1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 This move was first used at the top levelnby Alekhine. The idea is to force the exchange on c3, without incurring doubled pawns. The drawback of the move is White's slight deficit in development. The particular interest of this game is that both players have used the line successfully in the past, and have contributed to the theory of the line. So a couple of world experts are meeting!
4...d5 The most straightforward answer. Black tries to open the centre and create complications, as soon as possible. His king is ready to escape to the kingside, whereas the white monarch will have to remain uncastled for some time.
5.a3 White carries out the classical idea.
5...Bxc3+ [If 5...Be7?! 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Bg5 we reach an Exchange QGD, with White having the extremely useful extra move a2-a3.]
6.Qxc3 Ne4 [A no less sharp struggle arises after 6...c5 7.dxc5 d4 and now the world's grandmasters are unable to agree on the best retreat forthe queen - c2 or g3.]
7.Qc2 c5 The consistent follow-up.
8.dxc5 Nc6 The only way! The number of pawns does not yet play a great role. The important thing is to bring the pieces into play as quickly as possible. Now is an important moment - should White exchange pawns on d5 or not? The further character of the battle will depend on this decision.
9.cxd5 The most aggressive, and also riskiest continuation! White opens the path of the c8 bishop, but strengthens his extra pawn. [Heavy simplifications result from 9.e3 Qa5+ 10.Bd2 Nxd2 11.Qxd2 dxc4 12.Qxa5 Nxa5 13.Rc1 b5 14.cxb6 Bb7 and Black has enough initiative for the pawn. The analyses of the leading specialists in the line lead to a draw, on practically an empty board. ]
9...exd5 [Not 9...Qxd5? 10.Be3! ]
10.e3 As can be seen, White has so far developed only his queen. Black has both knights on good central squares, he is ready to castle, and his bishop will soon come to f5.His development lead threatens to assume alarming proportions. But in modern chess, such general considerations and fierce words do not play a great role. Concrete analysis determines everything.
10...Bf5 [10...Qa5+ is now out of fashion, thanks to the exchange sacrifice seen in Kazimdzhanov-Karpov, Spain 2007: 11.b4! Nxb4 12.axb4 Qxa1 13.Bb5+ Kf8 14.Ne2 and whatever the computer might say, humans know that White's position is much easier to play.; 10...Qf6 was tried in a game Carlsen-Polgar, from Wijk aan Zee 2008, but without success: 11.f3! Qh4+ 12.g3 Nxg3 13.Qf2 Nf5 14.Qxh4 Nxh4 15.b4 a6 16.Kf2 Ne5 17.Bb2 f6 18.Rd1 Be6 19.Ne2 Bf7 20.Rg1 Nc4 21.Bc1 g5 22.Nc3 0-0-0 23.e4! and the white bishops destroyed Black.]
11.Bd3 0-0 [As on the previous move, 11...Qa5+ is again met by 12.b4 Nxb4 13.axb4 Qxa1 14.Ne2 For example, 14...Bd7 15.f3 Ba4 16.Qb2 Qxb2 17.Bxb2 Nf6 18.Nd4 Bd7 19.b5 Rc8 20.Ba3 a6 21.bxa6 bxa6 22.Kd2 Bb5 23.Bxb5+ axb5 24.c6 Kd8 25.Rc1 and Black could not contain his opponent's initiative. Drozdovskij-Brodsky Poltava 2008]
12.Nf3 Qa5+ 13.Nd2 [Necessary. Now after 13.b4 Nxb4 14.axb4 Qxa1 15.Nd4 (which nobody has played), there follows a nice exchange of tactical blows: 15...Ng3! 16.Nb3! Qa6! with, as they say, "a complicated struggle"!]
13...Nxd2 14.Bxd2 Bxd3 15.Qxd3 Qxc5 16.Rc1 [Novelty. Sasha improves on his own play. In an earlier round at Wijk an Zee, the game Morozevich-Adams went 16.Bc3 d4 17.Bxd4 Nxd4 18.Qxd4 Qb5 19.0-0-0 Qf5 20.e4 Qg5+ 21.Kb1 Rad8 22.f4 Rxd4 23.fxg5 Rxe4 24.Rd7 Rg4 25.g3 Rxg5 26.Rxb7 a5 and Black equalized.]
16...Qb6 17.0-0 I like Morozevich's idea. There is harmony in his ranks. Taking on b2 is clearly not good, since the white rook gets to b7.
17...Rad8 [17...d4 does not equalize. I would then suggest 18.b4 After exchanges in the centre, White retains some initiative.]
18.f4 But what is this? The move looks antipositional, weakening the square e4 and the pawn on e3. But how can Black exploit this? maybe he can't! Meanwhile, the advance of the pawn to f4 has a concrete idea, namely to eprive the black knight on the e5 square, via which it can get to c4 after b2-b4. So maybe my first reaction was too emotional. Probably Sasha doid not invent this idea over the board, but found it at home, so it needs to be taken seriously.
18...Rfe8 [After 18...d4 19.e4! the f4-pawn would be doubly useful.]
19.b4 Correct. The black knight is restricted on all sides. White's play looks a bit od, but I have already said that general cosndierations nowadays play less of a role than specifics. We will see what transpires... Magnus is thinking hard. He has made all the obvious moves and now needs to find a plan. One idea for White is Rf3-h3.
