Weekly chess column

In the eighth round of the Bilbao Masters, Magnus Carlsen broke world champion Viswanathan Anand’s string of seven draws. Spectators had been wondering whether the popular Anand had been overwhelmed by caution after having a close call against Boris Gelfand in his defense of the championship. At the same time, perhaps it was the case that Anand was almost impossible to defeat. One is reminded of the Austrian Carl Schlechter who drew six out of seven of his matches, including one against Emanuel Lasker, the world champion. Carlsen, however, leveled that comparison with the following game, playing the white pieces.

In this game, Anand played the Sicilian defense and Carlsen set up a pawn formation known as the Maroczy bind, with pawns at c4 and e4. However, on the 15th move, Anand was able to break the bind with a forthright d5.  Following exchanges, Carlsen played a sneaky Qe1 threatening to fork Anand’s queen and rook. Anand stepped lightly aside by 17… Rdc8. In hindsight, that appears to be an error as he buried his rook. Carlsen then went on the attack and sacrificed a pawn to disorganize Anand’s king side pawns. He then closed in for victory. Anand is a very popular world champion, and spectators were both amazed and disappointed that Anand could be so easily defeated.

a) Experience has shown that it is far too dangerous to go chasing after the e-pawn with either 5…Qg4 6.O-O Qxe4 7.d4 or 5…Nf6 6.Nc3 Qg4 7.O-O Nxe4 8.Nxe4 (8.Qb3!?) 8…Qxe4 9.d4.


b) More typical is 9…Nc6 10.Nde2. Anand’s move may be home analysis to try to dislocate White’s pieces a bit.

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c) This is an unusual way to play but it turns out well and seems to make sense.

d) This is an extraordinary-looking move, but it makes perfect sense once the point is clear: 16.exd5 Nxd5 17.cxd5 Rxd5 wins back the knight on d4 thanks to the pin, and after 18.Nxc6 Rxd1 19.Nxe7+ Kf8 20.Bxg7+ Kxg7 21.Raxd1 Black plays 21…Qe6 to win one of the knights back with the better game.

e) White’s last move was extremely clever because it sets up the e4-e5-e6 idea and gains a tempo in so doing by threatening Ba5. Anand’s move meets the Ba5 threat but seems otherwise listless. Perhaps 17…a5!? was better, or perhaps  even sacrificing the exchange with 17…dxe4 18.Ba5 Qe3 was worth considering.

f) A big decision! The clear alternative was 19…f5.


g) Either Black’s 19th move was a mistake, or Black must find a clear improvement over the last five moves. Suddenly the threat of Qh6 and Ng5 has put Black in dire straits.

h) Desperation, but what else to do? White has two deadly ideas: (1) Re5 with the threat of Nxh7, Qxg6+; (2) Re5 and Rfe1 to capture on e6.

i) Black’s position is in tatters. It is amazing to see Anand taken apart so effortlessly!

Carlsen v. Anand

Bilbao 5th Final Masters

Sicilian Defense

Carlsen Anand

Carlsen Anand

White Black

White Black

1. e4 c5

16. Nxc6 bxc6

2. Nf3 d6

17. Qe1! Rdc8? (e)

3. Bb5+ Bd7

18. e5 Ne8

4. Bxd7+ Qxd7

19. e6! fxe6 (f)

5. c4 Nf6

20. Nf4 Bxc3

6. Nc3 g6 (a)

21. Qxc3 d4

7. d4 cxd4

22. Qd2 c5

8. Nxd4 Bg7

23. Rae1 Ng7

9. f3 Qc7!? (b)

24. g4 Rc6

10. b3 Qa5

25. Nh3! (g) Ne8

11. Bb2 Nc6

26. Qh6 Nf6

12. O-O O-O

27. Ng5 d3 (h)

13. Nce2!? (c) Rfd8

28. Re5 Kh8

14. Bc3 Qb6

29. Rd1 Qa6

15. Kh1 d5!? (d)

30. a4 (i) 1-0