenko, the Cinderella story ended for the Russian as the Chinese player proved to be too strong in the rapid tiebreaks. He upset Pentala Harikrishna and had his chances against Ding Liren. In the classical games, Ding was put under pressure in both games, but was able to hold. In the rapid, Ding dominated play and the Russian crashed out.

The Grischuk-Dominguez game was interesting, but the Cuban player lost a textbook ending by mixing the move order.

Grischuk got crushed in the second game when he overextended his attack. After the win, Dominguez got nothing in his Italian game. In the last rapid game, he appeared to get lost in the complications and ended up down a piece. It would be the end for Dominguez who had previously played for Cuba making it to round 3 in 2007, round 2 in 2009, round 4 in 2011, round 3 in 2013 and round 3 in 2015. In 2017, he was in the process of switching federations.

Nikita Vituigov won a nice game against Wesley So in a study-like bishop ending. In the end the b-pawn stood for 20 moves at b7 tying up any hopes of black counterplay. In the end, the pawn promotion resulted in a mating attack for white and So was eliminated.

Teimour Radjabov was a projected world championship contender 20 years ago.
Will he have another chance in the World Cup? Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

Teimour Radjabov was a projected world championship contender 20 years ago. Will he have another chance in the World Cup? Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

A couple of matches had storylines. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was playing longtime friend Teimour Radjabov. There is always discomfort in playing someone you know. The first five games were rather uneventful and there was a thought that the two were going easy on each other. In the end someone had to advance. Shakh’s 35.Nxf7!? Kxf7 36.f5.

In the end, white didn’t have enough compensation and his position collapsed rather quickly. With Radjabov not being on the professional circuit these days, this may be his last chance to qualify for the candidates. Mamedyarov will have other opportunities. Yu Yangyi upset Ian Nepomniachtchi with a brilliant queenless attack. Nepo’s bishops were caught offside and white broke through. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian and Yu will advance to the final eight.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS (ROUND 3)
Bracket 1
1 Ding Liren
CHN
3-1
Alireza Firouzja
IRI
2 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
0-2
Kirill Alekseenko
RUS
Bracket 2
3 Alexander Grischuk
RUS
2-0
Xu Xiangyu
CHN
4 Wang Hao
CHN
3½-4½
Leinier Domínguez
USA
Bracket 3
5 Ian Nepomniachtchi
RUS
5-3
Evgeny Tomashevsky
RUS
6 Wei Yi
CHN
1½-2½
Yu Yangyi
CHN
Bracket 4
7 Sergey Karjakin
RUS
½-1½
Nikita Vitiugov
RUS
8 Vidit Gujrathi
IND
½-1½
Wesley So
USA
Bracket 5
9 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
4½-3½
Dmitry Jakovenko
RUS
10 Peter Svidler
RUS
2½-1½
Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu
GER
Bracket 6
11 Vladislav Artemiev
RUS
2½-3½
Le Quang Liem
VIE
12 Maxim Matlakov
RUS
½-1½
Levon Aronian
ARM
Bracket 7
13 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
1½-½
Eltaj Safarli
AZE
14 Daniil Yuffa
RUS
½-1½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
Bracket 8
15 Dmitry Andreikin
RUS
½-1½
Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
16 Jeffery Xiong
USA
3½-2½
Anish Giri
NED
Official Brackets

Xiong upsets Giri…five Russians advance…
Wesley So cruises

Jeffery Xiong at 2019 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Jeffery Xiong provoked sharp battles to upset Anish Giri
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Down to the “Sweet Sixteen” at the 2019 FIDE World Cup. There were a couple of surprises in today’s action as Jeffrey Xiong took down Anish Giri. The match went six games and ended when Xiong delivered a blistering attack.

Outstanding!

Xiong was surprised at the result and mentioned in the post-match interview that his strategy was to make the games complicated. His 22…Rxh3!? in second rapid tiebreak showed tremendous courage. All of the games in the tiebreak were tense and the young American phenom showed that he has the ability to keep his calm during tense moments. He plays Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland in the next round.

The other surprise of the round was Pentala Harikrishna bowing out to Kirill Alekseenko, a promising 22-year old Russian. He would lose both games to the disappointment to the massive Indian fan base. Vidit Gujrathi was also eliminated. There was ample coverage of the Indian players by ChessBase India and we can expect their players to go deeper in future tournaments.

Vidit Gujrathi. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Vidit Gujrathi was ousted by Wesley So, but a bright future awaits.
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

Not much is know about the Russian star who earned his GM title in 2015. He has won the Chigorin Memorial three times and competed in the 2018 European Individuals scoring 7/11 and beating Vassily Ivanchuk in the process. Alekseenko has had an auspicious World Cup debut advancing to the 4th round. He will play top-seed Ding Liren who outclassed Alireza Firouzja winning both tiebreak rapid games.

Alireza Firouzja showed flashes against Dubov
Photo by Kirill Merkuryev

Ding has been able to get through quite comfortably although he claims that he is not in top form yet. This match was highly anticipated since Firouzja is one of the world’s most active streamers at Twitch. He also played a brilliancy against Daniil Dubov (37.exd6!!). However, facing a 2800 is a totally different beast.

In the first rapid game, Ding won a game that appeared to be completely drawn. He stated he had more time on the clock so he continued to play on. The second game was a complete demolition as Firouzja took chances with the white pieces, but was thoroughly crushed. So the Iranian will exit having made an impression. This trend shows that the balance of power has shifted and China, India and Iran are producing prodigious talents.

