In my column of 20 April I reported on the overwhelming victory by world champion Magnus Carlsen in the elite Gashimov Memorial tournament at Shamkir, Azerbaijan. Almost immediately he went on to repeat his annihilation of the world’s best by taking first prize at the Grenke tournament in Baden Baden and Karlsruhe, in Germany.
After struggling in his World Championship contest against Fabiano Caruana in London, Carlsen appears rejuvenated, and is treating the world’s elite rather as Alexander Alekhine dealt with the illuminati of his day at the great tournaments of San Remo 1930 and Bled 1931. My theory is that Carlsen, a quick learner, has absorbed lessons from the astounding games of AlphaZero, the brainchild of Demis Hassabis CBE and his DeepMind group.
Game Changer by Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan (New in Chess) explains the development and playing style of AlphaZero.
Carlsen-Aronian: Grenke Chess Classic 2019
(See diagram 1)
White has a small edge here as he can slowly create pressure along the b-file. Black’s best plan is to sit tight but instead Aronian lashes out in a misguided attempt to create counterplay. 26 ... f5 27 Re1 e4 28 fxe4 fxe4 Now Black loses a pawn for nothing but 28 ... Nxe4 runs into 29 Qxd6 Rxd6 30 Nxe4 dxe4 31 Bf4. 29 Bxc5 Rxc5 30 Nxe4 Qe5 31 Rce3 Rcc8 32 h3 Qc7 33 Nd2 Re8 34 Re7 Rxe7 35 Rxe7 Qd8 36 Qe3 Rc7 37 Re6 Rc5 38 Qb3 Black resigns
Meier-Carlsen: Grenke Chess Classic 2019
(See diagram 2)
The advanced passed pawn creates insuperable problems. 40 ... Qe1 41 Kg2 Bxb4 42 Qb2 h5 43 h4 Ba5 44 Qb8+ Nf8 45 Qa8 Bc3 46 Qc6 Qc1 47 Qd5 Ne6 48 Qc4 Ba5 49 Qd5 Bb4 50 Qb5 Qc3 51 Qd5 Qc1 52 Qb5 Bc3 53 Qa4 Bd4 54 Nd1 Kg7 55 Kf3 This king march is suicidal. White should wait with 55 Qb3. 55 ... Bf6 56 Ke2 Nd4+ 57 Kd3 Qb1+ 58 Kxd2 Qe4 White resigns
Svidler-Carlsen: Grenke Chess Classic 2019
(See diagram 3)
Carlsen exploits his ‘octopus’ knight on e3 by sacrificing a pawn to get his kingside attack going. 25 ... Re8 26 Qxb7 g5 27 Rfe2 This is a blunder. 27 d4 was the best try. 27 ... g4 28 Rf2 Qh6 29 Qc7 Ref8 30 h3 gxh3 31 g3 fxg3 32 Rxf6 h2+ 33 Kh1 g2 mate