Football, cricket and chess, Magnus impresses

by Sagar Shah
11/24/2019 – Magnus Carlsen does not cease to impress. This time it was not just on the chess board! He was called as the guest of honour along with Vishy Anand to open the day two of the cricket test match between India and Bangladesh. In between rounds four and five, he entertained one and all with his football skills. Last but not the least, he was an absolute monster on the board as he completely outplayed Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri. His last game for the day was a draw against Vidit Gujrathi. Magnus now has a lead of three points with 10.0/12. He is followed by Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So. In this report we bring to you detailed analysis, pictures, videos from the National Library in Kolkata.

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.


It was a 'Magnusificent' day

At the end of day two of the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid, we have Magnus Carlsen as the leader with 10.0/12 (a win in rapid counts for two points). From the six rounds he has played, he has won four (against Nepomniachtchi, Aronian, Nakamura and Giri) and drew two (against Wesley So and Vidit). Carlsen is now three points ahead of his nearest rivals — the Americans Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura. One begins to wonder, how does Carlsen manage to do it? How is he able to show such a consistent performance, when all other players suffer from ups and downs?

Magnus Carlsen started day two (round four) with a win over Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Of course, Magnus is a tremendous player and his chess knowledge is unparalleled. However, he has also mastered the art of keeping himself in the best frame of mind for the game. After his fourth round win over Hikaru Nakamura, Magnus had around 30 minutes before the fifth round was about to begin. He would be facing his arch-rival Anish Giri. There is a player's resting area provided by the organizers and it is situated behind the playing hall. However, the place is small and stuffed. Besides Magnus always likes to get some air and exercise before the game.

Before the all-important final round at the Lindores Abbey tournament in Scotland, you could see Magnus going for a walk with his father Henrik Carlsen | Photo: Sagar Shah

It wouldn't have been wise to go for a walk on the busy streets of Kolkata. The National library, where the tournament is being held, has clean and green premises where Magnus could have got some fresh air. However, he needed something more energetic. Something which gets him pumped up for his game against Anish Giri. So, what does Magnus do?

He gets himself a football and starts playing with himself and the wall! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Video of Magnus showing some exemplary football skills!

For the football session Magnus did not wear his shoes nor his socks! It was one of those instances where you could feel that the World Champion is ready to wander out of his comfort zone to get himself in the best possible frame of mind. Maybe we shouldn't read too much into this small football playing session. After all Magnus loves to play the sport. However, as I stood there recording my video of Magnus dribbling the ball, all I could see was a man who felt that he was different from the rest. He didn't have to adhere to the set norms. He was free to do whatever he felt was right. Which other chess player do you think would have gone out on the balcony of the Bhasha Bhawan, which wasn't particularly clean, removed his footwear and started playing football with himself and the wall, as the fans stood in the distance shouting for autographs and journalists busy clicking away pictures! It's only Magnus who has the audacity as well as the courage to do this!

Back on the chess board, Magnus is a picture of concentration! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Sure enough, Magnus managed to outplay Giri from the black side of the Sicilian Rossolimo. The game was quite unique. It was quite difficult to understand where Anish had gone wrong. The pawn on e6 which looked a picture of strength, actually turned out to be a weakness and led to Giri's downfall. 


Magnus Carlsen's immaculate technique to beat Anish Giri

Anish's second Erwin l'Ami explains to Giri what his strategy should be for the following round game against Vishy Anand | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

It speaks volumes about Anish's ability to fight back when he was able to outplay Vishy Anand with the black pieces in an Italian Game | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Anand has been a tough opponent for Anish recently. As Giri mentioned after the game, it felt to pull one back. The game was a very high class encounter with both sides trying to play the waiting game. Anand was the first one to blink. Giri took advantage of it and managed to win a fine game. The entire analysis of the game can be seen in the video interview of Giri. We would like to show you a variation that was pointed out by Anish in his analysis. 


Anish wanted to win in a simple manner. He went 51...♞h4 and after 52.de3 xg2 Either the knight is coming to h4 or the rook will take on g2 and ♞e3+ would finish off the game. Vishy resigned after 52...xg2. After the game Anish said that he was tempted to play 51...♜b1 in the above position. Anand would then have to go 52.♖f2. But in case he took the rook, then the mate is very pretty after 52...♞f3+ 53.♔h1 and ♞g3#


How often do we get to see such a checkmate!

Anish Giri explains his win over Vishy Anand

Earlier in the day Magnus had played a fine game to beat Hikaru Nakamura. From a well-known English position, Nakamura decided to play something off beat, something which Magnus may not have prepared before. It wasn't particularly a great idea as Carlsen got a pleasant opening position, kept on building his edge and finished off the game with his customary precision. 

Magnus stood up from the chair and Hikaru made his move, so Carlsen made his next move without sitting back! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour


Magnus Carlsen vs Hikaru Nakamura

In the last round for the day Magnus was up against the wildcard entrant Vidit Gujrathi. The Tarrasch Defence chosen by the World Champion, was the perfect opening for Vidit to get a risk-free edge from White. Very soon, the Indian GM also won a pawn. It seemed like he would be able to put Carlsen under some strong pressure. But the World Champion made his moves quickly and confidently, putting Vidit under pressure. The game was eventually drawn. 

Vidit Gujrathi was able to put a lot of pressure on Magnus Carlsen in the sixth round | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour


Magnus Carlsen has a solid three point lead over rest of the field

Vidit has played well until now and has suffered only one loss. In the rest of the games he has been solid and is currently on 5.0/12 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In round 5, Vidit Gujrathi played a solid game against Wesley So with the black pieces and interestingly in this encounter they reached an ending after 32 moves where both sides had eight pawns intact on the board. It seemed quite obviously drawish at first but the subsequent pawn breaks revealed to be quite tricky as both players lost their way in the mutual complications.


