ChessBase Magazine 174: What will Magnus play?

by Nagesh Havanur
11/8/2016 – The World Championship in New York between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin starts in a few days. What can we expect? In order to predict the opening choice of the reigning Champion, Nagesh Havanur consults the latest issue of ChessBase Magazine. Will Carlsen go for an Anti-Sicilian with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.c3? Will he play the Scandinavian or Modern with black against 1.e4, and the Ragozin against 1.d4? Quite apart from the divination powers you can get from CBM 174 it is also a highly recommended training tool.

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ChessBase Magazine #174

Review by Nagesh Havanur

ChessBase Magazine #174 (DVD + Booklet)
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In a few days hence the world championship match will have begun. From Moscow to New York only one question is being asked: What will Magnus play?

His games in this DVD may hold some of the answers. It’s for this reason that his performance in Bilbao merits attention. In the encounter with Wesley So he avoided the Berlin endgame and played 1.e4 e5 Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 (C65)

In the encounter with Karjakin he played an anti-sicilian and soon took the position off the beaten track:
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.c3 (B50)

In both cases he was rewarded with a win. The first of these games is annotated by Magnus himself and the second by Michael Roiz.

But what would he do with Black? Against e4 he has experimented with everything from the Scandinavian to the Modern. The surprise element has worked in his favour.

In Bilbao his game with Wei Yi commenced with 1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 5.f4 b5, transposing to the Modern Defence (B06). But after some careless play he soon reached an awful position.

Here White should play 16.a4! with powerful pressure on the queenside. However, Wei Yi played the hasty 16.c7? and allowed Carlsen to get round the pawn, losing a tough game in the end.

Would Magnus repeat any of these lines in the world championship match? Your guess is as good as mine. Against d4 he has been playing systems like the Ragozin and this DVD carries a remarkable game with Karjakin. This was played in the second cycle of Bilbao. Karjakin who had lost their encounter in the first cycle was looking forward to settle scores. Here is what happened. (I have made use of some fine commentary by Danny King in this DVD and added some of my own for younger players less familiar with theory).

[Event "Bilbao"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D38"] [WhiteElo "2733"] [BlackElo "2855"] [Annotator "D.King/N.S.Havanur"] [PlyCount "38"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 {The Ragozin System} 5. Qa4+ {This move forcing the knight move blocking the c-pawn was once considered good for White. Theory has come a long way since.} Nc6 6. e3 (6. Bg5 dxc4 (6... h6 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 {is a quieter line.}) 7. e4 {leads to the complex Vienna Variation.}) 6... O-O 7. Qc2 {The queen retreats as otherwise it would be targeted by...Bd7 or...b7-b5.} Re8 8. Bd2 a6 ({In a game weeks before Carlsen played} 8... e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. cxd5 Nxf3+ 11. gxf3 {only to blunder with an overimaginative idea,} Nxd5 $4 ({It was necessary to play} 11... Bxc3 $1 12. Bxc3 Qxd5 $13) 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bxb4 Qxf3 14. Rg1 Bf5 ({He had probably calculated} 14... Rxe3+ 15. fxe3 Qxe3+ {missing} 16. Qe2 $1 Qxg1 17. Qe8#) 15. Qe2 Qe4 16. Bc3 Bg6 17. Qc4 {1-0, Nakamura-Carlsen, GCT Rapid 2016}) 9. a3 Bd6 10. h3 Bd7 11. cxd5 exd5 12. Bd3 Na7 $5 $146 {The knight is heading for b5 and also vacating c6 for the pawn on c7.} 13. Qb3 {Targeting both d5 and b7.Karjakin takes calculated risks trying to refute Black's last move.} ({The sober} 13. O-O {would have kept it level.}) 13... c6 14. Qxb7 Nb5 15. Nxb5 {Magnus spent a lot of time over the next move till he settled on the safer} axb5 ({It was tempting to try and trap the queen with} 15... cxb5 $5 16. O-O ({If} 16. Rc1 Re7 {followed by...Be8 traps the queen.}) 16... Bc7 ({not} 16... Re7 $2 17. Ba5 $1) 17. Ne5 Rb8 18. Qa7 Bb6 19. Qxa6 Ra8 20. Qxa8 Qxa8 21. Nxd7 Nxd7 22. Bxb5 Qb7 {White has only a rook for the queen. But the passed pawns on the queenside are a potential threat. So it's very complicated according to Danny King.} 23. a4 Re6 24. b4 { Now Black can try and play for an attack on the king. But this is easier said than done.}) 16. Ne5 Rb8 {Short of time, Magnus opts for a draw.} ({After} 16... Bxe5 17. dxe5 Rxe5 18. Bc3 Re8 {a lot of play is still left in the position.}) (16... Rxe5 $5 17. dxe5 Bxe5 $44 {also deserves attention.}) 17. Qa6 Ra8 18. Qb7 Rb8 19. Qa6 Ra8 1/2-1/2

