Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen Losing His Head


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Malcolm Pein reveals which Grandmaster has a plus score against the World Champion in today’s Daily Telegraph column and presents a rare case of Magnus Carlsen losing his head.

Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen Losing His Head

Ian Nepomniachtchi is the only active player with a plus score against Magnus Carlsen in Classical chess and one of the few grandmasters who plays without fear against the world champion.

The Russian number one eliminated Carlsen from his own invitational tournament online at Chess24 at the semifinal stage last Friday. Even after Carlsen pulled off a brilliant comeback in the second set, Nepo won the Blitz tie-break 1.5-0.5.

“Clearly today was a lottery,” said Nepomniachtchi afterwards and I was the one who got the winning ticket”. Carlsen added: “Ultimately, what decided the match was that he managed to keep his head in the blitz, and I most certainly did not.”

The first Blitz game was a bizarre 142-move marathon in which Carlsen tried unsuccessfully to win the drawn endgame of rook and knight vs rook, before putting his rook en prise when a draw under the fifty-move rule was imminent. Carlsen then had to defend with knight vs rook for another 35 moves.

In game two, Carlsen overpressed. Nepo has just played 53…Kg7-f7.

Carlsen Losing His Head 1

Black has a strong passed pawn and so White should head for a draw and only move his queen when he can force perpetual. In practice this is a hard position to defend. With 54.f4 Ke7 55.f5 White could try and limit the black king after which a queen sortie should draw.

The game continued: 54.Kg4 Ke6 (The long march begins) 55.Kf4 (55.Qc2 b3 56.Qc8+ Kd6 57.Kf3 and if 57…b2 58.Qd8+ Ke6 59.Qc8+ seems to hold as Black cannot interpose with the queen without allowing Qb8. In this line not 57.Qd8+?? Qd7+ check) 55…Qc4! 56.Qa4 b3 57.Qe8+ Kd6 (Heading for c2) 58.Qb8+ Kc6 59.Kf5 Qb5 60.Qc8+ Kb6 61.Qb8+ Ka5 62.Qa7+ Kb4 63.Qa1 Qe2 64.Ke6 b2 65.Qa6!? (The ‘fifty percenter”) 65…Qxa6+ 0–1

Teimur Radjabov has been in excellent form so far on the Meltwater Tour, but he was clearly not in the best shape in the fourth event as he blundered against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the preliminaries. Radjabov-MVL after 19.Rxd8 Rxd8 20.Rd1??

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Black to play and win

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20…Rxd1+ 21.Qxd1 e4 22.Bxg7 exf3 won a piece and shortly after the game.

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