Raymond Keene

Classical conundrum

Classical conundrum
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The great Mikhail Botvinnik excoriated chess played at fast time limits. Botvinnik believed that classical chess at time limits of, for example, 40 moves per player in two and a half hours each, was the purest expression of the art and science of chess. Radically faster alternatives cheapened and debased the thought processes, he believed. Of course, he also relished adjournments — now outlawed because of the possibility of computer analysis.

Modern chess faces the problem of excessive draws bedevilling elite events at classical time controls. As rapid and blitz chess have developed their own official ranking and rating lists as well as their own world championships (Sergei Karjakin is the current blitz world champion and Vassily Ivanchuk the rapidplay world champion), they have acquired more legitimacy, not to mention interest, since although games played at speed may be less accurate, they tend to be more decisive.

For all these reasons, the winning performance by world champion Magnus Carlsen at the Leuven Blitz, where entire games can be over in minutes, may well go down in the annals of chess with other superlative classical performances such as Alekhine’s triumphs at San Remo in 1930 and Bled in 1931, or Bobby Fischer’s 100 per cent score in the 1963/64 USA championship.

Scores from Leuven (out of 18) were as follows: 1. Carlsen 14½; 2= Giri and Vachier-Lagrave 10; 4= Kramnik and Aronian 9½; 6. Nepomniatchi 9; 7= Ivanchuk and So 8½; 9. Anand 8; 10 Jobava 2½.

Carlsen-So: YourNextMove Leuven Blitz 2017; London System

1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 This development of White’s queen’s bishop has become Carlsen’s trademark. 2 ... c5 3 e3 Nc6 4 c3 Qb6 5 Qb3 Nf6 6 Nd2 c4 7 Qc2 Nh5 8 Bg5 h6 9 Bh4 g5 10 Be2 Ng7 11 Bg3 Bf5 12 Qc1 e6 13 Ngf3 Qa5 14 e4 Bh7 15 0-0 Be7 16 Re1 0-0 17 Ne5 Nxe5 18 Bxe5 f6 19 Bg3 Rfe8 (see diagram 1) Although White’s queen currently lies dormant Carlsen soon finds opportunities to use its ambivalent position, feinting to both the right and the left, to launch simultaneous attacks against both black flanks. 20 h4 b5 21 b4 Qd8 22 a4 a5 Black prefers counterattack to passive defence with 22 ... a6. 23 axb5 axb4 24 Rxa8 Qxa8 25 exd5 exd5 26 Bf3 Qd8 Far more solid is 26 ... Bd3. 27 hxg5 hxg5 28 b6 (see diagram 2) This diversionary advance overloads Black’s defences. 28 ... bxc3 29 Qxc3 Qxb6 30 Bxd5+ Kf8 31 Nxc4 Qb5 32 Ne3 Rd8 33 Qc7 Qd7 34 Qa5 Nh5 35 Bc7 Rc8 36 Bh2 Nf4 37 Bxf4 gxf4 38 Nc4 Qf5 39 Qa7 Qxd5 40 Qxe7+ Kg8 41 Nb6 Black resigns