Magnus Carlsen suffered one of the worst defeats of his career on Sunday when the world champion was beaten by a Russian teenager at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, the “chess Wimbledon” which he had dominated for more than a decade.
Andrey Esipenko, 18, overran Carlsen’s Sicilian Defence with a crushing attack leading to a decisive material advantage on a day when the former Iranian Alireza Firouzja, 17, took the overall tournament lead while the new Dutch star Jorden van Foreest, 21, advanced to joint second place.
It was Carlsen’s first loss to such a low ranked opponent for more than five years, and followed his lacklustre results in earlier games at Wijk. With five rounds left, the Norwegian legend was down in eighth place on a 50 per cent score.
Many observers pointed to his profusion of internet speed games as creating a weakness of superficial judgment. Swings and roundabouts, perhaps. The Carlsen Tour has made him a multi-millionaire due to a successful flotation on the Oslo market.
Paradoxically, Covid-19 may also help the world champion. The tournament to decide his next challenger, postponed from last year, is scheduled for completion in April but may be halted again.
David Anton v Aryan Tari, Wijk 2021. Black chose 1...c2 2 Kd2 and the game was soon drawn. Can you find the subtle Black winner that Norway’s No2 missed?
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