Luke McShane

Fide Grand Swiss

Fide Grand Swiss
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Alireza Firouzja, just 18 years old, was the clear winner of the Fide Grand Swiss, which concluded in Latvia last weekend. Originally from Iran but now settled in France, Firouzja already looks like a credible future contender for the world championship, and his victory in the Grand Swiss has earned him a spot in the 2022 Candidates tournament, which will select the next challenger for the world title.

The current challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi, who won the Candidates tournament in April, will face the world champion Magnus Carlsen in Dubai later this month. Play begins on 26 November.

England’s David Howell also produced an outstanding performance in Riga, finishing in a tie for fourth place. The following finish, against a strong Ukrainian grandmaster, put him into the shared lead with two rounds remaining.

In a complex middlegame, David’s purposeful play has pinpointed the weak pawns on e4 and e5. But Korobov’s last move, 26…Ne6-d4, sows confusion. His counter-threat of Nd4-e2+ needs an answer, and if 27 exd4 exd4 Black recovers the piece. David found an accurate response.

David Howell–Anton Korobov

Fide Grand Swiss, November 2021

(See left diagram)

27 Bf1! This looks like an oversight, but David has seen further. Rxd2 28 Bxd2 Nf3+ 29 Kg2 Nxd2 30 Rd1! The crucial twist — the rook’s incursion on the d-file will cost Black at least a bishop. Nxf1 31 Rd7 31 Kxf1 was simpler, since 31…Bb7 32 Rd6 wins as in the game. Nd2 The last chance was 31…Bb7! 32 Kxf1 Bc8 though after 33 Rxa7 Be6 34 a4 Bxc4+ 35 Kg2 the soon-to-be passed pawn on b5 should decide the game. 32 Rxd2 Bb7 33 Rd6! A clever shake of the pieces — any Black response drops a bishop to a lateral rook fork. Black resigns

Firouzja is renowned for his tactical acumen, but he got a serious scare from Howell in the penultimate round. Amid a flurry of tactics, Firouzja has just played 31 Qd1-f3, hoping to continue the attack with a capture on f6 or g3. Desperately short of time, Howell nevertheless found a stunning defensive counter, which alas was not quite enough to save the game.

Alireza Firouzja–David Howell

Fide Grand Swiss, November 2021

(See right diagram)

31…Qc6! Brilliant. The point is that 32 Rxc6 Re1 is mate. Firouzja was taken aback, and lucky not to be losing, but recovered his composure and found the strongest response. 32 Bc2! Now 32…Qxc2 33 Qxg3+ Qg6 34 Qxg6+ fxg6 35 Bxf6 leaves White comfortably ahead. Bb8 An understandable error. 32…Be5! 33 Bxe5 Rxe5 34 Bh7+ Nxh7 35 Rxc6 Bxc6 is hard to judge, but probably balanced. 33 Qxf6 Qxf6 34 Bxf6 Rc8 35 Bc3 d4 36 Bd2 Kg7 37 Bd3 Rxc1+ 38 Bxc1 The dust has settled, and White is a clear pawn up. Black resigned on move 57.

Written byLuke McShane

Luke McShane is chess columnist for The Spectator.

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