As the World Championship qualifier (aka Candidates tournament) approaches its final rounds in Khanty-Mansisk, it is worth emphasising the Everest which the eventual challenger will have to climb when facing the new world champion, Magnus Carlsen. A new book by the international master Colin Crouch (Magnus Force, Everyman Chess) enters in great detail into Carlsen’s most prominent games against the world’s elite in the run-up to last year’s World Championship match.
This week’s game, played after the book was written, shows Carlsen demolishing a Brazilian grandmaster with astonishing ease in the champion’s recent trip to the host nation for this year’s football World Cup.
Leitao-Carlsen: Brazil 2014, Slav Defence
1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 e3 Bg4 5 cxd5 Bxf3 It may seem counter-intuitive to capture on f3 and surrender the bishop pair without any prior provocation, such as White playing h3. However if 5 … cxd5 6 Qb3 causes some annoyance. For that reason Black lures the white queen away from any possible molestation of Black’s queenside pawns. 6 Qxf3 cxd5 7 Nc3 e6 8 Bd3 Nc6 9 0-0 Bb4 10 Bd2 0-0 11 Rac1 Only here does the game diverge from known theory. Koneru-Kapnisis, Kavala 2009 saw 11 a3 Ba5 12 Qg3. 11 … Rc8 12 a3 Ba5 13 b4 (see diagram 1) White gains space and time with this advance. In exchange Black repositions his bishop on an aggressive diagonal, aiming at White’s king while it must also be said that b4 somewhat undermines the stability of White’s knight on c3. It does, however, take play of genius on Carlsen’s part to exploit this subtle nuance. 13 … Bc7 14 Qh3 Bd6 15 f4 White could play 15 Na4 here with equanimity. Instead, the Brazilian grandmaster conceives an attacking plan on the opposite side of the board. At the crucial moment, though, he fails to prosecute this attack with sufficient consistency. 15 … a5 16 b5 Ne7 (see diagram 2) 17 e4 Plausible but wrong. If White wished to be consistent he should have played 17 g4 Bxa3 18 g5 Bxc1 19 gxf6 Ng6 when the position is about level. 17 … Rxc3 A brilliant riposte which hurls White’s camp into confusion. 18 Rxc3 dxe4 19 Bc4 Bxa3 A further destructive blow which entirely demolishes White’s central installations. 20 Rxa3 Qxd4+ 21 Qe3 Qxc4 22 Rc1 Qxb5 23 Rxa5 Qd7 Black’s domination of the centre combined with the dislocation of White’s forces to ensure a simple win. 24 Rac5 Nf5 25 Qc3 e3 26 Bxe3 Nd5 White resigns