Sunday, March 15, 2009


Chess by Leonard Barden

Since Magnus Carlsen became, for a day only, the youngest ever world No1 on the live ratings, the Norwegian 18-year-old's career has, judged by the Olympian standards of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, gone into something of a stall. Carlsen holds his own in elite tournaments, but the odd moment of teenage carelessness costs him points.

He could have won this week's "chess Wimbledon" at Linares but for falling into a simple drawing trap in the penultimate round. Yet he still finished only half a point behind the winners, and it seems his advance to overtake the world's current top pair, Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov, is just a question of time. Leading Linares scores were Alex Grischuk and Vasily Ivanchuk 8/14. Carlsen 7.5, Anand 7.

Since Garry Kasparov retired from chess and became a so far unsuccessful Russian politician, the former world champion has frequently kibitzed at major events and has become known as a severe critic of his one-time peers. So the fact that Kasparov described this week's game as "brilliant" – and that against a Sicilian with 11...Re8 which was a favourite line for the all-time No1 – suggests that Carlsen's time will come after another year or two of maturing.

Carlsen's new step on a well-trodden path was 15 fxe5!? which looks harmless but has long-term designs of combining the advance of his queen's side pawn majority (achieved by 20 Nd5) with a latent Rxf6 sacrifice. Black should have exchanged pieces by 19...Bg4 since as played White's b6/d6 pawn duo set up promotion tactics. At the end the elegant 33 Ba6! and 34 Bxb7! concludes a strategic masterpiece of which any world champion would be proud.

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e6 7 O-O Be7 8 a4 Nc6 9 Be3 O-O 10 f4 Qc7 11 Kh1 Re8 12 Bf3 Bf8 13 Qd2 Rb8 14 Qf2 e5 15 fxe5!? dxe5 16 Nb3 Nb4 17 Ba7 Ra8 18 Bb6 Qe7 19 Rad1 Be6 20 Nd5 Bxd5 21 exd5 e4 22 d6 Qe6 23 Nc5 Qf5 24 Be2 Qxf2 25 Rxf2 Nbd5 26 a5 Nxb6 27 axb6 Rab8 28 Rxf6! gxf6 29 Nd7 f5 30 c4 a5 31 c5 Bg7 32 Nxb8 Rxb8 33 Ba6! Bf6 34 Bxb7! Rxb7 35 c6 Rxb6 36 Rc1! Bxb2 37 d7 1-0

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