CBM training: Carlsen in Capablanca's footsteps

6/17/2012 – "Magnus Carlsen has an amazing endgame technique. His victory against Radjabov reminds us of Capablanca's famous win against Kan in Moscow 1936." Words of praise from our ChessBase Magazin endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller, who has analysed Carlsen's game from the Tal Memorial and takes us on a historical journey to the defining Capablanca game. Learn and enjoy.

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In Capablanca's footsteps

I have only looked at the end in more detail but advise you to look at the whole game to see how Magnus collected small advantages and always found a way to make progress towards his aim:

[Event "7th Mikhail Tal Memorial"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2012.06.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Radjabov, T."] [Black "Carlsen, M."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C45"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2835"] [Annotator "Müller,Karsten"] [PlyCount "118"] [EventDate "2012.06.08"] [Source "Chess Today"] [SourceDate "2012.06.13"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nxc6 Qf6 6. Qf3 bxc6 7. Qg3 d6 8. Nc3 Qg6 9. Bd3 Nf6 10. Na4 Bd4 11. c3 Bb6 12. O-O Qxg3 13. hxg3 Ng4 14. Bf4 f6 15. Rad1 h5 16. Be2 Be6 17. Nxb6 axb6 18. a3 Ke7 19. f3 Ne5 20. Kf2 b5 21. Bxe5 fxe5 22. Ke3 h4 23. gxh4 Rxh4 24. Rh1 Rah8 25. Rxh4 Rxh4 26. Rc1 Rh2 27. Kf2 Rh8 28. Ke3 g5 29. Bd3 Kd7 {The start of the first long king march to make ... c6-c5 possible.} 30. Ra1 Bb3 31. Rc1 Kc8 32. Kf2 Kb7 33. Kg3 Be6 34. Ra1 Kb6 35. Rc1 c5 36. Ra1 c4 37. Bc2 Kc5 38. Re1 c6 39. Bb1 Kb6 40. Bc2 Kc7 {Magnus starts another march to make the advance ...d6-d5 possible.} 41. Kf2 Kd7 42. a4 bxa4 43. Ra1 Rb8 44. Ra2 d5 45. exd5 cxd5 46. Bxa4+ Kd6 47. Bc2 d4 {Finally Magnus has achieved want he wants. But White should be able to defend due to the reduced winning potential and the option to free his rook by bringing his king to the queenside.} 48. Be4 $1 {The bishop immediately uses its new outpost.} Rb6 49. Ke2 {Now it is White's time to start a king march.} g4 50. fxg4 $6 {This opens further roads for Black's attack.