Monday, August 22, 2016

A World Championship "Prequel": Bilbao 2016

Today, we will focus on a game between the two upcoming candidates for the World Chess Championship: Carlsen and Karjakin. Their recent encounter in Bilbao was the first of many prior to November.

In Round 3 of Bilbao 2016, Carlsen defeated Karjakin after the latter weakened his kingside and underestimated a powerful attack. Let us see how the Norwegian grandmaster executes his plans in the game.

"I should let him win, then wipe him out in November"

Carlsen. Magnus vs Karjakin, Sergei
Bilbao Masters 2016

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. c3 Nf6
4. Be2 g6

4... Nxe4 5. Qa4+ wins the knight.

5. O-O Bg7
6. Bb5+ Nc6
7. d4 Qb6

Black still can't take on d5: 7... Nxe4 8. d5 a6 9. Ba4 b5 10. Bc2 either knight will be lost.

8. Ba4 cxd4
9. cxd4 O-O
10. d5 Nb8

To relocate the knight via Nd7-Ne5-Nc4, but better could have been achieved via Na5: 10... Na5 11. Nc3 Nc4 a faster route to c4.

11. Nc3 Bg4
12. h3 Bxf3
13. Qxf3 Nbd7

Black has given up his light squared bishop to weaken his opponent's control over the dark squares. Now the e5 square is a good spot for his knight.

14. Rb1 Rfc8 (D)

Position after 14... Rfc8

Black plans to use the c-file and his control of the dark squares to help him on the queenside. The g7 bishop can be a very strong supporter.

15. Bc2 Ne5
16. Qe2 Nfd7
17. Bg5

Creating complications for Black. Also good is} 17. Kh1 followed by f4 kicking the knight and starting a kingside attack.

17... h6

17... Bf6 18. Bxf6 Nxf6 was another possibility, but Karjakin wouldn't be very willing to part with his dark squared bishop.

18. Bh4

18. Bxe7 g5 trapping the bishop with unecessary complications which Carlsen wishes to avoid.

18... g5!? (D)

Position after 18... g5

Karjakin plans to meet a future f4 push with a pawn exchange. The problem with his past two moves, however, are that they weaken the light squares around his kingside. This will turn out to be his undoing later on.

19. Bg3 Qa6
20. Qd1

Carlsen doesn't want to trade queens since he is preparing to attack the kingside.

20... Rc4

A suggested alternative was 20... Nc4 which opens the diagonal for the bishop. After 21. Bd3 Nc5 22. Be2 b5 the resulting position is unclear. While Black is able to attack first, White still has the threat of f4 up his sleeve.

21. Kh1

A bit of prophylaxis before starting the attack.

21... Rac8
22. f4 gxf4
23. Bxf4 (D)

Position after 23. Bxf4

Note Black's kingside is becoming weaker.

23... Qb6

Can Black find counterplay on the other wing? I thought 23... b5 would have been more active; 24. Bb3 (24. Qh5? b4 winning a piece.) 24... R4c5 25. Qh5 Nf6 26. Qf5 Nc4 where the attack on opposite wings makes this a true, hot-blooded fight.

24. Qh5 Nf6
25. Qf5

Emphasizing White's strength around the light squares. How can Black evict the queen?

25... Qd8
26. Bb3

White wouldn't want 26. Bxe5 dxe5 27. Qxe5 Nxe4 where the discovered attack on his queen leads to difficulties.

26... Rd4

Black keeps the rook on the 4th rank to put pressure on e4.

27. Bxe5!

Eliminating Black's most active piece.

27... dxe5
28. Rbd1 Qd7
29. Qf3 Rb4?

I didn't like this move, I thought Black was better off trading rooks to remove some of White's attacking strength: 29... Rxd1 30. Rxd1 b5 slowing down the attack and fighting back on the queenside.

30. Rd2 Rf8
31. g4! (D)

Position after 31. g4

Carlsen goes all out. His rooks are ready to swing to the g-file.

31... a5
32. Rg2 Nh7

Temporarily stopping g5, but White simply continues...

3. h4 Rb6

Not a nice prospect but Black needs to muster every piece to defend.

34. g5 Kh8
35. Rfg1 f5?

This only hastens the defeat. 35... Rg6 would have held out longer, White can't push either pawn so Carlsen will need to find a longer method, maybe 36. Ne2 bringing in more attackers. (36. gxh6 Bxh6 37. Rxg6 fxg6 or 36. h5? Nxg5 both variations land White's queen in trouble.)

36. Qh3! Rb4
37. gxh6 Bxh6
38. Qg3

Threatening mate on g8. The game is as good as over.

38... Nf6
39. Qg6 Ng4
40. Rxg4 (D)

Position after 40. Rxg4

40. Rxg4 fxg4 41. Qxh6+ Kg8 42. Qg6+ Kh8 43. Qh5+ Kg8 44. Rxg4+ Black must lose the queen to avoid mate.

Looks like Karjakin will have a lot to prepare for in the upcoming World Championship!


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