Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian chess superstar, has added to his numerous laurels by winning the Tal Memorial in Moscow, ahead of most of the world’s elite. The absentees were Anand and Gelfand, presumably exhausted after their strenuous efforts in the World Championship, also held in Moscow, just before the Tal.
Magnus escaped, as if by a miracle, from a couple of lost positions against Kramnik and Morozevich, but ultimately he went through unscathed to seize first prize. Top scores were Carlsen 5½/9; Caruana and Radjabov 5; Morozevich, Aronian and Kramnik 4½. England’s Luke McShane was invited by popular demand and defeated the elite trio of Kramnik, Aronian and Morozevich in this one event, a rare if not unique feat. Sadly Luke went like a lamb to the slaughter in his last round clash with Magnus. The key to Black’s victory is the disruptive advance of his ‘a’ pawn, inaugurated with 21... a5.
McShane-Carlsen; Tal Memorial, Moscow 2012; Ruy Lopez
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Bxc6 This deferred Exchange Variation enjoyed a brief vogue around the late 1960s. Ultimately, however, it does very little to ensure a white initiative. 6... dxc6 7 d3 Nd7 A fundamental error here would be to trade Black’s valuable light-squared bishop. I can claim to be one of the early pioneers of this line, using it, for example, against S. Welbourne in a Cambridge University match in 1967. Welbourne continued with 7... Bg4 8 h3 Bxf3 9 Qxf3 Qd6 10 Nd2 Nd7 11Nc4 Qf6 when 12 Qe2 gave White a huge plus. In the further course of the game I succeeded in building up an attack based on the advance f4 followed by f5. McShane tries something similar here but the presence of Black’s light-squared bishop seriously impedes White’s plans for aggression. 8 b3 0-0 9 Bb2 f6 10 Nc3 Re8 11 Kh1 Nf8 12 Ne2 c5 13 Nh4 Ne6 14 Nf5 Bf8 15 Ne3 Nd4 16 f4 Be6 (diagram 1) 17 fxe5 McShane seeks to profit from the isolated e5-pawn. A better plan would have been 17 f5, setting in motion a kingside pawn storm. 17... fxe5 18 Ng1 g6 19 c3 Nc6 20 Nf3 Bg7 21 Qe1 a5 22 Rd1 a4 23 bxa4 Rxa4 24 a3 (diagram 2) By now White is positionally lost. Black only needs to consolidate. 24... Rf8 25 Bc1 Ra8 26 Qg3 26 Qe2, maintaining protection of e2 is somewhat steadier. After the text White goes quickly downhill. 26... Bb3 27 Rde1 Qxd3 28 Ng4 Be6 29 Nh6+ Kh8 30 Qh4 Bf6 31 Bg5 Bxg5 32 Qxg5 Kg7 33 Qc1 Rf4 34 Rd1 Qc4 35 Rfe1 Raf8 36 Ng5 Bc8 37 g3 Rf2 38 Nf5+ gxf5 39 Nh3 Re2 40 Qg5+ Kh8 White resigns
Magnus is now the world’s most successful Grandmaster and I hope he will agree to compete in the forthcoming world title cycle, which commences with the Candidates’ tournament in London in March 2013. The final world championship shoot-out between Anand and Gelfand propelled chess to being one of the top ten stories on the BBC website, but I am confident that a future challenge by the exciting young Norwegian would far exceed this.