} (50. Kd2 {is safer as} g3 {can be met by} (50... Bd5 51. Kc1 d3 52. Ra5 d2+ 53. Kd1 Bxe4 54. fxe4 Rxb2 55. Rd5+ Ke6 56. Rc5 $11) (50... gxf3 51. gxf3 Bd7 52. Kc1 d3 53. Ra8 $11) ( 50... Ke7 51. Kc1 d3 52. Ra5 Kf6 53. fxg4 Bxg4 54. b4 cxb3 55. Bxd3 $11) 51. Kc1 Bh3 52. Ra8 Bxg2 53. Rg8 $11) 50... Bxg4+ 51. Kd2 Be6 52. Kc2 $2 {Radjabov commits the final mistake.} ({At the press conference Magnus gave the prophylactic} 52. Kc1 $1 {and also indicated what he had planned then:} Bd5 53. Bxd5 Kxd5 {but White seems to be able to survive due to the lare drawish tendency of rook endings, e.g.} 54. cxd4 exd4 55. Ra8 Rg6 56. Re8 Rxg2 57. Re7 d3 58. Rb7 Kd4 59. Kd1 Ke3 60. Re7+ Kf2 61. Rf7+ Kg1 62. Rc7 Rc2 63. Rg7+ $11) 52... Bd5 53. Bxd5 ({Keeping the bishops on the board with} 53. Bg6 {does not help:} d3+ 54. Kd2 Bxg2 55. Ke3 Bd5 56. Bh5 Kd7 {and the blockade will be broken sooner or later. A few sample lines run} 57. Bd1 (57. Bg4+ Kc7 58. Ra5 Kd6 59. Ra2 Bc6 60. Bd1 Rb7 61. b4 cxb3 62. Rb2 e4 63. Kd4 (63. Rxb3 Rh7 $19) 63... Bd5 64. c4 Rb4 65. Bxb3 Bc6 66. Kc3 Rb8 67. Kd4 d2 $19) 57... Kc7 58. Ra5 Kd6 59. Ra2 Rb5 60. Bh5 (60. Ra6+ Kc5 61. Ra2 Bc6 62. Bg4 (62. Ba4 Rb7 63. Bxc6 Kxc6 64. Ra4 Kc5 65. Ra2 Rh7 66. Ra5+ Kd6 $19) 62... Rb8 63. Ra5+ Kd6 64. Ra2 Rg8 $19) 60... Kc5 61. Bg4 Bc6 62. Be6 e4 63. Bf7 (63. Ra4 Bd5 $19) 63... Rb7 64. Ra5+ Kb6 65. Rf5 Rd7 66. Bh5 Rg7 67. Kd4 Rg1 68. Kxc4 d2 69. Kd4 d1=Q+ 70. Bxd1 Rxd1+ $19) 53... d3+ $1 {An all important zwischenschach.} ({The direct} 53... Kxd5 $2 {spoils it due to} 54. cxd4 exd4 55. Ra5+ Ke4 56. Ra8 {as Black's king has no hiding place, e.g.} d3+ 57. Kc3 Rb3+ 58. Kxc4 d2 59. Rd8 Rxb2 60. Kc3 $11) 54. Kd2 Kxd5 55. Ke3 Rg6 56. Ra5+ Ke6 57. Ke4 ({The pawn endgame is lost after} 57. Ra6+ Kf5 58. Rxg6 Kxg6 {due to White's backward b-pawn, e.g.} 59. b4 cxb3 60. Kxd3 e4+ 61. Kxe4 b2 $19) (57. b3 Rg3+ 58. Ke4 Rg4+ 59. Ke3 Kf5 60. bxc4 Rg3+ 61. Kf2 (61. Kd2 Ke4 $19) 61... Kf4 62. Rd5 e4 63. c5 (63. Rd8 d2 64. Rf8+ Ke5 65. Rd8 Rd3 $19) 63... e3+ 64. Kf1 e2+ 65. Ke1 Ke4 66. Rh5 Rxg2 67. Kd2 Rg1 $19) (57. Kf2 Rf6+ 58. Ke3 (58. Ke1 e4 59. Rh5 e3 60. Rh3 e2 61. Rh1 Kf5 62. Kd2 Kg4 $19) 58... Rf1 $19) 57... Rg4+ 58. Kf3 Rf4+ 59. Ke3 Rf1 {and Radjabov resigned as Magnus mighty passed pawns will decide the day, e.g.} (59... Rf1 60. g4 Re1+ 61. Kd2 Re2+ 62. Kd1 e4 63. Rc5 Rxb2 64. Rxc4 Ke5 65. g5 e3 $19) 0-1

