Chess notes

I’ve billed today’s game as the “Loss heard around the World,” since such a loss by the once invincible world champion Magnus Carlsen has global implications in the chess world. It is really just the latest sign of Carlsen’s problems. The World Championship match vs. Sergey Karjakin showed a very out-of-form Carlsen, who missed two technical wins early in the match that he previously would have won easily. And then at the Grenke Classic, he had only one win, with the rest of his play suspect. And now on his home field, the Altibox Norway Chess event, he has hit rock bottom with two very poor loses.  

Perhaps Carlsen approached this game overly optimistically, as he had not lost a classical, time-controlled game to Kramnik since 2010. Either way, Kramnik played solid and well calculated chess while Carlsen, at two key moments, had terrible tactical oversights which led to his defeat.

2017, 5th Norway Chess, Stavanger, Norway

Vladimir Kramnik (2808) — Magnus Carlsen (2832)

 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.0–0 a6 7.Re1 Ba7 8.a4 0–0 9.h3 Ne7 10.d4 Ng6 11.Nbd2 c6 12.Bd3 A rare move that Kramnik played last year at this event vs. Aronian. That game ended in a draw. 12...Re8 13.Bc2 Perhaps an improvement over his game vs Aronian where he played 13.Qc2 13...h6 14.Nf1 exd4 14…Bd7 is more solid. 15.cxd4 c5 16.d5 A Benoni type of position where Black’s black square bishop is not as well placed. 16...b5 17.axb5 b3 with the idea of putting his bishop on b2 where it will be a monster is a better plan. 17...axb5 18.Ng3 Bd7 19.Be3 Again 19. b3!? 19...Bb6 20.Rxa8 Qxa8 21.b4 Qa7 Probably 21…Qb7 is better not giving White his 22.Qa1 idea. 22.Qa1! Qc7? A careless move which brings Black all sorts of trouble. 22...Rc8 is better: 23.bxc5 Qxa1 24.Rxa1 Bxc5 25.Bxc5 Rxc5 26.Nd4 Kf8 with slight plus for White 23.Bxh6! Many commentators believe that Carlsen just overlooked this shot and was very fortunate that he had 23...cxb4. Chess by accident in not to be recommended but if it works for a world champion why not the rest of us? 23…cxb424.Bxg7 Having said “A” you must say “B” 24...Qxc2 24…Kxg7 25.Nh5+ 25.Qxf6 Black has to pay attention now as White’s pieces are swarming around his king. 


25...Qxf2+?? Carlsen fails the test as this virtually loses but 25...Bxc2+ holds:

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26.Kh2 Qc3 (not 26…Bxe1 27.Bh6 Bc3 (or 27…Qc3) 28.e5 winning)  27.Re2 Qxf6 28.Bxf6 Bc5 29.Nh5 Ra8 30.Bg5 with a slight plus for White. 26.Kh2 As Black no longer has the defensive Qc3 and he has to scramble to avoid being mated. 26...Bd8 or 26...Ne5 27.Nxe5 Qxf6 28.Bxf6 dxe5 29.Nh5 Ba5 30.g4 with a big plus 27.Qxd6! Nh4 28.Nxh4 Bxh4 29.Nh5 The Qh6 is the threat 29...Bxh3 if 29...b3 Black gets mated after 30.Qh6 f5 31.Bc3 Re7 32.Qh8+ Kf7 33.Qg7+ Ke8 34.Qg8# 30.Rg1! 30.Kxh3 actually losses to 30…Qxe1 31.Be5 Qxe4 32.Bf6 b3 33.Bxh4 Qf5+ 34.g4 Qf1+ 35.Kh2 Re2+;And now the Qh6 threat is back on. 30...Bg5 31.Bf6 Bg4 31…Bxg2 almost works: as 32.Rxg2 leads to a perpetual check: 32...Qh4+ 33.Kg1 Qe1+ 34.Kh2 Qh4+  but 32.Qg3! refutes it as after Qxg3+ 33.Kxg3 Black loses a piece. 32.Bxg5 Bxh5 33.Qh6 The threat of 34.Bf6 wins White a piece and the game. 33...Rxe4 34.Qxh5 Qf5 35.Qh6 b3 36.Bf6 Qf4+ 37.Qxf4 Rxf4 38.d6 Rxf6 39.Rd1 The d-pawn costs Black his rook. 39...Rh6+ 40.Kg1; 1–0

Chris Chase can be reached at