Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Rise and Fall


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Malcolm Pein returns to the Magnus Carlsen Invitational in today’s Daily Telegraph column, to see if the struggling favourites were able to return to form.

Malcolm Pein on…Carlsen’s Rise and Fall

Magnus Carlsen made a fine comeback, but was still eliminated from his signature tournament by Ian Nepomniachtchi. The Russian number one will contest the final of the $200,000 (£145,000) online Magnus Carlsen Invitational with Anish Giri.

Giri eliminated Wesley So in their semifinal, ensuring there will be a first-time winner in the fourth tournament of the Meltwater Tour.

The World Champion had only himself to blame; needing to win the second set after losing the first, he lost game two, before winning twice ‘on demand’ to force a two-game Blitz tie-break.

The first Blitz game was drawn and the second reached a completely level queen and pawn endgame before Carlsen, inexplicably, tried to win and lost. The world champion has now gone five tournaments without victory.

Carlsen produced some clever opening preparation in a desperate situation and won game four emphatically. The novelty 8.g3 is probably a shot he would have preferred to keep in the locker.

Beating the Najdorf

M. Carlsen – I. Nepomniachtchi
Sicilian Najdorf

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4 e5 7.Nf3 h6 8.g3 Be7 9.Bg2 0–0 10.0–0 Be6 11.Nh4 (Exploiting 7…h6, which makes g7–g6 hard to organise and forces an equine invasion of f5)

11…Nbd7 12.Nf5 Bxf5 13.exf5 Qc7 14.a5 Rab8 15.Be3 Rfc8 16.Qd3 Bf8 (White’s control of d5 enables him to prepare action on the queenside, with pawn c2–c4 one objective)

17.Rfc1 b6?! 18.axb6 Nxb6 19.Rxa6 Nc4 20.Nd5 Qd8 (The powerful bishop and extra pawn make for a winning advantage. If 20…Nxd5 21.Bxd5 Nxe3 22.Qxe3 Be7 23.Ra7 Qd8 24.f6) 21.b3 Nxe3 22.Qxe3 Rc5 23.c4 Qc8 24.Nxf6+ gxf6 25.Ra7 Qxf5 

Carlsen's Rise and Fall

26.Bd5 Qg5 27.Rb1 Qxe3 28.fxe3 Rb4 29.Bxf7+ Kh8 30.Bd5 Rc8 31.Kg2 Rcb8 32.Rf7 Bg7 33.Ra1 1–0 Raa7 follows.

Giri only needed a draw in game four of the second set to take the match, and So made it easy.

Test Your Strength

Giri – So
Giri – So after 23.g4!? Qb6-c7??

White to play and win

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

24.Rxe6 1-0 If 24…Rxe6 25.Qxf5+ picks up the rook leaving White a piece to the good.

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