Reports Sep 9, 2020 | 7:38 AMby Colin McGourty

Mamedov-Tari in the C Qualifier final

Rauf Mamedov will take on Aryan Tari this Thursday to decide who joins Sam Shankland and Liem Quang Le in qualifying for the 16-player final stage of the chess24 Banter Series, an event that will feature the likes of Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. Rauf reached the final by defeating Loek van Wely (who began by mouse-slipping a rook twice in a row!) and Ray Robson. Aryan Tari defeated Mateusz Bartel and then Jorden van Foreest. The semi-finals featured only two draws in 14 games!

This week the C (Sunday and Monday), D (Tuesday and Wednesday) and E (Thursday and Friday) Qualifiers play quarterfinals and semi-finals, before the finals all take place on Saturday. 

because of a clash with the Norwegian League Mamedov and Tari will now play their final at 18:00 CEST on Thursday 10th September. 

The goal is to join Sam Shankland and Liem Quang Lie in qualifying for the 16-player chess24 Banter Series Final.

The C Qualifier is the third of eight 8-player qualifying tournaments where only the winner goes through to the 16-player final stage of the chess24 Banter Series – an event where 1st place is worth €12,000 and there are also two places up for grabs in the next Chess Tour.

You can replay all the C Qualifier games below:

Quarterfinals: mouse-slips and mate-in-1s

The quarterfinals were a tale of two halves, with one side of the draw featuring two crushing victories. Rauf Mamedov beat Loek van Wely 5:1 with four wins and no losses, while Ray Robson wrapped up a 4.5:0.5 victory even quicker against 14-year-old Indian prodigy Gukesh. 

The scores didn’t tell the whole story, though, with 8-time Dutch Chess Champion Loek van Wely giving Rauf Mamedov a huge head start. To lose one rook to a mouse-slip may be regarded as a misfortune…

…but to lose two in two games looks like carelessness!

On both occasions Rauf offered a draw, but his opponent instead resigned.

A more conventional chess blunder by Loek saw Rauf take a 3:0 lead, and the Azerbaijan player wasn’t tricked by 28.Rd5 in Game 4:

Rauf spotted this was no mouse-slip (28…Bxd5?? of course runs into 29.Qxc8) and came close to winning after 28…Qf4, but despite missing another chance in the next game Mamedov went on to wrap up an easy victory with a win in Game 6.

Ray Robson’s victory over Gukesh was convincing by the 25-year-old US star, who kept finding tactical solutions in tricky positions. That was nowhere more striking than in the final game of the match, where the 14-year-old was on top with the black pieces:

Black is piling up on d3, so Ray came up with 16.Bb5+! c6 17.0-0-0!! cxb5 18.Be3! Bh6 (Gukesh starts to go astray in an incredibly complicated position – 18…Qxg2! was best) 19.Nd5! Nc4? (19…Rd8!) 20.Qb4!

Suddenly Ray is not just attacking the b5-pawn (and c4-knight), but threatening mate-in-1 with Nc7# There’s no good defence, and the game and match ended 20...Ne2+ 21.Kb1 Qe5 22.Qxb5+ Kf8 23.Bxh6+

On the other side of the draw things were much harder fought. “I hope it's going to be at least entertaining - that is my plan for today!” said 4-time Polish Champion Mateusz Bartel, but he did more than entertain in the first game when he won convincingly to take the early lead against 21-year-old Norwegian Aryan Tari.

Aryan impressed in the endgame to hit back and then take the lead, though there were missed chances for Mateusz. For instance, this final position looks to be winning for Black, since the f-pawn falls and the white king is so far from the action that an exchange sac should finish the job:

In the 7th game Mateusz had excellent chances to level the scores at 3.5:3.5, but instead his flag fell as he made his 69th move and Aryan was in the semi-final. There’s a 2-second increment after every move in this Banter Series, but time remains a factor!

Another 21-year-old, Dutch star Jorden van Foreest, didn’t get off to the best of starts against France’s Sebastian Maze when, in a tricky position, he blundered mate-in-1!

Jorden hit back to win Sebastien’s queen by move 18 in the next game, but then fell behind again after falling into a mating net in Game 4. Wins were then once again traded in the next two games, with Game 6 perhaps the highlight of the day. An extra queen wasn’t enough for Jorden after he reacted badly to 48.Qa3+ (any king move was winning) with 48…Qd6? and then collapsed with 49…Q1d4?. Sebastien savoured his incredible turnaround win!

In the end Jorden had the last laugh as he went on to win the final two games and the match, though not without some more drama.

Total warfare in the semi-finals

If we’d seen some one-sided contests in the quarterfinals the semi-finals couldn’t have been more exciting. Both matches were won 4.5:2.5, with six decisive games and just one draw!

Jorden van Foreest once again got off to a rough start, being outplayed in the first game before finding himself lost after playing 7…Nbd7?? in the Scandinavian in Game 2. Aryan Tari's 8.Nd5! was essentially game over:

Jorden only finally threw in the towel on move 58, however, and then perhaps set a record for the Banter Blitz Cup by pushing for 165 moves until Game 3 was eventually drawn. Game 4 looked set to be another marathon, but Aryan misplayed what might have been a fortress and lost in a mere 78 moves.

Jorden then levelled the scores at 2:2 by giving mate in the next game. It was to be Aryan’s day, however, with the Norwegian winning a nice 6th game and then getting a helping hand when Jorden lost on time in the final game in a position where he still had a move to retain something close to equality.

The other semi-final started with Rauf Mamedov missing a win in the first game, before technical issues struck. Ray Robson lost his connection in Game 2 and lost the game on time.   

As we’d seen in the quarterfinals when Rauf offered Loek draws after mouse-slips, the Azerbaijan star only wanted to win on the chessboard, so in Game 3 he decided to “do a Magnus”! There was no queen sacrifice, but he simply resigned on move 2:

When Ray again lost connection in Game 4, however, it was decided to take a short break and then play the match again from Game 2 onwards. Rauf wasn’t punished for his magnanimity, as he won Game 2 and also Games 4 and 5, though Ray picked up two wins of his own. 

It all came down to Game 7, where Mamedov had done well in the opening (Ray had struggled against his opponent’s Philidor Defence in the previous game and tried to dodge it by meeting 1.e4 e5 with 2.d4, only to realise immediately that after 2…exd4 3.Nf3 d6 they would transpose back to the same line!):

13.Bxh5 gxh5 14.Qxh5 would be few people’s idea of fun, but seems to be roughly equal. Instead Ray went for a much more ambitious try, 13.Nd5?, which would be winning after 13…Qxe5 14.Nf3 if not for 14…Qd6, the move he’d missed:

There were no twists after that as Rauf went on to win the match and set up a final against Aryan Tari.

We'll have more finals on Saturday, as that’s finals day for the D and E qualifiers. We’re in the middle of the D Qualifier right now, with today’s semi-finals Ivan Cheparinov (5:0 vs. Larino!) vs. Narayanan (4.5:3.5 vs. Lenderman) and the all-German clash Niclas Huschenbeth (4.5:1.5 vs. Cori) vs. 15-year-old Vincent Keymer, who crushed 8-time French Champion Etienne Bacrot 4.5:0.5, including a nice queen trap along the way:

Cheparinov-Narayanan is at 16:00 CEST while Keymer-Huschenbeth is at 21:00 CEST and you can watch all the action with the players’ commentary here on chess24.

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