19...h6 [My previous note explains this move. I also looked at the direct attempt to bring the knight to f5: 19...Ne7 20.Rf3 Qe6 21.f5 (21.Rc7 Qb6 22.Rc1 Qe6 ) 21...Qe4 22.Qf1 an then the rook will go to f4, the queen to d3, and a complicate struggle ensues, which is hard to judge. ; The prospect of the white bishop coming to c3 makes me think alos about 19...f6 followed by Nc6-e7 and Qb6-e6.]
20.h3 Giving up on Rh3 as an idea, but making luft and waiting to see what Black will do.
20...a6 [Black also waits. Less beliigerant grandmasters might play 20...Ne7 21.Bc3 Nc6! 22.Bd2 Ne7 23.Bc3 Nc6 and shake hands.]
21.Rc5 White returns to the strategy of pressure in the centre. Black must be tied down to the d5 pawn, reducing his conyrol over d4, and only then will White seek a target on one flank or other.
21...a5 A logical response. The rook on c5 prevents the natural reply b4-b5, so the b4 pawn becomes a target for Black.
22.Rfc1 [The centre of the battle shifts to the queenside. Winning a pawn by 22.Rb5 Qa6 23.bxa5 allows the counterblow 23...d4 24.e4 Na7 25.Rb3 (25.a4 Nxb5 26.axb5 Qe6 hardly offers sufficient compensation.) 25...Qxd3 26.Rxd3 Rxe4 27.Rb1 Rd7 and Black has nothing to complain about.]
22...axb4 23.axb4 Re4 Carlsen counterattacks decisively. The b4 pawns can not escape the attention it has attracted from the black pieces. Magnus ignores the threat to the d5 pawn, because he sees the counter-threat against e3.
24.Kh2 [24.Rxd5 Rxd5 25.Qxd5 Rxe3! (25...Rxb4 is also not bad, eg. 26.Kh2 (26.Bxb4?? Qxe3+ ) 26...Rb1 27.Rc4 Qb3 again forcing exchanges.) 26.Rc5 (26.Bxe3?? Qxe3+ 27.Kh1 Qxc1+ ) 26...Re8 27.Bc3 Rd8 28.Qe4 Qc7 29.b5 Qd6 equalizes completely.]
24...Rc4! [Yet another cunning move by the Norwegian. This time, the target is the bishop on d2, which is being x-rayed by the rook on d8. Unfortunately, barring something remarkable, the next few moves are likely to see a total simplification of the position. The only hope is Morozevich's unquenchable fighting spirit! Less convincing is 24...Nxb4 because White does not have to exchange minor pieces. He can play 25.Qb3 with an unpleasant pin. (or 25.Qb1 I am not sure which is better.) ]
25.R1xc4 [What else can one play, if all other moves favour Black? For example, after 25.R5xc4 dxc4 26.Qe2 Qa6 Black defends the c4 pawn, because of 27.Rxc4? Rxd2! ]
25...dxc4 26.Qe2 Nxb4 27.Rxc4 [Sasha avoids exchanges. And not without reason. After 27.Bxb4 Qxb4 28.Rxc4 (28.Qxc4 Qxc4 29.Rxc4 b5! ) 28...Qe7 the outside passed b-pawn gives Black grounds to play for a win.]
27...Nd3 However, now the knight will be very strong. With its support, the passed pawn can reach b4 or b2. For the moment, this is still something of a dream, but grandmasters make a living by dreaming of the distant future...
28.Rd4 Realising the danger, Sasha hurries to restore the game to drawish channels. The clock times are now 0.19 - 0.49
28...Rxd4 [Trying to transfer the knight to e6 can also bring problems to Black, as White activates his pieces by 28...Nc5 29.Bc3 whilst he can eliminate the e6 outpost at any moment by f4-f5.]
29.exd4 Qxd4 [A white-square blockade by 29...Qb5 fails because of the bad position of the knight: 30.Qe4! and it cannot be brought to d5.]
30.Qe8+ Kh7 31.Qxf7 Qe4 [A last attempt to impose some control. Pushing the b-pawn results in its loss: 31...b5? 32.Qf5+ ]
32.f5 This counterattack saves White.
32...Qe5+ [Now 32...b5 is met by 33.Bc3 and winning the bishop leads to perpetual: 33...Qf4+ 34.Kh1 Qc1+ 35.Kh2 Qxc3 36.Qg6+ Kg8 37.Qe8+ etc.; whilst the variation 32...Nf4 33.Bxf4 Qxf4+ 34.Kg1 Qc1+ 35.Kh2 Qc6 gets nowehere because of the blow 36.f6! Qxf6 37.Qxb7 ]
33.Kh1 The only remaining question is who will give the perpetual check.
33...Nf2+ 34.Kg1 Ne4 [34...Nxh3+ 35.gxh3 Qd4+ 36.Kf1 Qxd2 37.Qg6+ Kg8 38.Qe8+ ends in the same perpetual.]
35.Bf4 [The same idea - deflecting the queen from covering e8. But it was not yet time for the flashy 35.Bxh6? because of 35...Qd4+ 36.Kh1 Qd1+ 37.Kh2 Qd6+ ]
35...Qd4+ 36.Kh2 Nf6 37.Bxh6 Qe5+ 38.Kh1 Qe1+ 39.Kh2 Ng4+ 40.hxg4 Qh4+ 41.Kg1 Qe1+ 1/2-1/2