Karsten Müller analyses a Magnus Carlsen masterpiece

by Karsten Müller
2/1/2021 – For chess fans, the fact that the Tata Steel tournament was played over-the-board with a classical time control meant the return of high-quality games by the strongest players in the world. In the final round, world champion Magnus Carlsen showed what he is capable of in his game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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Mighty Magnus

The Tata Steel chess tournament came to an end on Sunday, with Jorden van Foreest clinching the title after a thrilling finale

For chess fans, the fact that the event was played over-the-board with a classical time control meant the return of high-quality games by the strongest players in the world. Although rapid and blitz games provide a large amount of entertainment value, it is very unlikely for players to explore the nuances of complex endgames with little time on their clocks.

Numerous endgame struggle were seen in Wijk aan Zee. In the final round, world champion Magnus Carlsen showed what he is capable of in his game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. An Alpha Zero-style victory for the best player in the world allowed to finish a rather disappointing tournament on a high note.

[Feel free to try your own variations on the interactive diagrams below!]


Carlsen, M. (2862) - Vachier-Lagrave,M. (2784)
83rd Tata Steel Masters 2021
[Karsten Müller]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Qa4+ Qd7 8.Qa3 b6 9.Nf3 c5 10.Be3 0-0 11.Rd1 cxd4 12.cxd4 Qd6 13.Qxd6 exd6 14.Rc1 Bb7 15.Bd3 Nc6 16.Kd2 Rac8 17.h4 Nb4 18.Bb1

 

The World Champion won in the last round in Alpha Zero-style. 

18...Rce8? This seems to be a mistake. Black’s position is difficult in any case.

[The computer prefers 18...d5 19.e5 Rxc1 20.Rxc1 Rc8 with drawing chances.]

19.a3 Nc6 20.Ba2!

 

20...Rxe4? This sacrifice definitely goes too far.

[20...Re7 21.h5 Rfe8 22.h6 Bf8 is preferable. But the nail in the coffin on h6 is still annoying. After Alpha Zero won so many games with this rook’s pawn advance it is more often used also in human games than in the old days.]

21.Bd5 Na5 22.Bxe4 Bxe4 23.Rc7 a6 24.h5 b5 25.h6

 

The nail in the coffin.

25...Bf6 26.Bg5

 

26...Bh8

[26...Bxf3 27.Bxf6 Bxg2 28.Re1+- does not help. The opposite coloured bishops even strengthen White’s attack.]

27.Rh4 Bd5

 

28.Kc3?!

[28.Be7!? was more precise according to the computer, e.g. 28...Nc4+ 29.Rxc4 Bxc4 30.Bxf8 Kxf8 31.Rf4 Bd5 32.Ng5 Kg8 33.g4+-]

28...Nc4?!

[28...Nc6!? was more tenacious, but after 29.Ne1 a5 30.Nc2 White has good chances to win in the long run.]

29.Nd2!

 

Magnus plans to exchange Black's active knight. Then his d-pawn or his attack will decide the day.

29...Nxa3 30.Kb4 Nc4 31.Nxc4 Bxc4 32.Be7

 

32...Re8

[32...Ra8 33.Ka5+-]

33.Rf4

[33.Bxd6 wins as well.]

 

33...f5

[33...d5 does not help due to 34.Bf6 Bxf6 35.Rxf6 Rf8 36.Rxa6+-]

34.g4

 

34...Kf7

[34...Rxe7 35.Rxe7 Bf6 36.Re8+ Kf7 37.gxf5 Kxe8 38.fxg6 Bh8 39.g7+-]

35.Bxd6+ Ke6 36.Bc5

 

36...Bf6

[36...Kf6 37.Rf3 Kg5 38.gxf5 gxf5 39.Rg3+ Kxh6?! 40.Bd6+-]

37.gxf5+ gxf5 38.Rc6+ Kf7 39.Rxf5 Re6 40.d5

 

A really impressive performance by the World Champion in Alpha Zero-style!

[40.d5 Bxd5 41.Rc7+ Kg6 42.Rxd5+-] 1-0


 

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.


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Karsten Müller, born 1970, has a world-wide reputation as one of the greatest endgame experts. He has, together with Frank Lamprecht, written a book on the subject: “Fundamental Chess Endgames” in addition to other contributions such as his column on the website ChessCafe as well as in ChessBase Magazine. Müller's ChessBase-DVDs about endgames in Fritztrainer-Format are bestsellers. The PhD in mathematics lives in Hamburg, where he has also been hunting down points for the HSK in the Bundesliga for many years.

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