White has “only” a rook for the queen. But it is not easy to demonstrate a win for Black. As for the opening, Danny King suggests that Karjakin was influenced by his friend, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in his choice of the line. If you look at the analysis here White is on a slippery ground and a single slip would send him down the precipice.

Apart from the games from Bilbao this issue also carries games from Sinquefield (won by Wesley So) and Dortmund (won by Vachier-Lagrave). While they are important, I would ask readers not to give a miss to games from other events. The following example offers the final phase of an exciting game with the winner’s own commentary:

[Event "Biel Masters m 49th"] [Site "Biel"] [Date "2016.07.28"] [Round "3"] [White "Svidler, Peter"] [Black "Vachier Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B81"] [WhiteElo "2759"] [BlackElo "2798"] [Annotator "Vachier Lagrave,M"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1R6/3bk1p1/Q1p2np1/2N1p3/3pP3/P4q2/1PP5/1K6 b - - 0 30"] [PlyCount "15"] [EventDate "2016.07.25"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "4"] [EventCountry "SUI"] [SourceTitle "CBM 174"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2016.09.13"] 30... Nxe4 $1 (30... Qd1+ 31. Ka2 Qxc2 32. Qa7 Kd6 {would have been ok for Black as well, but the text move works just as well.}) 31. Nxd7 $4 {Falling for my trap. The main problem for White is that his knight is hindering his other pieces so that he doesn't have a check; meanwhile his king is defenceless against the Q and N combo.} (31. Nxe4 Qh1+ 32. Ka2 Qxe4 {would have been completely fine for Black, for instance after} 33. Qd3 $2 (33. Kb1 Qh1+ $11) 33... Qxd3 34. cxd3 g5 {and Black could actually win as the g-pawn runs fast.} 35. Kb1 g4 36. Rh8 Kf6 37. Kc2 g3 38. Rh1 Kg5 {being already completely won.}) (31. Qa5 Qd1+ 32. Ka2 Qxc2 33. Qd8+ Kd6 34. Qxd7+ Kxc5 35. Qa7+ Kc4 36. Qf7+ Kd3 37. Qf3+ $11) 31... Nd2+ $1 (31... Qd1+ 32. Ka2 Nd2 33. a4 $1 {was Peter's idea as his king gets out. Now I can't play} Qb1+ 34. Ka3 Qa1+ 35. Kb4 Qxb2+ 36. Kc5 Qc3+ 37. Kb6 {as White would just be getting out of checks and easily win against Black's lone king.}) 32. Ka2 (32. Kc1 Qe3 33. Kd1 (33. c3 d3 34. b4 Qe1+ 35. Kb2 Qb1#) 33... Nf3 34. Qa5 Qg1+ 35. Ke2 Qg2+ 36. Kd3 Qf1+ 37. Ke4 Qe2#) 32... Qd5+ $1 33. b3 (33. c4 dxc3+ 34. b3 Qe4 $19) (33. Rb3 Kxd7 34. Qa7+ Ke6 35. Qxg7 Kf5 {was Peter's last chance, but Black is very likely to win this.}) 33... Qh1 34. a4 Qb1+ 35. Ka3 Qa1+ 36. Kb4 Qc3+ {The point of my intermediate check on move 32.} 37. Ka3 Nb1+ {A fairly lucky win after having been under pressure for most of this game, but anyway a very intense fight right from the start with a lot of intricacies. This game also granted me victory in the overall match.} (37... Nb1+ 38. Ka2 Qxc2+ 39. Ka1 Nc3 {and mate is unavoidable.}) 0-1

