Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Birthday Blues


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Malcolm Pein concludes his coverage of the final of the Skilling Open with a game which resulted in Magnus Carlsen’s birthday blues.

The reigning World Champion may not have appreciated the ‘present’ of defeat, but Wesley So was clearly intent on spoiling the party.

Malcolm’s Daily Telegraph column gives the looks at the decisive game and invites the reader to fond the winning line.

Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Birthday Blues

Wesley So spoiled Magnus Carlsen’s 30th birthday and inflicted a rare defeat in online matchplay on the world champion as he secured the $30,000 (£23,000) first prize at the Skilling Open on Chess24.

The second leg continued in the same vein as the first, with Carlsen winning game one and So levelling the score. Game three was a rollercoaster that could have gone either way and ended in the first draw of the match. Carlsen played white in game four and quickly exchanged pieces to ensure the contest went to a two-game Blitz play-off. This tactic worked for Carlsen at the 2018 world championship, but not this time, as So struck what turned out to be the decisive blow in game five.

Wesley So – Magnus Carlsen

Caro Kann 5+3

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 h6 6.0–0 Ne7 7.a4 a5 8.Nbd2 Nd7 9.Nb3 Bh7 10.Bd2 Qb6 11.h3 (Waiting for Black to obstruct the attack on the c2 pawn from bishop on h7) 11…Ng6 12.Qe1! Bb4 13.Bxb4 Qxb4 14.Qxb4 axb4 15.Bd3 (Simple chess. White is better developed and intends a4–a5 and Ra1–a4 picking up the b4 pawn) 15…c5 (15…b6 16.a5 0–0 17.axb6 Nxb6 18.Nc5 Nf4 19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Kh2! Nc4 21.g3 Ng6 22.b3 is quite instructive. Black’s knights have no safe outposts and White is better as Nc5-d3xb4 is hard to prevent) 16.Nxc5 Nxc5 17.dxc5 Ra5 18.Bb5+ Ke7 19.Rfe1 Rc8 20.c3 (Or even stronger 20.Nd4 Rxc5 21.Nb3) 20…bxc3 21.b4 Raa8 22.Rac1 Nf4 23.Rxc3 Be4 24.a5 f6 25.h4 g5 26.g3 Ng6 27.exf6+ Kxf6 28.hxg5+ hxg5 29.Nh2?! (29.Rce3 or 29.Nd2 Bf5 30.Bd3 were very strong)

So - Carlsen Skilling Open Final

31…Rxh2! (Just in time) 32.Kxh2 Nxf3+ 33.Rxf3+ Bxf3 34.c6 d4? (34…bxc6 35.Bxc6 Rh8+ 36.Kg1 g4 37.b5 Ke7! 38.a6 Kd6 again, just in time and Black should hold) 35.Rf1! Rh8+ 36.Kg1 Rh1+ 37.Kf2 Rxf1+

Test Your Strength

So beats Carlsen on his Birthday White to play and win; which way to take?

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

38.Bxf1! Bxc6 39.b5 Bd7 40.a6 bxa6 41.bxa6 d3 (41…Bc6 42.Bg2) 42.Bxd3 Ke5 43.a7 Bc6 44.Bf1! 1–0 After 38.Kxf1 bxc6 39.Be2 Bd5 40.a6 e5 41.a7 c5 42.bxc5 Ke6 followed by e5–e4 blocks the long diagonal and if 43.Bb5 Ba8 44.Ke2 e4 45.c6 Kd6 neither side can make progress.

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