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Magnus Carlsen vs Levon Aronian
European Team Championship (2015), Reykjavik ISL, rd 3, Nov-15
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense (C65)  ·  0-1



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sac: 22...Bc4 PGN: download | view | print Help: general | java-troubleshooting

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Nov-16-15  Karposian: <Kinghunt: Therefore, candidate moves are 22. Bc2 and 22. Bb3. Of the two, Bc2 looks better to me, but either one should help relieve the pressure on the white position.>

You obviously meant 22.Be2 (22.Bc2 loses the bishop). Anyway, I think 22.Bb3 is best. After something like 22.Bb3 Bxb3 23.Nxb3 Rb2 24.Rb1, White seems perfectly fine.

Nov-16-15  amateur05: It wasn't just Carlsen playing badly. I think Levon deserves some credit for the victory. He played very solid chess and didn't let Carlsen slip away - obviously learned his lesson from previous encounters with Carlsen. According to chessbomb Carlsen didn't make any obvious mistakes - no bright red moves. It definitely wasn't his worst game, he has played much worse in the past - blundering pieces, but nothing like that in the present game.
Nov-16-15  asiduodiego: Great game by Levon. He took a daring choice by sacrificing that pawn early (although he said in the press conference he considered it an usual development), and then knew how to punish an over optimistic Carlsen after 21 Nxb7?, a pawn which proved to be poisoned. A great achievement for LEvon, after several years without a victory against Magnus.
Nov-16-15  visayanbraindoctor: When a reigning World Champion loses, it's always news in the chess world. Most comments express shock at how Carlsen played so badly. Or did he? Did Aronian just play a better game?

Rather than discuss the World's Champion's propensity to under perform when playing for his home country, or the vagaries of his changing Elo ratings, let's go to the middlegame itself, from which we can learn a thing or two.

1. When Aronian played 11.. Ba7 in order to preserve his Bishop, he blocked his Rook on a8 from protecting his a5 Pawn. This pawn is now left protected only by the Black Queen on d8.

Carlsen saw that the maneuver Bg5 and Bxf6 would deflect the lone defender of the a5 pawn away after Qxf6, unless Black was willing to accept a destroyed pawn structure with gxf6. He would then be able to grab the a5 pawn with Nxa5. However he first blocks the a5 pawn with 12. a4, because Black threatens to advance it to a4, and White can't just take it with Bxa4 because of Black's b5 counter, forking the White Bishop and Knight.

Thus White plays 12. a4 first. Black develops with 12.. O-O.

2. With the a5 pawn blocked, Carlsen proceeds with the pawn winning maneuver explained above. Aronian, who must have been fully aware of what was happening and surely knows that Carlsen has a predilection for pawn grabbing, allows it.

13. Bg5 h6 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 and now 15. Nxa5.

3. In other words, Aronian has just purposely sacrificed a pawn, but what kind of a sac is that? The game is in transition from opening to middlegame, with some pieces still undeveloped, ans so I believe it's a sacrifice for tempo and rapid development. White loses at least two tempi grabbing the pawn and removing his Knight later from the a5 square. Meanwhile, Aronian sees that he can take advantge of White's loss of tempi by opening up the center and developing rapidly.

15. Nxa5 d5!

Black now opens up the center for possible exploitation of his rooks. White can grab another pawn with 16. exd5 cxd5 17. Bxd5, but Black has the nifty retreat 17.. Qd8, forking the Bishop on d5 and the Knight on a5.

4. Rather than give black the center with 16. exd5 cxd5, Carlsen as typical of his style proceeds conservatively, defending his e4 central pawn with 16. Bc2

However, this allows Black to open up the d-file and exploit it with his Rooks with 16.. dxe4 17. dxe4 Rd8, developing the Black Rook with tempo.

Now we see the effect of the pawn sac on both players' development. White has an undeveloped Rook on a1, with a misplaced Knight on a5, and is about to lose more tempi as his Queen has to move somewhere along the 1st rank. Developing his Queen to the second rank 18. Qe2 allows 18.. Qg5 threatening Rd2, and the Queen has to move again. So White's Rooks remain unconnected and his Queen is misplaced. His Knight remains misplaced on a5.

5. Carlsen makes the most reasonable move 18. Qe1, but now Qg5 threatens both Ba3 and Rd2. So Carlsen avoids the pins by the Black Queen on g5 and the Bishop on a7 by the good move 19. Kh1!

