Are You Better Than A Grandmaster? (World Cup Edition)

Are You Better Than A Grandmaster? (World Cup Edition)

| 77 | Tactics

When I was 11, my home city hosted the First League of the Soviet Championship. For chess players who weren't alive at that time, it is absolutely impossible to understand the importance of such an event for local players.

These days you can watch all major chess events, including World Championships, listen to live commentary by top grandmasters, and check what an engine thinks about every single move. However, 40 years ago the situation was absolutely different, and a top chess event in your city essentially meant a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch famous grandmasters playing their games in real time.

Needless to say that I didn't miss one single round of that tournament! I remember that in one of the games, a grandmaster played a move that instantly looked bad to me since I noticed that his opponent could execute a combination. I thought that I was missing something since I couldn't believe that a famous player could make such a mistake.

Nevertheless, his opponent thought for a couple of minutes, which felt like an eternity to me, executed the combination, and eventually won the game. I was ecstatic since indeed I saw something that a famous grandmaster didn't! I knew it was really silly, but I almost felt like I was stronger than him.

Today I am going to offer you positions from the 2023 FIDE World Cup where one of the grandmasters (or sometimes both of them!) missed a combination. All of them feature forks, which is one of the most important tactical motifs in chess. Here is how describes a fork:

"A fork is a basic chess tactic that consists of a single piece attacking two or more pieces at the same time."

If you are ready for our little quiz, let's start. The first puzzle is for our less experienced members who are just starting in chess. Can you find a winning move for White?

Please notice that the notation of the game is taken from the live transmission and contains an obvious error. In the actual game 40. Bxf2 Bxf4+ was played, which led to the same position.

The following puzzle is for more advanced players, who know their chess classics. What should Black play?

Bonus points for those of you who remember a World Championship game where two World Champions missed an identical tactical idea. Anyone? Bueller? OK, here is the game:

It is unbelievable that a master of combinations such as Alexander Alekhine missed a simple tactic. But so did GM David Navara in the above-mentioned game. Moreover, he allowed his opponent to fork him!

It is amazing that exactly the same situation happened in the following game. First GM Ruslan Ponomariov blundered, but his opponent missed the combination as well. Can you spot it?

And just like in the previous game, the player who missed a winning fork blundered a simple fork himself!

Finally, let's take a look at the position where the biggest sensation of the World Cup might have happened. Can you find a combination that would send the world #1 home?

Since GM Vincent Keymer won the first game of the match, even if he didn't convert his material advantage into a win and drew this game, it would still be enough to knock GM Magnus Carlsen out.

I hope you enjoyed our little tactical quiz. Combinations are what we like most in chess; they underline the beauty of our favorite game. Philidor famously said that pawns are the soul of chess. In the same way, we can say that combinations are the music of chess. In this case, a fork, like a sudden crescendo, strikes two chords at once, forcing the opponent into disarray.

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