Magnus Carlsen is still the global No1, but the best United States players are edging closer to the brilliant 29-year-old Norwegian. Carlsen’s two latest online tournaments have been the $150,000 Champions Showdown and the $250,000 St Louis Rapid/Blitz, backed by FT reader Rex Sinquefield. Both ended in a tie between Carlsen and an American, Hikaru Nakamura in the Showdown and Wesley So in the Rapid/Blitz.

The growing US challenge to the world champion also includes the world No2 Fabiano Caruana, who lost his 2018 title match against Carlsen only in a tie-break, and the rising star Jeffery Xiong, 19, who held his own with the top players.

Carlsen did have some special problems to contend with. His round two game against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi was level when the champion suddenly found himself disconnected with only 35 seconds left on his clock. Asked next day about his preparation, he replied, “My main prep today was just making sure there were backups, backups, and more backups in terms of Internet.”

Carlsen slept badly before his final day opening game against Nakamura, and he was still putting his shirt on when his clock started. The outcome was one of the worst defeats of his career.

Over the board chess is a rarity at present, but this has not stopped the England No1 Michael Adams from achieving a remarkable seven wins in a row against grandmaster opponents. The Cornishman, 48, who ranks No4 among the world’s over-40 players, won his final two rounds at Biel a few weeks ago, then his first five for his Baden-Baden club at last week’s German team championship in Karlsruhe.

Puzzle 2386

This week’s puzzle, taken from an old German game, has a very short solution but is a good test of tactical skill. White is to move. Does he win, lose or draw?

Click here for solution

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