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Magnus Carlsen vs Ian Nepomniachtchi
London Chess Classic (2017), London ENG, rd 8, Dec-10
Zukertort Opening: Sicilian Invitation (A04)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 6 OF 6 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-10-17  Fanques Fair: 31-Nxf7,Qf6, 32- Nd6, and now what ?
Dec-10-17  rahulthemoron: If 31. Nxf7 - Kxf7 followed by 32. Bg5+ then the black queen has no problems at all, simply Nf6 leaves white with a pawn for a knight.
Dec-11-17  Fanques Fair: rahulthemoron ,you´re right I was wrong. But what about 31-Nxf7, Kxf7, 32-Bc7+, Qf6, 33-Qb7 ?
Dec-11-17  Caissanist: Actually, all three of Nepo's previous wins against Carlsen came <before> Carlsen began using him as a trainer. If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em, I guess. In fairness to Carlsen, though, one of the previous losses came when they were both 11 and another when they were 13, only Nepo's 2011 win came when they were adults.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: You get points for persistence if not perspicacity.
Dec-11-17  dehanne: <After the game, a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup with Grand Chess Tour commentator GM Maurice Ashley. These occur in the same conference room in which a live audience enjoys commentary during the round, and around 150 people were crowded into the room to hear from Carlsen.

A few moments before they were to go on air, Ashley casually reached over to adjust the collar on Carlsen's sport coat, which had become turned outward awkwardly. Magnus reacted by violently throwing his arms up in the air, silently but forcefully saying "don't touch me", and striking Ashley in the process. Maurice was, naturally, taken aback but just seconds later he received the queue that he was live.> What a crybaby.

Dec-11-17  yurikvelo: <--- multiPV
Dec-11-17  Sally Simpson: Carlsen, who at the moment chess wise is going though a bit of writers block proves once again that blunders comes in pairs.

33.c5 and 36.Qc6.

He's young, rich, a little bit good looking (as opposed to being quite a lot ugly - perm any 9 from 10 in this field ) who cares?

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <queue> [sic - cue]

For the sake of posterity, <dehanne>'s post is from the daily Chessbase report.

Song for Magnus:

Dec-11-17  frogbert: To me it seems that Carlsen was tactically blind in this game. Missing all his own options of Bxh6, g5 (instead of c4), Nxf7(!) and Nepo's quite natural Rxc5 and even the decisive Qa4 speaks volumes.

Also, the fact that he spent a lot of time throughout the game, in normal positions, indicates that his chess brain wasn't working properly today.

I think it was quite the coincidence that Nepo was his opponent. Nepo didn't do anything special in this game; in fact he semi-blundered a couple of times in equal positions, giving a top ten-level opponent in good shape several chances to cause him real trouble. But with Carlsen totally out of shape, he instead could capitalize on two huge mistakes (c5 and Qc6). Carlsen could've lost this game as easily to any top hundred player the way he played here.

Dec-11-17  patzer2: Perhaps Black's clever defensive tactic 36...Qa4! would make for a good Wednesday or Thursday puzzle.

Too bad the World Champion missed 36...Qa4! -+ in playing the flawed 36. Qc3? double attack tactic.

Necessary instead was 36. cxb6 Qxb6 ⩱ (-0.61 @ 23 ply, Stockfish 8) when White would have had to fight for the draw a pawn down.

P.S.: Magnus Carlsen is my 8-year-old Grandson's Chess hero. In going over Carlsen's games, most of the time he is amazed at the World Champion's brilliant play. When my Grandson makes a mistake in his own games, he finds encouragement in the fact that even the World Champion occasionally miscalculates and makes a losing blunder. The important thing I remind him is to try and learn from our mistakes (both in Chess and life) and avoid repeating them.

Dec-11-17  frogbert: <Perhaps Black's clever defensive tactic 36...Qa4! would make for a good Wednesday or Thursday puzzle.>

It's hardly more than a tuesday puzzle, in my opinion. Black is a piece up in the position and simply combines a double threat (to white's queen and bishop) with the defence of his own rook.

Also, it's not like black is any immediate danger of losing if he doesn't play Qa4! - even Qa8 is fine for black, so he didn't even need to find Qa4 before initiating the sequence of Rxc5 dxc5 Qxa1+ Kh2 Qxa5. In the position after Qc6, I'm quite sure that lots of players of normal club level would've spotted Qa4.

