Raymond Keene

Carlsen the Great

Carlsen the Great
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I cannot conceal the feeling over the years of Magnus Carlsen’s leading position at the head of world chess, that his victories were to be ascribed to his powers of Sitzfleisch (endurance at the board) or opposing errors, rather than his own enterprise, dynamism and genius. The result of the London world championship last year tended, if anything, to reinforce this belief, with all the games in the classical section being drawn.

The Gashimov Memorial tournament, which ended earlier this month at Shamkir in Azerbaijan, has forced me to revise that opinion. Carlsen dominated the event, displaying huge energy, aggression and versatility. The scores (out of 9) were as follows: Carlsen 7; Ding Liren and Karjakin 5; Radjabov, Grischuk and Anand 4½; Topalov and Navara 4; Mamedyarov 3½; Giri 3.

This week, a selection of Carlsen’s impressive victories from his latest triumph.

Carlsen-Anand; Vugar Gashimov Memorial, Shamkir 2019 (diagram 1)

White has a small advantage here as the black a-pawn is vulnerable. Black should now play 28 ... g5 to activate his king. This also plans ... Rc1+ and ... Rc2 with counterplay when the white rook leaves the first rank. 28 ... Rc5 This is too slow and Carlsen quickly gains a decisive advantage. 29 a6 g6 30 Rb7 Rc1+ 31 Kh2 Rc2 32 Bb5 Rb2 33 Kg3 Bc8 34 Rb8 Kg7 35 Rxc8 Rxb5 36 Rc7 Ra5 37 Rxa7 Kf6 38 Ra8 Ra3 39 Kh2 h5 40 a7 Ra2 41 h4 Kf5 42 f3 Ra1 43 g3 Black resigns

Carlsen-Giri; Vugar Gashimov Memorial, Shamkir 2019 (diagram 2)

Carlsen’s pawn sacrifice has given him a ferocious attack. He is not distracted by the rook on d5 and instead builds up decisively on the kingside. 23 Rf3 b5 24 Rg1 Ra7 25 Bf6 g6 26 Qh3 Rd6 27 Qh4 Rxf6 28 Qxf6 Be7 29 Qxc6 Qxc6 30 Bxc6 Kg7 31 fxg6 fxg6 32 d4 a4 33 d5 b4 34 Be8 Bg5 35 h4 Bxh4 36 Rxg6+ Kh7 37 Rc6 Bg4 38 Rf4 Rg7 Black resigns

Karjakin-Carlsen; Vugar Gashimov Memorial, Shamkir 2019 (diagram 3)

Another game featuring a pawn sacrifice from Carlsen. He now drives the white forces back in disarray and powers through the weakened white kingside. 27 ... b4 28 Na4 Be4 29 Qd4 Qf5 30 f4 Qg6 31 Bf2 Nd3 32 h5 Qf5 33 Bg4 Qxg4 34 Qxe4 Bd6 35 Qg2 Rae8 36 Bd4 Qxh5 37 Qf3 Qg6 38 Kh1 Re4 39 Bf2 Rfe8 White resigns