About the Sicilian: 3. The Lasker-Pilnik-Pelikan-Sveshnikov
Also: Carlsen quits while he’s ahead

      Like I said, an online chess database — one that you’ve probably used — hired me to write some introductory Sicilian content, then ghosted me. So I’ll publish it here.
      Though all the other articles in the set were about Open Sicilians that might arise following 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6, they asked for one on the Sveshnikov.


      In 1899, world champion Lasker played 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 in an exhibition game, and lost.
      Then in a 1910 championship match against Schlechter, Lasker interpolated 4…Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 — the variation still carries Lasker’s name — but only drew.
      Schlechter probably should’ve won the match, which put Lasker’s opening choices under closer scrutiny, and given Capablanca’s annotation of 5…e5 as “unusual and … not very good as Black’s queen pawn remains weak”, a cloud hung over 2…Nc6 plus 5…e5 for 40 years.
      Chessplayers as a group are susceptible to letting the results of one or two games influence their opinion for dozens of years. After Nimzovich’s loss to Capablanca with the Advance Caro-Kann at New York 1927, 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 was considered a second-class citizen until the 1980s, when some independent thinkers demonstrated that 3. e5 was actually very strong, and these days, 3. e5 is a favorite among the masses.
      It was the same for 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5, a rarity since Lasker’s day. Then in the 1970s, a couple of Byelorussian masters — Sveshnikov and Timoschenko — began winning game after game with it. Word got around, and 2…Nc6 plus 5…e5 became one of the most popular and exhaustively-analyzed openings ever.
      The Lasker-Sveshnikov Sicilian was so thoroughly explored that games matched each other for the first 30 moves.

Carlsen leaves while still on top

    With nothing left to accomplish, and nothing more to gain, world champion Carlsen said he doesn’t want to play another match in defense of the title, and abdicated.
    Carlsen said he’s been thinking about that move for a year and a half. He’s 31, and evidently understands that 18 months ago, he was at his peak, and it’s only downhill from there.
    And consider that his challenger would have been Ian Nepomniachtchi for a second time. During their first match in 2021, Carlsen won the longest game in world championship history: 136 moves in almost eight hours of play. Some thought that doomed Nepomniachtchi psychologically; Carlsen won three of the next five games to retain the title.
    Some players might have enabled that match result to haunt them, but Nepomniachtchi won the candidates’ tournament this month with the only undefeated score.
    I think Nepomniachtchi would’ve gone into the 2023 match stronger psychologically and technically than he was in 2021, with the kind of intensity that challengers have and champions don’t have anymore. Also, at 32, Nepomniachtchi knows his window of opportunity is closing.
    All things considered, I think Carlsen chose an ideal time to retire. He’s been on the international scene for a very long time, more than 20 years. He played this at age 10.

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