Five Russians made it to the next round, but not the ones most anticipated. Sergey Karjakin, Vladislav Artemiev and Dmitri Andreikin are headed home. On the other hand, Alexander Grishuk and Peter Svidler will lead the Russian contingent. Svidler beat Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu in the battle of personalities (earring vs. pony tail).

Grischuk’s nice tactical flourish in the first game (37…Bxe5!) won him plaudits from chess fans around the world…

Not to be outdone, he finished off the overachieving Xu Xiangyu with an impressive positional squeeze.

While Russia has five players remaining, the U.S. has Xiong, So and Leinier Dominguez. A Cuban national, Dominguez switched his federation last year and has a chance to advance further. His last match with Wang Hao was thrilling as the tiebreaks featured two successful “win on demand” situations. He won the first of the 5’+3″ and held the draw in the second to win the match.

Maxime Vachier Lagrave went eight games before beating Dmitry Jakovenko and Le Quang Liem advanced over Vladislav Artemiev.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS (ROUND 2)
Bracket 1
1 Ding Liren
CHN
2½-1½
Sergei Movsesian
ARM
2 Daniil Dubov
RUS
½-1½
Alireza Firouzja
IRI
3 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
1½-½
Vladimir Fedoseev
RUS
4 Kirill Alekseenko
RUS
2½-1½
Johan-Sebastian Christiansen
DEN
Bracket 2
5 Alexander Grischuk
RUS
2½-1½
Benjamin Bok
NED
6 Ernesto Inarkiev
RUS
½-1½
Xu Xiangyu
CHN
7 Wang Hao
CHN
1½-½
Maxim Rodshtein
ISR
8 Nijat Abasov
AZE
1-3
Leinier Domínguez
USA
Bracket 3
9 Ian Nepomniachtchi
RUS
1½-½
Alexandr Predke
RUS
10 Aravindh Chithambaram
IND
½-1½
Evgeny Tomashevsky
RUS
11 Wei Yi
CHN
2½-1½
David Antón Guijarro
ESP
12 Baskaran Adhiban
IND
1½-2½
Yu Yangyi
CHN
Bracket 4
13 Sergey Karjakin
RUS
2-0
Samuel Sevian
USA
14 Niclas Huschenbeth
GER
1-3
Nikita Vitiugov
RUS
15 Vidit Gujrathi
IND
1½-½
Aleksandr Rakhmanov
RUS
16 Anton Demchenko
RUS
½-1½
Wesley So
USA
Bracket 5
17 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
2-0
Igor Kovalenko
LAT
18 Gawain Jones
ENG
1-3
Dmitry Jakovenko
RUS
19 Peter Svidler
RUS
3-1
Andrey Esipenko
RUS
20 Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu
GER
1½-½
Hikaru Nakamura
USA
Bracket 6
21 Vladislav Artemiev
RUS
1½-½
Ivan Cheparinov
GEO
22 Anton Korobov
UKR
½-1½
Le Quang Liem
VIE
23 Maxim Matlakov
RUS
2½-1½
Boris Gelfand
ISR
24 Parham Maghsoodloo
ENG
½-1½
Levon Aronian
ARM
Bracket 7
25 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
1½-½
Rustam Kasimdzhanov
UZB
26 Nihal Sarin
IND
1½-2½
Eltaj Safarli
AZE
27 Daniil Yuffa
RUS
5-3
Luke McShane
ENG
28 Sanan Sjugirov
RUS
1½-2½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
Bracket 8
29 Dmitry Andreikin
RUS
1½-½
Rinat Jumabayev
KAZ
30 Tamir Nabaty
ISR
0-2
Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
31 Jeffery Xiong
USA
3-1
Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
32 Evgeniy Najer
RUS
4-5
Anish Giri
NED
Official Brackets

Round #2 Recap
September 13-15, 2019

Firouzja on fire! Twelve Russians advance to last 32

Alireza Firouzja has become a sensation over the past couple of years since making an impression at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. At that time he was the 13-year old national champion of Iran and was playing fourth board behind Parham Maghsoodloo. He has since become the top Iranian player and has vaulted over 2700. In this tournament, he created a buzz with his win over Russia’s Daniil Dubov.

His 37.exd6!! got a shower of gold coins and showed that this 16-year old is a huge talent. He advanced and will get a stiff test against the top seed Ding Liren.

Another young prodigy in 15-year old GM Nihal Sarin received a lot of attention in this round after conducting a clinic on attacking the king. His win over Eltaj Safarli got high praise from Magnus Carlsen

In severe time pressure, Nihal Sarin errs with 32…Rg6?? after which Eltaj Safarli snapped off the bishop with 33.Bxf2.

The mating attack at the expense of Safarli drew comparisons to Anatoly Karpov, but perhaps the attention became too great for the 15-year old. In the next game, Safarli trotted out the Evans Gambit looking for a fight. It was the first time in his life and will probably be the last. Sagar Shah of ChessBase India did a deep analysis of this game and discussed the amount of time that Nihal was spending on each move… some of them simple recaptures. By move 16, Nihal had 24 moves to make in 10 minutes! Then disaster struck…

Some figured that he was thinking he rook was already on f8. In fact, any reasonable move with his a8-rook would be enough for a draw. It is heartbreaking to see so much energy put into a game and have it lost on a simple mistakes, but that’s chess. It can be a cruel game sometimes. Unfortunately for Sarin he also lost the tiebreaks. Let’s hope that he learns from the experience and that he moves on from this loss quickly.

Wei Yi is a player who has quietly entered the third round. Many have been wondering if the Chinese prodigy has stopped improving, but he shows that he is still a dangerous opponent. He will face his compatriot Yu Yangyi next. Perhaps the most exciting match was Daniel Yuffa versus Luke McShane, the world’s strongest amateur player.

