Huffington: Carlsen dominated Bilbao Chess Masters

7/30/2016 – Magnus Carlsen has won the event twice before. This year the Norwegian World Champion, playing in a six-player double round robin, started slowly, losing for the first time to Hikaru Nakamura in the classical time limit. He went on to win four games, one more than all his opponents combined. Huffington Post columnist GM Lubomir Kavalek analyses two games of the winner who turned the other world-class players into spectators.

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Carlsen Wins Bilbao Chess Masters

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

Txapeldun, a traditional Basque beret honoring brave champions, was bestowed on Magnus Carlsen on Saturday. The world chess champion won the 2016 Bilbao Masters with a dominant performance. He clinched the event twice before after sharing first place and triumphing in the playoff – in 2011 against Vasyl Ivanchuk and in 2012 against Fabiano Caruana. This year was different. Carlsen turned the other world-class players into spectators.

Sergey Karjakin, Wei Yi, Hikaru Nakamura, Carlsen, Wesley So, Anish Giri

Carlsen won four games, one more than all his opponents combined. He started slowly. For the first time he lost to Hikaru Nakamura in a tournament with the classical time limit. He wowed to play sharper and with a string of three victories catapulted himself into the lead and never relinquished it. His last victory came against Anish Giri, whom he has never beaten in the classical tournaments before.

Bilbao has been encouraging players to fight and to win games for years by using the soccer point system, with three points for a win and one point for a draw. It didn’t quite work this year, with only 23 percent of decisive games. Carlsen was the major benefactor, securing the tournament victory with one round to go.

The Bilbao Masters offered a two-game preview of the world championship match between Carlsen and Karjakin, scheduled for November. It didn’t look good for the Russian challenger. Carlsen took care of the first game. He was increasing his advantage slowly and meticulously, turning it eventually into an unstoppable mating attack.

[Event "Bilbao Masters "] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2855"] [BlackElo "2773"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5rk1/pp1qppb1/5n1p/3Pp3/1r2P3/1BN2Q1P/PP1R2P1/5R1K w - - 0 31"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "2016.07.13"] {The protection of the black king is weakened by the missing g-pawn and Carlsen launches a kingside attack.} 31. g4 $5 a5 32. Rg2 Nh7 ({The strength of White's attack is demonstrated by this variation:} 32... a4 33. g5 $1 hxg5 34. Rxg5 $3 Ne8 35. Rfg1 $1 f6 (35... axb3 36. Qg3 $18) 36. Rg6 $1 axb3 37. Qh5 e6 38. Rh6 {and White mates.}) 33. h4 Rb6 {Karjakin rushes his rook back to help the king.} (33... a4 34. Bd1 $16) 34. g5 $1 {The offensive begins and Karjakin has to decide how to set-up his defense.} Kh8 ({After} 34... Rg6 35. Rfg1 {the pressure is mounting, but it was the best choice.}) ({Exchanging the g-pawns gives White the h-file for the onslaught. One possible line is} 34... hxg5 35. hxg5 Rg6 36. Qh5 Qd6 37. Rfg1 Rd8 38. Rh2 Nf8 39. Rf1 {threatening 40. Qf3.}) 35. Rfg1 f5 $2 {Karjakin was probably fed up with a passive defense, but his last move makes Carlsen's task easier.} (35... Rg6 36. Ba4 (36. gxh6 Bxh6 $11) 36... Qc8 37. Rh2) 36. Qh3 $1 $18 {An unpleasant pin that allows White the final attack along the g-file.} Rb4 $2 {Nothing helps, for example:} (36... Rd6 37. gxh6 Bxh6 38. Qg3 Nf6 39. Qxe5 $18) (36... hxg5 37. hxg5 Rg6 38. Rh2 $18) 37. gxh6 $1 Bxh6 38. Qg3 $1 {A nasty double-attack, threatening 39. Qg8+! and 39.Qxe5.} ({White also wins after} 38. Rg6 Bf4 39. Qg2 Nf6 40. d6 Ng4 (40... Rxb3 41. axb3 Qxd6 42. Nd5 $18) 41. exf5 $18) 38... Nf6 39. Qg6 $1 Ng4 40. Rxg4 (40. Rxg4 fxg4 41. Qxh6+ Kg8 42. Qg6+ Kh8 43. Qh5+ Kg7 44. Rxg4+ $18) 1-0