This brings me to other sections of the Magazine. There are ten opening surveys ranging from Sicilian Najdorf to Slav Schlechter Variation. Among them I would single out Valeri Bronznik’s analysis of the Chigorin. It’s part of an ongoing series and very valuable for those wish to broaden their repertoire against queen pawn openings. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 (D07)

Apart from these surveys, there are regular exercises in opening traps, middle game tactics and endgame technique. In all, this DVD has 825 games of which 137 are analysed in detail. Tournament winners, Carlsen, Wesley So and Vachier-Lagrave have annotated one game each. Others include Emanuel Berg, Boris Gelfand and Michal Krasenkow, not to mention Suat Atalik who has annotated as many as 36 games.

This time I missed Telechess section. Hopefully the grandmasters would be back next time to present games from correspondence chess.

Recommended – more info on the DVD is here

The editor’s top ten

  1. “A fun game”: the world champion in person presents his rapid-fire attacking game against Wesley So in Bilbao. Carlsen-So
  2. The decisive game in Saint Louis: Wesley So shows how he outmanoeuvred his rival for tournament victory: So-Topalov
  3. Grandmaster against child prodigy: together with Simon Williams find the moves with which eleven year old Vincent Keymer outplayed GM Hertneck – „Move by Move“!
  4. Masterclass in Biel with “MVL”: the present No. 2 in the world explains in a video interview with Daniel King his win in the Najdorf over Caruana.
  5. Sneaky way in the King’s Indian: in his video GM Erwin l’Ami introduces you to the variation after 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 and brings you up-to-date with the latest theory.
  6. The poisoned bishop: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave explains the trick with which he caught out Peter Svidler in Biel: Svidler-Vachier Lagrave
  7. Mating attack out of nowhere: let Boris Gelfand show show you how he surprised European champion, Ernesto Inarkiev!
  8. “Opening Trends”: IM Langrock opens a new series and demonstrates the most important trends in the French Rubinstein Variation.
  9. Award your own exclamation marks! Conduct, together with Oliver Reeh, an attack with several hammer blows.
  10. WCh dress rehearsal: have Daniel King show you how the world champion dismantled Sergey Karjakin’s king position.

All opening articles in ChessBase Magazine #172

Krasenkow: English A20
1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6

With 2.g3 White would like to defer the development of the Nb1 to c3 so as to avoid ...Bb4. But then, according to Michal Krasenkow, Black can easily play 2...c6. The Polish grandmaster takes some ideas from the Alapin Variation in the Sicilian and presents a repertoire for Black.

Souleidis: Trompowsky Attack A45
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 e6 3.e4 c5

With 3...c5 (instead of the main move 3...h6) Georgios Souleidis presents a solid weapon against the Trompowsky Attack. White can try either 4.e5 or 4.d5, but the analyses show that Black has no need to fear the one or the other.

Reinke: Sicilian B20
1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.a3

In the second part of his article on the Wing Gambit the focus is on what according to Markus Reinke is the critical move: 3...e5. However, even in this line White can also obtain exciting positions with compensation for the pawn.