Mikhail BotvinnikMikhail Tal
24th World Championship, 28 April 1961
Black wins 83…Bf4+

In the first game, there was an intriguing ending that arose with K+B+B vs. K+N. Yuffa was trying to pry the knight away from McShane, but was unable to convert the TableBase win. McShane went for the toughest defense which is to keep the knight on b2, b7, g2 or g7. McShane shuffled his knight from g7 to e8 for several moves then ran down to the b2 square with his knight and set up the same structure. A draw was granted.

Forced mate with best play from both sides is 66-78 moves depending on the configuration. However there are cases like in Dreev-Cabrera (2005) where the Russian won the bishop due to a blunder. Mikhail Tal also beat Mikhail Botvinnik (WCh 1961, Game 17) in only seven moves after achieving the K+B+B vs. K+N. Jan Timman was also successful against Jonathan Speelman (Linares 1992).

Yuffa went on to win 5-3 and is one of a dozen Russians to make it to the round of 32. The usual suspects are still in the hunt with Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler, Nikita Vitiugov, Dmitry Jakovenko, Dmitry Andreikin, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Vladislav Artemiev advancing. Besides Yuffa, Maxim Matlakov and Kiriil Alekseenko finish the contingent. Starting with 28/128 (21%) they improved with 12/32 (37%).

One of the vanquished Russian was former European Champion Evgeny Najer who lost a wild match to Anish Giri. Daniel King gave a synopsis of the key tiebreak games.

As far as the Americans, Hikaru Nakamura was surprisingly eliminated from the tournament. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu discussed the first game featuring a queen sacrifice. It was suspected that Nakamura had gotten the move order wrong and was punished for it. Nisipeanu was very gracious in his comments during an interview. With Sam Shankland and Nakamura gone, Wesley So, Jeffery Xiong and Leinier Dominguez advance to the round of 32. Who is now the youngest of the event?

Very good! This pun went viral for good reason. While Jeffery will always be the Xiongest, Iran’s Alireza Firouzja is now the youngest at 16.

All Games (Round 2)

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
MATCH PAIRINGS
Bracket 1
1 Ding Liren
CHN
2-0
Shaun Press
PNG
2 Grigoriy Oparin
RUS
½-1½
Sergei Movsesian
ARM
3 Daniil Dubov
RUS
1½-½
Alexandr Fier
BRA
4 Arman Pashikian
ARM
½-1½
Alireza Firouzja
IRI
5 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
2-0
Yuri Gonzalez Vidal
CUB
6 Ganguly Surya Shekhar
IND
2-4
Vladimir Fedoseev
RUS
7 Kirill Alekseenko
RUS
1½-½
Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son
VIE
8 Johan-Sebastian Christiansen
DEN
2-0
Radoslaw Wojtaszek
POL
Bracket 2
9 Alexander Grischuk
RUS
1½-½
Paulius Pultinevicius
LTU
10 Benjamin Bok
NED
2½-1½
Ivan Šaric
SRB
11 Ernesto Inarkiev
RUS
1½-½
Karthikeyan Murali
IND
12 Xu Xiangyu
CHN
3½-2½
Bu Xiangzhi
CHN
13 Wang Hao
CHN
3½-2½
Aleksei Pridorozhni
RUS
14 Mateusz Bartel
POL
½-1½
Maxim Rodshtein
ISR
15 Kacper Piorun
POL
3½-4½
Nijat Abasov
AZE
16 Alder Escobar
COL
1½-½
Leinier Domínguez
USA
Bracket 3
17 Ian Nepomniachtchi
RUS
2-0
Sugar Gan-Erdene
MGL
19 Alexandr Predke
RUS
2½-1½
Alexey Sarana
RUS
20 Michael Adams
POL
3½-4½
Aravindh Chithambaram
IND
18 Nikita Petrov
RUS
1½-2½
Evgeny Tomashevsky
RUS
21 Wei Yi
CHN
1½-½
Miguel Santos Ruiz
ESP
22 S.L. Narayanan
IND
1½-2½
David Antón Guijarro
ESP
23 Baskaran Adhiban
IND
1½-½
Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli
VEN
24 Ehsan Ghaem-Maghami
IRI
2½-3½
Yu Yangyi
CHN
Bracket 4
25 Sergey Karjakin
RUS
1½-½
Susanto Megaranto
IND
26 Aryan Tari
NOR
½-1½
Samuel Sevian
USA
27 Arkadij Naiditsch
AZE
0-2
Niclas Huschenbeth
GER
28 Frode Urkedal
NOR
½-1½
Nikita Vitiugov
RUS
29 Vidit Gujrathi
IND
1½-½
Alan Pichot
ARG
30 Aleksandr Rakhmanov
RUS
1½-½
Nils Grandelius
SWE
31 Anton Demchenko
RUS
1½-½
Robert Hovhannisyan
ARM
32 Sergio Duran Vega
CRC
0-2
Wesley So
USA
Bracket 5
33 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
2-0
Daniel Anwuli
NGR
34 Constantin Lupulescu
ROM
1½-2½
Igor Kovalenko
LAT
35 Gawain Jones
ENG
1½-½
Diego Flores
ARG
36 Jose Eduardo Martinez
PER
0-2
Dmitry Jakovenko
RUS
37 Peter Svidler
RUS
1½-½
Carlos Daniel Albornoz
CUB
38 Andrey Esipenko
RUS
1½-½
Ruslan Ponomariov
UKR
39 Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu
GER
2½-1½
Mircea Parligras
ROM
40 Bilel Bellahcene
ALG
0-2
Hikaru Nakamura
USA
Bracket 6
41 Vladislav Artemiev
RUS
1½-½
Ilia Iljiushenok
RUS
42 Ahmed Adly
EGY
½-1½
Ivan Cheparinov
GEO
43 Anton Korobov
UKR
3-1
Abhijeet Gupta
IND
44 Aleksej Aleksandrov
RUS
1½-2½
Le Quang Liem
VIE
45 Maxim Matlakov
RUS
1½-½
Nodirbek Abdusattorov
UZB
46 Lu Shanglei
CHN
2-4
Boris Gelfand
ISR
47 Parham Maghsoodloo
IRI
2-0
Maksim Chigaev
RUS
48 Essam El Gindy
EGY
½-1½
Levon Aronian
ARM
Bracket 7
49 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
2-0
Fy Rakotomaharo
MAD
50 Evgeny Bareev
CAN
½-1½
Rustam Kasimdzhanov
UZB
51 Jorge Cori
PER
0-2
Nihal Sarin
IND
52 Eltaj Safarli
AZE
3½-2½
Sam Shankland
USA
53 David Navara
CZE
½-1½
Daniil Yuffa
RUS
54 Neuris Delgado Ramirez
PAR
1½-2½
Luke McShane
ENG
55 Sanan Sjugirov
RUS
2½-1½
Sandro Mareco
ARG
56 Helgi Dam Ziska
GER
½-1½
Teimour Radjabov
AZE
Bracket 8
57 Dmitry Andreikin
RUS
2½-1½
Krikor Mekhitarian
BRA
58 Rinat Jumabayev
KAZ
1½-½
Ferenc Berkes
HUN
59 Tamir Nabaty
ISR
1½-½
S.P. Sethuraman
IND
60 Cristobal Henriquez Villagra
CHI
½-1½
Jan-Krzysztof Duda
POL
61 Jeffery Xiong
USA
1½-½
Igor Lysyj
RUS
62 Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
1½-½
Bassem Amin
EGY
63 Benjamin Gledura
HUN
½-1½
Evgeniy Najer
RUS
64 Mohammad Fahad Rahman
BAN
½-1½
Anish Giri
NED
Official Brackets

