Carlsen Wins Rapid Tournament Held In Scottish Whisky Distillery
Anand, Karjakin, Carlsen and Ding Liren in Scotland. | Photo: Lindores Abbey Distillery.

Carlsen Wins Rapid Tournament Held In Scottish Whisky Distillery

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

It lasted only two days, and took place in a historic distillery in Scotland. The Lindores Abbey Chess Stars Tournament was an unfamiliar event but saw a familiar end as it was won by Magnus Carlsen

A rather unique tournament suddenly popped up on the radar on May 1, when a first press release was sent out by the Lindores Abbey Distillery in Scotland. They were going to do a chess event.

The Lindores Abbey Distillery is a whisky producer that opened in 2017 opposite the ruins of the Lindores Abbey, which was founded in 1191 and is located on the outskirts of Newburgh in Fife, Scotland.

The remarkable combination of chess and whisky had to be taken seriously because at the time of the press release, three pretty famous players had been confirmed to come to Scotland: Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand and Ding Liren! About a week before the tournament, Sergey Karjakin was added as well.

Lindores Abbey Chess players

The tournament took place this Saturday and Sunday in the actual distillery, which overlooks the ruined abbey that gives it its name. So, why the interest in chess?

"We found records from an inventory of the abbey taken more than 500 years ago, and the records list a chessboard and its pieces among the items found in the abbey's recreation rooms. In a way, we are bringing chess back to the abbey after more than half a century! [sic]" wrote Poppy McKenzie Smith of the Lindores Abbey Distillery.

Alongside the tournament, the distillery created a special edition of their Aqua Vitae spirit in honor of the tournament, and proceeds of the sale of the bottles went to support a local charity. The distillery also commissioned a local woodcarver to make hand-carved chess sets based on the history of Lindores Abbey.

The actual tournament was played in the distillery itself, and the games were streamed on screens throughout the visitor centre for the public (game-side seats were by invitation only).

The tournament was a double round robin with three rounds on both days. The slightly informal character, the surroundings, and the rapid time control all contributed to some very creative games.

It was Karjakin who grabbed an early lead with a win against Anand in a trendy line of the Queen's Gambit Declined. The Indian grandmaster had played it several times before, but a few moves into the endgame Karjakin managed to surprise him with a nice bishop move.

Anand felt that playing with two pieces against rook and pawns was practically difficult, and decided to play a pawn-down position instead. Karjakin showed good technique at first, then erred but won anyway.

Ding drew with Carlsen, and in the second round both games ended in draws. The world champion finished his Saturday with a win against Anand, who was OK out of the opening but then blundered a tactic that turned things around:

Carlsen tied for first place with Ding after the first day as the Chinese player defeated Karjakin in round three. Karjakin had based his play on a similar position as his game with Vidit from the Tata Steel rapid & blitz tournament in Kolkata last November, but here it didn't work:

Round four saw two draws, and then Anand scored his first win in the penultimate round, from a nearly lost position. That would be a crucial game for the tournament's final standings, because this way Carlsen's three draws on the final day was enough for clear first. 

Also in the fifth round, Carlsen and Karjakin played what was arguably the game of the tournament. Having misevaluated the position and realizing he wasn't better, Carlsen at some point gave his queen for two pawns and two pieces, where commentators and kibitzers thought he had blundered.

Lindores Abbey Chess Stars tournament Magnus Carlsen
Commentary was provided by GMs Genna Sosonko and Daniel King. | Image: Lindores Abbey Chess Stars broadcast.

"It was a bit Kramnik-like, I think," Carlsen said. "You go for something that is very complicated and by no means better for White, just to keep the game interesting. It has to be said that I don't think White is the one with winning chances here." Karjakin said that with 21.e4 Carlsen was going "all-in" and that being low on time was the biggest problem for him in this fascinating game.

Nothing was decided yet as Ding got to play Carlsen with the white pieces in the final round. The Chinese GM actually got a technically winning position, as Carlsen admitted, but then it was a case of "all rook endings are drawn," the famous phrase that mostly means that the defender always has more chances than you think.

"Black's position is surprisingly resilient. Before the rook ending I was technically probably lost but I felt that in the rook ending there were certain chances," said Carlsen.

2019 Lindores Abbey Chess Masters | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2869 2817 ½½ ½½ 3.5/6
2 Ding,Liren 2760 2794 ½½ ½0 3.0/6 9.25
3 Karjakin,Sergey 2781 2787 ½½ 3.0/6 8.75
4 Anand,Viswanathan 2733 2744 ½1 2.5/6

Lindores Abbey Chess Stars - Sunday Commentary from Speakeasy Productions on Vimeo.

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