Sicilian assault

Font Size
Bobby Ang

Chess Piece


Ivory Coast Rapid
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
May 8-10, 2019

Final Standings

1. Magnus Carlsen NOR 2861, 7.5/9

2. Hikaru Nakamura USA 2761, 6.0/9

3-4. Wesley So USA 2754, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2780, 5.5/9

5. Ding Liren CHN 2805, 5.0/9

6. Wei Yi CHN 2736, 4.5/9

7-8. Veselin Topalov BUL 2740, Sergey Karjakin RUS 2752, 3.0/9

9-10. Bassem Amin EGY 2704, Ian Nepomniachtchi RUS 2773, 2.5/9

Time Control: 25 minutes play-to-finish with 10 seconds added to your clock after every move

Ivory Coast Blitz
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
May 11-12, 2019

Final Standings

1. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2780, 12.0/18

2. Magnus Carlsen NOR 2861, 11.5/18

3. Hikaru Nakamura USA 2761, 11.0/18

4. Ian Nepomniachtchi RUS 2773, 10.5/18

5. Sergey Karjakin RUS 2752, 9.5/18

6-7. Wesley So USA 2754, Ding Liren CHN 2805, 8.5/18

8. Wei Yi CHN 2736, 7.5/18

9-10. Veselin Topalov BUL 2740, Bassem Amin EGY 2704, 5.5/18

Time Control: Five minutes play-to-finish with three seconds added to your clock after every move

Combined Standings
(Rapid points are counted double)

Final Standings

1. Magnus Carlsen, 26.5/36 ($37,500)

2-3. Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 23/36 ($22,500 each)

4. Wesley So, 19.5/36 ($15,000)

5. Ding Liren, 18.5/36 ($12,500)

6. Wei Yi, 16.5/36 ($10,000)

7-8. Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin, 15.5/36 ($7,500 each)

9. Veselin Topalov, 11.5/36 ($7,500)

10. Bassem Amin, 10.5/36 ($7,500)

The 2019 edition of the Grand Chess Tour features a total of eight tournaments in the circuit with five in Rapid/Blitz format and three in Classical Chess. The calendar is as follows:

Ivory Cost Rapid & Blitz

May 6-13, 2019

Croatia Classical

June 24-July 9, 2019

Paris Rapid & Blitz

July 26-August 2, 2019

St. Louis Rapid & Blitz

August 8-15, 2019

Sinquefield Cup Classical

August 15-30, 2019

Superbet (Bucharest, Romania) Rapid & Blitz

Nov. 4-11, 2019

Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz

Nov. 20-27, 2019

London Grand Chess Tour Finals Nov. 30-Dec. 10, 2019

The tour kicked off with the Rapid/Blitz Tournament in Ivory Coast, and Magnus Carlsen continued his good form with five wins and four draws for 7.5/9 in the Rapid portion. In the Blitz section he slowed down a bit and in fact lost two games to Vachier-Lagrave but still finished a close second to MVL. Overall, in the combined standings (rapid section games are counted double), it was Magnus with 26.5/36, 3.5 points ahead of Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave who were tied for second. Wesley So was in 4th place.

Ever since his London world championship match against Caruana last year Magnus has been playing a lot of Sicilians with Black with great success. Here in the Ivory Coast he took it one step further — he responded 1…c5 100% of the time facing 1.e4.

In the Blitz portion of the event he played nine games with Black in 6 of which his opponent played 1.e4. There were 2 Sicilian Alapins (you know, 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3) of which he won one, 1 Sicilian Rossolimo (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5), drawn, and 3 Sveshnikov Sicilians, and here he also won one. Total is a pretty impressive two wins and four draws against elite opposition.

In the Rapid section it was even more impressive. He played four games with Black, got to play the Sicilian in all four, and won all of them. A 100% score! Let me show you some of his games.

Karjakin, Sergey (2773) — Carlsen, Magnus (2867) [B30]
Ivory Coast Rapid Abidjan (4.2), 09.05.2019

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3

Last Thursday we discussed the Svidler-Carlsen game from Grenke where the GM from St. Petersburg avoided the Sveshnikov with 3.Nc3, same thing that Karjakin does here. The games are quite similar.

3…e5 4.Bc4 Be7 5.d3 d6 6.Nd2

Same as in the Svidler game. The knight wants to go to e3 via f1.

6…Nf6 7.Nf1 Nd7

This knight goes to b6 to destroy the powerful white bishop on c4. There are two ways to meet this threat. Either 8.Nd5 to destroy the Black knight when it gets to b6, or 8.a3 to give his bishop a retreat square to safe haven. Svidler chooses the first plan, Karjakin goes for the second.


[8.Nd5 Nb6 9.Nxb6 axb6 10.c3 was how the game last Thursday went. Carlsen mated White in 33 moves. Svidler, P. (2737)-Carlsen, M. (2845) Karlsruhe/Baden Baden 2019]

8…Nb6 9.Ba2 0–0 10.Ne3 Be6 11.Ncd5 Bg5

With Black’s pawns on c5, d6 and e5 this bishop does not have much scope so it is a good idea to exchange it for another piece, preferably his counterpart dark-squared bishop.

