Sam Sevian

Kasparov Subsides at St. Louis Chess Tourney While Sam Sevian Scores Career Best


LOUIS, Missouri (Guardian) — The 2022 Champions Showdown 9LX (Fischer Random) in St. Louis proved a horror show for Garry Kasparov, who in his prime as world champion from 1985 to 2000 won 15 consecutive tournaments. The 60-year-old, who rivals Magnus Carlsen and Bobby Fischer as the No 1 of all time, managed only a single solitary draw in nine games, and blamed it on the demands of his political work.

Back again last week for another try, Kasparov had a brilliant start with 3/4, leading the 10-player elite field headed by the world Nos 2 and 3, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, unbeaten after impressive wins against Wesley So and Ray Robson and draws with Nakamura and Levon Aronian.

Round five against Jeffery Xiong proved the turning point. Kasparov created a strong pawn centre at e4 and f4, then failed to strike. When the opportunity arrived for e5, f5 and fxg6 opening up the black king he missed it, soon lost on time, then lost his final four games to end up in eighth place with 3/9.

The main culprit was his poor clock handling. He often used more than half his 20 minutes time on the opening, and had to play with only the 10 seconds per move increment for the final part of the game.

Kasparov may yet return for the St Louis Rapid and Blitz in November. One of his predecessors, Emanuel Lasker, who held the world crown for a record 27 years from 1894 to 1921, also competed sparingly in his later years, yet achieved one of his best career performances when aged 67 at Moscow 1935, finishing third just half a point behind Mikhail Botvinnik and Salo Flohr, who were then world top 10 players and 40 years or more his junior.

Kasparov enjoyed his brief day in the sun at the start of the Champions Showdown. When Magnus Carlsen sent him congratulations on his performance, he was able to thank him: “From one ex world champion to another.”

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For Sam Sevian, first place in the Champions Showdown was a career-best performance at age 22. He has always been very talented, known for his brilliant final move against Alexey Shirov, but like other US GMs in their 20s has found it hard to break into the elite trio of Caruana, Nakamura and So.

Sevian has made a specialty of studying 9LX, and it paid off in his final-round battle with Caruana for first prize, where he launched a deadly attack with queen and both rooks on the world No 2’s king, blew open the defenses with a bishop sacrifice at b2, and clinched victory in this week’s puzzle diagram.

Elsewhere, the Vladimir Kramnik v Hans Niemann dispute reported last week continued as the former world champion issued a long video claiming to identify suspicious moments during their first game.

Kramnik’s allegations have left many unconvinced. One typical comment on Reddit was: “Hans moves fast, sus. Hans moves slowly, sus. Hans plays a good move, sus. Hans plays a bad move, sus. Hans knows the ideas and nuances, a good player. Hans misses an idea, sus. Hans doesn’t play an obvious move but plays something worse, sus. Hans thinks when there’s an obvious move, sus.” It was 3/2 blitz, and Niemann was streaming throughout the game.

The Danish GM Jacob Aagaard, 50, is a respected chess trainer and author, who while domiciled in Scotland, won the 2007 British Championship. Aagaard is one of the few people to have been close enough to Niemann to assess the controversial 20-year-old objectively.

A few days ago he wrote: “Our training session was a week. It was meant to be a camp, but no one else could make it. Hans was difficult to train. I tried to do calculation and endgame training with him (he had requested endgame training). At first, I showed exercises from recent games (last 18 months) that I really liked. He knew them ALL. I was astonished by his memory. I was astonished by his intuition. Both were off the charts for what I have seen training Shankland, Gelfand, and other 2600+ and a few 2700s.”

Meanwhile, as Niemann continues to stream, the World Junior Championship in Mexico City, where he is top seed with an opportunity to revive his over-the-board career, is now less than two weeks away.

England’s Shreyas Royal, 14, is seeded 36th out of 139 entrants, and will regard this as another opportunity to score his second (of three needed) for the grandmaster title.

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