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Chess: Nakamura and Firouzja at risk as Fide Grand Swiss opens on Isle of Man

Hikaru Nakamura of the US and Alireza Firouzja of France, the world Nos 3 and 4, are among the favourites in the 114-player Fide Grand Swiss event at Douglas, Isle of Man. The event offers a $460,000 prize fund from the Scheinberg family, which has sponsored international events on the island since 2014. Two places in the 2024 Candidates, and a potential challenge to China’s world champion Ding Liren, are also at stake.

A fast start is reckoned important in such a high class field where almost all the players are rated over 2400, and many over 2600 and 2700. But both Nakamura and Firouzja began with draws against lower ranked opponents where at one stage they stood worse, while in contrast Parham Maghsoodloo and Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who came to Douglas direct from the Qatar Open and played an all-night blitz session after the tournament there, both won their opening-round games in style.

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The US champion, Fabiano Caruana, and the teenage Indian Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, have already booked their Candidates places via the World Cup, and could act as spoilers to deny Nakamura and Firouzja their chance. Caruana began in fine form with a sharply played win.

Caruana won again in round two, defeating Hans Niemann in 41 moves. After Friday’s third round nobody had maximum points and 10 players shared the lead on 2.5/3. Caruana and ArjunErigaisi were the only GMs rated above 2700 in the group, which also included two teenagers: the junior world champion, Marc Maurizzi, 16, of France, and Javokhir Sindarov, 17, of Uzbekistan. Firouzja and Nakamura both had 2/3, while England’s Shreyas.Royal, 14, had 1.5.

After three rounds of the Women’s Grand Swiss, the Nos 4 and 5 seeds, China’s Tan Zhongyi and Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk, led with maximum points.

England has only two players at Douglas. The new England No 1, former Russian Nikita Vitiugov, started with a solid draw, while Royal, a wildcard entry and on 2407 rated 112th with only the two Manx players below him, started with one of his career best victories, a win against Spain’s No 5, Jaime Santos Latasa, rated 2650.

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There could have been a third English competitor, but Michael Adams elected to play in the World Senior over-50 Championship at Terrasini, Sicily, which also began this week and where he is the No 1 seed. Adams drew in round three of the World 50-plus Championship, and was on 2.5/3, half a point behind three joint leaders.

After three rounds of the World 65-plus Championship, top seeded John Nunn shared the lead on maximum points with the Charlton CC amateur Tony Stebbings, plus two others.

Only two English players on the Isle of Man, but more than that among the tournament officials. David Howell and Jovanka Houska are the official commentators on Twitch and YouTube, while Alex Holowczak is the chief arbiter.

In the 50-player, $160,000, Women’s Grand Prix many followed the two rising stars Eline Roebers, 17, and Alice Lee, 13 in the opening round. Roebers scored a fine upset victory over Russia’s Polina Shuvalova, but Lee was blown off the board by a brilliant checkmating attack from Elizabeth Pähtz, the German No1.

Bodhana Sivanandan playing chessBodhana Sivanandan, eight, has captured three world titles, winning all her 33 games. Photograph: Dennis Dicen/ECF

England’s outstanding eight-year-old talent Bodhana Sivanandan completed a remarkable treble and a 33-game winning sequence on Thursday, when she won her 11th and final round game at the world girls under-eight championship at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

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The Harrow primary school year four pupil won all her 11 games in the classical tournament to add to her 22/22 in the world under-eight rapid and blitz which she achieved at Batumi, Georgia in June. Her eighth birthday was in March, but Fide ages are based on 1 January. Sivanandan’s maximalist approach and will to win was typified in the ninth round where she slowly ground down her Vietnamese opponent in a queen and pawn endgame which the computer showed as 0.00, totally drawn, while her best win, against the silver medallist from China, was well fought until the loser weakened her pawn structure at move 26.

Sivanandan already has a Fide blitz rating of 2021, and performed well against 2000+ male opponents at the recent Riga Open. She also played an informal match against the former British champion Peter Lee, 79, who commented ruefully that “the last time I was wiped out by a woman was by Nona Gaprindashvili in 1966”.

Victory for Sivanandan is the first by an English player in a classical junior world championship for a quarter of a century, since Nicholas Pert and Ruth Sheldon won the open and girls’ under-18 crowns in 1998. The 90s were a golden decade for English juniors as Harriet Hunt won the world girls under-20 in 1997, while Luke McShane won the world under-10 in 1992.

Sivanandan’s talent was spotted early by Harrow Chess Club, and for the past year her coaching by the former world semi-finalist GM Jon Speelman has been sponsored by the biotech company e-therapeutics, whose chief executive is IM Ali Mortazavi, while the John Robinson Chess Youth Trust has backed her travel to opens in Spain and Latvia.

Her current level is the highest ever by an English pre-teen girl, yet she still has some way to go. A rating of at least 2100, Woman Fide Master standard, is the minimum for a good performance in strong opens or women’s internationals.

3891:1 e3! d6 2 Qh5 Bg4 3 e4! Bd1! 4 Qxd1.