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Global Chess League: five teams in final race after leaders falter

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Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi (left, in white) watches Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, right, clash at the icon player table. Courtesy GCL

Day nine of the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League proved to be a roller-coaster ride for the participating teams, with five out of six teams now within a chance to move into the top two and contest the final. Making a big move were Triveni Continental Kings while Balan Alaskan Knights being the only ones heading out of the exit door in the exciting inaugural edition of the tournament.

Kings had to play two matches on the day – against SG Alpine Warriors and Balan Alaskan Knights – and they won both, with Levon Aronian of Armenia showing the way. The icon player proved to be a giant-killer as he defeated the world’s best player Magnus Carlsen of Warriors and two-time world candidate Ian Nepomniachtchi.

On the other hand, upGrad Mumba Masters, after losing their first game to Chingari Gulf Titans, upset the applecart of Ganges Grandmasters. The latter and Warriors looked set and headed to the final past the halfway mark. Vishwanathan Anand’s team were in pole position to capitalise on Warriors’ defeat to the Kings but the Masters outclassed them 10-4.

The famous Indian tennis player, Mahesh Bhupathi, a long-time friend of Anand, visited the event and made a ceremonial move in the match between Warriors and Kings.


Chingari Gulf Titans
vs upGrad Mumba Masters (12:3)

The upGrad Mumba Masters were the slight favorites. The team led by Maxime-Vachier Lagrave was always around the top but slipped in the final days. Chingari Gulf Titans were on the bottom of the board and went all out using the advantage of white pieces.

The Titans’ Vidit Gujrathi made a blunder giving a dominant position to Daniil Dubov, who soon converted this into a victory in just 23 moves. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk drew their game. More bad news followed for team Mumba as Alexandra Kosteniuk and Polina Shuvalova defeated their opponents. With a final tally of 12:3, Titans staged a huge upset and opening up the mid-table field.

 

SG Alpine Warriors vs Triveni Continental Kings (8:10)

Kings, who were on the brink of exit before Thursday, started with black pieces against one of the top teams in the league with the formidable Magnus Carlsen in charge. In their second head-to-head clash, Carlsen again lost to Aronian. After opening with the unusual move 1.b3, Carlsen gained more special initiative but in a relatively stable position made a blunder leading directly into a defeat. He laughed it off but was clearly unhappy.

Warriors’ Gukesh D managed to take the initiative against Yu Yangyi. The Chinese Grandmaster found himself in a lot of trouble trying to fend off checkmate. Despite avoiding a mate, his position was lost and he resigned. Kings quickly hit back with a victory on board three where Wei Yi outplayed Arjun Erigaisi in a queen and rook endgame.

In a duel between Praggnanandhaa R and Jonas Bjerre, the talented player from India managed to win what was a completely lost position. After misplaying in the middlegame, Praggnanandhaa defended the best he could. In a queen and rook endgame, he managed to take over the advantage and win. With seven wins and two draws, Praggnanandhaa is continuing his amazing performance in the league. Elisabeth Paehtz and Sara Khadem made a relatively quick draw in 36 moves, as did Irina Krush and Kateryna Lagno.

 

upGrad Mumba Masters vs Ganges Grandmasters (10:4)

With Warriors losing, it was Ganges Grandmasters chance to seize the opportunity. Instead it was the upGrad Mumba Masters and the first to blink was GG’s hero from the previous round – Andrey Esipenko. He allowed Javokhir Sindarov in Black to get into a better position, undermined the threats from the two bishops pinning his king and in the end overlooked checkmate.

Although a pawn up, former world champion Anand knew that the position in his game is drawn and there was no need to push it against the likes of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave so the two decided to call it a day. The match saw a huge upset on board four as former women’s world champion Hou Yifan went for a combination which completely overlooked the threat of checkmate from Koneru Humpy.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave tries to focus on his move against Vishwanathan Anand. Courtesy GCL

Triveni Continental Kings vs Balan Alaskan Knights (10:9)

With other teams showing the way, the final contest of the day also saw a spirited challenge mounted by Balan Alaskan Knights and the job was not yet done for the Kings.

With just three victories and five defeats, the team of Balan Alaskan Knights also needed to win. Kings’ late substitute entrant Khadem defeated Nino Bastiashvili, after she overlooked a piece in an even endgame. Tan Zhongyi then levelled for the Knights when Lagno chose the wrong continuation from an even position and eventually lost.

The sharpest game of the match was played between Teimour Radjabov and Wei Yi. At one point, Kings’ Wei forced too much and blundered, but in time trouble Radjabov misplayed and went down.

Then came the winning stroke from Aronian as he defeated the two-time candidate for world champion, Nepomniachtchi. In the endgame, the latter lost a pawn and his position weakened in a knight for a rook exchange and completely lost. The Knights reduced the margin when Raunak Sadhwani beat Jonas Buhl Bjerre.

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League Cup trophy part of final chapter with Liverpool, says Klopp – ARN News Centre

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AFP / Paul Ellis

Winning the League Cup would be a crucial addition to the final segment of a memoir with Liverpool, the soon-to-depart manager Juergen Klopp said before his side’s final match against Chelsea.

Klopp has announced his decision to step down as Liverpool manager at the end of the season, citing dwindling energy levels.

The 56-year-old, who is the only Liverpool manager to win six different major trophies, would dedicate the victory to everyone connected to the Merseyside club as part of his trophy-laden nine-year epoch.

