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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Firouzja shows ingenuity and daring, but does not break the rocky Radyabov

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Opening day confirmed the good and bad of Franco-Iranian great Alireza Firouzja, 19 years old. He created and risked despite playing with Black against the very tough Azerbaijani Teimur Radyábov, 35, but he couldn’t get beyond a draw, losing narrowly after almost six hours. Most notable was the poor form of China’s Liren Ding, runner-up in the world, who was clearly beaten by current runner-up, Russia’s Ian Niepómniashi. The top favorite, the American Fabiano Caruana, beat his compatriot Hikaru Nakamura in five and a half hours. The Duda Rapport game ended in a tie over six. The 2nd round of the Candidates Tournament will take place this Saturday from 15:00 at the Palacio de Santoña in Madrid.

Chilean singer Juga, who specializes in chess themes, premiered her video on Thursday Poisoned farmer (poisoned farmer) during the opening ceremony of the Candidates Tournament at the luxury Four Seasons hotel. The lyrics are based on the 7th and 9th games of the historical 1972 Spassky Fischer. The latter ate the poisonous pawn in both, equalizing the 1st and losing the 2nd by falling into a Soviet home-made Sibylline preparation. As if to pay homage to the Andean artist, Firouzja also swallowed a poisoned figurine 20 hours later in the Santoña Palace.

And it was also the result of careful laboratory preparation. So much so that he surprised the oldest participant, Radyábov, with an encyclopedic memory and a wide and very solid repertoire of openings. Soon after, Firouzja sacrificed a rook for a bishop to control the light squares. Everything seemed very promising, but then he was not up to the task, while his rival showed the toughness that characterizes him and Firouzja, 3rd in the world, had to suffer for almost six hours to take half a point.

General view of the beginning of the first roundPhotoChess

Ding was clearly the biggest threat to current champion, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, at the end of 2019. But the pandemic has rattled his life with protracted lockdowns and severe travel restrictions that appear to remain in place because he arrived in Madrid on Tuesday night, with less than three days to adjust to the six-hour time difference with China. His performance against Niepomniashi was well below his 2019 level.

Niepómniashi (left) and Ding greet each other at the start of the first round
Niepómniashi (left) and Ding greet each other at the start of the first roundPhotoChess

On the contrary, the Russian, who has always been characterized by his irregularity and mental instability, has once again confirmed himself as one of the top favorites six months after his defeat by Carlsen in Dubai. When asked by EL PAÍS about his training since then, he replied: “Nothing special. I took about three months off and then got to work, but without paying much attention to any aspect of the game. The Candidates Tournament is a completely different challenge than a World Cup final. I did what I always do under these circumstances.”

At the opening ceremony, Juga also sang a song in honor of Cuban José Raúl Capablanca, world champion a hundred years ago. He was one of the first stars to underscore the important idea that in chess – where the influence of luck and arbiter is almost nil – the one who loses is the one who learns the most. But one wonders if Ding and Nakamura learned something this Friday that they didn’t know. The Chinese know very well that top-level chess requires indulgence in extra-sporting details in order to maximize performance. And the American is aware that his greatest energy is now in the facet streamers, play and commentate on their own games live on the networks. Nakamura made that very clear with this newspaper at the opening ceremony: “I make a lot more money than Stromer as an elite player. So my priority is obvious.”

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Source elpais.com

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