Raymond Keene

Black Death

Black Death
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There are comparisons to be made between tennis and chess. Player X (aka White) serves. Player Y (Black) responds. The advantage of playing White in chess and serving in tennis are similar. Losing your serve is nearly as bad for a tennis player as losing with White is for a chess player. But some champions have made a speciality of winning with the black pieces — Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Tal, Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov spring to mind. Magnus Carlsen does not readily fit into this category, but his increasingly dramatic victories with Black are becoming more common.

This week, three Carlsen Black wins, out of five, from a recent elite event. The demolition of Anish Giri is particularly spectacular.

Giri-Carlsen: Grand Chess Tour, Croatia 2019

A highly unbalanced position. Carlsen has had to move his king early on but the white king is more vulnerable. The loss of the h-pawn means it will be exposed to a pawn attack on the kingside. 16 ... Rc8 17 Qa4 A bad mistake. 17 Qf3, keeping the queen nearer to the king, was obligatory. 17 ... Rc7 18 Bf4 Rd7 19 c3 g5 The pawn storm is decisive. 20 Rad1 Rxd1 21 Rxd1 Qa8 22 Bc7 h4 23 f3 h3 White resigns The f3-point is undermined and White falls apart.

Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen: Grand Chess Tour, Croatia 2019 (see diagram 2)

Carlsen’s next move must have come as a horrible shock. 27 ... f5! 28 gxf5 He had to play 28 exf5, when 28 ... Qe3+ 29 Kg2 Qe2+ 30 Kh1 cxd3 31 cxd3 should lead to a draw. 28 ... g4 This leads to a decisive invasion. 29 d4 29 fxg4 Qh4+ 30 Ke2 Bd4 followed by … Be3 wins. 29 ... Qh4+ 30 Ke2 Qh2+ 31 Rf2 gxf3+ White resigns

Ding-Carlsen: Grand Chess Tour, Croatia 2019

In this endgame Carlsen gives a masterclass in the use of the bishop pair in an open position. 33 ... f5 34 Ke3 Bg8 35 Kd3 g4 36 Na5 Bc5 37 Nc4 Bg1 38 Ne3 Be6 39 fxg4 fxg4 40 Ke2 h5 41 Bd5 Bd7 42 Bb3 Bxh2 43 Kf2 h4 44 gxh4 Be5 45 Nc4 g3+ 46 Kg1 Bf4 47 Bd1 Bc6 48 b3 Kh6 49 a5 Be4 50 Kf1 Kg7 51 Kg1 Kf6 52 Kf1 Ke6 53 h5 Kd5 54 a6 Kd4 55 Bg4 Kc3 56 Be6 Bc2 57 Na5 Bc7 58 Nb7 Bd3+ 59 Kg1 Bxa6 White resigns