The final mistake in a topsy-turvy ending. How can White exploit Black's 51...♛d7?

The correct move in the above position would have been 51...♛e6 (instead of f7-d7) which intends to keep an eye on the strong central pawns from the critical d5 square. But 51...d7 allowed 52.♕d3 b2 53.b3 c6 54.xb2 after which clearly the white pawns on c and d-files were looking like monsters.


Wesley So is now in the joint second position along with Hikaru Nakamura on 7.0/12 | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The only player who could match Carlsen's speed on day two was Wesley So. He had a slow start on day one, losing to Vishy Anand, but he came back strongly on the second day by beating Ding Liren first, and then Vidit Gujrathi. Even in the final round for the day he was better against Ian Nepomniachtchi, but couldn't convert it into a win. Here's a nice position from his game against Ding Liren.


Ding Liren is not in the best form and played 36.♖c8+ ♚h7 37.♖e8. He completely missed that Wesley could simply take on e5 - 37...♜xe5 38.♖xe5 f6! when Black wins a piece and the game. But then how do you save yourself in the above position. Isn't your knight on e5 pinned? Well, the solution is the elegant 36.g6! The subtle point being that after 36...fxg6 37.♔xe4 ♜xe5+ 38.♔d4 ♜e6 39.♔d5! White is winning. The point of g6 becomes clear. The rook on e6 is no longer defended!


Ding Liren has been shaky, not at all like himself | Photo: Amruta Mokal

But usually all that a player like Ding needs is a win and this he scored against Nepo in round five. So the chances of him making a comeback on day three are bright!

Vishy Anand managed to clinch a strong victory in the fourth round of the event against Levon Aronian when the latter lost the thread of his play after making a powerful start initially.

Levon Aronian did not manage to convert the promising position he had and in fact even lost the thread and slumped to a defeat | Photo: Amruta Mokal


What would you do here if you were in Black's shoes?

Well, obviously the knight on g6 is en prise but merely moving it away from the threat doesn't solve Black's problems. For instance, after 34...♞e7 35.♕g4 ♜g8 36.♖e5 White only piles up more pressure. Levon therefore decided here to part away with his knight on g6 in order to win two pawns. To this end, 34..hxg3 35.xf6 xf6 36.fxg6 xg6 was played but this only led to another undesirable position on board.

The best move in this position would have been 34...c3 and now the same idea with fxg6 doesn't work as the c-pawn has started to roll down the board. After 35.♕c5 ♜f7, Black starts to put up a decent fight in the game taking advantage of his well advanced c-pawn.


Anand vs Aronian

In the final round of the day, Harikrishna Pentala started off with a dynamic Catalan against Hikaru Nakamura with the white pieces. But as the game progressed the Indian Grandmaster ended up overestimating his position and went completely on the offensive without paying much heed to his opponent's counter chances. The ever alert Hikaru took this in his stride and turned the tables with some sparkling tactical fireworks after move 32.


The ambitious move 32.g6 by Harikrishna represents the way he handled the latter part of the game. At first glance it seems White can launch an attack on Black's king but in reality it is actually the other way round.

Simply exchanging off the queens with 32.♕xc7 would have offered better resistance but the game continuation allowed Black to arrange a devious attack. Hikaru played 32...♛f7 33.h5 ♜c2 and now his pieces were much faster which became very apparent in the next two moves with 34.d8+ h7 35.f8 xg2+. You can count on Hikaru finishing off his opponents cleanly in such positions.


Nakamura is in joint second position along with Wesley So after day two of the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid 2019 | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Earlier in the day, Harikrishna played a gem of a game against Nepomniachtchi | Photo: Amruta Mokal


Everything is hanging! How did Harikrishna find the best way to an advantage?


Photo Gallery

Excellent arrangements made by the organizers of the event. Especially pleasing is to see the players' banners at the bottom of the stage! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The fight between two tail-enders was won by Ding Liren | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The first move of the day was made on Carlsen's board | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy Anand usually comes wearing a blazer, but removes and places it over his chair during the game | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The game between two friends Anish Giri and Vidit Gujrathi ended in a draw, but it wasn't at all peaceful. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The daily press conference was attended by Wesley So and Vidit Gujarathi along with the tournament director Jeroen van Den Berg | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The fans stand in a nice queue for their favourite players to arrive, so that they can get an autograph or a selfie | Photo: Amruta Mokal

However, all hell breaks loose when Vishy Anand arrives! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In what can be dubbed as a historic moment for sports in India, two chess players rang the opening bell for a cricket match! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

At the Eden Gardens, one of the most famous cricket stadiums in India, the first day and night test match for India is being held. The Indian team is taking on Bangladesh. Now cricket in India is a big deal! You have millions of people following the match. It was a fine moment for chess fans to see two of the greatest players ever - Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen ring the opening bell for day two of the test match. On day one, this task had been done by Mamta Banerjee, CM of West Bengal and Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh.

Magnus is not too well versed with cricket. But he is interested in just about every sport and cricket was no exception! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Can Wesley continue his victorious run on day three and give Magnus a run for his money? | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

After Anish and Vidit drew their game in round four, it was fine for Vidit to seek some advice from Giri's second. Erwin, of course, is also a good friend of Vidit! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Time to collect the mobile phones again! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Can you guess who this player is? | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Standings after round 6


Replay all games



Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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