World Champion against amateurs

by Johannes Fischer
11/24/2019 – Magnus Carlsen recently resigned from the Norwegian Chess Federation, but continues to play in the Second Norwegian League for his newly founded club Offerspill. So far, the world champion has played twice and — not surprisingly — won twice. Both games were one-sided, but still interesting. | Photo: Lennart Ootes (archive)

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Magnus Carlsen in the 2nd league

Many games by famous positional players like Capablanca, from today's perspective, lack a bit of drama. Again and again you see how Capablanca plays the opening unpretentiously, gains a small advantage seemingly effortlessly, and bags the victory. Such games are not as hard fought as most modern grandmaster games, but they illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of certain strategic motives with a clarity that is rare today.

Away from any live cameras, a week before heading to India, Magnus Carlsen took the opportunity to play in the Norwegian Second League, first against a young player Andreas Garberg Tryggestad, born in 2002. The world champion produced a one-sided, yet instructive win.


How do you play against stronger players?

Inge Sandstad Skrondal, Carlsen's opponent in the second game has an Elo rating of 2311, so to say he's an underdog against the 2870-rated world champion is an understatement. But how to approach such a game? If you play main-line theory as an outsider, you're surely on terrain your opponent knows far better and probably has thoroughly researched. However, you also put the stronger player under more pressure because — if he wants to win — he has to avoid lines which are excessively drawish. A practical advantage of this is that the stronger player probably knows much better what lines to avoid, and therefore may sometimes choose objectively weaker options just to unbalance the position.

But Skrondal decided on a different approach against Carlsen. Although he had the white pieces, he took his chances in a sideline. While perhaps the greater theoretical knowledge of the super-GM is neutralized, this approach has other dangers — as is evident in the game.


After these two wins, Carlsen has been unbeaten for 103 consecutive classical games.

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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