Interest in chess tournaments is somewhat like that of watching a Wagnerian opera; level activity for quite a while and then a big bang. After World War II, the choice of a world champion attracted special interest in America when Sammy Reshevsky tried in vain to unseat the Russians. Bobby Fischer, of course, created the most thrilling occurrence for the game when he renewed the Reshevsky challenge as a symbol of the Cold War. The computer versus human matches, a vain and hopeless struggle from the beginning, gave the public interest in rooting for the human race.
Now there is a special interest once again, created by the appearance of Magnus Carlsen, the highest-rated player in history, only 22 years old, who seemingly represents a high mark of human intelligence.
So, the question arises of whether young Carlsen can survive and dominate the likes of former world champion Vladimir Kramnik or the veterans Vassily Ivanchuk and Boris Gelfand. Carlsen is favored in the current world title candidates competition in London but must defeat the enigmatic Levon Aronian, the speed demon Alexander Grischuk, the World No. 4 Teimour Radjabov, and the six-time Russian champion, Peter Svidler.
The games have been complex, with many unconventional openings and no quick wins. The first round seemed to be a warmup session, as all the games were drawn. Only Ivanchuk and Gelfand presented games of great interest. They fought out an established Catalan opening down to the very end. Carlsen and Aronian had an even game, calm all the way. It appears that the players were simply warming up. However, a draw is favorable for the holder of the Black pieces who have to suffer in the openings.
In the second round, Ivanchuk played the exasperating (because of it’s stonewall setup) Leningrad Dutch defense against Radjabov, the unknown quantity, but Ivanchuk could not free his pieces. Radjabov persecuted a black Rook, forcing it to a passive square and in the process won Black’s queen. Also winning was Lev Aronian vs. Boris Gelfand. Aronian is notoriously averse to playing the most likely move. In this game, the opening gave him a huge advantage. He had two rooks on open files. He repeated a good performance in the third round with a win against Ivanchuk. Carlsen got a rook to the seventh against Kramnik, but lost a tempo and had to retreat, so the players drew. But Carlsen came back with a third-round Cambridge Spring’s defense against poor Gelfand. The win was a la Carlsen, not easy, yet he was the last man standing. Svidler set Radjabov back playing against a Benko Gambit.
At this writing, the fourth-round leaders are Carlsen and Aronian with scores of 3-1.
Brevity: H. Spangenberg v. Llanos (2003) 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.Nf3 Qxd5 5.Be2 Nc6 6.a3 Bxf3 7.Bxf3 Qd7 8.c3 0–0–0 9.Qb3 e5 10.dxe5 Qd3 11.exf6 Bc5 12.Nd2 Na5 13.Qa4 Rhe8+ 14.Kd1 Nc4 15.Qc2 Qd6 16.Qb3 Na5 17.Qb5 Bxf2 18.Qxa5 Bg3 19.Qb4; 1-0
Winners: Wachusett O’Rourke Memorial: 1st-4th, George Mirijanian, Bruce Felton, Paul Godin, and Ray Paulson, 4-1; Boylston Winter Open: 1st-2d, Oliver Traldi and Nithin Kavi 3.5 -.5, Tie for 3d, Eric Godin and Michelle Chen, 2.5 -1.5.
Coming events: Wachusett CC’s Evert Siiskonen Memorial, March 27, April 3, 10, 17, 24, McKay Campus School, Room C159, Fitchburg State University, 67 Rindge Road, Fitchburg, firstname.lastname@example.org; Metrowest April Fools Swiss April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; 118 E. Central St., Natick email@example.com.