SuperUnited Croatia: Carlsen finds stunning move, climbs in the standings

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/8/2023 – Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana are tied in first place after nine rounds of rapid chess at the Grand Chess Tour in Zagreb. Former co-leader Vishy Anand failed to keep up with his colleagues, as he was defeated by Dommaraju Gukesh in their first-ever official confrontation. With 18 rounds of blitz to go, the one player standing a single point behind the leaders is Magnus Carlsen, who impressed on Friday by ending the rapid section with two consecutive, remarkable wins. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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The one winning move

Magnus Carlsen is known for being a slow starter and for improving his form as tournaments develop. In Zagreb, the Norwegian won twice and lost twice in the first two days of action, as he stood two points behind the co-leaders entering the last three rounds of rapid. On Friday, though, he got himself in position to fight for tournament victory in the blitz.

Carlsen beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Constantin Lupulescu in rounds 8 and 9 to become the only player standing a point behind co-leaders Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi. 

His round-8 victory over Duda was surely impressive, as he found a stunning move in the following position — crucially, all other moves lose for White here!

Black is attacking the rook on c1, while in case of 20.Rc8+ Kd7 21.Rxh8, he counts with 21...Qe1+ 22.Kg2 Qxf2 23.Kh3 Qf1+ 24.Kg4 Qf5#.

But White is winning. And Carlsen, after thinking for a bit under two minutes, found the stunning reply that leaves him with a clearly superior position — he was double-checking his previous calculations surely, as he would not have entered this line otherwise. 

There followed 20.Bg5, defending the rook on c1 from a square under attack from two sides! After 20...Nxg5, White can safely play 21.Rc8+ Ke7 22.Rxh8, gaining the exchange.

More precise manoeuvres were required for White to win the game, but Carlsen did not falter. Ten moves later, Duda resigned.

Grand Chess Tour 2023

Many spectators at the playing hall in Zagreb | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Lupulescu 0 - 1 Carlsen

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Another incredible tactical idea appeared in Carlsen’s next game, except that it was his opponent, Lupulescu, who had the chance to impress — and the Romanian, in fact, failed to find the move that would have saved the draw in a rook v knight endgame. Carlsen thus scored his second consecutive victory.

Dommaraju Gukesh, Viswanathan Anand

Gukesh defeated Vishy Anand in their first-ever official confrontation | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Final standings - Rapid (win = 2 pts; draw = 1 pt)

All games


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.