Carlsen and a Parade of Chess Champions (1)

12/14/2014 – Every world championship evokes the names of previous champions. The most recent saw Anand better prepared, and posing more problems for his younger opponent. Game 2 revealed that the the Berlin Defense would be his main weapon with the black pieces – echoing Kramnik's strategy against Kasparov in 2000. Huffington Post columnist Lubomir Kavalek analyses the results.

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Magnus Carlsen and a Parade of Chess Champions (1)

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

The world chess champion Magnus Carlsen turned 24 last Sunday and had many reasons to celebrate: it was the most fruitful year of his young chess career. For nearly four years he has dominated the FIDE rating list as the world's top-rated player. He won two additional world titles in the rapid and blitz play last July. With the victory in Sochi last month, Carlsen secured the classical world title for the next two years.

"I feel happy and relieved," said Magnus Carlsen after defending his title against the challenger Vishy Anand in the World Chess Championship Match that ended last month in Sochi, Russia. The final score was 6.5-4.5.

The two point victory margin was widely predicted before the match. The age of the players was the main factor: in the battle of the generations Anand, 45, was likely to make more mistakes than the 23-year-old Norwegian. Last year in Chennai, India, Carlsen beat Anand 6.5-3.5 to become the world champion.

Anand came to Sochi better prepared, posed more problems for his younger opponent and the match became tense and dramatic. It will be remembered for one fleeting moment in Game six after Carlsen allowed a three-move combination. It could have reversed the momentum of the match in Anand's favor, but he missed it. After the match, the Indian grandmaster was gracious in defeat, admitting that Carlsen was the better player.

The match began with the drawing for colors performed by a magician. "In 1998 at the Chess Oscar ceremony," Anand remembered, "we had a magician and he stole my watch." Anand did better in Sochi: he kept his watch a drew the white pieces for the first game. The first two games gave us a preview of what to expect in the match.

In Game 1, Anand opened with the queen pawn (1.d4) that gave Carlsen some trouble towards the end of the match in Chennai. This time the Norwegian played the Grunfeld Indian, seeking a more dynamic play with the black pieces. Later in the match, he also added the solid Queen's Gambit.

In Game 2, Carlsen established 1.e4 as his main attacking weapon with white. He revealed only after the match that one of his seconds was Michael Adams, the top British player of the last two decades and a king-pawn specialist.

Every world chess championship evokes the names of previous champions. Game 2 was played on November 9 – a memorable day. It was Mikhail Tal's birthday. He would have been 78 years old. A memorial blitz tournament in his name was being played in Sochi, won by the Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ahead of Alexander Grishuk.

On November 9, 1985, Garry Kasparov defeated Anatoly Karpov in Moscow and became the youngest world champion at the age of 22. In the last game of the match he played the Two Tower variation of the Scheveningen Sicilian and won. It had a huge influence on their future encounters. Unable to break it, Karpov never played the move 1.e4 in a world championship match again.

Game 2 revealed what would be Anand's main defense with the black pieces. He chose the Berlin Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6)

It appeared in the first official world championship match between William Steinitz and Johannes Zuckertort in 1886. Black wants to capture the central e-pawn – a sound opening strategy for the last two centuries. After 128 years we were back where it all began.

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin wall came down. The Germans were united and in other countries of Eastern Europe communism fell like dominos. But in the year of 2000 Vladimir Kramnik erected the Berlin wall on the chessboard and beat Kasparov in the world championship match in London. The Berlin Defense was an excellent choice: Kasparov had to play without his favorite piece – the queen, and Kramnik got his bishop pair.

Kasparov could not win a single game in the match. After reigning for 15 years Kasparov had to part with the world title. Soon after the match the Berlin Defense flooded the chess world. It appealed to many players either as a rich endgame or as a queenless middle game.

Carlsen said after the match in Sochi that the Berlin Defense suites his style well and he likes it to play it with both colors. In Game 2, Carlsen just protected his e-pawn with 4.d3. It was not an ambitious choice, but at the beginning of the match – in the shadowboxing stage – players like to gather information before they start hitting hard.

Anand made a few inaccuracies and Carlsen took over the game. At one point he created a nice construction of heavy pieces on the e-file:

[Event "WCh 2014"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2014.11.09"] [Round "2"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2863"] [BlackElo "2792"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5rk1/1r1q2pp/1p2Rp2/p1p2P2/P3Rp1P/8/1PP1QPPK/8 b - - 0 28"] [PlyCount "14"] [EventDate "2014.11.08"] {[%csl Ge2,Ge4,Ge6] Carlsen just played Qh5-e2, creating a battery of heavy pieces on the e-file.} 28... b5 29. b3 bxa4 30. bxa4 Rb4 31. Re7 Qd6 32. Qf3 Rxe4 33. Qxe4 f3+ 34. g3 h5 $2 {A mistake that ends the game immediately with the attack on the seventh rank.} ({Black had to play} 34... Qd2 {but after} 35. Qxf3 Qxc2 36. Kg2 Kh8 (36... Qxa4 $2 37. Qb7 {wins.}) 37. Qc6 Rg8 (37... c4 38. Re8 $18) 38. Ra7 {white has a clear advantage.}) 35. Qb7 1-0

The commentators brought in another world champion, Alexander Alekhine, and his heavy formation.

