The Disconnection Blues

Now we know with certainty: It truly does happen to the best of us.


Carlsen after disconnect
Image Caption
(from SLCC Youtube stream)


In Day 1 of the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament, the traditional speed event of the Grand Chess Tour - held online this year because of COVID-19 restrictions World Chess Champion - GM Magnus Carlsen suffered through a blunder perhaps all-too familiar to the rest of the app-pushing chess world: A technological blunder. 

In his second-round match against Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, Carlsen had done his diligence in traversing a tricky middlegame and equalizing with the black pieces, even relaxing in his chair in view of coasting to a clearly drawn position. But with 35 seconds left, Carlsen’s face became washed with stunned realization: He had lost internet connection and, ultimately, the game.

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site " INT"] [Date "2020.09.15"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2863"] [BlackElo "2784"] [ECO "A20"] [Opening "English opening"] [WhiteFideId "1503014"] [BlackFideId "4168119"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] 1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nc6 3. Bg2 h5 4. Nc3 h4 5. e3 Nf6 6. Nge2 h3 7. Bf3 e4 8. Nxe4 Ne5 9. N2c3 Nxc4 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Nd5 Qd6 12. d4 c6 13. Nc3 Qb4 14. a3 Qa5 15. O-O d5 16. e4 dxe4 17. Bxe4 Be6 18. d5 cxd5 19. Bxd5 Rd8 20. Qe2 Rxd5 21. Qxc4 Re5 22. Qd3 Qc5 23. Qf3 Qc8 24. Bf4 Rc5 25. Ne4 Rc6 26. Ng5 Be7 27. Nxe6 fxe6 28. Be5 Bf6 29. Bxf6 O-O 30. Qg4 Rxf6 31. Qxh3 Rc2 32. b4 Qc6 33. Rad1 Qb6 34. Qg2 Rc3 35. Qe4 Rxa3 36. Rd2 Raf3 37. Kg2 a6 38. Rc2 Rf8 0-1 [/pgn]

The disconnect may prove more expensive than the rest of us will ever witness, however. This year’s Rapid and Blitz event boasts a total prize pool of $250,000, and Carlsen’s subsequent goose egg from the second round knocked him down to fifth place after the first day of play. Instead, Armenian GM Levon Aronian and Indian GM Pentala Harikrishna sit on top of the standings after the three rounds of Rapid games, which award two points for each victory and one point per draw. Nepomniachtchi, the benefactor of the technological folly, now sits tied with American GM Wesley So for third place.


Standings after Day 1 of 2020 Rapid and Blitz
Image Caption
courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios


Before disconnection, Carlsen had done well in capitalizing everything that was left under his own power. The world champion had already netted a win over American GM Hikaru Nakamura in the first round, a marquee matchup for the tournament opener. Both Carlsen and Nakamura had just tied for first place in the Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX event hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club last weekend, and brought fireworks in their first game back under traditional rules.


Carlsen-Nakamura from Round 1
Image Caption
courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios


Nakamura sought a closed position against Carlsen’s Caro-Kann defense, finding himself in a clunky middlegame after 9. c4 and efforts to keep the queens on the board. It was Carlsen’s c-pawn, however, that would do the talking – and walking – as an unsound sacrifice by Nakamura allowed Carlsen’s pawn to pass and ultimately become an unstoppable monster. A cute rook sac by the world champion at 30. … Rxg3 all but sealed the game, and a queen sac 34. … Qxg5 brought resignation.

