Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana are in action this week, as Norway’s world champion and the US world No2 are top seeded at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, the “chess Wimbledon”. The tournament has full anti-Covid precautions, while its normally crowded amateur playing and spectator areas are empty.

Carlsen began in style with a sacrificial attack against the player who many regard as his future challenger, 17-year-old ex-Iranian Alireza Firouzja. Then he slowed down with draws, and by mid-week five players including the two favourites shared the lead.

Games are free and live to watch with commentaries on leading chess websites starting 1pm GMT. Wednesday 20 and Sunday 24 are rest days, while Carlsen and Caruana meet in round 10 next Tuesday.

Britain’s national online chess league, the 4NCL, is flourishing as it starts its third lockdown season with more than 250 teams of four competing in seven divisions. Matches are once a fortnight on Tuesday evenings, played to a comfortable time limit allowing up to three hours per game. A separate junior league has hundreds of players. Season four, expected to start in the summer, will be a fine opportunity for small or isolated groups who find it difficult to arrange matches locally.

Puzzle 2403

Bent Larsen v Boris Spassky, Linares 1981. Two legends met, and Larsen is a pawn up while White's advancing flank pawns look dangerous. How did Spassky (Black, to move) turn the tables?

Click here for solution

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