Dec-12-17  patzer2: <frogbert> <'s not like black is any immediate danger of losing if he doesn't play Qa4! - even Qa8 is fine for black...> If 36...Qa8, then 37. Qxb6 = to ⩱ (-0.27 @ 33 ply, Stockfish 8) puts White back in the game with a near level position.

Regardless of whether it's Tuesday or Wednesday level difficulty, 36...Qa4! -+ (-2.63 @ 33 ply, Stockfish 8) is the only clear winning move for Black.

Dec-12-17  frogbert: Sure, it is. But once you have the position on the board, Qa4 isn't a hard move to find.
Dec-12-17  visayanbraindoctor: In spite of opinions above, I think Carlsen is playing well within his normal game. IMO he has this style:

1. Set up a sound pawn structure. If possible set this up as a classic pawn-occupied center. If not, make sure it is sound anyway.

2. Maneuver pieces behind and around this sound pawn structure, always prepared to grab more space, and create and target opponent's weaknesses, exploit any situational development that can lead to an offensive. Sometimes this entails maneuvering around his first rank, but Carlsen isn't adverse to this.

3. Maintain accuracy at all costs. Exploit any inaccuracy on the oppoenenty's part, especially those that create new weaknesses.

4. Be materialistic as possible. No speculative sacrifices. Grab any material that looks grabbable and if the opponent does not seem to have a clear refutation.

Carlsen IMO does the above in this game quite well.

He starts his middlegame by making 5(!) Queen moves out of 11.

13. Qc2 h6 14. Rad1 Bd7 15. a3 Rc8 16. Nc3 a6 17. Qc1 Re8 18. Rfe1 Bf8 19. Bf4 b5 20. Qd2 b4 21. axb4 Nxb4 22. Ne5 Nxd3 23. Qxd3 a5 24. Qf3

Note he slides his Q back to the first rank and then slowly transfers it up to the f3 square mostly in little one square creeping moves, where it can target Black's Queenside. Few chess players have the patience for such a maneuver.

He does this behind a central pawn. Granted it's isolated but it's a classic 'strong' IQP, which Tarrasch surely would approve of.

25. Re3

As is his norm, Carlsen plays conservatively. He sees he retains an advantage by mobilizing his Rook into the 3rd rank, with the option to shift it to g3 and into a direct attack on the Back King, while at the same time defending his weak c3 square.

AFAIK this in fact is the classic <positionally correct> way of playing.

In marked contrast, a Marshall, Alekhine, Keres, or Kasparov, etc.. IMO would have batted out

25. Bxh6!?

in an instance. I've played scores of their games and nearly every time they attain a similar position expect them to sack in order to expose their opponent's King. It's just their style. It is NOT Carlsen's style.

The game continues with Bxc3 26. bxc3 Ba4 27. Ra1 Bc2 28. h3 Bf5 29. g4 Bh7 30. c4 Nd7

Aha, there's a chance for a pawn grab!

31. Nc6?!

Carsen grabs the pawn (as usual). He nearly always does.

31. Nc6 Qf6 32. Nxa5

It looks like Black now has increased piece activity as compensation.

32.. Nb6 33. c5 Rxc5!

Yikes, the pawn is pinned!

In retrospect perhaps declining the pawn and playing 31. c5 was called for.

I think Carlsen simply missed this move in his calculations. He forgot he had a loose Rook on a1. Had this pin not existed, White would have a clear and IMO winning advantage. There would be no talk about Carlsen in playing weakly above as he scores a routine victory over Nepo.

But the pin exists.

Therein lies Carlsen's only relative weakness. It's rare but he sometimes misses tactical shots, probably at a rate comparable to any other top level master.

Playing with the above style (#1 to #4 above), Carlsen IMO is nearly impossible to beat positionally. I haven't seen him positionally outplayed and beaten for the longest time. All his recent losses have been due to missed tactics.

Thus, food for thought for his next Challenger. If you want to win against Carlsen, perhaps it's best to deploy sharp openings and consistently try to steer the middle game into tactical positions. I still think Carlsen will win his next match, but the above strategy may be worth a try.

34. dxc5 Qxa1+ 35. Kh2 Qxa5 36. Qc6?

Dang but Carlsen misses another tactical shot! He should have taken the Knight, and the game would be drawish. This time it's fatal.

36.. Qa4!