“I want to win on Sunday, but not for me or my trophy cabinet,” Klopp said of the League Cup final. “It is for the boys, for the club, for the people. That is much more important.

“We wrote, and we are still writing a wonderful book, and when I leave, we close that book and put it on the shelf and then someone else will write a wonderful book.

“Yes, there is space for some chapters. It is long. I am not there and writing the resume already? Not at all. I am 100% in trying to create a few special memories on top of what we have done.”

Klopp’s side has a lengthy injury list that could hinder their chances of securing a record-extending 10th League Cup triumph at Wembley, with the likes of Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, and Curtis Jones sidelined and forwards Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai doubtful for Sunday.

Liverpool’s most recent triumph came in the 2021-22 campaign when they also lifted the FA Cup and narrowly missed securing a treble as they finished second in the Premier League.

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Last-gasp Casemiro goal sets up United for Liverpool clash – ARN News Centre

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OLI SCARFF/ AFP

Brazilian Casemiro struck late to send Manchester United into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest as teenagers Jayden Danns and Lewis Koumas inspired Liverpool to a 3-0 win over Southampton on Wednesday.

Chelsea overcame second-tier Leeds United 3-2 thanks to Conor Gallagher’s 90th-minute winner, easing the pressure on coach Mauricio Pochettino, and Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 thanks to Mario Lemina’s early goal.

United kept alive their last hope of lifting a trophy in a difficult season for the 12-times FA Cup winners when the 32-year-old Casemiro headed in a low bouncing free kick from Bruno Fernandes from close range, setting up an enticing quarter-final meeting with Liverpool.

United manager Erik Ten Hag and his team held their breath through a lengthy VAR check for offside before the goal was confirmed to the delight of the United fans at the City Ground.

Three days after Liverpool’s young side beat Chelsea 1-0 to win the League Cup final, Danns struck twice with his first goals for the senior side and Koumas scored on his first-team debut.

Koumas, the 18-year-old son of former Wales international Jason Koumas, scored just before halftime, receiving a superb pass from Bobby Clark before shooting into the bottom corner via a deflection off Jack Stephens.

Danns, also 18, netted his first in the 73rd minute when he dinked the ball over keeper Joe Lumley, and scored again 15 minutes later after pouncing on a loose ball.

With injuries to key players including Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp fielded a young team against Southampton — 23 spots below them in England’s football pyramid.

For Chelsea, struggling in mid-table in the league, the FA Cup is their last realistic chance of silverware.

The Premier League side were shocked in the eighth minute when Leeds took the lead after a defensive mix-up playing out from a goal kick allowed Mateo Joseph to score his first senior goal.

Chelsea replied with two goals from flowing moves in the 15th and 37th minutes and fine finishes by Senegal’s Nicolas Jackson and Ukrainian Mykhailo Mudryk.

Leeds upped the intensity in the second half and were rewarded in the 59th minute as a free header from the unmarked Joseph flew past Chelsea keeper Robert Sanchez.

Pochettino brought on Gallagher and Ben Chilwell as well as top scorer Cole Palmer in the second half and the move paid off. With extra time looming, Gallagher latched on to a pass from Argentine midfielder Enzo Fernandez before shooting home to take Chelsea into the last eight.

Pochettino called the win a “big relief”.

Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United over the weekend of March 16, champions Manchester City host Newcastle United, Chelsea play Leicester City and Wolves take on Coventry City.



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Medvedev edges past Sonego to book Dubai quarter-final spot – ARN News Centre

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DDFTC

Reigning champion Daniil Medvedev avoided an early scare to overcome a spirited performance by Lorenzo Sonego and secure a spot in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

The World No. 4 looked shaky during the opening exchanges, winning just 53 per cent (10/19) of points behind his first delivery as counterpart Sonego took full advantage and deservedly won the first set.

Medvedev, to his credit, recovered quickly and served with far more aggression in the second and third sets, firing off both wings and hitting pinpoint
serves.

The decisive moment came during a tense fifth game in the final set as the No. 1 seed broke Sonego’s serve with a running forehand winner and safely saw out the match thereafter.

Medvedev will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after Qatar Open finalist Jakub Mensik was forced to retire through injury early in the second set of their clash.

Hubert Hurkacz will join Medvedev in the last eight after a battling 7-6, 6-4 victory over Australian Christopher O’Connell. The World No. 8 will make his fourth quarter-final appearance in Dubai when he takes to the court to face Ugo Humbert, the French No. 1, on Thursday evening.

One man who will not be competing in the quarterfinals is Karan Khachanov after the No. 4 seed was sent crashing out of the tournament following Jiri Lehecka’s stunning comeback victory (6-7, 7-6, 6-4).

Lehecka, the World’s No36, knelt to the floor in elation after securing a spot in the last eight at the expense of in-form Khachanov, who had come into the match on the back of five straight wins.

The 27-year-old won his sixth-career title in Doha last week and looked on course to continue that momentum after clinching the first set against Lehecka.

Lehecka had other ideas, though, saving five points during a tense second set, coming back from 0-3 in the tiebreak that later followed and from 2-4 in the third decisive set to secure a second top-20 win of the season after a mammoth three-hour clash on Court One.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Korda continues to enjoy his maiden Dubai tournament, needing just 43 minutes to breeze past Botic van de Zandschulp and set up a quarter-final meeting against 2022 winner Andrey Rublev.

Korda, the first son to follow in his father’s footsteps in featuring in the premier tennis tournament of the Middle East, dropped just one game in an emphatic straight sets victory (6-1, 6-0) over the Dutch No. 2.





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