12.0–0 Bxe3

Since he cannot exchange his bishop for its opposite number on c1 Carlsen decides to undermine the white’s knight’s outpost on d5.


[13.Bxe3 Bxd5 14.exd5 Ne7 15.c4 is ok for Black. He will continue with …f7–f5 and then go for a kingside assault. Smirnov,V (2411)-Zhigalko,S (2316) Minsk 2002 1/2 33]

13…Ne7 14.c4 f5 15.Bd2 Bxd5 16.exd5 Nd7 17.b4 b6 18.Bb3 Ng6 19.Ba4 Qe7 20.Bc6 Rad8 21.Qa4 Nf6 22.bxc5

What is wrong with capturing the “free” pawn on f5? You will see why next move when Karjakin really does take it.

22…bxc5 23.Rxf5? e4 24.Qc2 Ng4 25.Raf1 Rxf5 26.Rxf5 Qh4

27.h3 Nxe3! 28.Bxe3 Qe1+ 29.Kh2 Qxe3 30.dxe4 Nf4

Black will follow-up with either …Ne2 (targeting g3) or …Rb8 and penetration down the b-file.

31.Qb2 Qxe4 32.Bd7?

Setting a trap, hoping for 32…Rxd7 33.Qb8+ followed by checkmate.


Karjakin loses a crucial piece.

33.Rf6 Nd3 34.Qc3

[34.Qb7 Qe5+]

34…Rxd7 35.Re6 Qf4+ 0–1

Wei, Yi (2737) — Carlsen, Magnus (2867) [B22]
Ivory Coast Rapid Abidjan (9.1), 10.05.2019

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Qa5!?

You read from your beginner’s books that you shouldn’t bring the queen out early because the queen can easily be chased by pawns and minor pieces in the opening. Every time your opponent develops a piece with tempo while you have to move the queen, you fall one tempo behind. That’s very dangerous in the opening.

As I have been continuously preaching that is a fallacy, especially in the faster time controls. Bring your queen out early but choose the circumstances, don’t let it get pushed around by your opponent’s pieces, and more often than not you will be able to get a king attack going on.

By the way, playing …Qa5 in response to the Sicilian used to be a specialty of former junior standout Robert Arellano. Wonder how he is doing now?

4.Na3 e6 5.Nc4 Qd8 6.d4 d5 7.exd5 exd5 8.Nce5 Bd6 9.Be3 c4 10.b3 cxb3 11.axb3 Nge7 12.Bd3 Bf5 13.0–0 0–0 14.Bf4 Bxe5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.Bxf5 N5g6 17.Bg5 Qc7 18.Bxg6 Nxg6 19.Qf3 Qd7 20.Ra5 b5 21.Rfa1 h6 22.Bd2 Rfe8 23.Qd3 a6!

Black’s offbeat 3rd move made Wei Yi use up a lot of time, something he did not have a lot of this being a Rapid game. Anyway, now he shouldn’t have accepted the “free” pawn on a6.

24.Rxa6?! Rxa6 25.Rxa6 Nf4! 26.Qf3

[26.Bxf4 Re1+]

26…Qf5! 27.Ra1 Ne2+ 28.Kf1 Qc2 29.Qxe2?

Wei Yi thought that giving up his queenside pawns with 29.Be3 Nxc3 30.g3 Qxb3 is an easy win for Black and decides to gamble a little, giving up his queen for rook and knight. In reality after 31.Ra7! things are not so simple for Black.

29…Rxe2 30.Kxe2 Qe4+ 31.Kf1

Wei Yi now tries to build a fortress which hopefully Black cannot penetrate. Magnus Carlsen once said he doesn’t believe in fortresses and he now goes on to prove it.

31…Qc2 32.Ke2 Qxb3 33.Rc1 Qc4+ 34.Ke3 Qc7 35.f4 Qe7+ 36.Kf2 Qe4 37.Re1 Qd3 38.Re2 f6 39.Ke1 Kf7 40.Re3 Qb1+ 41.Kf2 h5

Yes, that’s the way to break fortresses. Make the war be on two fronts, don’t concentrate on only one.

42.h3 h4 43.Be1 Kg6 44.Rf3 Kf5 45.Ke2 Qe4+ 46.Kf1 b4 47.cxb4 Qxd4 48.Bxh4 Qc4+ 49.Kg1 Qxb4 50.Kf1 Qc4+ 51.Kg1 Qe2 52.Bf2 d4 53.Bxd4 Qd1+ 54.Kh2 Qxd4 55.Rf1 g6 56.Rf3 Qd2 57.Rf1 Ke4 58.Rf3 Qe2 59.Rg3 Qh5 60.Rg4 Ke3 0–1


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.