The Magnus Carlsen pandemic response with the ‘Magnus Carlsen Invitational’ online super-tournament proved to be an instant hit with the media and chess fans both looking for any form of live-action activity, and that was quickly followed by the further lockdown online initiative announcement of his $1 million ‘Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour’ – but the World Champion isn’t having it all his own way in his own signature tour as the second leg of the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge got underway this week on Chess24.com.
Carlsen looked to be “in the mood” with a smooth opening day performance on Tuesday, as he shared the lead unbeaten on 3/4 with US speed and internet maven Hikaru Nakamura, who had an equally smooth performance. But day two turned into something of a mini-disaster that left Carlsen clearly frustrated with his bouts of inconsistency, as he was dramatically beaten twice by Yu Yangyi and Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
And with it, Carlsen now falls a point behind leaders Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin going into the final day of the preliminaries. Thursday’s final three rounds will decide which eight will go on to the ‘business’ end of the knockout quarterfinals, and which four fails to make the cut, with Duda, Daniil Dubov, Alireza Firouzja and We Yi in grave danger of being eliminated.
Carlsen is still on track though to go through to the next stage – however, the Norwegian will be looking to make a statement with a hard-hitting comeback performance on the final day on Thursday, as its best to score well in the preliminaries, in order to get a better pairing order for the next phase.
“It’s always interesting to watch his games because he always goes for it, he never plays for a draw!” And those proved to the prophetic words from Carlsen on Duda, as the 22-year-old Pole didn’t disappoint with yet another impressive game to beat the World Champion – and possibly a result that will inspire Duda to abide by making the cut for the quarterfinals.
And such was the impact of Duda’s stylish win over Carlsen and the immediate response from the chess community to it, that it made headline news back home in Poland, and his more famous namesake, Polish President Andrzej Duda was equally moved to tweet his congratulations to the young Pole on making the news by beating the World Champion for the first time!
1-2. Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Sergey Karjakin (Russia) 5½/8; 3-4. Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Wesley So (USA) 4½; 5-8. Levon Aronian (Armenia), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Yu Yangyi (China), Ding Liren (China) 4; 9-10. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Daniil Dubov (Russia) 3½; 11. Alireza Firouzja (FIDE) 3; 12. We Yi (China) 2.
Video opposite: Check in for the Aftershow, as GM Pascal Charbonneau takes a look at the Day 2 highlights of the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge.
GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda – GM Magnus Carlsen
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, (7)
English Four Knights, Stean variation
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Bb4 5.Qc2 0-0 6.Nd5 Re8 7.Qf5!? In the English Opening comes the evolution of a fascinating variation from the mid-1970s with firm English roots. England’s third grandmaster, Michael Stean, is the brainchild behind this highly original concept – but the first to play it was England’s second grandmaster Ray Keene, against the leading Dutch player of the day, Jan Timman, at Bad Lauterberg 1977. Keene explained the principles behind this move in his early and wonderful 1979 book for Bell & Hyman, The Openings in Modern Theory and Practice – and it was this enterprising play in the English Opening that proved to be one of the reasons that led Viktor Kortchnoi to recruit the English duo as seconds for his 1978 World Championship Match against Anatoly Karpov. 7…d6 8.Nxf6+ gxf6 Trading queens with 8…Qxf6 9.Qxf6 gxf6 only works to White’s advantage after 10.a3 Ba5 11.b4 Bb6 12.d3 with the better endgame prospects due to Black’s kingside pawn structure being compromised. 