6. Aronian proceeds with 19.. Rd2. The White Bishop has to move, but developing it to b3 is met by Rxb2, and White has to move it again after losing a pawn. But Carlsen has prepared another good move 20. Bd1! If Rxb2, he sees that he can trap the Rook by Nc4.

7. Aronian makes the most logical move, 20.. Be6 developing his Bishop and taking control of the c4 square that White would like to occupy with his Knight. But Carlsen makes another good move 21. b4!

This removes his b-pawn from being a target by the Black Rook on his second rank, and at the same time threatens Bb3 with the plan to exchange off the Black Bishop on e6. Once this Black Bishop is gone, White can bring back his misplaced knight into the game into a good square by Nb3. The Knight here controls the d2 square on which the Black Rook is sitting on controlling the second rank. With a Knight at b3, Black takes away this d2 square for the use of Black's Rooks and consequently Black won't be able to maintain his hold on White's second rank. If Black moves his Rook along the second rank say by a future Rb2, White can perpetually challenge the Rook with Rb1, which he can't do if it remains on the d-file supported there by another Black Rook on d8.

Nov-16-15  visayanbraindoctor: 8. The game proceeds as expected along this line 20. Bd1 Be6 21. b4 Rad8.

Then the unexpected occurs. Instead of the planned Bb3, which would have led to the lines above and a probable perpetual (for example 22. Bb3 Bxb3 23. Nxb3 Rb2 24. Rb1 Ra2 25. Ra1), Carlsen grabs another pawn 22. Nxb7?

But this allows Bc4 and a forced series of moves that ends up in a definitively won game for Black. Why would Carlsen deviate from a good plan?

Let's see what happens.

22. Nxb7 Bc4 23. Nxd8 Bxf1 24. Qxf1 Rxf2 25. Qg1 Ra2!

I think Carlsen simply missed this tactical shot in going into this long series of tactical moves. It's essentially a desperado combination that is based on a discovered attack on the White Queen by the Black Bishop and a simultaneous attack on the White Rook by the black Rook, leaving both the attacking black pieces en prise.

If it were not for this move, White looks OK.

While stronger than most of the world's top Masters in tactics, Carlsen still occasionally misses tactical shots, and this seems to be Carlsen's only relative weakness.

After the desperado combination and discovered attack 25.. Ra2! White is plainly lost, as he is either going to lose his Queen or Rook without adequate compensation. As mentioned above, in this remarkable position, both of black's attacking pieces (the Bishop and Rook) are en prise.

For those criticizing Carlsen's play as very bad, it's not easy to see this tactic at all from the initial 22. Nxb7 position. He actually made several good moves, but just missed this tactic.

Nov-17-15  Pulo y Gata: <vbd> Very incisive comments, as usual, thanks. As I stated in my inital comment, I still think that Magnus missed the Qd8 pull back and he would probably have not exchanged on f6 if he saw it at the end of the d5 line. After 16.. dxe4 17. dxe4 Rd8 it's obvious that something has gone wrong in White's play and Black has a dangerous initiative. took a deeper look...

Nov-17-15  GarloPemberton: Garlo Pemberton likes 21.f4.
Nov-17-15  jith1207: Very well put and good job in explaining the side lines, Dr.Brain!
Nov-17-15  rookpawn101: After 22. Bb3, has anyone looked at the lines after 22...Bh3 ?
Nov-17-15  Ulhumbrus: After 15 Nxa5 White has a pawn. In return for this Black has the bishop pair, his queen is ahead of White's queen in development and White has a knight on the rim.

On the other hand White's knight on a5 is three moves ahead of Black's queen's bishop in development.

However if Black can find a way to make count White's knight on the rim in such a way that that White's knight becomes a target instead of a weapon, and if Black can make count in addition his bishop pair and lead in development for Black's queen, Black will have a little too much for the pawn.

Nov-17-15  Pulo y Gata: <Nov-17-15 rookpawn101: After 22. Bb3, has anyone looked at the lines after 22...Bh3 ?>

Please see the chessbase link I gave earlier.