0 - 1

Going back to his style, Carlsen may arguably have the most positionally correct style of all Word Champions. So OK, doing #1 to #4 above from opening to endgame in game after game will bore many kibitzers to death (admittedly such a <swampy> style of play bores me too) but it's quite effective and very difficult to play against. Until someone manages to solve it, Carlsen will remain Champ for a long long time.

Dec-12-17  patzer2: As mentioned by several other posters, White's first noticeable mistake seems to be 33. c5? allowing 33...Rxc5 ⩱ (-0.32 @ 32 ply, Stockfish 8).

Instead, 33. Rea3 = holds it level after 33...Nxc4 (not 33...Qxd4? 34. Be3! Qd6? 35. Nb7 Qc7 36. Bxb6 Qxb6 37. c5 Qc6 38. Nd6 +-) 34. Nxc4 Rxc4 = (-0.04 @ 44 ply, Stockfish 8).

Earlier, instead of the Knight fork 31. Nc6 which wins back a pawn for a level position after 31. Nc6 Qf6 32. Nxa5 Nb6 33. Rea3 = (instead of 33. c5? Rxc5 ⩱), Stockfish 8 indicates White could have secured a strong positional advantage with 31. c5! Nxe5 [] 32. Bxe5 ⩲ (+0.60 @ 35 ply, Stockfish 8).

After 31. c5! Nxe5 [] 32. Bxe5 ⩲ (diagram below),

click for larger view

attempting to drive away the strongly posted Bishop on e5 with 32...f6 appears to strengthen White's position after 32...f6 33. Bd6 ⩲ (+0.69 @ 36 ply, Stockfish 8).

Dec-12-17  patzer2: <visayanbraindoctor> Enjoyed your post analyzing Carlsen's playing style. I tend to agree with 1., 2. and 3. of your observations. However, I'm not so sure about <4. Be materialistic as possible. No speculative sacrifices. Grab any material that looks grabbable and if the opponent does not seem to have a clear refutation.>

That may have been the case in this game with 31. Nc6 = instead of 31. c5 ⩲. However, in general, I see the world champion's style as being more universal, incorporating both superior positional and tactical play. Carlsen will play strong positional moves where he has nothing tactically. But where there are clear and advantageous tactical possibilities, he appears to be bold and unafraid in exploiting them.

In the case of this game, I wonder if Carlsen didn't see 31. c5! was a strong positional move he missed and then regretfully played 33. c5? later -- thinking there might still be something there for White.

P.S.: Glad to see Carlsen made a strong finish to the tournament and won the 2017 Grand Chess Tour as a result.

Dec-12-17  frogbert: <vbd> Interesting thoughts about Carlsen's play. It doesn't change the fact that this game includes an unusual number of tactical oversights on Carlsen's behalf. I agree that Bxh6!? isn't a clear one. However, missing that 30. g5! gives white a huge edge, is.

It's not a sacrifice, and there can't be other reasons for not playing, except the fear of 30... Nd5, forking white's rook and bishop. If black responds with the meak 30... hxg5, then 31. Bxg5 gives white a dominating position, with black's a-pawn almost ripe for picking.

Alas, Carlsen must have missed something after 30. g5! Nd5 31. Nxf7!

click for larger view

The question is - what? This is exactly grabbing a pawn or strengthening his position, creating weaknesses in the opponent's camp.

And then there are c5? and Qc6??

Dec-12-17  yurikvelo: 33. c5 is draw, despite your engine might peak at -1.1. Black are pawn up, but no progress.

36.cxb6 --> draw

Dec-12-17  frogbert: I assumed, during the game, that his entire idea playing that line was to simplify to a holdable position, even a pawn down - so yes, I agree.

The point is that he could have an easier draw by playing something else, like Rea3 instead, not playing a pawn down. He also admitted that he simply blundered the pawn. That it's still holdable doesn't magically change the fact that c5 is a bad move.

Dec-12-17  tuttifrutty: Haha...frogbert's to many <ifs> make me puke like I've been drinking tequila...

If your grandma had balls, he would have been your grandpa...get it???:-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Johnnysaysthankyou: Carlsen is winning in the final position. He is merely running out of time.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: Not according to Stockfish:

1) -2.66 (27 ply) 41.Be3 Re7 42.Rc3 Kf7 43.Bc1 Re8 44.Ba3 Be4 45.Kg3 Bd5

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: Also, carlsen had just made time control so had plenty of time to ponder his demise.
Dec-27-17  Jay60: <visayanbraindoctor> Thanks for your analysis. Great to read for a patzer like me :)
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