Round #1 Recap
September 10-12, 2019

Wojtaszek upset… Nihal shines

Commentators marvel at World Cup because the diversity of players and the various formats in each match. Indeed there are the unknown players who qualified from their zonal tournaments getting a chance to share the stage with the world’s elite. Then there are those rising stars looking to supplant the veterans. Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan was the youngest in the field at 14. That led to a quip by Lawrence Trent

Radoslaw Wojtaszek was the first big name to have an early exit after losing to Norway’s Johan-Sebastian Christiansen 2-0. Christiansen was overcome with joy after the result.

Bu Xiangzhi was another victim losing in tiebreaks to 20-year old countryman Yu Xiangzhi. Bu has enjoyed a wonderful career and he will soon make way for the cadre of rising Chinese yet to arrive on the professional circuit. There was another exchange between Trent and Jan Gustafsson on the dangers of playing in the Chinese League among unrated players. “Not good for your Elo rating,” was the moral of the story.

Perhaps the sensation of the round was the Nihal Sarin who won convincingly over Jorge Cori of Peru. His first game achieved plaudits from legendary players and the comparisons to Anatoly Karpov were commonplace.

There has been a lot made of the Indian talents Sarin (15), Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (14) and Dommaraju Gukesh (13). There has been quite a bit of attention given to the recent push to develop Indian talent. Most recently a group of young Indian prodigies attended a camp conducted by Vladimir Kramnik and hosted by ChessBase. Sagar Shah of ChessBase India was on the scene. With Viswanathan Anand also lending his leadership, India will be looking to improve its #4 position in the world.

There were 28 Russians starting this event and they had their own young talents including 17-year old Andrey Esipenko winning over former FIDE champion Ruslan Ponomariov. There was a controversy involving doping tests. Ponomariov was upset because the test took a couple of hours and did not allow him time to prepare for his next game which he lost badly. Dr. Marape Marape, Chairman of FIDE Medical Commission spoke on the matter to clarify.

Levon Aronian escaped against Essam El-Gindy
Photo by khantymansiysk2019.fide.com

Not too many upsets in the first round, but Levon Aronian nearly dropped his first game against Essam El-Gindy of Egypt before holding on to draw. He would win the next game and move on. As far as smaller federations, those from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not fare well. The balance of power has shifted eastward, but the transition has been gradual.

Of course the Asian powerhouses China (#3) and India (#4) will go deep in the tournament, but chess is still in transformation and perhaps one day there will be a singular talent to come from an obscure country. Before Magnus Carlsen rise, Norway was not exactly a world power in chess and is still not a world power. However, it shows that one can rise if given the right opportunities and the World Cup is one such event.

All Games (Round 1)

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

This has been a banner year for African chess. The Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz hosted in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire was a smashing success. The 2019 African Championship in Tunisia was the strongest ever and the recently-held 2019 Africa Games was all the rave. These three events have been a culmination in a year of promise and hope on the continent.

African players will trek to the Siberian region of Russia with a rejuvenated spirit in hopes to make an impression. A refreshing confidence has been seen in recent years. Who can forget the confidence of Zambia’s Andrew Kayonde when facing world-class opponent Vassily Ivanchuk at 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. In a gripped battle, Ivanchuk was still trying to win a game from an equal position. Not to be denied, Kayonde said, “I know he is Vassily Ivanchuk, but I’m also the Zambian Champion!

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco
Photo by Jeux Africains Rabat 2019

In what has come to be one of the main staging grounds for chess, Khanty-Mansiysk will host the 2019 World Cup and six African players will be on hand. Traditionally, African players had been overmatched and went looking for experience. In recent years, the continent has not only sent stronger players, but have produced some tough matches on the higher boards.