[Event "San Remo"] [Site "San Remo"] [Date "1930.??.??"] [Round "3"] [White "Alekhine, Alexander"] [Black "Nimzowitsch, Aaron "] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C17"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r3k2/p1rqn1p1/Ppn1p2p/1B1pPp2/1P1P1P2/2R2N2/2R3PP/2Q3K1 b - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "8"] [EventDate "1930.01.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "ITA"] {Alekhine just played his queen to c1, creating a formation of heavy pieces named after him.} 26... Rbc8 27. Ba4 $1 {[%csl Gc1,Gc2,Gc3] Threatening to win outright with 28.b5. Black has to give up a pawn.} b5 28. Bxb5 Ke8 29. Ba4 Kd8 30. h4 $1 {Black will soon run out of pawn moves on the kingside and white will win material with b4-b5.} 1-0

The heavy piece line-up on the first three ranks was know as Alekhine's train with the locomotive (the queen) pushing two wagons (the rooks). It is also known as Alekhine's gun, a name that was appropriated by a heavy metal band from Brooklyn.

The title of the world champion carries weight. Otherwise we would have to call it Blackburne's gun, since the man nicknamed "Black Death" grouped the pieces exactly as Alekhine did later already in Paris in 1878 against Rosenthal.

[Event "Paris"] [Site "Paris"] [Date "1878.07.16"] [Round "9"] [White "Blackburne, Joseph Henry"] [Black "Rosenthal, Samuel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C45"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1n1q1rk1/r1p1n1pp/pp6/3pPp1b/N2P1P2/PPRBB3/2R3PP/2Q3K1 b - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "1878.06.18"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "22"] [EventCountry "FRA"] 24... c6 {[%csl Gc1,Gc2,Gc3]} 25. Bf2 Nc8 26. Bf1 Bf7 27. Nb2 Be6 28. Nd3 Qe8 29. Be2 Qe7 30. Nb4 Bd7 31. Bf3 Qf7 32. Bh4 Ne7 33. Re2 Qe6 34. Bxe7 Qxe7 35. e6 Be8 36. Bxd5 cxd5 37. Nxd5 Qd6 38. e7 Nc6 39. exf8=Q+ Kxf8 40. Ne3 Nxd4 41. Rd2 Qxf4 42. Qf1 Qe5 43. Rcd3 Re7 44. Nc4 Ne2+ 45. Kh1 Qf4 46. Rf3 Qe4 47. Rxf5+ Rf7 48. Rxf7+ Bxf7 49. Rxe2 {Schallopp: Der internationale Schachkongress zu Paris 1878, p. 112} 1-0

We saw the formation used for a queenside invasion in the game of two famous world champions, Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.

The Alekhine formation can be deadly on the kingside and often leads to mating attacks.

The game finished: 34.Bc3 hxg4 35.hxg4 Rh2+ White resigned.

Watching Game 2 was an "old man with white hair" as Carlsen put it. It was Boris Spassky sitting among the spectators. Was Boris thinking about his first world championship against Tigran Petrosian in 1966? I remember it well, having covered it for a Prague daily together with Salo Flohr, the 1937 FIDE challenger to the world champion Alekhine. Or perhaps the Match of the Century played against Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik in 1972 crossed Spassky's mind?

– Part two to follow soon –

Images by Anastasiya Karlovich

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).


Topics: Huffington, Kavalek
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hpaul hpaul 12/15/2014 05:43
Some labeling must have got lost in the last two diagrams. The second from the end is from the first game of the Fischer-Spassky "return match" in Yugoslavia, 1992 - 20 years after the Reykjavik match. Fischer (white) had a pretty spectacular win in this game, though they both showed their rust in the later games.

P.S: "Queenslander": I believe Carlsen was talking about game 2 of his recent W.Ch. match in Sochi, not game 2 of the Fischer-Spassky match.
Queenslander Queenslander 12/14/2014 11:34
Another diagram is wrong: Bobby Fischer forfeited Game 2
Wastrel Wastrel 12/14/2014 02:00
The sequence of moves for the Berlin is wrong, too!
Mavo Mavo 12/14/2014 12:30
You have the diagram of the Berlin Defense wrong!
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