Superbet Poland: Carlsen on a rampage, wins five games in a row

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/25/2023 – Magnus Carlsen ended the first day of blitz at the Superbet Poland tournament with five consecutive wins, thus climbing to sole second place a half point behind Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Duda scored 4½ points to remain atop the standings, as he collected three wins, three draws and three losses on Wednesday. Wesley So stands in third place, merely a half point behind Carlsen. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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“It’s anyone’s game”

Find expert commentary — video and game annotations — by well-known coach and author IM Robert Ris at the end of the article.

After scoring six wins, two draws and a single loss on Wednesday, Magnus Carlsen climbed to sole second place at the Superbet Rapid & Blitz tournament in Warsaw. The former world champion finished the first day of blitz with five consecutive wins, and now stands merely a half point behind sole leader Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who came from winning the rapid section with 13/18 points.

Duda scored 4½/9 points on day 4 of the competition, collecting three wins, three draws and three losses to remain atop the standings. In his final game of the day, he lost with black against Carlsen. Luckily for the spectators, the Duda vs Carlsen clash will also be played in the final round on Thursday, in what is likely to be a deciding confrontation.

Carlsen’s second half of the day could not have gone better, but things did not get off to such an optimal start. After beating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 1 of the blitz, Carlsen went on to lose with black against Wesley So. An optimistic So, who stands in sole third place behind Carlsen, later told Cristian Chirila:

It’s been an interesting day for me. Obviously I’m very happy to beat Magnus. [...] Maybe he should thank me, actually, because he got very motivated after [I beat him].

Carlsen, on his part, confessed that he felt rather surprised by his strong performance, noting that he focused on not paying attention to the tournament situation throughout the day:

I made a conscious effort not to look at the standings all day, partly because it’s nicer to look at it when you’re doing well. Obviously now it’s anyone’s game.

Carlsen and So are not the only two players with realistic chances of winning the event after the final nine rounds of 5-minute games, as Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — fourth and fifth in the standings, respectively — are also within a 2-point distance from the leader. It’s anyone’s game, indeed!

Wesley So

Wesley So beat Magnus Carlsen in round 2 of the blitz | Photo: Lennart Ootes

A special birthday gift: the Danish Gambit

Peter Heine Nielsen, a remarkable analyst who helped both Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen to win World Championship matches, turned 50 years old on Wednesday. As per Nielsen’s request, Carlsen played the Danish Gambit: a special gift to his long-time assistant and friend (Nielsen was born in Holstebro, Denmark).

It was Aronian who had to face Carlsen’s offbeat opening in round 8.

The Danish Gambit is characterized by the starting moves 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3. Aronian reacted by playing actively at first — although later he was the one offering a queen swap while already a pawn down.

Insisting on playing actively with 16...Rhe8 is the way to go here, as White is clearly behind in development. Instead, defending the f-pawn by offering a trade of queens via 16...Qf6 simply helps White to improve his position.

Carlsen gladly traded queens and went on to showcase his proficient technique to score his fourth consecutive win of the day (out of five).

Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian stands only 1½ points behind the leader | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Computers shouting “Mate in 15!”

Garry Kasparov is in Warsaw, and often joins the commentary webcast to share his thoughts on the games. An active Twitterer, Kasparov later shared the following reflection:

Chess players today are stronger than ever, but they also have to live with computers shouting “Mate in 15!” online making everyone think it’s easy!

He was referring to Carlsen’s round-7 game against Anish Giri. Before beating Aronian, Carlsen had defeated Giri with the black pieces. Giri, however, could have stopped the Norwegian’s streak in a sharp middlegame.

Carlsen had just played the natural-looking — especially for a blitz game — 36...Nf6, attacking the queen on e8. As engines quickly show, though, this was a major blunder. White has mate-in-15 starting with 37.Ne7!

Given the difficulty of the position and the potentially high cost of faltering in such a sharp setup, Giri missed this chance and went for 37.Qxa4 instead — which, by the way, keeps a big advantage for White.

As it turned out, however, Giri went on to give up his advantage and then blundered decisively on move 48.

With 48.Qa2, the white queen went from being under attack on e2 to also being under attack on a2. Carlsen grabbed the loose piece with 48...Nxa2 and Giri resigned.

Blitz chess is always tough — more so with an army of engines letting everyone know that you have just made a fatal mistake!

Anish Giri, Magnus Carlsen

The dramatic round-7 game has just ended! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Current standings

Superbet Chess Poland 2023

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.