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Reports May 16, 2020 | 10:12 PMby Colin McGourty

Steinitz Day 2: Dubov knocks Carlsen off his perch

Daniil Dubov smoothly outplayed Magnus Carlsen to finish Day 2 of the FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial ahead of the World Champion. Peter Svidler twisted the knife by brilliantly beating Magnus in the next game and for a while it looked as though Le Quang Liem might add to the Norwegian’s misery, but Magnus found a way to win and ended up only half a point behind. Alexandra Kosteniuk suffered a similar fate in the women’s event as Kateryna Lagno took over at the top, but 5 players are within a point of the lead.

2018 World Rapid Champion Daniil Dubov beat his boss to snatch the sole lead | photo: David Llada, FIDE 

You can replay the full day's live commentary from Jan Gustafsson, Peter Leko and Lawrence Trent below:

And here's Pascal Charbonneau’s recap of the action:

You can replay all the games from the open section using the selector below:

Magnus cracks under pressure

For one round there were no question marks over World Champion Magnus Carlsen on Day 2 of the Steinitz Memorial. He was facing Bu Xiangzhi, a player he knew to be fearless – the Chinese star knocked Magnus out of the 2017 World Cup and then beat him in the first round of the 2017 World Rapid Championship as well. Bu Xiangzhi continued to trust his instincts when he grabbed a crucial pawn, but it turned out to be misjudged. There was a path to limit the damage, but he didn’t find it, and the game ended brutally:

It’s not actually the case that Magnus invited the players this time – FIDE organised the event and invited all the players (choosing players not involved in the Nations Cup) – but that probably didn’t make the win any less sweet!

In the second round of the day things looked to be going smoothly against 19-year-old US star Jeffery Xiong, but then Magnus lost control and it was completely understandable that Jeffery didn’t play for a draw but tried to give mate with 58…Qd1+

Surely the black queen and rook could hunt down the white king? But no, it seems from this moment onwards White was better and the iron king made it to d7 to win the game!

That emotional rollercoaster was followed by what turned out to be the most significant game of the day. Daniil Dubov had matched Magnus with two wins in the first two rounds and was just half a point behind, with the white pieces in the game. Magnus credits many of his most innovative opening ideas to his young second, but perhaps to avoid their shared preparation he played the King’s Indian. It was a bold move, but one that backfired, as Daniil calmly extinguished any fires before they had a chance to burn and could afford the luxury of spending over a minute on a critical positional decision:

In principle White doesn’t want to exchange on f4 and free Black’s bishop, but otherwise it’s hard to make progress. Daniil played 27.Bxf4 in the end and still had more time – Peter Leko noted he’d rarely seen Magnus so often behind on the clock in an event as this. What followed justified the exchange as Magnus later felt compelled to swap his bishop for White’s knight and was rewarded only with a lost rook ending. Dubov made no mistake.

That meant that after Round 9 Dubov was the new leader, by half a point, and if Magnus was going to bounce back straight away he’d have to do it against Peter Svidler, whose day had so far involved a wild win against Alexander Grischuk and a tragi-comic end to the clash with Dubov:

Fans of Banter Blitz here on chess24 know that pre-moving (making your next move before your opponent makes their move) isn’t one of Peter’s greatest skills, and here it let him down again. Presumably expecting 40…Rxa3 he’d already pre-moved 41.Rxb7 and when 40…Rb3 happened instead it was too late to stop 41.Rxb7??

41…Rxb7 of course ended the game on the spot.

We all wondered if the Svidler-Carlsen match-up in Round 10 would see a repeat of the whacky opening Magnus tried (and pre-announced on Twitter) in Round 1, but Peter Leko felt that would be wrong: “I think Magnus trolls Peter much too much and Peter doesn't deserve such disrespect”. We suspect Svidler enjoys the trolling almost as much as Magnus, but this time there was none of that. Magnus played the Berlin Defence, Peter predictably chose the Anti-Berlin 4.d3 and… went on to outplay the World Champion in the middlegame! White had a big advantage and, though there were chances for counterplay just a few moves before the end, what followed was magnificent:

48.Rxh6+! Whichever way Black captures the rook it’s checkmate with 49.Rh8# Lawrence Trent immediately spotted that it was amazingly similar to the way Magnus himself had won the 2016 World Championship match in New York in the final tiebreak game against Sergey Karjakin:

Others made the same comparison:

Peter had been convinced during that game that Magnus would choose a more pragmatic approach, but Jan wondered how anyone could resist playing such a move if he saw it. You might want to relive their commentary on arguably the most attractive move ever to finish a World Championship match:

Lawrence Trent’s almost shouted, “The wheels are off!” was close to an objective evaluation of the position at one point in Magnus Carlsen’s next game against Le Quang Liem, with the Vietnamese player up the exchange. Then later the game was drawn:

Any waiting move such as 54…Rc5 or 54…Rc7 leaves White with no way to make progress, and if g4 is ever played then g5 is a good response. Instead, however, Le Quang Liem rushed with 54…g5+? and after 55.Kg4! (this is why you want a white pawn on g4!) White was winning. 55…Rc7 56.f6! Kg6 57.f7 followed and Black was unable to handle both the f and the c-pawns:

That meant that Magnus had a chance to end another tough day at the office still in at least the joint lead, but for once his massaging skills weren’t quite enough to take home a full point against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Dubov drew his last three games after his earlier heroics, so that the day ended with Magnus half a point behind Dubov and half a point ahead of Mamedyarov:

The World Champion wasn’t thrilled with that state of affairs, but of course it puts him very firmly in contention to claim the title on Sunday’s final day:

Lagno ousts Kosteniuk

The same scenario played out in the women’s section, only the action was even more manic. Alexandra Kosteniuk began the day a whole 1.5 points ahead of 2nd placed Tan Zhongyi, but Tan won their Round 7 clash in style and a round later was already the sole leader after beating Deysi Cori from what at one point had seemed an utterly hopeless position.

Alexandra missed mate-in-6 against Marie Sebag and her game against 20-year-old Zhansaya Abdumalik perhaps summed up her day. She should have lost earlier, fought her way back into the game, then stumbled into this position:

40.Rg7+! was the winning move, when 40…Kxg7 would of course walk into 41.Nxe6+, winning the rook and the game.

Zhansaya had a wonderful day, scoring 5/6, including more memorable games. She had a winning position in 9 moves against former Women’s World Champion Tan Zhongyi and was gifted a queen by Marie Sebag:

It was that kind of day, with more horror blunders on show. Top seed Kateryna Lagno took full advantage to seize the lead, and could even afford to lose her final game of the day but still end in the sole lead:

There are now just 6 rounds to go on Sunday, but with 5 players within a point of the lead the fate of the title is totally unclear. You can follow the women's games live here on chess24 at 15:00 CEST, and then of course the open section will again be live from 18:30 CEST.

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