Can nothing stop him? Magnus Carlsen continues to dominate the lockdown-inspired online arena, as a touch of sheer brilliance in the opening game of Saturday’s second set proved the catalyst for the world champion to somehow survive Anish Giri’s spirited fightback to take the first Chessable Masters title and the $45,000 first prize, making this the Norwegian’s second title win in his own $1m signature chess tour hosted on Chess24.
Afterwards, Carlsen paid tribute to his “impressive” opponent who somehow managed to snatch draws from the mouth of victory by squandering three golden opportunities to get back in the match. “Frankly, he just played much better than I did in the last three games,” Carlsen said.
Carlsen and Giri are regarded as “Best of Frenemies” with their often slightly sardonic Twitter exchanges. But with his latest two-sets-to-love victory over Giri, Carlsen has now won 4 out of the 5 online tournaments he’s taken part in during the pandemic lockdown: Magnus Carlsen Invitational (Winner), Lindores Abbey Challenge (Semifinalist), Steinitz Memorial (Winner), St Louis Clutch Chess Int. (Winner), and now, the Chessable Masters (Winner).
And with Carlsen being a double tour winner, US champion and Twitch chess superstar Hikaru Nakamura is now in pole position for one of the four coveted ‘Grand Final’ tour spots in August. There is only one leg left now on the tour, the Legends of Chess, which starts on July 21
Some games have established the reputation of being the best of their time or the most brilliant by a particular master of his generation – and many of these famous games from the annals have established their own titles. Paul Morphy’s “Opera Box Game” is perhaps the best-known game in the history of chess; Adolf Anderssen has to his credit “The Immortal Game” and “The Evergreen Game”, both widely held to be the most beautiful games of the nineteenth century.
In the 20th century, Aron Nimzowitsch paralysed his opponent into a 25-move resignation that was hailed as “The Immortal Zugzwang”; Akiba Rubinstein mesmerised his opponent in “The Polish Immortal”; and for Bobby Fischer, “The Game of the Century” shot the young American teenage prodigy to overnight international fame.
And now, in the digital era, and due to the enforced online activity of elite-level chess created by the corona crisis, Carlsen has now given us a game against Giri that could well enter the pantheon of those above-named classics by being “The Online Immortal” – a stunningly brilliant game in its execution that even had one online fan (“tx7081040”) at Chess24 enthusing: “You could put that game next to the Mona Lisa in The Louvre. It was that special.”
GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Anish Giri
Chessable Masters Final, (2.1)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 The Semi-Tarrasch Defense was popularised by Boris Spassky in the mid-1960s, en route to winning the world title. The idea behind it with the recapture of the pawn with the knight is not to be landed with the isolated d-pawn. The idea is to complete his development, have a solid position, and look long-term for his queenside pawns to become a danger in the endgame. But alas, as we’ve pointed out in a recent Semi-Tarrasch debacle, as Tarrasch himself wryly observed, “Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame.” 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 0-0 11.Bc4 Nd7 12.0-0 b6 13.Rad1 Bb7 14.Rfe1 Rc8 15.Bb3 Re8 16.Re3 The rook lift serves several purposes: it can lead to a doubling (or even tripling) of the ‘heavy furniture’ – rooks and queen – on the e- or even d-files; it can also swing over to the kingside to support a deadly attack on the Black king. 16…Nf6 17.d5! One of the pitfalls of playing the Semi-Tarrasch against Carlsen, is you run the risk of falling down a deep rabbit hole of his backroom team’s legendary home prep – and here, as Carlsen quickly builds up a big advantage on the clock with the world champion flicking out all the moves, it became obvious that Giri could be in serious trouble. 17…exd5 18.e5 Ne4 19.Qe1 With the pawn sacrifice, a confident Carlsen was still flicking out the moves, and suddenly the reality was that Giri could well be about to step on a landmine. 19…Qc7 This looks wrong, and I can’t disagree with the engine calling for the immediate 19…Nc5 the point to note is that if 20.Nd4 Black has the option of 20…Qg5!? to keep tabs on the e5-pawn and stop the immediate knight jump into f5 to orchestrate the kingside attack. And now if 21.Bc2 Ne6! Black has a super-solid position with lots of dynamic play. 20.Nd4 With the e5-pawn taboo due to f3 winning material, the knight jumping into f5 (or possibly b5) is going to be difficult to deal with. 20…a6 21.h4! As Carlsen reaches for the AlphaZero ‘tin opener’, the signs were beginning to look ominous for Giri, who hasn’t just fallen down the rabbit hole, he’s also now become the rabbit caught in the coming headlights. 21…Rcd8 Also worth a try to confuse things was 21…b5!? the idea being 22.f3 Nc3 23.Rdd3 b4! where at least the …Nc3 can be awkward for White; though I’d imagine the idea will be to ignore it and just go for the all-out attack with Nf5 and Qg3. 22.f3 Nc5 23.h5 Ne6 Giri attempts to solidify the defence to his kingside. Capturing the bishop doesn’t help matters. If 23…Nxb3 24.axb3 and the attack is still coming in like a tsunami with f4 followed by h6 etc. 24.Nf5! According to Garry Kasparov, “A knight on f5 just about every time justifies a pawn sacrifice.” And here, you had to agree with Kasparov, as you begin to now see visions of a killing kingside attack looming large on the horizon. 24…d4?! Giri blinks with the threat of the Nd6 invasion. The only try to hang on was 24…Qc5 25.h6 g5!? 26.Nd6 Re7 but you can see this coming to a sticky end also for Black, as there are too many holes in his position. 25.Red3 Nc5 26.Rxd4 Rxd4 27.Rxd4 Nxb3 28.Qg3! It’s a timely zwischenzug, and with it, comes the brilliant attack. 28…g6 29.axb3 Rd8 30.e6!! [see diagram] Now comes a crescendo of brilliant moves from Carlsen that takes full advantage of the overworked queen, as he unleashes on Giri his ‘Online Immortal’. 30…Qc1+ So why not retreat the queen to try to hold the defence? Well, the stunning point to Carlsen attack is that 30…Qb8 31.Qe5!! f6 (Again, if 31…Qxe5 32.Rxd8#!) 32.Qxf6 gxf5 33.h6 and Black can’t avoid being mated. 31.Kh2 Rxd4 32.e7! Qc8 33.Qe5!! We return once again to the theme noted above of a mate on g7 or e8Q mate. 33…Rh4+ 34.Kg3! 1-0 Of course, Carlsen can safely take the rook with 34.Nxh4 – but where’s the beauty in that of delaying the inevitable mate for a couple of moves, when you can just ignore the rook? And with it, Giri resigns.