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Andrey Esipenko vs Magnus Carlsen
Tata Steel Masters (2021), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 8, Jan-24
Sicilian Defense: Scheveningen. Classical Variation (B84)  ·  1-0



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Premium Chessgames Member
  sleepyirv: <The Age of Majority>

As a Sicilian aficionado, I really enjoy a meat-and-potatoes game from Espienko here: sac the g-pawn, sac a knight, win. Though I probably would have overlooked it if the opponent wasn't name Magnus Carlsen!

Jan-25-21  parmetd: 17. Ncxb5! is a very nice move and easy for anyone to miss.

The strange move is 20... d5? Why not try to play the pawn down endgame after 20... Nf6 Qxd6. I think Magnus holds such an endgame 50% of the time.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WannaBe: Computer analysis completed, according to Stockfish, 12...Qh4 gets (?), and the preferred move is 12...Bb7
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <parmetd>

I wouldn't call 17.Ncxb5 easy to miss, especially for a player of Carlsen's caliber. It's a two move finesse that ends in a fork. 16.Nc6 was a rather careless tactical mistake.

As for 20...d5, I agree that the line you mention seems more natural but this wouldn't change the fact that white's plan is simple.

Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Why has Carlsen experimented with the Scheveningen <sp?> instead of his usual Lasker-Pelikan? Has someone found a serious hole in the opening?
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Possibly Carlsen thought it time to modify his repertoire, as most top players do, to avoid prepared analysis--perhaps also, he tired of playing down reams of preparation in the 7.Nd5 anti Lasker-Pelikan, formerly only played when White was not of a mood for the razor-sharp complexities of the main lines.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <The Emotional Reaction of Esipenko after beating The World Champion Magnus Carlsen>
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

According to here (which apparently has every game Carlsen has ever played and some he has even thought about playing.) 7.Be3 was a first for him.

Yes (going by the D.B. here again) also a first for Esipenko but the speed in which it came out this had been in his lab sometime in the past.

His first real think came after Carlsen's odd looking 12...Qh4 for which the only reason I can see was to unsettle Esipenko, get him to the chessboard and out of his analysis which he had surely up his sleeve - you do not quickly sac pawns v the W.C. without back up. )

Then came the missed trick on c6. As White v an uncastled King you look for such shots. As Black it is easily missed. Witness the same pattern...

Melnikov - Kuznetsova, 13th Chigorin memorial, St Petersburg 2005

click for larger view

Black played 23...b3 (OOPS!) and resigned after 24.Qc3 hitting loose thing on c6 and h8.


Jan-26-21  SChesshevsky: <...7.Be3 was a first for him...>

This transpo from Be2 to ...e6 Scheveningen was a favorite of Kasparov. Could see Be3 played but in different move order. I'm not sure of all the subtleties in move order there but the early g4 by Esipenko stood out as the novelty for me. Think I remember Eljanov won a nice game with an early g4 not that long ago in a Scheveningen but think the usual is f4 to hinder ...e5 and 0-0 and prepare kside play.

Thought it was very tough play for Black. Maybe OK for Kasparov but even he had to play a lot of defense.

Karpov vs Kasparov, 1985

Svidler vs Kasparov, 1998

Jan-26-21  MirrorStalemate: Welcome to the Chigorin Club, Andrey!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Hi SChesshevsky,

"... the early g4 by Esipenko stood out as the novelty for me. "

It has been played before D Olofsson vs I L Ljubicic, 2013 (a corres game, pawn sacs in these will be looked at very carefully.)

In the linked game.

click for larger view

Black played 11...Bf6 and it turned out to be a bit of a hair raising stramash.


Andrey called out the Magnus bluff with 13.Rg1

click for larger view

Offering the h-pawn and perhaps the Queens off going into a Queenless middle game two pawns down.

13...Qxh2 14.0-0-0 Qh6 (perhaps the idea behind Qh4) 15.Qxh6 gxh6.

Though the double pawn on an open file h-file will get hovered up (no rush there) and White active bits surely compensate. White has a whole host of loose pawns and squares to attack.

It looks like both players agreed White is very good in that line.


Jan-27-21  MordimerChess: Qh4-Qd7 played while white just followed main line of the opening. Two tempi in sharp Sicilian... it couldn't end up well...

Full video analysis:


Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: One can only imagine how much of an improvement Carlsen's position would have been had he omitted the loss of two tempi with the curious ....Qh4-e7 manoeuvre.