Years ago, there were some chatter about Africans not being deserving of six slots in the World Cup given the level of the players. Such comments are becoming less favored. In the past, Africa would sent a mixture of IMs and FMs. This year four Grandmasters and two International Masters from the African continent will join the field.

Ahmed Adly (Egypt), Bassem Amin (Egypt), Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) at 2019 Africa Games taking 1-2-3 in the blitz competition. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji.

Grandmasters Ahmed Adly (Egypt), Bassem Amin (Egypt), Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria) at 2019 Africa Games taking 1-2-3 in the blitz competition. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji.

GM Essam El-Gindy

GM Essam El-Gindy (Egypt)
Photo by James Mwangi

IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar)
Photo by Amruta Mokal

This year, six African players will be competing of which three are Egyptian. In 2015 World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, GM Bassem Amin was first African player to advance to the second round. He qualified by virtue of his second place finish in the African Championships. His compatriot GM Ahmed Adly won the event, but had already qualified after winning the 4.2 Zonal. GM Essam El-Gindy, the tournament’s eldest player, will take that spot instead. GM Bilel Bellahcene of Algeria won the 4.1 Zonal while IM Fy Rakotomaharo of Madagascar won 4.3 Zonal. Lastly, IM Daniel Anwuli of Nigeria won the 4.4 Zonal.

IM Daniel Anwuli and IM Fy Rakotomaharo will also travel for the World Cup. Will they be future challengers for the African crown? Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

Young talents IM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria) and IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar) will be in Khanty-Mansiysk looking for upsets. Photo by Aishat Ibrahim

While African players are generally outrated in the World Cup, Amin will be the favorite his first match. The others will face players had all been in the top 10-30 at one time or another. Here are the pairings.

2019 World Chess Cup
September 9th-October 4th, 2019 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
Round #1 Pairings for Africa
1 GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
IM Daniel Anwuli
NGR
2 GM Bilel Bellahcene
ALG
GM Hikaru Nakamura
USA
3 GM Ahmed Adly
EGY
GM Ivan Cheparinov
GEO
4 GM Levon Aronian
ARM
GM Essam El-Gindy
EGY
5 GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
AZE
IM Fy Rakotomaharo
MAD
6 GM Amin Tabatabaei
IRI
GM Bassem Amin
EGY
Official Pairings

This is a tremendous opportunity for African players to break through. They are not going as “tourists” merely to say they have participated. They are going for glory and to defend their national honor.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/

2019 World Chess Cup
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)

Ugra Chess Academy (Loparev Street, 6) in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

On tomorrow, September 9th, the 2019 FIDE World Cup will open in Khanty-Mansiysk making it the city’s fifth time hosting the event. 128 players from 47 countries will make the journey to the Siberian region for a chance a glory and a chance to raise their flag. The event which will close on October 4th. The two finalists will qualify for the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2020, a qualifier for the World Championship against Magnus Carlsen. Ding Liren will be the top seed and many other top 20 players will be present.

China’s Ding Liren is the top seed
Photo by Lennart Ootes

The opening ceremony will be held in the Arts Center for Gifted Children of the North on September 9th at 7:00 pm local time. Draw for the colors will take place during the ceremony. Russia is represented by 28 players, followed by India – 10, China – 7, and USA – 6. The diverse field features youngsters and long-time veterans. The 14-year-old GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Uzbekistan) is the youngest player while GM Essam El-Gindy (Egypt) the oldest at 53. Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun will not be competing in order to prepare for the Women’s FIDE Grand Prix.

Carlsen will not participate this year after participating in Tblisi, Georgia in 2017. He was eliminated by Bu Xiangzhi in round three. Fabiano Caruana will also not be taking part as he has a guaranteed spot in the Candidates tournament.

Anish Giri (2780, Netherlands), Ian Nepomniachtchi (2776, Russia), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2774, France), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2767, Azerbaijan), Wesley So (2767, USA), Yu Yangyi (2763, China), Lenier Dominguez Perez (2763, USA), Sergey Karjakin (2760, Russia) are some familiar names. Karjakin won the Cup in 2015. Other winners participating include Levon Aronian (Armenia), Boris Gelfand (Israel), and Peter Svidler (Russia).

The total prize fund is $1.6 million, with $110,000 for the winner and $6,000 for first round losers.

Levon Aronian of Armenia, 2017 World Cup winner
Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich (fide.org)

PRIZE DISTRIBUTION
(US$)Total
Round 1: 64 × 6,000=384,000
Round 2: 32 × 10,000=320,000
Round 3: 16 × 16,000=256,000
Round 4: 8 × 25,000=200,000
Round 5: 4 × 35,000=140,000
4th place: 50,000
3rd place: 60,000
2nd place: 80,000
1st place: 110,000
Total (US$): 1,600,000

MATCH DETAILS

Each of the matches will comprise of two game matches, plus tiebreaks, if necessary. The last standing after the previous rounds will enter a seventh round of four games, plus tiebreaks if necessary. Players receive 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus 30 seconds per move starting from move one. If the score is tied the players then play two 25-minute + 10-second increment rapid games, then two 10+10 games, then two 5+3 and, finally, Armageddon, where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4 but a draw qualifies Black for the next round.

SCHEDULE
Round 1: September 10th – September 12th
Round 2: September 13th – September 15th
Round 3: September 16th – September 18th
Rest day: September 19th
Round 4: September 20th – September 22nd
Round 5: September 23rd – September 25th
Round 6: September 26th – September 28th
Rest day: September 29th
Final and play-off for third place: September 30th – October 4th

All rounds start at 3 pm local time

Chief Arbiter – IA Ashot Vardapetian (Armenia)

CLICK to enlarge

The 2019 World Cup is organized by the Government of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra, World Chess Federation (FIDE), Ugra Chess Federation, and Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation.

