The late, great American satirist P.J. O’Rourke famous titled a book spanning his career Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut. I’m not so sure about the bad haircut part, but those words could well have summed up Magnus Carlsen’s crushing victory over Indian teenager Arjun Erigaisi at the weekend, with the world champion turning in a performance of unadulterated power and guile to emphatically win the Julius Baer Generation Cup.
In the two-set final of the contest sponsored by private Swiss investment bankers that spanned the generations, Carlsen was in killer mode as he ended his crusade with an undefeated victory over the 19-year-old, by 2.5-0.5 and 2-0, to take the top-prize and the seventh leg of the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, further extending his lead in the overall leaderboard with $180,000 in earnings.
And so comprehensive was Carlsen overwhelming victory, that during his stunning run he lost only two games in total throughout the prelims and KO stages of the competition – one of which being his one-move ‘silent resignation’ protest against Hans Niemann – to become the first Tour player to break the 2900 rating-barrier.
A pleased Carlsen, while happy in victory though thought he could have played better(!), wryly tweeted: “I am happy to (barely) be younger than the second and third place finishers combined.” More intriguingly, Carlsen said that he would be making a further statement soon over the alleged cheating scandal that is currently rocking the game and engulfing the media – just released here.
There are only two more tournament now left in the 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, one Regular in October and one Major in November, to decide the winner. By virtue of reaching the final of the Julius Baer Generation Cup, Carlsen and Erigaisi are already qualified into the eight-player Major in San Francisco.
GM Arjun Erigaisi – GM Magnus Carlsen
Julius Baer Generation Cup, Final (1.2)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 d6 6.0-0 a5 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 Bd7 This is what Carlsen dubbed as one of his “anti-youth openings” with an early divergence from known best-theory. 9.Re1 Ba7 10.Nbd2 g5 11.Bg3 Ne7 12.d4! Striking quickly in the center has to be the best reply to Carlsen’s slower set-up. 12…Ng6 13.dxe5 dxe5 14.Nf1 There was a case, as the engine quickly points out, for the unusual 14.Bd5!? Nxd5 (The idea behind Bd5 is to tempt 14…c6 where the simple retreat 15.Bb3 leaves Black’s light-square bishop looking bad) 15.exd5 f6 16.Qc2! Kf7 17.Rad1 with the plan of Nc4, Qe2 (or e4) and the d6-push. 14…Qe7 15.Ne3 0-0-0 Things are set to heat-up now with attacks on opposite wings! 16.Qc1 Rhe8 With the queen off the d1-h5 diagonal, the time looked ripe for 16…Nh5!? as 17.b4 leads to 17…g4! 18.Nd5 Qd6 19.Nh4 Nxg3 20.Nxg6 (Forced, otherwise 20.hxg3 Nxh4 21.gxh4 g3! is winning.) 20…fxg6 21.hxg3 axb4 22.cxb4 Rdf8! and Black’s attack looks to be rolling freely with …h5-h4 looming to open the h-file. 17.b4 a4 It’s tricky snatching the e4-pawn; but not altogether bad. After 17…Nxe4 18.Nd5 Qd6 19.Rxe4 f5 White can always try 20.Rxe5!? Rxe5 21.Nxe5 Nxe5 22.Bxe5 Qxe5 and 23.Qe1 seems to force the trade of queens with 23…Re8 24.Qxe5 Rxe5 25.bxa5 and the game is likely going to eke out to a draw. All of which is likely why Carlsen rejected this option as it leads to too many liquidations. 18.Nf5 Qf8 19.Qc2 Nf4 20.Rad1 The game is finely balanced with a double-edged position – but perhaps believing he was much better, Erigaisi misses something major. 20…Bxf5 21.Qxa4 Rxd1 22.Rxd1 Kb8 23.exf5 e4 The only plan Carlsen has is to push his e-pawn 24.Nd4 e3! In an increasingly double-edged position, what Erigasi isn’t aware of, is that Carlsen has seen a little deeper into the tactics than he has. 25.fxe3 Rxe3 26.Bf2 Qe7! The exchange sacrifice is the only logical follow-up, considering that retreating with 26…Re8?? leads to a stunning forced mate after 27.Nc6+!! Kc8 (No better is 27…bxc6 28.Qxa7+ Kc8 29.Qa8#) 28.Nxa7+ Kb8 29.Nc6+ bxc6 30.Qa7+ Kc8 31.Qa8#. 27.Bxe3 Qxe3+ 28.Kf1 Forced; but anyway, due to the back-rank threats, if White plays 28.Kh1 Bxd4 29.cxd4 Ng4 there’s no way to stop …Nf2+ winning. 28…N4d5! [see diagram] The experience and guile of Carlsen quickly shines through, as remarkably this is the only move that doesn’t lose by force – and a move that seemingly was missed by Erigasi in his early calculations. If 28…Ng4?? 29.Nc6+! mates quickly and if 28…N6d5? 29.Re1 and the threat of Re8 mating can’t be stopped. 29.Bxd5?? Visably stunned by Carlsen’s quick response, Erigaisi missed his only survival try with 29.Be2! but after 29…c6! (Worse was 29…Qf4+?! 30.Bf3 Ne3+ 31.Ke1 Nxd1 32.Qb5! Bb6 33.Kxd1 which is likely to end in a draw. And not, note 29…Nxc3??, as 30.Nc6+ leads to a forced mate in a couple of moves.) 30.Rd3 Forced, otherwise …Nxc3 is killing. 30…Qc1+ 31.Qd1 Ne3+ 32.Rxe3 Qxe3 33.Qd3 Nd5 34.Qxe3 Nxe3+ 35.Kf2 and head for the opposite bishop ending via a hidden resource, albeit sans a pawn, with 35…Nxf5 36.Kf3 Bxd4 37.Ke4! An imaginative try quickly found by the engine that seemingly saves the game by activating White’s king – and in the heat of battle, it’s hard to criticise Erigaisi for missing this stunning resource. 37…Bxc3 38.Kxf5 Bxb4 39.Bh5 Kc7 40.Bxf7 Bd6 41.g3 b5 and it is not all that easy to win the opposite bishop ending with an extra pawn, even if your name just happens to be Magnus Carlsen! 29…Ng4! 0-1 And Erigaisi resigns, unable to stop the twin mating threats of …Qf2 and …Nxh2.