Beating the Beast

Beating the Beast

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As real life battles are taking place in deadly earnest across the globe, so battles have continued to take place across the checkered board of chess. Chess 9LX which took place in September, organised by the St. Louis Chess Club, was as most elite tournaments are now, an online tournament. But this tournament included Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen participating along with 8 of the other 10 top players in the world on ‘stage’. Nakamura, MVL, Caruana, So, Aronian, Dominguez, Svidler, Firouzja all competed in this round-robin event at rapid time controls. Chess 9LX, is Chess 960, and Lichess was the host online operator. With the online era in chess it is remarkable how many tournaments are now being played each month, often having many of the same top players participating. Without the encumbrance of having to travel to destinations with all the extra baggage that entails, the players can be in the same place, usually their homes, and play from there, thus the propagation of instant events. In fact there’s no reason for a chess player not to be participating in several events at once as long as the playing times aren’t coinciding with one another. The finals of the Chess 9LX Champions Showdown concluded with Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura (who has recently signed up with TSM Esports) sharing first place, each taking $31,000 as prize money. The overall prize fund for the competition was $150,000 with each of the 10 players receiving a portion according to their final position. Kasparov had a bumpy ride but finished a respectable 8th, having started the event by winning against the new boy wonder, the 17 year-old Alireza Firouzja. Garry continued his joy at being back at the chess table rubbing shoulders with the best by drawing with Carlsen himself in his second game. This was the first official meeting between these two beasts of the chess world since their encounter in Reykjavik’s Rapid Tournament in 2004! Tony Rich, Executive Director Of the St. Louis Chess Club, stated, “Historically this event has been played as a series of exhibition matches, so this year’s tournament format added an extra level of excitement for spectators. To have legendary World Champion Garry Kasparov return to the board this year certainly made for an unforgettable three days!” Hikaru Nakamura, commenting on the different starting positions of the pieces on the board compared to the conventional set-up, said, “Like all 960 positions it seems that when you get an advantage early on it’s there for one or two moves and if you miss it, it takes its toll on you psychologically”. He went on, “I felt that I kept it together and ultimately was able to draw and tie for first place with Magnus. The two of us have played against each other regularly over the past few months in these major tournaments online, which I believe speaks to the consistency of our chess play.” It is also an indicator that if Nakamura is in this year’s Candidates match, being resumed this November, it would I feel be the game to watch, on his present form. But, and it is a big but, Caruana has set his teeth to be that challenger again! The future clash between the two will probably be the one to watch as to who will challenge Carlsen for the crown. Kasparov’s 8th position was very creditable, with Svidler and Firouzja 9th and 10th respectively. Chess 960 or Fischer Random is a variant of chess created by Bobby Fischer in the late 1990’s, in which the pieces on the back rank are randomised, placed into different positions for the start of the game. 960 is the number of possible starting positions this creates. As Garry Kasparov rewired his brain to take on the crème de la crème of today’s chess players, intoxicated as they are with AI analysis and modern in-depth computer chess practice in this recent tournament, a new book was published by Everyman Chess entitled Rewire Your Chess Brain by Cyrus Lakdawala. 

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