New Year/New Goals - First Move Chess -First Move Chess

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The new year invariably brings with it a rash of resolutions for well-being over the next twelve months. This may seem obvious if your goal is a fitness or weight loss, but for Magnus Carlsen – after successfully defending his world championship crown – he’s thinking only of gain, gain and even more gain, with his 2022 target being to finally cross the rating rubicon of the Fide 2900 Elo barrier.

Carlsen has twice failed in attempts to break 2900, with his highest peak being 2882. To do so would require some really big tournament performances. And Carlsen’s kicks off 2022 looking for a big result in the first major of the year, the 84th Tata Steel Masters, held on the wintery and windswept Dutch coast of Wijk aan Zee, looking to better his previous best winning score there of 10/13 (in 2013) to gain meaningful rating points.

But Carlsen is traditionally a slow-starter, and perhaps a little mindful of a sore loss last year to Andrey Esipenko, he let the young Russian of the hook a little to start his campaign with a short though solid draw – but the Norwegian more than made up any lost ground by following up with a big win in round two over Anish Giri.

This was Carlsen’s fifth classical-career win over his over-the-board rival and Twitter adversary, but crucially it was his first win over the Dutch No 1 at the nation’s premier super-tournament. Back in 2011, in their first-ever encounter, Giri sensationally beat Carlsen in just 22 moves in Wijk aan Zee – but revenge was all the sweeter for Carlsen more than a decade later, who commented: “I’ve finally evened my score here against him after 11 years, so that’s really nice, and in the last couple of years I’ve had long stretches without any actual really convincing wins, so yeah, really appreciate this one!”

The impressive win kept Carlsen’s rating goal alive, gaining +1.7 rating points and creeping closer to breaking 2900 – and to show how daunting Carlsen’s target is, he needs to score 9/13 just not to lose rating points! The win also allowed Carlsen to join World Cup-winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Santosh Vidit in the co-lead, with the trio tied on 1½/2.

There’s live coverage throughout on Chess24, with all the Tata Steel action kicking at 14:00 CET (8:00 ET, 05:00 PT) each day (rest days on 19, 24 & 27 January) with commentary from GM Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson.

Standings:
1-3. J-K. Duda (Poland), M. Carlsen (Norway), S. Vidit (India) 1½/2; 4-11. F. Caruana (USA), A. Esipenko (Russia), S. Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), R. Rapport (Hungary), S. Karjakin (Russia), D. Dubov (Russia), R. Praggnanandhaa (India), J. Van Foreest (Netherlands) 1; 12-14. A. Giri (Netherlands), S. Shankland (USA), N. Grandelius (Sweden) ½.

Photo: An impressive early win over an old foe keeps Carlsen’s 2900 aim on-course | © Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel

GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Anish Giri
84th Tata Steel Masters, (2)
Catalan Opening
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Na3 Carlsen’s provocative Catalan outings of late is the consequence of hanging out with ‘dubious’ characters such as Daniil Dubov, with the dynamic young Russian being added to his successful World Championship-defence backroom team. Dubov’s mantra, as he explained in the opening round, is “Put the bishop on g2, sacrifice a pawn for nothing, start playing for tricks.” 7…Bxa3 8.bxa3 Bd7 9.a4 Bc6 10.Ba3 Re8 11.Qc2 Nbd7 12.Rac1 a6 You can try consolidating the c7 pawn with 12…Rc8 but after 13.Rfe1 Be4 14.Qxc4 c6 you just don’t know what sort of long-term Elephant trap you might be walking right into in Carlsen’s World Championship home prep. With that in mind, Giri opts to try to consolidate his position by looking to centralise his queen on d5 – but there’s a shock in store. 13.Qxc4 Nb6 14.Qc3 Nxa4 15.Qb3 Qd5 Now hindsight is always 20/20, but the critical line was surely 15…Nb6!? 16.Qb2 Be4 17.Rfd1 and White has excellent compensation for his pawn with the bishop-pair, the centralised rooks and the omnipresent threat of Ne5 to expand his pawn center with e2-e4. 16.Rxc6! A wonderful tactical resource from Carlsen, who takes full advantage of the fact that Giri’s recapture is forced, and that Ne5 unleashes the potent Catalan bishop resulting in maximum mayhem down the long diagonal. 16…Qxc6 17.Ne5 Qb5 18.Qc2 The major threat now is Rb1 and Bb4 picking off the a4 knight. 18…Nd5?! Giri has been bamboozled by it all and blinks, and just like that, Carlsen has the upper-hand. The Dutch No 1 simply had to find the only move that keeps his position alive, and that’s by mixing it with 18…Nb6! that leads to the following tactical sequence of 19.Bxb7 Nc4! 20.Bxa8 Nxa3 21.Qxc7 Rxa8 22.Qxf7+ Kh8 23.Rc1 Qe8 (It’s quite easy to go spectacularly wrong here with 23…Qxe2?? 24.Rc7 Rg8 only to get hit over the head by the show-stopping stunning queen sacrifice that leads to a forced mate, with 25.Qxg8+!! Kxg8 (If 25…Nxg8 26.Nf7#) 26.Rc8+ Ne8 27.Rxe8#) 24.Rc6 a5 25.Qxe6 Qxe6 26.Rxe6 with an intriguing ending in prospect: White has three good pawns for the piece, and also with his R+N actively placed. It’s likely a draw with careful play on both sides, but I would imagine Carlsen would relish grinding this one out against a big rival both on the board and on Twitter! 19.Rb1 Qa5 20.Bxd5 Not a bad move per se, but the engine just sees that little bit extra in such tactically-rich positions, and comes up with the more subtle approach with the intermediary move 20.Be4! the critical difference being that 20…g6 now 21.Bxd5 Qxd5 (The alternative 21…exd5? 22.Rxb7 is crushing for White, as in the game.) 22.Qxc7 Rf8 23.Bxf8 Rxf8 24.Nd7! and having induced 20…g6, Black is set to lose more material, as the Rf8 is attacked and to add to the equation there’s now a deadly fork on f6 looming, so something has to give. 20…exd5? It’s a further flinch from Giri, and with it no way back. The Dutchman was drinking in the last gasp saloon and simply had to find the only saving tactical sequence of 20…Nc3! 21.Bb4 Nxe2+! 22.Qxe2 Qxd5 23.Rc1 c6 24.Qh5 f6 (If 24…g6? 25.Qh6 Qe4 to stop Ng4. 26.Nd7 Qf5 27.Qh4! and Nf6+ followed by Bd6-e5 is hard to meet.) 25.Qf7+ Kh8 You could imagine what might have been going through Giri’s thought-process here, fearing that Carlsen has to have a killing-blow somewhere that he’s missed, but there is no direct knockout blow, the best scenario being: 26.Nd7 e5! It’s very possible that Giri might have missed this vital resource in his analysis, which might better explain his rationale for opting for 20…exd5. 27.Qxd5 cxd5 28.dxe5 Rad8 29.Nc5 fxe5 30.Nxb7 Rd7 31.Nc5 Rc7 32.Rd1 a5 33.Ba3 d4 not an easy endgame to assess, most-likely a draw, but Black is in no danger of losing, though crucially it is going to take a mishap for White to win. 21.Rxb7 c5? Giri is seeing more ghosts here than Haley Joel Osment’s character in the Bruce Willis movie The Sixth Sense! The very, very last hope was 21…Qe1+ 22.Kg2 Nc3! 23.Bb4 Qxe2 24.Qxc3 Qe4+ 25.Nf3 Rac8 and though while Black is not quite dead here, his vital signs don’t look good at all, as this is the sort of position Carlsen will relentlessly grind a trademark win out all day long. 22.Qf5! [see diagram] Ruthlessly Carlsen wastes no time coming in for the kill. 22…Rf8 23.Nxf7 Qd8 You got to admire Giri’s chutzpah here: If you are going to crash and burn, then you might as well do so by offering up a crowd-pleasing pseudo queen sac! 24.dxc5 Qf6 25.Qxf6 gxf6 Giri’s position is a wreck, and not even a wreck that he can hope to cling onto for any desperate hopes of survival! 26.Nh6+ Kh8 27.c6 With the …Na4 unable to get back into the game via b6 or c5, Carlsen has an easy task of converting his big positional advantage as he runs his passed pawn right up to c7, quickly followed by Nh6-f7-d6. 27…Rfc8 28.c7 Nc3 29.Bb2 d4 30.Nf7+ Kg7 31.Nd6 Kg6 And no better was the immediate 31…Nb5 32.Nxc8 Rxc8 33.a4 Rxc7 34.Rxc7+ Nxc7 35.Bxd4 that leads to much the same hopelessly lost ending as in the game. 32.Kf1 Nb5 33.Nxc8 Rxc8 34.a4 Nxc7 35.Bxd4 Ne6 36.Be3 1-0

 

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