Postny: Sicilian B31
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.0-0 Bg7 6.Re1 Nh6 7.c3 0-0 8.h3

In the Rossolimo Variation the trend has of late been retuning to the recapture with the b-pawn. Since after that 8.d4 has not proved itself, White is now trying out the useful 8.h3. Evgeny Postny presents the latest results of his investigations.

Iotov: Sicilian B37
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Nc2 d6 7.Be2 Nf6 8.Nc3 0-0 9.0-0

According to Valentin Iotov the move 6.Nc3 has both advantages and disadvantages. Avoiding the exchange of pieces favours White, but he also clears the centre and allows ...Be6. But another thing in favour of the variation is that there is less theory to be learned.

Ris: Sicilian B38
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Be2 d6 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Qd2 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.f3 Nd7 13.Be3 a5 14.b3 Nc5 15.Rab1

With 15...e6 instead of the old main move 15...Qb6 Robert Ris pleads for a somewhat more active approach. If White does not know what he is doing, there are several ways he can immediately fall into a trap. Even with best play it is not clear whether White gets an advantage.

Stohl: Sicilian B94
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7

In the second part of his article on the popular sub-variation 6...Nbd7 Igor Stohl analyses above all queen moves for White. The most venomous is 7.Qe2 and so it receives the most attention. Despite a great analytical effort, Stohl considers Black to be under pressure.

Kuzmin: Four Knights Game C49
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 d6 7.Ne2

Nowadays one is satisfied with even a slight opening advantage, so the Four Knights Game is back in fashion. With 7.Ne2, according to Alexey Kuzmin White is intending Ng3, c3 and d4. Black should not miss the correct moment to play d6-d5.

Bronznik: Chigorin Defence D07
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3

In the closing fourth part of his series on the Chigorin Defence Valeri Bronznik examines the move 5.e3, which is not totally harmless. Black should then reply 5...Nf6 and retain the option of ...Bb4.

Marin: Slav Schlechter Variation D94
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 g6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Bd3 0-0 7.0-0 Bg4 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 e6

For Mihail Marin Vassily Smyslov is the greatest role model in this variation. The seventh world champion is represented in the database by 7 games. Anyone wishing to play this line should thoroughly check out whether it suits him or not.

Buy ChessBase Magazine 174 in the ChessBase Shop

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 more than a decade. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.
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Resistance Resistance 11/9/2016 07:21
I'd love to see Magnus opening with 1. e4, and playing those anti-Sicilian lines prof. N.H. here mentions. Karjakin might not feel that safe against Magnus in long, dry, quiet endgames (as those of the Berlin, for example). His best bet (Karjakin's) is, in my opinion, to try and engage Magnus into a tenser, more aggressive kind of battle. Ideally, into positions where Magnus natural talents yield to a certain extent to more urgent, or even irrational play. However, offensive, vigorous chess doesn't seem to be Sergey's cup of coffee; precision and mental stamina, do.

I hope we have a great match!


thrajin thrajin 11/8/2016 09:15
I'm envisioning Karjakin the theoretician vs. Carlsen the pragmatist. If Sergei can outbook Magnus and keep the games sharp, he has a chance. I wouldn't call Magnus's style dull, but it is tedious to play against. His ability to find resources, both offensive and defensive, in positions that seem uninteresting, is second to none.
algorithmy algorithmy 11/8/2016 08:12
Sergey is a fine player, but no way he is a match to Magnus the great!
karavamudan karavamudan 11/8/2016 06:35
Who cares what opening is played? Dull long games and Sergei loses due to sheer boredom
Scorpiontyra Scorpiontyra 11/8/2016 05:34
Carlsen is more talented in chess than anyone on Earth. Russians are believed to be with the strongest minds. It will be TALENT VS. MENTAL POWER championship. If Carlsen wins then talent is stronger than strong mentality.
clkauto clkauto 11/8/2016 05:25
Pain is guaranteed whenever Magnus plays, there will be no chess for sure.
koko48 koko48 11/8/2016 04:46
I predict....Pain