ChessBase Magazine # 201: Carlsen under pressure – A review by Nagesh Havanur

CBM 201: Carlsen under pressure – a review by Nagesh Havanur

As I write these lines, Magnus Carlsen won the FTX Crypto Chess Cup by beating Wesley So in an Armageddon tie-break. It was a powerful contest with Carlsen facing his future world championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi and his rivals Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So and Daniil Dubov, among others. Carlsen has struggled with his form throughout as Mark Crowther said in his TWIC report on this competition. What is clear is that Carlsen’s opponents have come closer to him over the past 12 months. This issue features matches from two major events, the Carlsen Invitational and Opera Europe Rapid Tournaments in which Magnus performed and was overtaken by the rest.

Anish Giri wins

Wijk aan Zee 2018, good old days when they met face to face | Photo: Alina l’Ami

The first, Carlsen Invitational, had a star-studded squad led by Magnus himself, followed by Wesley So, Anish Giri and Ian Nepomniachtchi, among others. In the end, it was Anish Giri who overcame everyone else’s resistance. In this issue, he annotated several matches of the event, including his encounters with Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi.

Here is the game with Carlsen with an in-depth personal commentary from the winner.

Anish Giri – Magnus Carlsen, Carlsen Invitational 2021

Magnus is still missing

Wesley So defeats Magnus Carlsen at Fischer Random Championship 2019 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The second event, Opera Euro Rapid, was arguably more exciting than the first. Here, it was Wesley So who triumphed over the others to meet Carlsen in a mini-match. The world champion missed more than one opportunity to tie the game and move forward. But that did not happen. An example is the following position. Here Carlsen only played the relatively “safe” 16 … exd4 and drew. Was there a victory? Your turn.

Black to play

In fairness to Wesley So, he towered over Carlsen with White and won, a game he wrote about in a recent issue of New in Chess Magazine. But it was the last game of this mini-match that turned out to be more exciting. Carlsen played the opening with finesse and with Wesley So taking unreasonable risks he should have won in the middle of the game. Then the wind started to turn. Here is what happened :

Magnus Carlsen-Wesley So, Opera Euro Rapid 2021

A difficult battle whose outcome is far from clear even on the last try!

After the knockout match, Wesley So was modest about his victory and sincerely thanked Carlsen for giving the opportunity to play in the series. He also made amends for “celebrating” his victory on camera.

Vassily Ivanchuk, the Ukrainian maverick

Vassily Ivanchuk vs. Magnus Carlsen | Photo courtesy:

The special section includes a tribute to Vassily Ivanchuk with 22 annotated parts. His victims here include Kasparov, Anand, and Shirov among others. This is a small sample offering an overview of his game. The MegaBase alone has over 4000 games.

Our Gen. Next may wonder who this great master is and what is special about him. One word would describe it best. He is unpredictable. You never know what’s going on when he’s playing. Ask Carlsen and Kramnik who received his piece. “So why didn’t he become world champion?” young readers can ask.

The Ukrainian maverick is a man with a volatile temperament and a bundle of nerves in fatal moments. Judit Polgar also pointed out another strange trait, immersed in deep thoughts, he would overlook simple movements, allowing his opponent to escape.

He’s a man of humor. On occasion he would perform strange moves and when they didn’t work he suffered a terrible defeat. Or he would play listlessly and lose. No one suffers as much as he does when this happens.

Linares 1991: his finest hour

Everything was so different when he was young and he wouldn’t be wrong when he was inspired. Elders still remember his visit to Linares in 1991. Everything was “crazy” there. He had arrived in town at 5 a.m. just ten hours before the first round. It was a long and tiring journey fraught with pitfalls and delays. When he inquired at the Anibal Hotel, venue of the tournament, he was informed that he was due to face Kasparov, the world champion in the afternoon. Garry was at his peak, having beaten Karpov for the world champion the year before. Anatoly, still angry with the loss, was there to play and show everyone what he was capable of. Other players included veterans Beliavsky, Yusupov and Timman, young prospects, Anand, Speelman and Gelfand. Then an extraordinary drama unfolded. Our young hero eliminated both Kasparov and Karpov not to mention his own peers, Anand and Gelfand to come out on top with 9½ out of 13 points (+6, = 7-0).

Vassily Ivanchuk, 21, pictured after winning the 1991 Linares tournament Credit: unknown.) | Photo courtesy: Douglas Griffin’s blog on the history of Soviet chess

He was barely 21 at the time. How had he prepared for the tournament? With his wife, Alisa Galliamova, a strong chess player at the time. They had just got married and she was his talisman, so to speak.

This issue highlights both the Ivanchuk games and this famous 1991 Linares tournament.

Mihal Marin chose 16 games from Linares 1991 for his strategy question-and-answer session.

During the 1990s, Linares was known as the Wimbledon of chess. It was here that young stars Anand, Ivanchuk Kramnik and Shirov challenged the dominance of Karpov and Kasparov. Seasoned chess journalist Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam has written an entire book, recreating the atmosphere and vibe of the tournament.

Here’s a fascinating passage about Ivanchuk from the book:

Ivanchuk’s victories have earned him incredible popularity with the Linareses. People everywhere greet him with a short, warm “Ivanchuk!” The warmth they feel at his unaffected behavior outweighs their admiration for distant Kasparov. Ivanchuk doesn’t haughtily force his way through the crowd of noisy children who flock to the bottom of the hotel stairs every day, begging the players to sign in their program booklets. He always stops to sign a few. The year of his third tournament victory, he invited these young fans to join him in eating the cake the restaurant kitchen had prepared for him.

(Linares! Linares: A journey to the heart of chess)

Opening videos and surveys

There are 3 opening videos by Mihail Marin, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Jan Werle (they are featured on the cover of this issue).

Mihail Marin’s first deals with the English opening Mikanes System (A19). It is an obscure line, seldom seen.

Kasimdzhanov’s second deals with an important line, 11… Ne7 in Sicilian Sveshnikov (B33).

Jan Werle’s third deals with 4.f3, the Nimzo-Indian Sämish Variation (B25).

This should be investigated with an opening survey on the same line by Evgeny Postny in this issue.

Incidentally, there are up to 12 opening surveys ranging from Sicilian to Semi-Slavic in this issue. For now, I would like to highlight the Belgrade Gambit (C47) and Sicilian Grand Prix Attack (B23) investigations for special mention.

In addition to the opening surveys, this issue features standard features on tactics, strategy, and the endgame.

In summary

The main database of the issue has 547 recent games, 32 of which are deeply annotated.

Commentators include Anish Giri, Wesley So, and Jan Duda, among others. Major contributions are made by Michal Krasenkow (8 games) and Romain Edouard (14 games)

Note that there are more games annotated in the sections on opening theory and training. Good, practice makes perfect.

To note: More information about the start of Ivanchuk’s career can be found in Douglas Griffin’s chess blog

There are two collections of Ivanchuk games in English.

1)Vassily Ivanchuk: 100 games selected by Nikolai Kalinichenko (New to chess 2013).

2)Ivanchuk, movement by movement by Junior Tay (Everyday chess, 2015)

Buy ChessBase Magazine # 201 from the ChessBase Store …

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