Carlsen’s victory against the last year winner Wesley So was impressive. The Norwegian grandmaster reached for an opening idea used two centuries ago. He created an elusive target and when Wesley took aim, the white knights began to leap all over the board. A timely pawn sacrifice left the black king vulnerable to a final storm.

[Event "Bilbao Masters"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2855"] [BlackElo "2770"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 {Adolf Anderssen, the attacking master and one of the world's best players of the 19th century, was experimenting with this unprovoked exchange in the Spanish. Black will most likely lose a tempo since the bishop on c5 is not ideally placed. White bets on his better pawn structure.} (5. Be3 {is an idea from Giocco Piano, preferred by the Viennese master dr. Arthur Kaufmann around 1890s.}) 5... dxc6 6. Qe2 {Threatening 7.Nxe5. Against Kramnik, last month in Paris, Magnus prevented the Bc8-g4 pin with 6.h3. Anderssen and later the Czech leading player Oldrich Duras used the move h2-h3 to launch a kingside attack with g2-g4.} Qe7 (6... Bg4 {can be met by} 7. Nbd2 {as in the game.}) 7. Nbd2 (7. h3 {was played already in the game Walbrodt-Metger, Berlin 1897.}) 7... Bg4 { [%tqu "Can you guess the next two moves that Carlsen made?","","",h3,"",10]} 8. h3 Bh5 9. a3 {White’s last two moves, often humorously referred to as "donkey's ears," throw the theory out the window. It was never played before. The idea seems to be to place the bishop on the diagonal a1-h8 after the advance b2-b4, but it also forces Black to decide where he wants his king. White waits and his plans are flexible.} (9. Nc4 Nd7 $11) 9... Nd7 ({The preventive} 9... a5 {makes the long castle for Black more difficult.}) 10. b4 Bd6 (10... Bd4 {seems a waste of time after} 11. Rb1 Bc3 12. Rb3 $14) ({ The alternative was} 10... Bb6 11. Nc4 a5 12. Rb1 axb4 13. axb4 f6 $11) 11. Nc4 f6 12. Ne3 a5 $5 {A sharp choice, attacking the only target.} ({Black could have improved the position of his knight:} 12... Nf8 13. Nf5 Qd7 14. Be3 Ne6) 13. Nf5 Qf8 {The position is not easy to play for either side, but bouncing with the Queen hardly helps.} (13... Qf7 {would have saved time} 14. bxa5 Rxa5 15. O-O Ra4 (15... O-O $2 16. Bh6 $1 $16)) 14. bxa5 Rxa5 15. O-O Qf7 16. a4 Nc5 (16... O-O {runs into} 17. Bh6 $1 $16) (16... Bb4 17. Rb1 Rxa4 18. c3 Bc5 19. Rxb7 Bb6 20. Be3 $14) (16... b5 17. Qe1 Rxa4 18. Rxa4 bxa4 19. Qa5 $14) 17. Qe1 $5 {By attacking the rook, Carlsen gets out of the pin to bring his knight from f3 to the queenside. This plan is connected with a pawn sacrifice.} ({ A full board play} 17. Bd2 Ra8 18. Rfb1 Qd7 19. g4 Bg6 20. d4 {was another option.}) 17... b6 18. Nd2 Rxa4 19. Nc4 Bf8 $6 {Deciding to leave the king in the center.} (19... Be7 {is preferable, but after} 20. Be3 Kd7 (20... Rxa1 21. Qxa1 O-O 22. Bh6 $1 $16) 21. Rxa4 Nxa4 22. f4 {White has strong pressure.}) 20. Be3 $1 Kd7 {It is difficult to find a good plan, but burrying the kingside is not helpful.} 21. Qc3 $1 {All the white pieces are in play and Carlsen threatens 22.Nxb6+! cxb6 23. Bxc5 Rxa1 24.Rxa1 Bxc5 25.Ra7+ skewering the queen.} Nxe4 ({Black cannnot find relief with the exchange sacrifice} 21... Rxc4 22. dxc4 Nxe4 23. Qd3+ Nd6 24. g4 Bg6 25. Rfd1 $1 c5 (25... Bxf5 26. gxf5 c5 27. Qb3 $18) 26. Bxc5 $1 bxc5 27. Ra7 {and the white attack crashes through. }) {[%tqu "Can you find the decisive move that Carlsen made here to decide the game quickly?","","",Nxb6+,"This zwischenzug opens up lines on the black king. ",10]} 22. Nxb6+ $1 {This zwischenzug opens up lines on the black king.} cxb6 23. dxe4 {The black king is dangling hopelessly in the middle and Carlsen zeroes in.} Qc4 24. Qd2+ Kc7 ({White also wins after} 24... Ke6 25. Rxa4 Qxa4 26. Qd8 Qxe4 27. Qc8+ Kf7 28. Ra1 $18) 25. g4 Bg6 26. Rfd1 (26. Rfd1 Ba3 (26... Bxf5 27. Qd8+ Kb7 28. Qxb6+ $18) 27. Rxa3 Rxa3 28. Qd6+ $18) 1-0

