CBM 204: Lessons for the World Championship Match

by Nagesh Havanur
12/2/2021 – ChessBase Magazine offers a window to the world of professional chess and it also provides arsenal for the tournament player. CBM #204 contains 1226 games (26 annotated), 9 opening surveys, lectures and exercises for training. Annotators include Peter Heine Nielsen, Alireza Firouzja, Romain Edouard and Anish Giri, to mention a few. The icing on the cake is the Judit Polgar Special, a tribute to the former child prodigy who crossed swords with the best of them all, from Kasparov to Carlsen. Our columnist Nagesh Havanur takes a look and muses on the performance of the champion and the challenger in the coming match for the world crown.

ChessBase Magazine 204 ChessBase Magazine 204

"Special" on Judit Polgar with analyses and videos on strategy and endgame. Demchenko, Sarana, Erdos, Grandelius, Saric et al. comment on games from the European Individual Championship. Opening videos by Ragger, King and Marin. Plus 11 opening articles


CBM 204 Review by Nagesh Havanur

A tribute to Judit

After years Judit Polgar has graced the cover of this DVD. Now that calls for a round of applause. Old timers, though, still find it hard to believe that the girl prodigy who grew up right before their eyes is now a veteran GM. This issue offers a glimpse of her performance and style.

The Special Section devoted to her has 23 annotated games and the opponents include Korchnoi, Anand, Shirov, Ivanchuk and Mamedyarov among others.

Besides, there are 15 examples of her endgame play by Karsten Müller and 17 test lessons on her strategy by Mihail Marin.

Judit Polgar began her career as a wonderful tactician and matured into a deep strategist.

Here is a fine example, and in the issue the game has a video commentary by Karsten Müller.

Judit Polgar-Viswanathan Anand, Wijk aan Zee 1998


There are about 2000 games played by Judit Polgar in the MegaBase and they are worth a look.

Magnus meets an old rival

That brings us to the present. This issue offers all the games from the recent Norway Chess Tournament. This was the last event in which Magnus played weeks before the world championship match. He started slowly and then went on to beat his young rivals, Alireza Firouzja and Richard Rapport. His solitary loss was against Sergey Karjakin, an old rival since his boyhood days and a strong player who presented a formidable challenge to Magnus in the World Championship 1916. Readers might recall how both had tied 6:6 and Magnus succeeded in beating his opponent in the tiebreak match with the score, 2-0.

The rivalry between the two remains undiminished even today and their games are hard-fought. The following game from the Norway Chess Tournament is no exception.

Sergey Karjakin vs Magnus Carlsen, Norway Chess 2021 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In this issue it is annotated by Romain Edouard. Such games are not easy to follow. So I have offered my own commentary for those not familiar with current theory and practice.

Sergey Karjakin-Magnus Carlsen, Norway Chess Tournament 2021


A rare loss for Magnus after a promising pawn sacrifice in the opening. He himself was not put off by this solitary loss and saw his participation in the tournament as “net practice”.

One question still remains: Would he play the Sveshnikov in the coming world championship match?  After all, he got such a fine position from this variation.

Nepo disappoints

What went wrong with Nepo in Norway? He had visa problems and arrived late. Consequently his game with Karjakin had to be rescheduled on a rest day. The tension and uncertainty of participation itself adversely affected his mood and it was also reflected in his score. He finished in the lower half of the tournament table.

Magnus on the other hand was playing on home turf and he had won this traditional tournament thrice in a row. Notwithstanding some dangerous opposition he came first and claimed the title in this tournament for the fourth time.

The “real contest” took place when the champion and the challenger met. The first two games were draws and then in the Armageddon Magnus beat Ian in both the games.


Carlsen versus Nepomniachtchi, Norway Chess 2021 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Here is one of them:

Magnus Carlsen-Ian Nepomniachtchi, Norway 2021


Lessons for the Match

A terrible performance by Nepo that showed up quite a  few issues with his play, insufficient preparation in flank openings, impatience with pressure by the opponent and unwillingness to defend passive positions.

In the Russian Championship last year and the Candidates’ Tournament this year he had shown rare solidity and pragmatism. But not in this tournament. Its fierece competition and relentless pace (not to mention the Armageddon Rule) made it impossible.

After the game Carlsen could not contain his glee and remarked, “I wanted to torture him before the world championship match.”

Nepo, merely, shrugged off his defeat here as “one blitz game”.

By now both the champion and the challenger will have drawn the right conclusions from their performance in this tournament. Nepo will have to engage Carlsen in complications as Nakamura and Dubov did with a measure of success. The game with Karjakin here shows, even Carlsen can lose his way through unfathomable complications.

Positional play is Carlsen’s forte and he can make something out of nothing with a tiny, infinitesimal advantage in the middlegame. As for the endgame, he has few peers in the field.

Yet it would be wrong to underestimate Carlsen’s middlegame tactics. His games with Fedoseev from the World Cup and the win over the same Karjakin in the Norway Tournament are illustrative of his ability in this sphere. Check out the annotations to the games by Anish Giri and Peter Heine Nielsen in this issue.

The young lions in Norway

Both the champion and the challenger were the centre of attention on account of the world ship that was to follow in a couple of months. However, it was two other players, Alireza Firouzja and Richard Rapport who made waves with their enterprising play. The following encounter is a striking example.

Firouzja versus Rapport, Norway Chess 2021 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In this issue it is annotated by Romain Edouard. I have offered a little more by way of explanation:

Alireza Firoujza –Richard Rapport, Norway 2021


For reasons of space I shall have to do without a treatment of other tournaments in this DVD, especially, European Individual Championship and Sinquefield Cup. They deserve better than a mere mention.

Opening videos and surveys

There are 3 opening videos in this issue. The first features a lecture on the Sicilian Moscow Variation (3.Bb5+ Nd7) by Markus Ragger. The second offers a lecture on the QGD  Exchange Variation by Daniel King. The third is a lecture on the Spanish Breyer Variation by Mihail Marin. Take your pick.

What is more, there are 9 opening surveys ranging from the Caro-Kann to the King’s Indian. Among them I would single out Tanmay Srinath’s work on the 9.d4 Variation in Closed Ruy Lopez and Igor Stohl’s exposition on 3…a6 Line in Queen’s Gambit Declined.

Beside these surveys, this issue has standard features on opening traps, tactics, strategy and the endgame.

Summing up

The main database of the issue has 1226 recent games of which 26 are deeply annotated.

Commentators include Anish Giri, Peter Heine Nielsen and Alireza Firouzja among others.It may be noted that there are more annotated games in the sections on opening theory and training.

Well, practice makes perfect.


Judit Polgar played a major role in the Russia vs Rest of the World Match, 2002:

Her own trilogy offers both an autobiography and annotated games

1)How I Beat Fischer’s Record
2)From GM to Top Ten
3)A Game of Queens

Among other books on her, the recent title, Strike like Judit deserves special mention.

ChessBase Magazin #204

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Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for nearly three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.


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