Official: https://khantymansiysk2019.fide.com/en/
chess24.com: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/khanty-fide-world-cup-2019

Zahir Muhammad at the 2018 Denker Tournament of Champions against FM Maggie Feng. Photo courtesy of Zahir Muhammad

Zahir Muhammad, 17, has a vision. It is a vision that is often stated by many in the Black community. Muhammad is a slender 6’3″ and has the frame of a point guard, and while he does indeed play basketball as well as track, chess has become his focus. Zahir was taught chess at the age of three by his father, Rory Muhammad who instilled the virtues of the game. Currently a Class-A player and two-time Denker qualifier, Muhammad has recently launched an organization designed to bring chess to the underserved community. Full Circle Chess seeks to change the perception of chess as a more inclusive activity.

Interestingly, his mission has in part been motivated by racist incidents.

“In middle school, I was on an all-black chess team and everywhere we went, people were looking at us differently and they were looking like – what are they doing here? Why are they here?” Muhammad described. “We even had to go against people making monkey noises and things like that because we were defeating stereotypes. The way that we responded was playing well on the chess board and winning championships.”

Zahir was involved with the Bravo Zulu Chess Club, a district-based non-profit training academy for chess development. The club comprises of a number of players from different school and they compete in area tournaments. One event in which they have shined is the “Bum Rush the Boards” Hip-Hop Chess Tournament organized by Words, Beats & Life (WBL).


“I tell all my kids, ‘Use your brain, it will last longer.’”
~Rory Muhammad, Zahir’s father


DC is well-known for its iconic Dupont Circle, a famous watering hole for chess. Many organizations such as WBL and the DC Chess Center attempt to serve the greater DC area, but Zahir has a goal to widen the outreach with his new initiative.

Full Circle Chess

Full Circle Chess will provide a service where others like James “Black Knight” Taylor and Eugene Brown’sBig Chair Chess House have tried before. The latter organization was the subject of the movie, “Life of a King” starring Cuba Gooding.

Last year Zahir was honored by the DC City Council as a community leader and also chosen by DC Council Member Anita Bonds as ‘Community Cornerstone Award’ recipient. In the past, he has given demos in the DC area and recently announced a collaboration with Howard University.

Video Fox News 5 (DC)

If it takes a village to produce a high-achiever, then several people have contributed to his chess development. Zahir has been mentored and coached by DC residents such as Ted Fagan (Eagle Chess Academy), Vaughn Bennett (National Chess Academy), Shaka Greene (Bravo Zulu Chess Academy), Gregory Achonolu (DC Chess Center), Quito Swann, Robin Ramson (Chess Girls DC) and current coach, David Bennett.

Zahir has a desire to attend an HBCU and hopefully Howard, FAMU, North Carolina A&T and Morehouse are listening!

Links

The 2019 Florida State Championship is back on again!

After Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc in the Bahamas and was headed toward southern Florida, emergency measures were taken and the Labor Day weekend tournament had to be cancelled. Florida Chess Association (FCA) Board Member and tournament organizer NM Bryan Tillis has announced the rescheduled dates for next month. Following is the announcement…

Florida Chess Association

On Sunday morning of September 1st, the Florida Chess Association Board of Directors met via teleconferencing. FCA Membership was up 58% from last year and before the cancellation, there was also an increase in pre-tournament entries from last year’s state championship in Jacksonville. We hope to recoup all the entries and see an increase since some may have had other plans for Labor Day.

The Board certified the election of the new Board of Directors for 2019-2020. They are as follows:

FCA Board of Directors

President: Kevin Pryor
Vice President: Bryan Tillis
Secretary: Matthew Kolcz
Treasurer: Scott Cavan
Northeast VP: Steve Lampkin
Northwest VP: Tim Staley
Southern VP: William Bowman
Central VP: Paul Leggett
Western VP: Krista Alton
At Large: Miguel Ararat
At Large: Jon Haskel
At Large: Harvey Lerman
At Large: Daaim Shabazz

Bahamas Bahamas Bahamas

Nature takes no prisoners when it comes to expressing it relentless power. The latest evidence has taken place in the western hemisphere and it goes by the moniker of “Dorian.” The hurricane whipped up tremendous energy and has devastated large parts of the Bahamas while largely sparing Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These islands got residual damage such as flooding and power outages, but what was unleashed on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama was pure hell. The slow-moving hurricane hovered over the Grand Bahama for nearly two days with 180-200 mph (290-322 km/h) winds.


New Providence the capital had flooding and service outages, but the northern Bahamas (Abaco and Grand Bahama) was devastated. People are still searching for family. All we can do is pray and get supplies to them.

~ Elton Joseph, President of Bahamas Chess Federation


The Bahamas is a group of 700 islands that include some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Most will know about Nassau and Freeport, but Abaco and Grand Bahama are also frequent attractions for tourists from around the world. The beautiful waters striking all shades of blue make it a perfect place for jetsking, parasailing, snorkeling of simply a peaceful walk on the the white sandy beaches.

Google Maps (Abaco & Grand Bahama)

The Beauty of the Bahamas

Birds of a feather…flock together!

Photos by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

However on Sunday, September 1st, Dorian begin to crash into the Bahamas, arriving as a powerful Category 5 hurricane. The slow-moving hurricane dumped torrential rains onto the islands and the winds sucked the roofs off of houses, carried cars and debris miles away from their origins. In Abaco and Grand Bahama, the scene resembles an absolute war zone. Unfortunately, the death toll cannot be tabulated until the waters subside when health and sanitation will become critical needs.

