THE BLOG

Carlsen Collects Another Chess Victory

04/29/2015 03:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2015

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The world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, 24, scored another amazing victory with 7 points in 9 games at the Gashimov Memorial tournament in Shamkir, Azerbaijan. The Norwegian grandmaster finished a full point ahead of the former world champion Vishy Anand. The 45-year-old Indian grandmaster moves to second place behind Carlsen on the May FIDE rating list.

Carlsen's 2876 rating is just 6 points shy of the record he established a year ago. But he is 72 points ahead of Anand. Bobby Fischer still has the record of the largest rating difference between the world's top two players with 120 points over Boris Spassky in July 1972. When Garry Kasparov reached his highest rating of 2851 points in July 1999, he was 80 points ahead of Anand. It shows Anand's class and durability.

The tournament in Shamkir was played in memory of Vugar Gashimov, a talented Azerbaijani grandmaster and world-class player who died last year at the age of 27.

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The biggest test for Carlsen came in the first round against Anand. The Indian grandmaster had the world champion on the ropes most of the game, but Magnus hung on and Vishy could not deliver the knockout. After that Carlsen scored five wins and finished undefeated with an incredible 78% performance.

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Carlsen played the best game against the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik. Inventive opening play and strong pressure in the middlegame led to material gain. Carlsen's technique took it from there. Here is the final stage:

Carlsen,Magnus - Kramnik,Vladimir

Shamkir 2015

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46.Qb8!?
The most logical continuation, threatening 47.Qf8 and 48.Qg7 mate. The pawn breakthrough also wins: 46.f5 gxf5 47.g5 hxg5 (47...Rc2 48.g6+ Kh8 49.Qa8+ Rc8 50.Qxc8+ Bxc8 51.gxf7+-) 48.Qe7 (48.Qb8 Bc8 49.Qxc8 Rxb4 50.Kxf7+-) 48...Kg8 49.Qd8+ Kh7 50.Qf8 f4 51.Qg7#]
46...Rf2 47.f5! gxf5
After 47...Bxf5 48.Qa7! the double-attack on the rook and the f7-pawn wins.
48.Qg3!
Magnus chooses the faster win, finding another way to reach the square g7 with his queen.
48.g5 also wins: 48...Rg2 49.h4 hxg5 50.h5, renewing the threat 51.Qf8, White wins: 50...Kh6 51.Qh8 mate.
48...Rf1 49.g5
Black can't cope with multiple mating threats. After 49...f4 50.Qh4; 49...Rc1 50.gxh6; 49...h5 50.g6+ wins.
Black resigned.

It was Kramnik's third consecutive loss, a real blow to him. He used to be rather invincible, rarely losing. He became the world champion in 2000 without allowing Kasparov a single win.

Wesley So came to Shamkir straight from the U.S. Championship where he finished third after losing four games. He hoped things would go better at the Gashimov Memorial and they did. So begun with a furious pace 3.5/4, an incredible start in such an elite tournament. In the next round, Anand stopped the breakout, but he knew it wouldn't be easy: "He had a huge year," the former world champion said. "Except for one event, he hardly lost a game."

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"It was a complicated, intense game," Anand said after his victory against So. "We were both spending a lot of time. Those kinds of games are very satisfying to win." It was another Vishy masterpiece.

Anand,Vishy - So,Wesley

Shamkir 2015

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.Nc3 d6 9.a3 Nb8
Borrowing the idea from the Spanish Breyer: the knight goes to d7 and the bishop to b7. It also frees the c-pawn.
9...Bg4 is the computers' main choice.
10.Ng5

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Anand's prepared novelty. The computers don't go near this devilish idea. In Wijk aan Zee this year, Fabiano Caruana played 10.a4 against So. They drew in 31 moves.
10...Nc6
I guess it didn't work, we may say. But the knight is best placed on the square d4.
In a similar position Levon Aronian suggested:"Anyone who plays 11...Nc6 in this position should strip naked and undergo a full-body scan. Since this illogical move is considered by the computers to be the strongest...!" Of course, it is a different story here.
A. Black has to consider a combination known from the Philidor defense after 10...Nbd7 11.Bxf7+ Rxf7 12.Ne6 Qe8 13.Nxc7 Qd8 14.Nxa8 Bb7;
B. All kind of sacrifices are possible after 10...h6 11.f4 hxg5 (11...exf4 12.Nf3 (In King's gambit style is 12.Nh3 g5 13.Nxf4 gxf4 14.Bxf4 the position of the black king is shattered and White has a big lead in development.) 12...g5 13.h4 Bg4 14.hxg5 hxg5 15.g3 Nc6 16.gxf4 Nd4 17.Be3 is unclear.)
12.fxg5 and now:
a) 12...Ng4 13.h3!? (Dangerous for White is 13.g6? d5! 14.Bxd5 (14.d4) 14...Bc5+ 15.Kh1 Qh4 16.h3 Qg3-+) 13...Bxg5 is roughly equal.;
b) 12...Bg4 13.Qe1 slightly favors White.
c) The strength of White's attack is demonstrated in this line: 12...Nh7? 13.g6 Nf6 14.Rxf6! Bxf6 15.Qh5 Re8 16.Bxf7+ Kf8 17.Nd5 Be6 18.Qh8 mate.
11.Ba2
Anticipating 11...Nd4. The machines suggest 11.Nf3 reaching the same position as after 9.a3. But here Komodo 8 comes up with the move 11...Nb8 as played by So. Weird.
11.f4 Bg4 12.Nf3 Nd4.
11...Nd4 12.Ne2 Nxe2+
12...Bg4 13.f3 Nxe2+ 14.Qxe2 Bd7 15.f4 fits White's plan.
13.Qxe2 h6
13...c5 14.f4 Qc7 was possible.

