A novice level blunder deciding a major tournament is rare. The classic example is Havana 1965, when Borislav Ivkov, clear with two rounds left, blundered into a simple long diagonal mate against a tail-ender, lost the final round as well, and never recovered his career peak.

Now there is a comparable case, this time with a video showing the moment of disaster. Last week’s Qatar Open was fiercely fought, with the world No1 Magnus Carlsen defeated in round two.

With one round to go, India’s Arjun Erigaisi was half a point ahead of the pack and heading for the draw which would have guaranteed him a tie for first. Then nemesis struck, and the unpitying camera recorded his reaction.

The game winner was Uzbekistan’s Nodirbek Abdusattorov, whose win from a lost position at the 2022 Chennai Olympiad had already taken the gold medals there away from India. The final Qatar standings showed three Uzbeks — Nodirbek Yakubboev, 21, Abdusattorov, 19, and Javokhir Sindarov, 17, in the top four, with world No 4 Hikaru Nakamura fifth and Carlsen down the course in 16th place.

2023 is very likely to be the Norwegian’s first year since 2008, when he was still a teenager, that his overall rating performance has fallen below 2800, after 14 straight years performing from 2807 to 2889. He has had successes, notably the knockout World Cup. But he has also been unusually inconsistent, probably as a consequence of abdicating his world championship title.

Multiple factors account for Uzbekistan’s remarkable success: the personal interest of the state president, big rewards for the top players, chess teaching in schools, a high-class national coach, and a young group of ambitious players who work together. Long ago in the 1970s England had a similar model and reached No2 nation behind the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the world No2 Fabiano Caruana retained the US Championship in St Louis without losing a game, and is now the clear favourite to win the 2024 Candidates and so challenge China’s Ding Liren for the world crown later next year. A new US world champion to follow Bobby Fischer has long been an ambition of FT reader and St Louis benefactor Rex Sinquefield, and the tide of chess history has begun to flow in Sinquefield’s favour.

A new major event is under way this weekend. The $460,000, 114-player Fide Grand Swiss at Douglas, Isle of Man, starting October 25, qualifies two winners for the 2024 Candidates and will be fiercely contested. Play starts 2.30pm BST daily and is free and live to follow online with commentary by England’s David Howell and Jovanka Houska. The Women’s Grand Swiss is taking place alongside, with 50 top women competing for a $140,000 prize fund.

Puzzle 2543

White mates in two moves, against any black defence (by Sergei Pugachev, 1947). Harder than it looks.

Click here for solution

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