(1) Carlsen,Magnus (2801) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2772) [A29]
London Chess Classic London ENG (1), 08.12.2009
[John Saunders]



1.c4!?
[The English Opening - played in Magnus's first competition game in England. Did he play it because it was his first game here? Magnus said no, though he had thought about it later during the game, but said that Kasparov had recommended the line for psychological reason.This remark will surely send a shudder down the spines of Magnus's subsequent opponents. For the first few moves of every game, they are effectively playing a simultaneous display against the world's best ever player and his anointed successor. Scary.]

1...Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5
[This line of the English Opening is rather like a Sicilian Defence (1 e4 c5) with colours reversed. You might think it strange that White should play a Black defence rather than choosing something that promises an immediate initiative but, in the hands of an elite player like Magnus, it has the force of slow poison. And, of course, playing it with White gives him an extra move.]

6.Bg2 Nb6 7.0-0 Be7 8.a3
#[If you learnt your chess from an old chess book, you might be surprised to see some of Magnus's opening moves. He is playing a very restrained opening, not yet trying to extend himself into his opponent's position. Somechessplayers often like to use the word 'prophylaxis' to describe this sort of strategy but don't let them bamboozle you with their fancy terminology. In plain English it is "wait and see" - high-class manoeuvring, combined with a policy of restraint while trying to identify possible weaknesses in the opponent's position. Some chess positions demand that you go at your opponent from off but this is not one of them. It takes years of practice to know which is which - that, or a brain the size of a planet, which is what Magnus has, of course.]

8...0-0 9.b4 Be6 10.Rb1 f6 11.d3 a5 12.b5 Nd4 13.Nd2 Qc8
[The end of Carlsen's theoretical knowledge - so we have perhaps reached the limit of Garry Kasparov's direct influence on the game. From now on, Magnus is on his own.]

14.e3 Nf5 15.Qc2
[We are just beginning to see a glimmer of the pressure that Magnus is about to bring to bear on the c-file. It all looks very nebulous at club-player level but, at the elite level, the merest hint of a weakness can ultimately prove fatal.]

15...Rd8 16.Bb2 a4 17.Rfc1 Nd6 18.Nde4 Ne8 19.Qe2
[Note for theorists: this is where the game departs from a known path - 19 Ne2 has been played before. Note to computer engine junkies: some (not all) analysis engines may tell you that Black is better here. But don't believe it - it is not the sort of position that chess engines are particularly good at.]

19...Bf8 20.f4 exf4
["The principled move," said Carlsen. I'm never quite sure what grandmasters mean when they describe a move as "principled". I suspect it might mean something like "I could try explaining it to you but I suspect it would go way over your head and would only waste your time and mine." Incidentally, I once heard Garry Kasparov say exactly that to a questioner at a press conference. It was at least an honest answer, if a trifle tactless. Magnus prefers to use the tactful approach and it suits his style better.]

21.gxf4 Qd7 22.d4
#[Most of us ordinary mortals would have rejected this on sight as it allows the dangerous looking 22...Bc4 but Magnus has looked further.]

22...c6
[At this point in the press conference, Lawrence Trent mentioned several lines which the commentators had been looking at and admitted that 22...c6 had not been one of them. Magnus blithely responded: "c6 was my main line." This elicited some laughter from the audience and also from a rueful Lawrence. "Leading with your chin," commented Malcolm Pein, watching the press conference.] [22...Bc4 23.Qe1 Bd3 24.Nc5! is a promising rook for bishop sacrifice for White.]

23.Nc5 Bxc5 24.dxc5 Nc4 25.Rd1 Qc7 26.Bc1
[At first sight you might think the c4 knight is "dominating" the c1 bishop but the point is that it cannot permanently establish itself on c4. Magnus knows that, sooner or later, he will shift the knight and when it goes, he might be able to take the a-pawn. General principles don't apply to chess gods. But, for any children reading this, don't try it at home - not yet, anyway.]

26...Na5
[Kramnik decides to run away before he is pushed away. "It's hard to suggest another move for Black," said Carlsen.]

27.bxc6 bxc6 28.Nxa4!
#[Despite some apparent danger of Kramnik taking over the initiative, Carlsen dares to take the pawn - a brave and correct decision.]

28...Rxd1+
["I didn't like this," said Carlsen.]

29.Qxd1
[Remember the old adage about "a knight on the rim is dim"? Notice that all three knights are on the edge of the board here. But Magnus' knight is the least 'dim' of the three, though he wasn't entirely happy to have it there.]

29...Rd8 30.Qc2 Qf7 31.Nc3
[Around here, grandmaster opinion in the press room was that Kramnik would have to do something pretty quick if he was to get any compensation for the lost pawn.]

31...Qh5
[Not best, said Carlsen, adding that Kramnik had missed something obvious. Oh... what was I saying about Magnus being tactful? Just as well that Vlad was nowhere to be seen (only winners are obliged to face the press and audience after games).]

32.Ne2! Bf5
[You and I might be tempted to play 32...Bg4 but then 33.Nd4 consolidates White's position and cuts off the black rook's influence along the d-file.]

33.e4 Bg4 34.Ng3 Qf7 35.Bf1
#[Two bishops on their original squares! Magnus mentioned this at the press conference and thought that they were well placed there. Again, to children reading, please don't try this at home. Magnus can do it because he is Magnus.]

35...Be6 36.Qc3 Ra8 37.Rb4
[The constrictor grip tightens: Magnus deprives the knight of the c4 square.]

37...Qd7 38.f5 Bf7 39.Bf4
[Only now, 39 moves into the game, does Magnus start gaining space. Patience is one of the grandmaster's key weapons.]

39...Qd1 40.Kf2 Nb3
[Now Black loses material. 40...Qd8 was the last chance.]

41.Be2 Qb1 42.Bc4 Rxa3 43.Ne2
[After 43.Ne2 the game might go 43...h6 44.Bxf7+ Kxf7 45.Qc4+ Kf8 46.Rb7 and mate will follow. If Kramnik tries anything else with rook or queen instead of h7-h6, then he will lose the knight and it will be all over.] 1-0