By some estimate, Abaco and Grand Bahama islands were said to be more than 90% destroyed. The Chess Drum contacted Elton Joseph, President of the Bahamas Chess Association, who reflected on sad situation. “People are still searching for family. All we can do is pray and get supplies to them,” said Joseph.

There are a number of relief aid agencies collecting supplies to send to the islands. Initial efforts made by first-responders were thwarted because the airports were underwater. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis gave an assessment on the situation of what he called a “monster hurricane.” The images are heartbreaking. Let us learn from the tsunamai (2005) and Haiti (2010) disasters and not tarry!

Video by MSNBC

The Bahamas has an active chess community and most recently participated in the Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. According to Joseph, there was minimal effect in the New Providence area (within the capital of Nassau), a place known to most tourists. It is the hope of the chess community that the Bahamas, its citizens and the chess players will begin recovering from this destruction and come back a stronger nation.

Karelina Polina, the 2019 Bahamas Junior Champion posted on her Facebook page the day after Dorian made landfall…

Hurricane Dorian Support: http://www.doriansupport.org/
Red Cross: https://bahamasredcross.org/donate/

Ding Liren after winning 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Photo by Lennart Ootes

The chess world is still buzzing about Ding Liren’s win of the 2019 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. He had to overcome World Champion Magnus Carlsen who has looked unbeatable all year long. This is a landmark win for many reasons.

Firstly, it shows his competitive toughness; secondly, Ding remains a good chance to make the Candidates tournament to qualify for the World Championship; lastly, it may be evidence that the chess world may be witnessing the emergence of the next batch of contenders.

In the recent years, we have heard so much about rise of Asian players from Viswanathan Anand to most recent sensations like Iran’s Alireza Firouzja. Ding Liren mostly flew under the radar and was merely one of several Chinese players who were 2700ish. Wei Yi was the player most commonly thought be the singular talent to challenge for the world title in the near future.

Rise of the Chinese Dragons

We have been witnessing the rise of China as a chess power for the past 20 years. The Chinese women had always been a force since the 80s and boast six Olympiad gold medals and six World Champions (Xie Jun, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua, Hou Yifan, Tan Zhongyi and the reigning champion, Ju Wenjun). Xie Jun is now the President of the Chinese Chess Association!

For the men, the emergence of Bu Xiangzhi was perhaps a sign that China would begin to produce world-class talent. Bu once held the world record for the youngest Grandmaster at 13 years, 10 months and 13 days. The 2003 editorial Why China Will Soon Dominate Chess,” was gaining some credibility, but it had been a long time since Liu Wenzhe shocked the hall at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1978. It was on the largest stage that he uncorked a sparkling queen sacrifice over world class Jan Hein Donner. The world began to take notice.

On these pages, several articles were penned about the Rise of Asian Tigers and the emergence of young talent such as Wang Hao, Wang Yue, Li Chao, and Yu Yangyi. Ding Liren perhaps hit the chess radar when, as an untitled 2400-Elo player, he won the Chinese Championship.

Ding Liren, then 16 and 2400, enroute to his first Chinese title in 2009!
Photo by Sina Chess News
.

He was part of a succession of 2700-level Chinese players who began to grace the chess media for the first time. Xu Yuhua was one of the first Chinese players to grace the cover of a New in Chess in 2006. Wang Yue appeared a couple of years later.

In 2014, Chinese “men’s” team won its first Olympiad gold medal and a silver in 2018 in Batumi. Ding Liren has slowly emerged as the leader after others like Bu Xiangzhi, Ni Hua, Wang Yue, Yu Yangyi all took turns appearing as the face of the emerging chess power. Ding appeared as the cover story of New in Chess in 2015 and gave a poignant interview. He spoke of yet another rising star in China.


“Maybe I’m just a little stream or a little hill in front of him and it’s just a matter of time for Wei Yi to pass me.”

~Ding Liren in 2015 interview with New in Chess


Very dignified comments in deferring to the super talent. However, it doesn’t appear that Wei Yi will be overtaking Ding any time soon given the latter’s fine form in the past few years. In fact, Wei Yi’s development has stabilized in the past four years, but he is only 20.

Ding Liren at the 2011 World Team Championship.
Photo by Fan Lulu

Fast forward to 2018, it is clear that the humble and soft-spoken Ding has made a separation having eclipsed the 2800-mark for the first time. His recent win at the Sinquefield Cup and the defeat of Carlsen in blitz tiebreak has the chess world buzzing. Is he the next challenger? If so, he has proven that going to tiebreak would not be the obstacle that it was for Fabiano Caruana. He has mild demeanor, is hard to beat and is absolutely fearless. The closing moments in the tiebreak tells all.

What’s Next for Ding?

Now at 26 years old, Ding is entering his prime and appears to be heading to London for the Grand Chess Tour final. However, there are still many suitable candidates anxious for a shot against Carlsen. One of the drawbacks to such a circuit is the fatigue of seeing the same players compete year after year. These players are now so well prepared against each other that we see only a handful of decisive games in a tournament.

We recall the reaction when Carlsen-Caruana match had 12 consecutive draws and had to resort to quick-chess to determine the champion. One thing for sure, Ding will have no problem going into tiebreaks if this should occur. This may prove to be an important psychological point going into a championship match. It should be an exciting final and the candidates match will prove to be an important stage for Ding Liren.

