Malcolm Pein continues his coverage of the Magnus Carlsen – Wesley So match in today’s Daily Telegraph chess column and explains why we are currently seeing Carlsen as second fiddle.

Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen As Second Fiddle

Five qualifying events remain to be played online at Chess24 before the 10-player final of the Meltwater Tour is staged by Play Magnus in San Francisco this September. Eight spots will be given to the winners of the three Major tournaments and five or six to the best performers in the Tour overall. The remaining two spots will be chosen by public vote.

Much has been made of Magnus Carlsen’s failure to win any of the four events so far, but his victory over Welsey So in the third-fourth play-off at the Magnus Carlsen Invitational ensured he remains second in the tour standings.

Carlsen effectively defuses a variation with which So enjoyed success after 10…dxe4 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.dxe4 Bxf2+ 13.Kxf2 Ng4+ 14.Kg1 Ne3 15.Qe2 Nxc2 16.Rb1 N6d4 17. cxd4 Qxd4+ 18.Kh2 Rf2 19.Qg4 Ne3 20.Qxe6+ Kh8 21.Rg1 Qd3 22.Qxe5 Raf8 23.Qg3 Qe2 24.b4 Rxg2+ 25.Rxg2 Nxg2 26.Qg4 1–0 So-Anand, Wijk aan Zee 2020.

The Italian Game in Action

W. So – M. Carlsen
Giuoco Piano 15+10

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Nbd2 0–0 7.h3 a6 8.Bb3 Be6 9.Bc2 (9.Nf1 is the principal alternative when Black can continue 9…d5 or 9…Bxb3 10.axb3 d5) 9…d5 10.Ng5 Bc8 11.exd5 (Otherwise, Black will play h7–h6 and move the bishop back to e6) 11…Qxd5 (11…Nxd5 12.Nxh7! Kxh7 13.d4+; 11…Nxd5 12.Nxh7 Qh4 13.Ne4 Bxf2+ 14.Nxf2 Qxh7) 12.0–0 Bf5 13.Nde4 Be7 14.Qf3 Qd7 15.b4 (15.Nxf6+ Bxf6 16.Ne4 Be7 17.Qg3 Rae8 Looks pretty solid) 15…Rad8 16.Rd1?! (16.Nxf6+ Bxf6 17.Ne4) 16…Nd5! 17.d4 Bg6! (Avoiding 17…h6 18.Nc5 Bxc5 19.Bxf5 or 18…Bxc2 19.Nxd7 Rxd7 20.Rd2)

W. So – M. Carlsen

Black is better, c3 is weak and the threat of h7–h6 trapping the knight outweighs potential problems down the d-file. 18.dxe5 Nxe5 19.Qg3 (19.Qe2 Qb5!) 19…Nc4 20.h4 (20.Nf3 Rfe8 leaves White well behind in development and with only one square for his dark bishop. If 21.Bg5 Bxg5 22.Nfxg5 Qc6 is good for Black and after 23.Re1 Re7 White struggles to entangle. The knight on e4 is pinned to the bishop on c2 and vulnerable to attack) 20…Qc6 21.Rd4

Test Your Strength

Carlsen as Second Fiddle

Black to play and win material

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

21…Nxb4 22.Rxd8 Nxc2 23.Rxf8+ Bxf8 24.Rb1 Bxe4 25.Nxe4 Qxe4 0–1

With form like that, we may not be seeing Carlsen as second fiddle for much longer at all.

Play Through the Game

 

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