The Chess Machine

For most amateurs, and even for many good players, the endgame spells the end of any excitement. But the seeming simplicity very often covers up deep mysteries and enormous complexity. The greatest players at all times benefited from their superiority in the final stage of the game. In the case of Capablanca his superb endgame technique won him legendary fame and the title of "chess machine".

The following well-known game was played in the Moscow tournament of 1936. The best years were already behind the 48-year-old ex-world champion, and in complicated positions Capablanca was no longer as sharp as in his youth. But if there were any winning chances in an endgame he exploited them with the precision of a latter-day computer.:

[Event "Moscow"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "1936.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Kan, Ilia Abramovich"] [Black "Capablanca, Jose Raul"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C25"] [Annotator "Kasparov"] [PlyCount "113"] [EventDate "1936.05.14"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "18"] [EventCountry "URS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1998.03.26"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Bc5 3. Nf3 d6 4. Na4 Bb6 5. Nxb6 axb6 6. d4 exd4 7. Qxd4 Qf6 8. Bg5 Qxd4 9. Nxd4 Bd7 10. Bc4 Ne7 11. O-O Ng6 12. a3 O-O 13. Rad1 Nc6 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Bd2 Ra4 16. Bd3 Ne5 17. Bc3 f6 18. f3 Re8 19. Rf2 {[#] The Soviet master playing the white side was dreaming of a draw against his famous opponent. To this end he rapidly exchanged as many pieces as possible. But as often happens, this primitive strategy can produce results that are different from the original plan. The position may look simple - dead draw is your verdict, isn't it? But don't rush to judgement. Black has certain tiny advantages that can be developed further. His rooks are more active on two semi-open files, and his pawn structure is more compact and dynamic. But of course with cautious play White should be able to defend his position. Theory is theory, but in practice world championship class has already played its decisive role.} Bc8 $1 {First he wants to deal with his opponent's pair of bishops. His knight on e5 has strong prospects, which is why Capablanca uses his bishop for the exchange.} 20. Bf1 $6 {An important mistake - not to fight the plans of the opponent. White had to try to improve his pawns on the queenside with} (20. Ra1 {preparing b2-b3, a3-a4 and also preventing Ba6.} Nxd3 21. cxd3 c5 {and Black has only a symbolic advantage.}) 20... Ba6 21. Bxa6 $2 ( 21. Rd4 $1 {would have forced the exchange of Black's active rook. White didn't realize that his two rooks had very little to do.}) 21... Rxa6 22. Bxe5 $2 {This is a more serious mistake. This exchange improves Black's position, strengthening his pawn structure in the centre and therefore giving him opportunities to attack on both sides. Otherwise Black would have had greater difficulties improving his position. I think that Capablanca would have played c5, Nc6, Kg8-f7-e6 followed by b6-b5-b4.} fxe5 23. Rd3 b5 {[#] Despite all the errors White's position still looks very solid. One should watch very carefully how Capablanca steadily weakens his opponent's flanks, preparing for the final break in the centre.} 24. Rfd2 c5 25. Kf2 Ra4 26. Ke3 Kf7 27. Rd1 Ke6 28. Kd2 $6 {White doesn't know what to do and where the threats will come from. } (28. h4 {was worth considering.}) 28... Rb8 29. Rc3 g5 {Black has cemented his advantage on the queenside and in the centre. It is now time to shake up the white pawn structure on the kingside.} 30. h3 h5 31. Rh1 {Neutralising g5-g4, because then the white rook would be activated.} Rd4+ 32. Ke2 Rg8 33. Rd3 Ra4 34. Rhd1 g4 35. hxg4 hxg4 36. Ke3 $6 {White's resistance is not adequate: never give up an open file without a fight! His best chance was} (36. Rh1 $1 gxf3+ 37. gxf3 Rg2+ 38. Kd1 {and} b4 {with the idea that c5-c4-c3 could be met with} 39. Rb3) 36... Rh8 $1 {Capablanca of course fully appreciates the main principles of the endgame.} 37. Rb3 {After} (37. fxg4 {the key pawn on e4 is doomed:} Rg8 38. Kf3 Rf8+ 39. Ke3 Rf4) 37... Rh2 $1 38. Rd2 Rd4 39. Re2 c6 40. Rc3 {Now} (40. fxg4 {was the lesser evil, although after} Kf6 {and Kf5 nobody would like to be in White's shoes.}) 40... g3 $1 {Fixing the weakness on g2 and also making the black g-pawn potentially very strong.} 41. Rd3 Rh1 42. f4 Rf1 $1 {Another typical manoeuvre in the endgame: the rook cuts off the opponent's king from the critical squares.} 43. f5+ {Normally a protected pawn is an advantage, but here it doesn't have any role to play.} Kf6 44. c3 Rxd3+ 45. Kxd3 d5 $1 {[#] Now Black's pawn mass in the centre begins to move, smashing everything in its way.} 46. b3 {Otherwise 46...c4+ 47.Ke3 Rf4 decides. } c4+ 47. bxc4 bxc4+ 48. Ke3 Ra1 {Clearing the board of white pawns.} (48... Rf4 {was equally good.}) 49. Kf3 Rxa3 50. Kxg3 Rxc3+ 51. Kh4 Rc1 52. g4 {A last hope. After g4-g5+ the two connected passed pawns could be very dangerous. } Rh1+ 53. Kg3 d4 54. Ra2 d3 55. Kg2 Re1 56. Kf2 Rxe4 57. Kf3 {White resigned, something that was appropriate a few moves earlier.} 0-1

Karsten Müller in ChessBase Magazine

Do you like these lessons? There are plenty more by internationally renowned endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller in ChessBase Magazine, where you will also find openings articles and surveys, tactics, and of course annotations by the world's top grandmasters.

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Apart from his regular columns and video lectures in ChessBase Magazine there is a whole series of training DVDs by Karsten Müller, which are bestsellers in the ChessBase Shop.

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