Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, widely known as MVL, is a contemporary of Magnus Carlsen, born like Norway’s world champion in 1990, the golden year for future grandmasters. While Carlsen has held the crown for six years, MVL has never yet reached the eight-player candidates that decides the challenger.

That could change next March, when the 2020 candidates takes place in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Two places will be decided via the four-leg Fide Grand Prix, which has played in Moscow and Riga, ends next month in Jerusalem, and this week has its final rounds in Hamburg.

MVL lost in the Hamburg semi-final against Russia’s Alexander Grischuk, but remains second in the overall standings so is well placed for Jerusalem.

In an era when the chess super-powers Russia, China and the US are increasingly dominant, a world championship between two west Europeans would send a powerful message to the young talents currently emerging in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium — though not, alas, in the UK.


Anish Giri v Wesley So, Bucharest rapid 2019. America’s So came straight to Romania from his crushing 13.5-2.5 random chess victory over world champion Magnus Carlsen in Oslo, and walked into a well- rehearsed ambush. Dutchman Giri had spotted two drawn So games in the database, and had worked out improvements at moves 26 and 30(!). They later reached the diagram where Giri (White) played an immediately winning move. Can you find it?

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