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Shamkir 2019 Round 2: Magnus Carlsen plays a very instructive rook endgame to beat Vishy Anand

by Tanmay Srinath - 02/04/2019

When Magnus has an advantage, it is always a pleasure to see his games. Because the way he converts these advantageous positions into a win is definitely something to learn from. In the second round of the Shamkir super tournament Carlsen was up against Vishy Anand. The position was around even, but Anand made one small error after another and very quickly landed in a lost rook endgame. As is the case with all rook endgames, the win was not so clear for Carlsen. But the World Champion showed impressive technique and confidently took home the full point. In this article we tell you all about Carlsen's magnificent technique. Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin were the other winners of the day beating Grischuk and Giri respectively. A detailed round 2 report by Tanmay Srinath.

Carlsen vs Anand, Round 2

If you were White in this position, in Carlsen's shoes, what would you play?

There are many ways to play here as White. However, the way Magnus played, it shows his absolute control over the endgame.

He pushed his pawn to a7!

We know that such a move can be extremely dangerous because now the white king will have no hiding spot behind his own pawn. However, there is also an upside. If you are sure that your king can create play on the kingside on his own, then this move makes perfect sense because the black rook is now tied up to the a-pawn. As the d5 pawn is isolated, Magnus has seen that he can bring his king to d4, put Black in zugzwang and then win the game! Not so clear yet? Well, let the World Champion himself explain to you.

First Anand gives his side of the story, and then Carlsen gets down to analyzing why he made the move a7

It wouldn't be wrong to say that Magnus Carlsen is the greatest Endgame player ever seen by the game of chess! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Carlsen – Anand:

It was a great day in the life of this young boy! He shook hands with two people who ruled the world of chess since last 12 years! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

"Vishy is still very strong, but sometimes he suffers from lack of concentration and you could see that today." That's how Magnus described Anand's current strength as a chess player in the press conference after the game. In any tournament that features Carlsen battling versus Anand headlines that particular round. With Magnus having a better head to head against Vishy, I was eager to see how things would go today.

Clash of the Titans! Carlsen - Anand in progress. Anish is keen to see what new opening idea Magnus or Vishy have up their sleeve! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

No surprises here – Vishy goes for his equalising weapon in the 5.Bf4 Queens Gambit Declined. A solid option which was tested very seriously last year at the Sinquefield Cup. 

After the last move by Anand, we are already in uncharted territory. White has a little something here, as d5 is weaker than c3, but as Anand shows, it’s nothing much.

At this point, Anand mentions in the press conference that the clearest way to equalize here is with 25…Qc5!, and Magnus has nothing better than to accept a draw. This is the first minor inaccuracy of the game. Anand played Qc3 here instead of Qc5.

The clearest way to make the draw is by playing Ra3!, attacking the pawn from behind. But instead, Vishy played Rc5?, which is already a big mistake, since White can play a6! and suddenly Black has no clear way to equalize.

This was the last chance for Vishy (as he himself says) - he had to play Bc8, and survive some torture after Rb8 g6!, but the position holds. Instead he immediately played g6? Magnus didn’t give him a second chance after that.

It was an uncharacteristic loss for Anand who usually doesn't waste much time in bringing such equal positions to their logical result | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Winning equal positions, giving instructive lessons in the press conference, posing with fans after the game - Magnus is on a roll in Shamkir! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Ding Liren – Grischuk

Another fascinating encounter was on the cards here – two in-form players facing each other. It was a thrilling game, to say the least. 

Alexander Grischuk faced the Chinese wall - the super solid Ding Liren | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Ding started 1.d4, 2.c4 and 3.f3, hoping for a Grunfeld from Black. Instead, Grischuk turned it into a Modern Benoni, an opening that he used with quite some success in the Candidates 2018. The game entered the tabiya of the Kapengut system, a rather slow and methodical way for White to build up against the Benoni. However, as we shall soon see, it is not so effective, as it allows Black a few clear chances to equalize.

Here is the first critical point in the game. Instead of the game move Nd7(?!), Alexander could have solved all his problems with Ng4!, a counterattacking move in the spirit of the opening he has chosen. It is Ding who has to be careful now, as Black has already equalized, and frankly, I prefer his position here.

Having said A, you must say B. Here, the position screams for Nd3!, a move that doesn’t give clear cut equality, but a fighting game with mutual chances (White is slightly better though). Grischuk instead played the far weaker Nb3?, allowing White to favourably sacrifice the exchange here with Rxb3!, getting a clearly better position.

