Raymond Keene


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Magnus Carlsen has risen to achieve the highest ever chess rating. He ascended to 2872 on the rankings, which compares with 2851 for Kasparov, 2785 for Bobby Fischer and 2817 for Viswanathan Anand, the reigning champion. Carlsen commences his multi-million-dollar challenge for the world chess title against Anand in Chennai on 9 November. Carlsen is the firm favourite, with the betting odds clearly in his favour — he is being offered at 1/3 with Anand at 2/1. But for all the impressive statistics, he does have one Achilles heel, namely a certain vulnerability when facing White’s most aggressive first move, 1 e4. On occasion he has even resorted to contortions such as 1 e4 g6 2 d4 Nf6 3 e5 Nh5, which he tried unsuccessfully against England’s Michael Adams in the 2010 Chess Olympiad. The most solid reply to 1 e4 is  1 ... e5 but in the past Carlsen has also suffered on the black side of the Ruy Lopez opening — aka the Spanish Torture — which is seen in this week’s game.

Svidler-Carlsen: World Championship Blitz, Rishon Le Zion 2006; Ruy Lopez

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 b5 6 Bb3 Be7 7 Re1 0-0 8 h3 Avoiding the infamous Marshall Gambit 8 c3 d5 which is now judged to grant Black complete equality. 8 ... Bb7 9 d3 Re8 Already suspicious, since it reduces the defences of the traditionally vulnerable f7-square. 10 c3 h6 11 Nbd2 Bc5 A further move in the wrong direction. The bishop is needed on the kingside for defensive purposes. 12 Nf1 Bb6 13 Ng3 d5 14 exd5 Na5 15 Bc2 Svidler correctly preserves his all important light squared bishop from exchange. 15 ... Qxd5 (see diagram 1) 16 b4 Black appears to be both active and well developed, with pressure against the white pawn on d3. However, White’s pawn thrust drives Black back and re-establishes his thematic weapon, the king’s bishop, on its most effective diagonal. 16 ... Nc6 17 Bb3 Qd7 18 Nh4 Rad8 19 Nh5 Nxh5 20 Qxh5 (see diagram 2) 20 ... Re6 This involuntary sacrifice of material smacks of premature defeatism, but Black must do something to blunt the power of White’s raking bishops. A variation that demonstrates White’s possibilities is 20 ... Qe7 21 Bxh6 gxh6 22 Qg6+ Kh8 23 Qxh6+ Kg8 24 Nf5 Qf8 25 Qg6+ Kh8 26 Re4! fxg6 27 Rh4+ Qh6 28 Rxh6 mate. 21 Bxe6 Qxe6 22 Be3 Rxd3 23 Bxb6 cxb6 24 Rad1 Rxc3 25 Nf5 Bc8 26 Nd6 Bd7 27 Qxf7+ Qxf7 28 Nxf7 Be6 29 Nxe5 Nxe5 30 Rxe5 Bxa2 White’s advantage of rook for bishop in open terrain guarantees an easy win. 31 Rd6 Rc4 32 Rxb6 Rxb4 33 Rxa6 Bc4 34 Re7 Rb1+ 35 Kh2 b4 36 Raa7 Kf8 37 Rec7 Black resigns The final coup. The massed white rooks on the 7th rank finish Black off. After 37 ... Bb5 38 Rf7+ Ke8 39 Rfb7 White’s threats are overwhelming.