Nov-17-15  onur87: "After 21..Rad8."
Whats the perfect position?
Nov-17-15  rookpawn101: Thanks <Pulo>.
Nov-17-15  Pinkerton: So. Had it not been for 22.Nxb7 , and Carlsen followed his initial plan of Bb3 , it's very likely that this game resulted in a draw. That says more of Carlsen's play than Aronian's. Don't do you think so?
Nov-17-15  rookpawn101: <Pinkerton> 22. Bb3 does not guarantee a draw. It can be refuted by 22...Bh3. Check the link given by <Pulo>.
Nov-18-15  luzhin: 22.Bb3 has been widely mentioned in commentaries above as the best move. But Aronian had planned (and Carlsen had seen) 22.Bb3 Bh3!! 23.gxh3 Qf4 (idea: Rd6, Qf3 and mate)24.Nc4 R8d3! 25.Nxd2 Rxh3 and mate. In this variation White can give up his Q with 25.Qxd2 but this must be close to winning for Black. Brilliant concept by Levon!
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <luzhin: 22.Bb3 has been widely mentioned in commentaries above as the best move. But Aronian had planned (and Carlsen had seen) 22.Bb3 Bh3!! 23.gxh3 Qf4 (idea: Rd6, Qf3 and mate)24.Nc4 R8d3! 25.Nxd2 Rxh3 and mate....>

That Carlsen--despite his evidently poor form in this event--can spot this sort of idea is telling, come to what top GMs can envision.

I played with a number of GMs during my career and watched analysis of others; what they could analyse was staggering, to this ordinary player.

Nov-18-15  Mehem: <luzhin> Let's take a closer look to the Levon's line: 25.Qxd2 Rxd2 26.Nxd2 Qxd2

click for larger view

Black is much better but it's still a long and winding road to the victory. Not a straight path like in the case of 22.Nxb7

Nov-18-15  Sally Simpson: Hi,

As usual good notes and comments by the Brain Doctor.

And it's true when Carlsen loses people look for his bad play rather than the opponents good play.

But here is an interesting moment (White to play)

click for larger view

White played 15.Bc2 to give the Knight a bolt hole on b3 as Bb6 is threatening to win it.

But can White fall for the trick Brain Doctor mentioned. 16.exd5 cxd5 17.Bxd5 Qd8.

click for larger view

I always look at the things because you now have a couple of desperadoes on the board.

18.Bxb7 Bxb7 19.Nxb7

click for larger view

I cannot see the Knight getting out of there alive but White can hold it with Qf3 till it gets picked off and maybe taking the Queens off when it goes.

There is also...

click for larger view

18.Nc6 bxc6 (18...Qxd5 19.Ne7+) 19.Bxc6

click for larger view

Though here, as in the previous line, White has 3 passed Queenside pawns for the piece, Black retains the two Bishops. I'm not sure which line is better and I'm also not sure if this was a way to go. I'll assume both players saw it and Black was willing to accept it and White rejected it.

Nov-18-15  Pulo y Gata: Sally, are you asking questions or what? Jk

Your first line 19...Qc7 20.Qf3 Rab8 and black will get the knight with his rook. Play might continue: 21. b4 (Rfc1) Rxb7 22.Rfc1 Rc8 23.h3 Qd7 I think the pawns are weak.

The second line is similar: 19...Rab8 20.b4 (Rb1 Bb7) Qc7 21. Qf3 (b5 commits the pawn too early and allows black to play around the dark squares) 21...Bb7 forcing the bishops' trade and, again, the pawns are a target.

Nov-19-15  Sally Simpson: Hi Pulo,

I'm asking if the sac could be on.

"But can White fall for the trick Brain Doctor mentioned."

Three passed pawn for the piece on paper sounds good but on this board possibly not so good.

As I said - I'll assume both players saw it and Black was willing to accept it and White rejected it.

Nov-19-15  Pulo y Gata: I was just pulling your leg, Sally, seeing that you deemed it unwise to use the old and reliable question mark.

I also think that Magnus saw and rejected it. I presume it's an imbalance he's not keen to have.

There's an important check that in the line he chose that Levon suspects he missed a check- Levon might just be right.

Earlier, I suspected Magnus allowed d5 because he missed Qd8 - it's easy to miss backward moves.

Nov-30-15  GarloPemberton: for black
Feb-11-16  yurikvelo: 22.Nxb7?? (Be2!) mistake decided outcome of this game


Jul-04-17  Eusebius: Interesting to see the pictures from Sally.
But I doubt those 3 extra pawns are an option against the free attacking lines for Black.
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