Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Game of the Week #1: Magnus Magic

Hi All LCCCers!

This is Jason Morris, and welcome to my inaugural Game of the Week column as a guest blogger for LCCC!

In 1957, at the Rosenwald Tournament in New York, Bobby Fischer had his Game of the Century against IM Donald Byrne. Already of master strength at the time, Fischer showed a frightening glimpse of his tactical ability against the veteran IM with a salvo of combinations. The current FIDE World Championship challenger and highest rated player of all time, Magnus Carlsen, showed the same early tactical genius coupled with a very mature positional sense. Here we see one of his very first combinational explosions.

[Event "Politiken Cup 2003"]
[Site "Copenhagen"]
[Date "2003.07.23"]
[Round "9"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Magnus Carlsen"]
[Black "Hans Krogh Harestad"]
[ECO "C98"]
[WhiteElo "2385"]
[BlackElo "2249"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. Re1 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. Nbd2 Nc6

An important strategic moment for white in a more or less standard Ruy Lopez opening. Magnus decides to close the center and attack black's king. To do that, he first starts a queen-side skirmish to tie up black's pieces...

13. d5 Nd8 14. a4 Ra7

Bad was 14. .. Bb7 when the bishop has no scope. Better was 14. .. Rb8, conceding the a-file, but not any penetration points. Practically best was 14. .. Qb8 keeping some queenside tension as a source of counterplay. A bad positional mistake would have been 14. .. bxa4 15. Bxa4 when white would have had a strong positional advantage against black's weak, isolated a-pawn on the open file. Thus, with black a bit discombobulated, Magnus begins a kingside re-grouping.

15. Nf1 g6 16. Bh6 Re8 17. Ng3 Nd7 18. Nh2 f6 19. Be3

There was a danger of 19. .. g5 and 20. .. Nf7 trapping the bishop, so Magnus retreats. However, his first sortie into black's camp has managed to loosen one of black's pawns (f6). The Be3 also discourages any queenside play with c5-c4 or b5-b4. Notice what a bottleneck the black d6 pawn has become. It essentially acts as a funnel, restricting the flow of black's pieces to the kingside through the 7th and 8th ranks only. Note how this is due to the cramping effect of the white d5 pawn.

19. .. Nb6 20. axb5 axb5 21. Bd3

A small slip. 21. Qe2 connecting rooks was more accurate.

21. .. Bd7 22. Qd2 Nf7 23. Rxa7 Qa7 24. Qe2 Qa6

The position has now equalized itself out, and Magnus has to fight for some initiative all over again.

25. Ng4!? Kg7 26. Bc1 Na4 27. Bc2 Ra8 28. Qe3 c4

Some serious alternatives were 28. .. Bxg4 knocking out one of the dangerous knights and 28. .. h5 driving back the Ng4.

29. Rf1 Nc5

Black could have discouraged f2-f4 with 29. .. Bd8, or actively warded off the white queen with 29. .. Qa7, but he sticks with his idea to get the knight to c5. Also, it was still not too late to pick off the Ng4.

30. Nh6 Ng5?

Black makes a mistake, handing the initiative to Magnus. Far better was just 30. .. Nxh6 31. Qxh6+ Kg8 and Magnus's pieces cannot penetrate further.

31. f4! exf4 32. Qxf4 Bh3?

Black gets greedy, pilfering a pawn, but this unleashes a flury of tactics that lays him out cold. Watch!

33. Qh4 (Obviously not 34. gxh3?? Nxh3+ winning the queen.) Bd7 (33. .. Nd3 was better, but already it's tough to suggest moves for black.) 34. e5! dxe5 35. Nh5! gxh5

Retreating with Kh8 just prolongs the game a few more moves. No doubt black saw what was coming next, and much like Donald Byrne did against Fischer, he chose to let the youngster polish him off.

White to play and mate.

36. Qxg5!! fxg5 37. Rf7+ Kxh6 38. Rh7# 1-0


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