Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Gambles


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Today’s Daily Telegraph chess column starts Malcolm Pein’s coverage of the Tata Steel Masters – and focuses on Magnus Carlsen’s gambles in the first round.

Carlsen has been on variable form of late, as we saw in Malcolm’s column just two days ago. He felt obliged to take risks to start off his Tata Steel campaign with a win. Carlsen’s gambles eventually paid off, but Malcolm shows how the game could have ended very differently.

Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Gambles

The Tata Steel Masters got off to a great start, as Magnus Carlsen defeated the young pretender Alireza Firouzja in a game that was both brave and brilliant. The World Champion admitted afterwards that he knew the compensation for his two pawn sacrifices was probably insufficient but decided to “gamble”. Carlsen had drawn his last seven first-round games at Wijk aan Zee, and last year it was Firouzja who got off to a flying start.

Carlsen was further rewarded when Fabiano Caruana, last year’s runaway winner, was held by some last-ditch defence from Jorden Van Foreest. Alexander Donchenko lost to Nils Grandelius, while Anish Giri was ready for Aryan Tari’s eighth-move knight sacrifice and gradually consolidated

M. Carlsen – A. Firouzja
Queen’s Gambit Declined

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 Be7 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.e4 Nxc3 10.bxc3 0–0 11.Bd3 c5 12.0–0 cxd4 13.cxd4 b6 14.a4 (14.Qe2 Bb7 15.Rad1 Rac8 looks fine for Black, who can double rooks on the c-file) 14…Bb7 15.a5 bxa5 16.Rxa5 Nf6 17.Re1 Rfd8 18.Qa1 Qc7 19.h3 a6 20.Rc5 Qf4 21.Re5! (Dreaming of trapping the queen with Re1–e3 and g2–g3) 21…Nd7 22.Ra5 Nf6 23.d5!? (A typical pawn sacrifice in this type of position. 23.Bxa6 Rxa6 24.Rxa6 Bxa6 25.Qxa6 Nxe4 is good for Black) 23…exd5 24.e5 Ne4 25.Qd4 Rdc8 26.Raa1 a5 27.Rab1 Bc6

Second Sacrifice

Carlsen's Gambles

28.e6!? (Offering a second pawn. Carlsen’s sense of what works in the practical struggle is unrivalled. 28.Rb6 was all right) 28…fxe6 29.Ne5 Qf6! 30.f3 Ng5 31.Rb6 Be8 32.Qe3 a4?! (The over-confidence of youth perhaps. Prophylaxis was required with 32…Qd8 and if 33.f4?? d4 or 32…Qe7 anticipating Ng4 and then if 33.f4 Nh7 34.Ng6 Bxg6 35.Bxg6 Nf8) 33.Ng4 Qd8 34.Rxe6 Nxe6 (24…a3 35.Rxh6 a2; or 24…a3 35.Rxh6 gxh6 36.Nxh6+ Kf8 37.Qd4 Nxf3+ 38.gxf3 Qg5+ lead to huge complications. The computer thinks chances are about equal) 35.Qxe6+ Bf7?? (After 35…Kh8 36.Qf5 Qb6+! 37.Kf1 Bg6! 38.Qxg6 Qxg6 39.Bxg6 a3 Black is pressing for the win) 36.Nxh6+!! gxh6 37.Qxh6 Qc7 38.Qh7+ Kf8 39.Qh8+ Bg8 40.Qh6+ 1-0

Test Your Strength

Carlsen Wins

Why did Black resign?

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

40…Qg7 41.Qd6+ Kf7 42.Qe7#; 40…Kf7 41.Bg6+ Kf6 42.Bh5+ Kf5 43.g4#

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