Again and again in the latest installment of grandmaster chess tournaments, Magnus Carlsen, 21, of Norway, demonstrated that he had the stamina and the technique to overbear competitors. Playing with what appears to be unprepared openings, he plays conservatively and gradually increases his position in Steinitzian fashion to bring about victory. In the São Paulo-Bilbao Masters, he proved his superiority.
He had a worthy rival for a time, young Miami-born Fabiano Caruana, a citizen of both the United States and Italy, living in Switzerland. Caruana had won at Dortmund and emerged from being the 34th player in the world to now fifth. He defeated Carlsen in the first round at the São Paulo leg of the Bilbao Masters and appeared to be running away from the field. The tournament used the Sophia system, 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, none for a loss.
However, at the Bilbao venue, Carlsen reminded one of a racehorse coming from behind to win by a nose. Carlsen got revenge against Caruana by defeating him in the first game. Playing the White pieces against Caruana’s French defense, Carlsen offered an exchange of queens and an end game in exchange for one apparently trivial tempo. Caruana accepted and thereafter Carlsen inch by inch increased his advantage. His king moved forward to dominate the center, he created an open file, and his king finally penetrated for the victory. In the seventh round, Carlsen defeated Francisco Vallejo Pons and came up even with Caruana.
In the eighth, Carlsen faced world champion Viswanathan Anand of India. Anand had played seven straight draws, continuing what seemed to be a malaise of conservative play. In this game, Anand managed to break up a throttling pawn formation, but Carlsen sacrificed his king’s pawn to disrupt Anand’s king side. Anand attempted counter play by pushing a passed pawn but failed. Faced with the loss of material, Anand resigned. Carlsen added 3 points to his score. Caruana, however, matched Carlsen’s victory with a fine demonstration against Levon Aronian, the Armenian grandmaster.
In the last round, Carlsen playing Aronian drew with Black in 44 moves. Caruana playing the Black pieces and unable to remember his opening, seemed to give up and allowed Vallejo Pons to repeat moves in a position first reached on the 10th move. Somehow Caruana was worn out or had lost heart, and in the first Blitz playoff, Carlsen, defending a Ruy Lopez, appropriated a couple of pawns and won. In the second game, Caruana gave up shortly after losing a piece on move 13.
With victories at Bilbao, the Tal Memorial, and a strong second at the Biel International Chess Festival, Carlsen currently stands virtually unchallenged as the best player in the world.
Brevity: Akopian v. Lautier (2009) 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.0–0 Nf6 9.Qe2 Be7 10.b3 0–0 11.Bb2 c5 12.Rad1 Bb7 13.exd5 exd5 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Rfe1 Ne4 16.Bxe4 dxe4 17.Qg4 g6 18.Rd7 Qc8 19.Nb6 Qc6 20.Nd5; 1-0 (If 20… Bd8 21. RxB wins)
Winners: Wachusett CC Larry Eldridge Tribute: Tie for 1st: George Mirijanian, Gary Brassard, and Ken Gurge; 4-1; Boylston Quads: Quad #1: 1st, Eric Godin 2.5-1.5; 2d Cary Theil, 2-1.
Quad #2: 1st, Oliver Traldi 3-0; 2d, Conway Xu, 1.5-1.5.
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