Official Site: https://grandchesstour.org/2019-grand-chess-tour/2019-sinquefield-cup
PGN Games: (classical, tiebreaks)
Hartmann, John, “Ding Liren wins 2019 Sinquefield Cup,” 30 August 2019, Chess Life Online
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The New Orleans Film Society presents its lineup for the 2019 New Orleans Film Festival. This arena is to showcase the talent of filmmakers and to bring to light many fascinating stories that would otherwise go untold. Chess is one such activity that has as many stories as there are players.

There is a film that features Pontus Carlsson’s visit to New Orleans last October promoting his “Business with Chess & Kids” campaign. Carlsson’s vast chess experience and extensive travels given him a platform to promote the benefits of chess. In the documentary featured, he recommends “at least two years of chess.” He doesn’t emphasize that they should be Grandmaster, but that the benefits from playing two years can translate in a training ground for personal development. The video has appearances of National Master Rene Phillips. Watch the trailer!

New Orleans Film Festival: https://neworleansfilmsociety.org/

All-Africa Games 2019 (Morocco)

Egypt still Valley of Kings and Queens!

Bassem Amin sings Egyptian anthem.
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Going into the popular blitz segment, everyone knew the Egyptians would be tough to beat. However, Africa has many strong blitzers throughout the continent and the Internet has made it more popular than ever. Who would be able to unseat the Kings and Queens of African chess? Would it be the Algerians? Zambians? Nigerians? Moroccans? Perhaps there would be a legend created from an less-fancied chess nation. Questions abound. Well.. Bassem Amin would have all the answers.

To be honest, Amin has proven himself to be in a class by himself having once eclipsed the 2700 mark. In blitz, while speed of moves is important, chess knowledge is paramount. It is so much easier to get into a good flow when one knows exactly what to do. Amin’s 9/9 mark was only blemished by the fact that he couldn’t try for a Bobby Fischer 11/11. He would have to settle for a Robert Gwaze 9/9. Authorities shortened the event the previous day from eleven rounds to nine rounds.

Of course, Ahmed Adly would be a prime contender to win the “triple crown” and has competed in World Blitz Championships with the best in the world. In this tournament, Adly was slowed by Nigeria’s Oladapo Adu losing badly in round three. This would force him to take chances in order to get onto the medal stand. He would be nicked for a draw in the very next round by Morocco’s Mohamed Tisser. Adly would go on to win five in a row including wins over Hicham Hamdouchi and Bilel Bellahcene. Impressive comeback.

Tournament of Streaks: Ahmed Adly battling Oladapo Adu. Adly would lose this game, but later win five in a row to clinch the silver. Adu was 3/3, but lost his next three games falling off the medal pace. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Tournament of Streaks: Ahmed Adly battling Oladapo Adu. Adly would lose this game, but later win five in a row to clinch the silver. Adu was 3/3, but lost his next three games falling off the medal pace. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Babatunde Ogunsiku of Africa Chess Media asked about the shortening of the blitz tournament. His rational being that it would be useful to give contenders an optimal change at getting the last medal. It just so happened that in the final standings seven players were on 6/9! Nevertheless, Bilel Bellahcene’s last two wins over Rodwell Makoto and Harold Wanyama got him on the podium with 6.5/9. The other contenders were busy beating each other (and losing to Amin). Another two rounds would have made for a tense conclusion.

Blitz games are difficult to assess and analyze because of the nature of the games, but of course the strongest players tend to show their experience. The top four players were all Grandmasters. It appears like the future of competitive chess has a bright future in Africa.

Three events… three gold medals. Shrook Wafa is the only chess player at the All-African Games who can make that claim. She did so in style dropping only three games out of 27 (+22-3=2). Two of those were to Lina Nassr of Algeria, who won a silver (mixed team) and bronze (blitz). Her sister Shahenda Wafa also bagged two medals scoring an impressive 8.5/9 in the team event and silver in the blitz.

Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa, Lina Nassr. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

BLITZ WINNERS
Shahenda Wafa, Shrook Wafa, Lina Nassr
Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

It appears that the balance of power is still firmly in the north, but there are a few cracks in the foundation of North African dominance. While Egypt and Algeria are still the class of the continent, players from countries such as Zambia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana and Zimbabwe scored a number of rousing upsets including Linda Shaba’s impressive win over Shahenda Wafa to end the tournament.

Click to watch!
Wafa-Shaba, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-blitz)Wafa-Shaba, 12th All-Africa Games (rapid-blitz)

Linda Shaba. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

Zimbabwe’s Linda Shaba
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

The New FIDE. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji

The New FIDE at the 12th All-Africa Games
Photos by Mohamed Bounaji

In the end, it was an outstanding event with good conditions and the camaraderie seemed to be everpresent. The photography by Mohamed Bounaji helped convey the spirit of the event. With the attention of FIDE, perhaps there will be an initiative to support African chess development. The typical “Chess in Schools” that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov promised every election campaign is necessary, but not sufficient for cultivating the talent for elite level.

Thirteen years ago, article appeared on these pages titled, Can Pan-Africanism Work in Chess? There were some suggestions about regional collaboration and using Africa’s genuine appeal for Grandmasters to play in top-level tournaments. After a successful Grand Chess Tour tournament in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, there is proof that it can be done. Are we ready to make this the African Century?

Standings
Open (Blitz Chess)

Click for full standings

Standings
Women (Blitz Chess)

Click for full standings

Egypt
National Anthem

Official Site: (English, French, Arabic)
Chess: (Schedule)
Chess-Results: https://chess-results.com/tnr465340.aspx?lan=1&art=2&rd=1
Chess24: Mixed Rapid (Team), Individual Rapid (Open, Women), Individual Blitz (Open, Women)
Photos (FIDE): https://www.flickr.com/

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