Images by Bilbao Chess and Manu de Alba

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over over a quarter of a billion visits per month (according to Quantcast), making it the number 73 ranked web site in the world (Alexa, January 2014).

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ttukhun ttukhun 8/1/2016 12:03
A small linguistic precision. Actually, the name of the beret is "txapela", and as correctly stated in the Basque Country it's customary to bestow it on the winner of an event, to the extent that the word "champion" translates in Basque as "txapeldun" (the word used in the the text), meaning literally "the one who wears the txapela".
sranj sranj 7/31/2016 10:18
Carlsen gains 2 ELO points from this win..
XChess1971 XChess1971 7/30/2016 09:33
johnmk if you have seen the game it started with a Sicilian. It is not usual to get a KID with an open c file, and a free g7 bishop. I do not even remember an opening position with that. Therefore the game played is much more characteristic of a Sicilian than a KID, Benoni or anything else. Unfortunately for Karjakin playing g5 had a risk if not continued properly. White has the easier game if he exploits that. The free bishop and the column couldn't be better used. The Ne5 didn't feel completely comfortable. That's what it looks to me. So after f4 Carlsen's game was easier to play. The spacial advantage was one of the key factors in the game.
Aighearach Aighearach 7/30/2016 08:55
@johnmk If you have a hard time accepting that white can get a winning attack with 2 minor pieces on the Q-side, that just shows you wouldn't be able to avoid it. Maybe there is more to it? Details matter, just counting pieces on one side and comparing that to what "usually" happens in an opening isn't going to give any insight into why the World Champion wins the game. Notice that while Carlsen's minor pieces are doing a lot, neither are Karjakin's rooks. Carlsen is able to focus more force onto the kingside than is available to defend it. It doesn't matter where the pieces are standing so much as where do they exert force. Karjakin's pieces are "on" the kingside, but they're not really defending it; they're defending the center without being about to counter in the center. 7/30/2016 04:16
Great commentary!
johnmk johnmk 7/30/2016 03:40
Nice game against So and thanks to Kavalek for pointing out that Adolf Andersen idea, which some other commentators missed.
Carlsen outplayed these opponents strategically, and fully deserved to win.
johnmk johnmk 7/30/2016 02:08
That CarlsenKarjaken game is curious. It's hard to accept that Carlsen could get a winning attack when he has 2 minor pieces stuck on his Qside. AND Carlsen' king is also exposed. In these sort of Kings Indian positions it is usually Black who attacks. White brings only 3 major pieces and they are sufficient for the attack even though by move 36 Black has most of his pieces helping in defense.