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site " INT"] [Date "2020.09.15"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2736"] [BlackElo "2863"] [ECO "B12"] [Opening "Caro-Kann"] [Variation "advance variation"] [WhiteFideId "2016192"] [BlackFideId "1503014"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h5 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 e6 7. Bg5 Qa5+ 8. Nd2 Qa6 9. c4 Ne7 10. Ngf3 Nf5 11. O-O Nd7 12. b3 Bb4 13. Rfd1 Nb6 14. Rac1 O-O 15. Nf1 c5 16. dxc5 dxc4 17. Qb1 Bxc5 18. b4 Be7 19. Ng3 Nxg3 20. fxg3 Rae8 21. Bxe7 Rxe7 22. Ng5 g6 23. Qe4 Nd5 24. Kh1 c3 25. Rc2 Rc8 26. Qf3 Qa4 27. Rf2 c2 28. Rc1 Rc3 29. Qe2 Qxb4 30. Kh2 Rxg3 31. Kxg3 Qa3+ 32. Kh2 Qxc1 33. Qc4 Rc7 34. Qb5 Qxg5 0-1 [/pgn]

After three rounds, Nakamura has earned two draws and the Carlsen loss, leaving him with two points and tied for sixth place with fellow countrymen GMs Leinier Dominguez and Jeffrey Xiong. 

So scored his full two points of the day over Xiong in the first round. As Black, Xiong defended admirably with the Sicilian, but So stayed ever calm in mounting steady pressure until breaking through. Xiong’s first inaccuracy came with 27. … Qd7, allowing 28. Ne5 to attack the queen and felling an important d-pawn. The lone piece proved enough for So, who pressed on in a textbook display of a rook-and-pawn endgame, earning the win by only a mere tempo ahead of Xiong. 

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site " INT"] [Date "2020.09.15"] [Round "1.2"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2770"] [BlackElo "2709"] [ECO "B30"] [Opening "Sicilian"] [Variation "Nimzovich-Rossolimo attack (without ...d6)"] [WhiteFideId "5202213"] [BlackFideId "2047640"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. O-O Nge7 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Qb6 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3 Ng6 9. c4 Bc5 10. Nc3 Bd4 11. Ne2 Bc5 12. Rb1 a5 13. Nc3 Bd4 14. Na4 Qc7 15. c5 O-O 16. Re1 d6 17. Be3 dxc5 18. Nxc5 Rd8 19. Bxd4 Rxd4 20. Qc2 e5 21. Rbd1 Nf8 22. Bc4 Qe7 23. Rxd4 exd4 24. Nd3 Bg4 25. f4 Be6 26. f5 Bxc4 27. Qxc4 Qd7 28. Ne5 Qc7 29. Qxd4 Rd8 30. Qc5 Nd7 31. Nxd7 Rxd7 32. e5 Rd5 33. Qe3 Qe7 34. h3 Qc5 35. Kh2 Qxe3 36. Rxe3 Kf8 37. f6 gxf6 38. exf6 Rd2 39. Re5 Rxb2 40. Rxa5 Ke8 41. Kg3 c5 42. a4 Kd7 43. Rxc5 Ke6 44. Rc6+ Kf5 45. a5 Ra2 46. a6 Ra4 47. Kf3 Ra3+ 48. Ke2 h5 49. Kd2 Ra2+ 50. Kc3 Rxg2 51. Rc5+ Kxf6 52. Ra5 Rg8 53. a7 Ra8 54. Kc4 h4 55. Kb5 Ke5 56. Kb6+ Kf4 57. Kb7 Rf8 58. a8=Q Rxa8 59. Kxa8 Kg3 60. Ra3+ Kg2 61. Kb7 f5 62. Kc6 f4 63. Kd5 f3 64. Ke4 f2 65. Rf3 f1=Q 66. Rxf1 Kxf1 67. Kf3 1-0 [/pgn]

Day 2 of the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz event begins Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. Central, with each of the ten super-GMs playing another three Rapid games (G/25+5) in the round robin format. After the Rapid games conclude on Thursday, the event will switch to the Blitz portion (G/5+3) in a double-round robin format on Friday and Saturday. 

Each day, viewers can watch expert commentary by GMs Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley, and WGM Jennifer Shahade on or on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and TwitchTV channels.

Quick Links:

Current Standings

SLCC YouTube

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