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Magnus Carlsen, a future chess champion January 27, 2008

Posted by dorigo in chess, games, news.

Magnus Carlsen is well known to chess enthusiasts around the world. A child prodige once, and now a young adult -17 years old- who is quickly rising to the very top of the chess world. He has been making headlines since when, at an early age, could dispose of strong players with brilliant, uncompromising attacks reminiscent of the finest young Kasparov. He became a grandmaster at 13 years and four months of age, second only to two other prodiges, Karjakin and Negi. Since then, many have grown convinced he is bound to be a world chess champion very soon.

And the Carlsen bubble has not blown. He is playing the top chess event at Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands, a classical tournament which is only won by the very best players in the world.  Yesterday, with a win with the black pieces against none less than Vladimir Kramnik – the winner of the Topalov-Kramnik world championship match last year – he came back excellently from a loss in the eleventh round against Viswanathan Anand. After the impressive disposal of Kramnik, Carlsen is still fighting for first place in the tournamant Here are the standings today, after round 12 and just before the last round:

1. Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen 7.5/12

3. Teymour Radjabov, Viswanathan Anand, 7.0/12

5. Vassily Ivanchuk, 6.5/12

6. Michael Adams, Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Leko, Shakhryar Mamedyarov, 6.0/12

10.  Judith Polgar, Veselin Topalov, 5.5/12

12. Pavel Eljanov, 5.0/12

13. Loek van Wely, 4.5/12

14. Boris Gelfand, 4.0/12

The game Carlsen won against Kramnik is a little gem. Not from an aesthetic point of view: it contains errors and oversights, as most games even at top level; but for its significance as a sports event and the tension that could be breathed even in the comments of the more than 1000 people following the game on the internet chess club online. I give it below, with minimal commentary.

Vladimir Kramnik – Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee 2008 (round 12)

1.Nf3, Nf6; 2.c4, e6; 3.Nc3, c5; 4.g3, b6; 5.Bg2,Bb7; 6.0-0, Be7; 7.d4, cxd4; 8.Qxd4, d6; 9.Rd1, a6; 10.Ng5, Bxg2; 11.Kxg2, Nc6; 12.Qf4, 0-0; 13.Nce4, Ne8; 14.b3, Ra7; 15.Bb2, Rd7; 16.Rac1, Nc7; 17.Nf3, f5; 18.Nc3 (see diagram 1)

The opening has led to a balanced position with dynamical possibilities for both sides. Now Carlsen starts a kingside expansion, trying to create activity against the white king.

18…., g5; 19.Qd2, g4; 20.Ne1, Bg5; 21.e3, Rff7; 22.Kg1, Ne8; 23.Ne2, Nf6; 24.Nf4, Qe8; 25.Qc3, Rg7; 26.b4, Ne4; 27.Qb3, Rge7; 28.Qa4, Ne5; (see diagram 2) 

Black continues to amass pieces in the center to prepare an attack on the kingside, and leaves the a6 pawn undefended. Of course a2 is wanted in exchange, but Kramnik takes it, having seen that he will somehow force the exchange of queens. Kramnik is an endgame virtuoso, and at this point he probably underestimated his opponent’s technique. 

29.Qxa6?, Ra7; 30.Qb5, Qxb5; 31.cxb5, Rxa2; 32.Rc8+, Kf7; 33.Nfd3, Bf6; 34.Nxe5+, dxe5; 35.Rc2, Rea7; 36.Kg2, Ng5; 37.Rd6, e4; 38.Bxf6, Kxf6; 39.Kf1, Ra1; 40. Ke2, Rb1; 41.Rd1, Rxb4; 42.Ng2, Rxb5; 43.Nf4, Rc5; 44.Rb2, b5; 45.Kf1, Rac7; 46.Rbb1, Rb7; 47.Rb4, Rc4; 48.Rb2, b4; 49.Rdb1, Nf3; 50.Kg2, (see diagram 3)


This endgame is very difficult for white, but black can still spoil it. If the b4 pawn fell, black’s extra kingside pawn would mean very little and a draw would result. Carlsen however exploits perfectly the other weakness in white’s camp: the king can be framed in a mating net! 

50…., Rd7!

The b4 pawn is taboo! If 51.Rxb4?? Rxb4 52.Rxb4 Rd1 white is threatened by Rg1 mate, and is thus forced to  play 53.Ne2, to which follows 53….Ne1+; 54.Kf1, Nd3+;  55.Kg2, Nxb4 and black wins a rook and the game with it. 

51.h3, e5; 52.Ne2, Rd2; White’s fate is sealed: the intrusion in the second rank is the final blow to the already compromised position. The b-pawn can be prevented from queening only at the expense of material losses.

53.hxg4, fxg4; 54.Rxd2, Nxd2; 55.Rb2, Nf3; 56.Kf1, b3; 57.Kg2, Rc2 (see diagram 4)


and white resigned, since after 58.Rxc2 bxc2 59.Nc1 Ne1+ 60.Kf1 Nd3 the knight is lost. A tremendous achievement against a Kramnik!

UPDATE: with a draw in the last round against Teymour Radjabov, another young prodigy, Magnus obtained 8 points in 13 games, and he shares first place in Wijk aan Zee 2008 with Levon Aronian, who drew his last round game with Judith Polgar. Viswanathan Anand instead reached a very promising position against Kramnik, but failed to exploit it. Had he won, he would have shared first place with Aronian and Carlsen.


1. Rolf Wasén - July 24, 2008

A very beautiful and powerful strategy remniscent of both Kasparov and Fischer (have just read a book of him)

Thank you for nice homepage


Rolf Wasén

2. dorigo - July 25, 2008

Dear Rolf, thank you for visiting!


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