In time trouble Ding has lost nearly all his advantage, but he has practically the easier position to play here. Grischuk here missed a chance to maintain dynamic equilibrium with Nf6! Bc1 Ra2!, and instead played Bd4, condemning himself to a tough defense.

Black missed Qe5! gaining mutual chances on account of White’s exposed King.  After this miss, Sasha blundered a few moves later, and Ding took home the full point.

It is quite possible that Ding Liren, who is on 2812, will surpass Fabiano Caruana (2816), and become World no.2 by the end of this event | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Giri- Karjakin:

Anish Giri had the white pieces against Sergey Karjakin | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Giri had the White pieces for the second game running, and he decided to repeat the Quiet Italian that brought him a huge advantage in the previous round against Topalov. Sergey varied a bit, and we reached quite an interesting position after the opening. The Quiet Italian didn’t quite produce a quiet maneuvering game as we all expected.

Here, Sergey played a5!?, moving the same pawn twice in the opening without completing development. While the engines approve, I don’t see the necessity for this move, and suggest instead that Black should look to complete development with Re8.

Sergey’s previous decision of Qc8?! is a little questionable, and after Re7 here Giri started concrete play in the center with e5! Sergey's plan of a5?!, Qc8?! and Re7 don’t do much against Giri’s simple expansion policy. White is clearly better here.

Here Anish missed a clear cut win with Bxh6!!, shattering the Black defenses. All of White’s pieces are involved in the attack, while two of Black’s  heavy pieces are dormant on c8 and a8. Kasparov or Tal wouldn’t have hesitated with Nh4? here as Anish did in the game.

Once a clear win has been missed, a player starts to flounder. Here Giri had to already think about equalising with Rd3! Followed by Nd4. Instead g4?? Was a horrible overestimation of the position. White simply can’t afford to weaken his king that way, and Anish’s expected slow burner attack turned into a defensive nightmare for him.

Sergey played it safe with g6? Whereas g5!! (a purely engine like defence, not only guarding h7 along the 7th rank,but also hinting at a Black attack on the kingside)  wins far more easily. I don’t want to criticize him too much though. It is literally impossible to find such move during a high voltage game.

The final critical position of the game. With Qh4! White gets enough counterplay to maintain equal chances, but Giri blundered with Ba2??, allowing a pretty queen sacrifice a few moves later, and lost without much of a fight.

The best part about Giri is that it doesn't matter to him whether he wins or losses, he always is ready to share his knowledge | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Topalov - Navara:

A battle between two of the game’s most combative players | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

David chose the Caro Kann to combat Veselin’s 1.e4, and both players quickly reached the main lines of the Advance Variation. After David’s novelty on move 7 (!) an interesting opening battle ensued, with Topalov being much better prepared to handle the resulting positions.  After a few mutual inaccuracies, the critical point was reached immediately after the queen exchange on move 28.

Here, Topalov could have forced a near decisive advantage in the endgame with Nd6!, successfully winning a pawn and stopping Black’s passer on the d-file just in time. Instead he chose the peaceful Re8+?! and agreed to a draw fairly soon. 


A fairly tepid draw between the two Azerbaijani teammates - Radjabov (above) and Mamedyarov | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

It was clear from the outset that Radjabov wasn’t here to wreak havoc with his pet King’s Indian Defence against his teammate and good friend Shak. A quiet line of the Catalan transposed to the Bogo Indian where Black had few problems in neutralizing White’s first move advantage.  Shak didn’t take up a few opportunities to cause a few more worries. The game never left the threshold of a draw, which was signed just after move 40.

Radjabov’s previous move is a little imprecise, as it allows white here to build up with Nc3, Rc2 and Rac1. Shak didn’t go for this, and instead played Bf4, a move that allowed Black to equalize rather easily thereafter.

Standings after round 2

1Sergey Karjakin2753RUS1 ½
2Magnus Carlsen2845NOR1 ½
3Ding Liren2812CHN1 ½
4Teimour Radjabov2756AZE1
5David Navara2739CZE1
6Shak Mamedyarov2790AZE1
7Veselin Topalov2740BUL1
8Anish Giri2797NED½
9Alex Grischuk2771RUS½
10Vishy Anand2779IND½


About the author:

Tanmay Srinath is an 18-year-old chess player from Bangalore, Karnataka, currently pursuing both chess and engineering at BMSCE Bangalore. Tanmay is also a Taekwondo Black Belt, who has represented the country in an International Tournament in Thailand. He is a big fan of Mikhail Tal and Vishy Anand, and sincerely believes in doing his bit to Power Chess in India!

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