9.Qh5 This is the move that makes the whole line work for White – in the aforementioned Keene game, he played 9.Qc2 but explained in his tome why 9.Qh5 was much better and thus started an initial trend to play this line. 9…d5 10.a3 Bf8 11.Bd3! The early aggression and tactics work in White’s favour. 11…e4 Black could try 11…h6 but after 12.cxd5 Qxd5 13.Be2 White can claim he’s not really wasted any time with his bishop retreat as long-term, he has the sounder position with the safer king and no pawn weaknesses. 12.cxd5! exd3 13.dxc6 bxc6 The position can only be best described as “a mess” – Carlsen has the bishop-pair and the open lines, but just look how crippled his pawns are, and those vulnerable pawns soon become a liability. 14.b4! The plan from Duda is straight-forward: Bc1-b2 followed by Nf3-d4 – and with no way for Carlsen to get to Duda’s king, his long-term prospects heading into any sort of endgame scenario look grim. 14…a5?! Far too ambitious from Carlsen. With hindsight, he will have realised that his only real option here was the immediate 14…Qd5 and 15.Qxd5 cxd5 16.Bb2 as now 16…a5! gives equality, the point being that 17.b5 a4! and White’s queenside pawns are also now equally weak and vulnerable. 15.Bb2 Re4 Carlsen plan looks aggressive, but it only allows Duda to play what he wants to play. 16.Nd4! Qd5 And with the trade of queens, this is almost an admission from Carlsen that he’s gone horribly wrong with the opening. It looks as if Carlsen may well have underestimated what was happening in the complications arising from 16…axb4?! 17.Nxc6 Qd6 18.Nxb4 Rb8 19.f3 Rc4 20.Bc3 Rc5 21.Qh4! and White clearly has better prospects. 17.Qxd5 cxd5 18.f3 A handy little move to have, as not only nudges the rook from its active outpost but at the same time allows Kf2 and better centralised for the ensuing endgame. 18…Re8 19.Nb5 Re7 20.Bxf6 Not only losing a pawn, but Carlsen just has too many other pawn weaknesses that ultimately leads to his downfall. 20…Rd7 21.Kf2 Ba6 Black can’t recapture the pawn due to 21…axb4? 22.axb4 Rxa1 23.Rxa1, where White is just going to win due to the chronic back-rank weakness in the Black camp. 22.Nd4 Bc4 23.Rhb1 By now, you could physically detect in Carlsen’s body language that Duda was giving the World Champion a major headache. 23…Ra6 24.Be5 f6 25.b5 Rb6 26.Bf4 a4 Realistically this is Carlsen only hope of trying to save the game, by making targets of Duda’s queenside pawns. 27.g4! Now Duda’s perfect pawn structure comes into its own with his rapid kingside expansion. 27…Bc5 28.h4 Kf7 The alternative of 28…Bxd4 29.exd4 Rxb5 30.Rxb5 Bxb5 and the prospects of an opposite-coloured bishop may well have been better for Carlsen but after 31.Re1! Kf7 32.Bg3 c6 33.f4 and with f5 and Re6 coming, all the momentum is with White. 29.Kg3 Bxd4 30.exd4 Bxb5 31.Rb4 Re7? Carlsen makes a costly error, but if 31…Bc6 32.Rxb6 cxb6 33.Rc1! and Black is in trouble due to the weak b6-pawn that can’t be defended once the bishop moves. And if 31…c6 32.g5! and White intends playing Kg4 or perhaps Re1 with excellent chances of making further kingside progress with his advances. 32.Rab1! Duda is quick to spot that the pin on the b-file wins. 32…Bc4 It suddenly dawns on Carlsen that he can’t play 32…c6? because of 33.Rxa4 Rbb7 34.Ra8 and a winning advantage. So rather than that, Carlsen tries to salvage something with the slim hope of an opposite-coloured bishop ending. 33.Rxb6 cxb6 34.Rxb6 Bb3 35.Bd6 Rd7 36.f4 The kingside push is just killing now. 36…f5 37.g5 Bd1 38.Bc5! [see diagram] Now Rf6+ or even Rh6 followed by h5 and Kh4, to name but a few variations, are major threats to have to contend with – and with it, Carlsen is dead in the water. 38…Kg7 39.Kf2 Rd8 It’s the last desperate throw of the dice now for Carlsen, who tries to get his rook into the game either via the e- or b-file – but Duda is not having any of it. The alternative was going down with 39…Be2 40.Bd6 Kf7 41.Ra6 Bd1 42.Ke3! Bc2 43.Be5! and Black can’t stop Rf6+ winning the f-pawn. 40.Rb7+ Kg6 You have to laugh at commentator GM Jan ‘Gusti’ Gustaffson’s quip here with the weird structure on the board: “If this was in a movie we would complain that they should at least hire one chess player as a consultant!” 41.Re7 Rb8 42.Re6+ Kh5 43.Kg3! 1-0 Carlsen walks right into a helpmate with no way now to stop Rh6, so he resigns. A really well-executed game from the enterprising young Mr Duda.