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14.f4?!
An amazing piece sacrifice with a nice geometry: the pawn on f7 is being attacked diagonally (Ba2), in a straight line (Rf1) and eventually by a pawn from g6.
14...hxg5
So takes the piece. After14...exf4 15.Nf3 g5 16.g3 g4 (16...fxg3 17.hxg3 c6 18.Nd4 White lands his pieces on the weak light squares.) 17.Nh4 (After 17.Bxf4 gxf3 18.Qxf3 Bg4 19.Qe3 Be6 Black has the advantage.) 17...f3 18.Qe3 White has the edge.
15.fxg5 Ng4 16.g6!
White may give the black horse more freedom, but the pawn on g6 is a vital thorn in Black's position. Black is fine after 16.h3 Bxg5.
16...Bg5
After 16...Nh6 17.Bxh6 gxh6 18.Rxf7 Rxf7 19.Rf1 Kg7 20.Rxf7+ Kxg6 21.Qf3 h5 22.Rf5!? forces a draw.;
The white queen on e2 helps to create a simple defense in the line 16...d5 17.Bxd5 Bc5+ 18.Kh1 Qh4 19.g3!
17.h3 Bxc1 18.Raxc1 Nh6 19.Qh5
To prevent Black's next move, the computers prefer 19.Rxf7 for example 19...Nxf7? (19...Rxf7 20.Qh5 (20.gxf7+) 20...Kf8 21.gxf7±) 20.Qh5 mates soon.
19...Be6 20.Bxe6 fxe6 21.g4
Threatening 22.g5, winning the piece back.
21...c6?
Black should have tried blocking the f-file with 21...Rf4 22.g5 Qf8 but White still has the edge.

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22.Rxf8+
Leads to a forced play. 22.g5 seems to be more precise because of the double attack on h6. Even after some acrobatics like 22...Qb6+ 23.Kg2 Rxf1 24.Rxf1 Qe3 25.gxh6 Qxh6 26.Qg4 (26.Qxh6 gxh6 27.Rf7) 26...Re8 27.Rf7 Qd2+ 28.Rf2 Qh6 29.h4 White has a clear advantage.
22...Qxf8 23.Rf1 Qe7 24.g5 Rf8 25.gxh6 Rxf1+ 26.Kxf1 Qf8+ 27.Ke2 gxh6 28.Qg4 Qf6 29.h4 d5?!
After 29...a5 30.b4 a4 31.h5 c5 32.Qg1 cxb4 33.Qa7 bxa3 34.Qa8+ Kg7 35.Qb7+ Kg8 36.Qxb5±
30.h5
With the protected passed pawn, White can go into a pawn endgame. He has to find a way of breaking through with his king.
30...d4 31.b4!
Fixing the queenside pawns.
31...Kg7 32.Qf3 Qe7
After the queen exchange White wins: 32...Qxf3+ 33.Kxf3 Kf8 34.c3 dxc3 (34...Kg7 35.cxd4 exd4 36.Kf4+-) 35.Ke2 Kg7 36.Kd1 Kf8 37.Kc2 Kg7 38.Kxc3 Kf8 39.d4+-.
33.Kd1 Kg8 34.Qf2 Kg7 35.c3!
Undermining the center leads to victory.
35...dxc3
35...Qd7 36.cxd4 exd4 37.e5 Kg8 38.Qf6 Black can hardly move. 38...Qe8 39.Qf4 wins a pawn and the game.
36.Kc2 Qc7 37.Qc5!

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Black is almost without moves.
37...Kg8 38.Qe3 a5 39.Qh3 axb4
39...Qe7 40.bxa5 creates a dangerous passed pawn.
40.Qxe6+ Kf8 41.axb4 Qa7 42.Kxc3 Qa3+ 43.Kc2 Qa4+ 44.Qb3 Qa7 45.d4

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After 45...exd4 (45...Qxd4 46.Qf7#) 46.Kd3 Kg7 47.Qf7+ Qxf7 48.gxf7 Kxf7 49.Kxd4 wins.
Black resigned.

April was rich in chess events.
China won the World Team Chess Championship in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia, ahead of Ukraine and Armenia. The U.S. team without its champion Hikaru Nakamura and So, woke up in the second half to share fourth place with Russia.
Georgia finished first at the Women's World Team Championship in Chendu, China. Russia won the silver and China the bronze medals.
Three high-level established tournaments - Norway Chess in Stavanger, Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis and London Chess Classic - have been united into the Grand Chess Tour. It will feature players from the world's Top Ten list, vying for a total prize of $1,050,000. After the announcement in Saint Louis, Kasparov defeated Nigel Short 8.5-1.5 in an exhibition match.

Note that in the replay windows below you can click either on the arrows under the diagram or on the notation to follow the game.

Images by Shamkirchess