It is an unappealable defeat. Andréi Yesipenko, 18 years old, 59th in the world before this Tata tournament in Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands), has defeated the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, with great coolness and precision, whose opening mistake was the only one. Iranian Alireza Firouzja, 17, is a solo leader with half a point more than the Russian and three other pursuers, and 1.5 ahead of the Norwegian. There are five rounds left for the closing, after the break on Monday.
The disastrous outcome for the Scandinavian did not stop him from tweeting a metaphor shortly after fitting zero in his first game with Yesipenko: “I felt as if a swab had been shoved through my nostril through my entire brain.” And he added: “However, the COVID test after the game [que pasan cada día todos los jugadores] it was very good ”.
Contrary to the impression that he gave the previous days, by not pushing to the maximum in balanced positions as he is customary, Carlsen arrived on stage in combative mode. And he risked bringing up the sharp Najdorf variant of the Sicilian Defense, even though he’s not much of an expert on the scheme he chose. But Yesipenko (“Esipenko” in the world list) did not flinch, opted for one of the sharpest lines and stressed the fight from the opening.
The tangible proof that the world champion is unfamiliar with the tactical subtleties of such positions came early, in the sixteenth set, which allowed a very hard blow, seen by the Russian quickly. When Yesipenko made his next move, Carlsen was paralyzed for a couple of seconds, which took him to write the move on the scoresheet, and made an unequivocal gesture of surprise and discomfort with his mouth. He had fallen into a painful trap.
The most significant and important thing about the rest of the fight is that Yesipenko did not accuse at any time the stage fright of having one of the best chess players in history on the ropes in the first confrontation between them. Carlsen took him to the thorniest of roads and laid a few snaps for him, but the young Russian leaped every obstacle with graceful grace and precision, inexorably enlarging his lead. The champion, assuming that he was not going to be able to take advantage of the youth of his adversary, was making faces of yearning to be swallowed by the earth until he gave up, on move 38.
Carlsen was gracious enough to follow through with the ritual despite everything, setting his black pieces back to the starting positions, as is customary for all participants, before slowly leaving the stage. Meanwhile, Yesipenko could not quite believe that he had just risen to glory: he snorted a few times while still sitting, and continued to do so while taking a few steps around the table, as if he needed to release the accumulated tension before leaving. Then he said: “It is one of the best days of my life. I feel very big. I do not know what else to say”.
The defeat of the champion has its logic. In the World Cup against Russia’s Sergey Karyakin (New York 2016), Carlsen took a risk and lost the 8th game after seven straight draws. In the World Cup against the American Fabiano Caruana (London 2018), the Norwegian also used the Siciliana and was close to losing, after seven draws. And this today was the 8th round after an initial win (against Firouzja) and six draws. He number one, who has already lost 18 points so far this tournament, faces the threat of registering one of the biggest failures of his career, given that three of the five remaining opponents are the strongest in theory: Caruana (10th round ), the Dutch Anish Giri (11th) and the French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (13th).
And when the cat is away, the mice have a party. In this case, the happiest and most advantageous rodent is Firouzja, after achieving something very difficult: to beat the tough Indian Pentala Harikrishna, 19th in the world, with black in a six-hour fight, which catapulted the Iranian to 14th place in the world and He leads by half a point more than Yesipenko, the mighty Jorden Van Foreest, Caruana and Giri. Suddenly, the Firouzja-Yesipenko duel on Tuesday (after the break on Monday9 acquires a relevance that no one could imagine.
Results (8th round): Vachier Lagrave – Van Foreest, tables; Donchenko – Tari, tables; Doubt – Anton, tables; Harikrishna 0 – Firouzja 1; Yesipenko 1 – Carlsen 0; Grandelius – Wojtaszek, tables; Caruana – Giri, boards.
Pairings (9th round, Tuesday): Giri – Vachier Lagrave; Wojtaszek – Caruana; Carlsen – Grandelius, Firouzja – Yesipenko; Antón – Harikrishna; Tari – Duda; Van Foreest – J. Donchenko.
Classification: 1st Firouzja 5.5 points; 2nd-5th Van Foreest, Caruana, Giri and Yesipenko 5; 6th Grandelius 4.5; 7th-8th Carlsen and Harikrishna 4; 9th Wojtaszek 3.5; 10-13 Vachier-Lagrave, Tari, Duda and Antón 3; 14th Donchenko 2,5.
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