As the long-time esteemed contributor <Abdel Irada> noted long ago:

<'Man who lead with jaw, soon take canvas nap.'>

Jan-27-21  njchess: An odd game from Magnus. White's 6. ♗e2 and 7. ♗e3 doesn't fully commit to queenside castling, but they are laying the groundwork for it. Often White's bishop will be played to g5 and then retreated to e3 against the Sicilian, followed by the g pawn push.

Here, White decides to speed things up a bit with 8. g4. He can because Black... well, Black lets him. We've seen Magnus push the b pawn to threaten White's knight, just to get out in front of White's kingside pawn push. I was surprised by the Bishop exchange since it eliminates an active piece for Black.

And, just when you think this will transpose into a normal if slightly less complicated Sicilian, we get 12. ... ♕h4? I'm sure White spent a lot of time trying to figure out if there was a method to the madness. But without the bishop on b7, this move is... strange, especially given the open g-file. White has the right response, he calls the bluff with 13. ♖g1, castles queenside and attacks.

Nice game from White to exploit Magnus' uncharacteristically inaccurate play.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <njchess: An odd game from Magnus. White's 6. ♗e2 and 7. ♗e3 doesn't fully commit to queenside castling, but they are laying the groundwork for it....>

The line beginning 6.Be2 is actually a positionally based variation, with the normal response 6....e5 7.Nb3 Be7 leading to White playing against the backward pawn, while trying to keep his opponent's queenside and central ambitions in check. The variation which starts with 6.Bg5 is razor-sharp, with theory stretching past move 20 in numerous lines, in which a single slip can be fatal.

<....Often White's bishop will be played to g5 and then retreated to e3 against the Sicilian, followed by the g pawn push....>

In the Rauzer, true; but not so often in the Najdorf.

Jan-27-21  SChesshevsky: <...The variation which starts with 6. Bg5 is razor-sharp...>

Yes, I like Bg5 vs. Scheveningen but it's often just asking for the poisoned pawn in Najdorf. Something probably don't want to get into without understanding and comfort.

Felt I understood it OK but never felt comfortable. Tried bringing the N back to block after seeing Karpov do it but dislike N's on b & c setups. So eventually mostly went with anti-Najdorf early Bb5+ Canal or g3, Bg2 lines.

Admittedly punking out. Going for the opposite of razor-sharp which I guess is positionally dull.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Clement Fraud: I hadn't heard of Andrey Esipenko till today... but I am sure he will soon be a household name.

Now THIS is how Anatoly Karpov should have played (in game 24 of his 1985 match versus Garry Kasparov): The way that game went allowed Kasparov (as Black) to use defensive spoiler tactics, forcing Karpov (who needed a win) to overextend his slow positional attack. Karpov needed to play as Esipenko did here... Karpov vs Kasparov, 1985

Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <Clement Fraud>

True, although it also needs to be said that Kasparov played better in that game than Carlsen does here. Of course, there's also the fact that that was a must win game in the world championship (with all the added pressures and all the hardship after a long hard fought match against the greatest player of-all time), while this game hardly has special significance aside from it allowing Esipenko to be in a solid position to win the tournament, and Carlsen playing especially badly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Clement Fraud: <0ZeR0>

Having looked more closely at the game, I completely agree that Magnus played very badly. 10... Bxg5 is a beginner's pawn grab, a move which those at club level would have rejected; but the real abomination was 12... Qh4 - beyond appalling: I find myself wondering if Magnus intended to lose to Esipenko!?

That said, I do feel that Esipenko demonstrated a more purposeful method of play for White versus the old Scheveningen dinosaur.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: A snapshot of this game after 14...Qe7 says a lot: White's forces are completely mobilized, king castled, rooks connected and bearing down on semi-open files, minor pieces with great scope. Meanwhile, black's king is uncastled, his queenside is completely undeveloped, and the rooks don't even now each other's names.

click for larger view

Jan-31-21  20MovesAhead: Why didn't white play 27. Bb5 ?????
Feb-01-21  paavoh: After 27.Bb5, the following line leaves the White King in danger:

27. Bb5 Rxb5 28. Rxb5 Qa8 29. Kc1 Ra1+
30. Kd2 Qg2+ 31. Kc3 Rxd1

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Magnus stunk it up, here.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Messiah: Oof! :-)
Dec-30-21  jerseybob: <Clement Fraud: .. I find myself wondering if Magnus intended to lose to Esipenko?> Maybe not lose exactly, but come as close to losing as possible, and add a little juice to the experience, kinda like when Fischer and Lombardy were hanging out in NYC waiting to fly to Reykjavik, and Bobby reportedly insisted on giving Lombardy knight odds in a training game(a game eventually won by Lombardy btw). Magnus has climbed so many mountains he must be starved for new challenges.
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