Wednesday, January 11, 2017

World Chess Championship 2016 Highlights: Part 3

It's already 2017 and I am still looking at highlights from last year's world championship! Looks like the games never get old.

Today we will look at 2 decisive games in the classical rounds: Rounds 8 and 10. In Round 8, Karjakin managed to obtain an advantage against Carlsen, and calmly defended against the Norwegian's counterplay. He missed two chances to turn the game decisively in his favour, but found a third-- and most spectacular-- opportunity, which was more than enough.

For the first time in WCC history, Carlsen was lagging behind

We join in at move 19, where Karjakin had his first chance:

Game 1, Position 1 after 19. Ndb5

Carlsen, playing as White, had pulled most of his pieces to the first rank, leaving outposts for his knights on b5 and c4. He has very good plans on the queenside, including a potential b4 push. The problem is that this leaves his kingside relatively undefended, so Black should try to push for counterplay on that wing.

Karjakin replied with the perfectly safe move 19... Bc6. However, many felt that he should have considered the aggressive 19... Qg5!, which creates a minefield by taking advantage of White's neglected kingside. If White doesn't tread carefully, he could very well blow himself up.

And hopefully the enemy blows up with him (Image from Wiki)

With this opportunity missed, both sides exchanged into the endgame:

Game 1, Position 2 after 37. Qd6

White has given up two pawns to obtain play against the enemy king. If Black can stave off the attack and consolidate he should have a lasting advantage. Accurate play is needed, and the best move here was 37... Qa4! preparing to jump back to d7.

Instead, Karjakin blundered under time trouble with 37... Qd3, giving Carlsen excellent drawing chances via tactics. White continued 38. Nxe6+! exploiting the overloaded black knight, before pushing e4 to cut the enemy queen off from the defense.

While Carlsen could have salvaged a draw from his opponent's mistake, he instead continued pressing for a win, finally arriving at our third position:

Game 1, Position 3 after 51. Qe6

In the closing shots of this tough battle, White seems to be holding out well with his queen keeping the a3 pawn in check. But Black has a very simple, very silent move that places his opponent in zugzwang... and Karjakin found it.
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After 51... h5!!, whatever response White makes opens him up to the dual threats ... Ng4+ and ... a2. Amazingly, he has no way to get a perpetual despite Black's vulnerable king! Carlsen resigned after a couple more moves, making it the first time in WCC history he was lagging behind in points.

We show the full game in all its glory below:





Karjakin's victory in game 8 meant that Carlsen only had 4 more rounds to even the score. He promptly did that two games later.

For most of Game 10 it had been a typical scenario we saw throughout the match: Carlsen having a slightly better position, and Karjakin defending it. Only this time, Carlsen found the correct path to convert his advantage, and the Russian finally cracked under the pressure.

Curiously, Karjakin had a chance in the middlegame to force a draw:

Game 2, Position 1 after 18... Be6

Both sides had just finished development, but have yet to find concrete plans for the middlegame. Carlsen proceeded with a dubious 19. Bxe6? doubling Black's pawns, but opened the f-file and gave his opponent a drawing chance-- something the Norwegian doesn't want since he has to fight for a win!

After 19... fxe6 20. Nd2, Karjakin could opt for 20... Nxf2+, where Carlsen's best option would be to accept a perpetual check. Instead, he played 20... d5 after not much thought, revealing that he had missed out on certain lines within ... Nxf2 during the press conference.

Both sides traded into the endgame, where Carlsen had more active pieces and more space to maneuver them. He probed Karjakin's defenses for nearly 20 moves, arriving at the following position:

Game 2, Position 2 after 43. a5

It isn't difficult to infer that Magnus still retains his edge. He has pawn breaks b5 and g4 on opposite wings, and his greater space control means he can quickly relocate pieces from one wing to another to support either advance.

But Karjakin is holding out well, so Carlsen has to hold off from playing any premature breakthrough. He kept the Russian guessing on which pawn would advance by shifting his pieces back and forth for a few more moves:

Game 2, Position 3 after 56. Rb1

And at move 56, Karjakin slipped after a long and tiring defense. He continued 56... Rhh7?, cutting his rooks off from the queenside. Sensing the time was ripe, Carlsen pounced with 57. b5! and suddenly Black's position was falling apart.

As White was on the verge of crashing through, Karjakin had to sacrifice a pawn to obtain counterplay, trading down to our next and final position:

Game 2, Position 4 after 68.  Rxd6

... where Karjakin could still have kept up some resistance with 68... Kc7 followed by 69... Rb5 denying his opponent the 5th rank. But after 68... Re3? Carlsen occupied the 5th rank with his rook, before bringing his king in to finish things off.

Enough blabbering, it is time to show the full game:

Just like that, the Norwegian evened the score 5-5, and with 2 games left to go the match was still wide open. We will analyze a couple more games between these two giants in the 4th and final part of this series!

Links:
Part 1: http://nushsblackknights.blogspot.com/2016/12/world-chess-championship-2016.html
Part 2: http://nushsblackknights.blogspot.com/2016/12/world-chess-championship-2016_17.html
Part 3: http://nushsblackknights.blogspot.com/2017/01/world-chess-championship-2016.html
Part 4: http://nushsblackknights.blogspot.com/2017/01/world-chess-championship-2016_30.html

Sources:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD5IEb_PKlc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdmCuc-SZok
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqiir1shB-Q
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIjvkZ2EWbY
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=537224

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