Raymond Keene


Text settings

Game eight of the World Championship in New York broke the deadlock of hard-fought draws in the first seven games. Carlsen employed a closed variation of the queen’s pawn opening which had, in the past, been popularised both by Johannes Zukertort and Akiba Rubinstein. The opening merged into a level but still fertile middlegame. At this point Carlsen overreached and after a sequence of sub-optimal moves on both sides, doubtless occasioned by time trouble, the black defence emerged victorious.

Carlsen-Karjakin: World Championship, New York (Game 8) 2016; Zukertort/Rubinstein

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 b3 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Bb2 b6 8 dxc5 A strange choice, relinquishing his full control of e5, which is normally a key plank in the white attack. 8 ... Bxc5 More combative is 8 ... bxc5. 9 Nbd2 Bb7 10 Qe2 Nbd7 11 c4 I would prefer 11 e4 as in Spielmann-Stoltz, Stockholm, 1932. 11 ... dxc4 11 ... Ne4 was played here in Uhlmann-Parma, Moscow 1971. The text, however, is fully consistent with Black’s aim of playing for equality by clearing the central pawns. 12 Nxc4 Qe7 13 a3 a5 14 Nd4 Rfd8 15 Rfd1 Rac8 16 Rac1 Nf8 17 Qe1 An indication that White is bereft of a plan. However, the forces remain in balance. 17 ... Ng6 18 Bf1 Ng4 19 Nb5 Bc6 20 a4 Bd5 21 Bd4 Bxc4 22 Rxc4 Bxd4 23 Rdxd4 Rxc4 24 bxc4 Carlsen plays to confuse the issue. 24 Rxc4 is equal. 24 ... Nf6 25 Qd2 Rb8 26 g3 Ne5 27 Bg2 h6 28 f4 Ned7 29 Na7 Qa3 30 Nc6 Rf8 Carlsen has become active but his queenside pawns are weak. 31 h3 Here 31 Rxd7 Nxd7 32 Qxd7 Qxe3+ leaves the position balanced. 31 ... Nc5 32 Kh2 Nxa4 33 Rd8 g6 The line 33 ... Rxd8 34 Qxd8+ Kh7 35 Ne5 Qxe3 leads to a draw after 36 Nxf7 Kg6 (to defend against the mating attack with Qh8+) 37 Ne5+ Kh7 with repetition. 34 Qd4 Kg7 (see diagram 1) 35 c5 Carlsen overreaches. The point is that 35 ... Nxc5 fails to 36 Rxf8 Kxf8 37 Qxf6 while

35 ... bxc5 allows 36 Qd6 when White will break into Black’s camp on f7. However, the move is a serious oversight and White should have opted for 35 Ne5. 35 ... Rxd8 36 Nxd8 Nxc5 37 Qd6 Qd3 Karjakin misses a chance. 37 ... Qa4 wins as the black queen can return to d7 to defend. After 38 Qxb6 Ncd7 Black is a clear pawn ahead. 38 Nxe6+ Now White is back in the game. 38 ... fxe6 39 Qe7+ Kg8 40 Qxf6 a4 41 e4 Qd7 42 Qxg6+ Qg7 43 Qe8+ Qf8 44 Qc6 Also possible is 44 Qg6+ Kh8 45 e5 a3 46 Qb1. 44 ... Qd8 45 f5 a3 46 fxe6 Kg7 47 e7 Safer is 47 Qb5 Nxe6 48 Qb4 when White will never be in danger. 47 ... Qxe7 48 Qxb6 Nd3 49 Qa5 Carlsen had to jettison a pawn with 49 e5 to make room for his bishop to operate. 49 ... Qc5 50 Qa6 Ne5 (see diagram 2) 51 Qe6 The final blunder. 51 h4 was obligatory. 51 ... h5! An inspired winning move. Black plans to defend against perpetual check by placing his knight on g6 to shield his king on h6. 52 h4 a2 White resigns 53 Qxa2 Ng4+ 54 Kh3 Qg1 55 Bf3 Nf2+ wins the queen.