Magnus Carlsen was back in the groove – doing what commentator GM David Howell described as “Magnus doing Magnus things” – as he ominously moved into the outright lead at the end of the opening day of the Julius Baer Generation Cup prelims, the seventh leg of the $1.6m Meltwater Grand Chess Tour.
The Norwegian racked up an unbeaten tally of 10 out of a possible 12 points with wins over Arjun Erigaisi, Adhiban Baskaran (somewhat luckily) and Liem Quang Le, with the clean sweep of day 1 only prevented by his long-time rival the Dutch No.1 Anish Giri holding out for the draw.
But of all the 32 games in the prelims, the one everyone is booking their ringside seat for comes in today’s second day of the competition, in round six to be precise, as Carlsen comes face to face with Hans Niemann in their first encounter since the world champion’s dramatic walkout from the Sinquefield Cup a couple of weeks ago after losing to the US junior.
In the aftermath of the potential cheating scandal, the game has been rocked by a mainstream media and social media maelstrom that has fuelled outrageous rumours – and, to the utter delights of the late-night comedy shows, inspired one graphic theory from Tesla CEO Elon Musk of high-tech anatomical play.
There’s full coverage of that potential grudge match, and all the day’s play on chess24.com/tour and on chess24’s Twitch and YouTube channels. There’s also commentary from the Oslo Studio tour team of host Kaja Snare and talking chess heads GM David Howell and IM Jovanka Houska. And for added variety, Chess24 will also have a team of top Grandmaster commentators.
1. M. Carlsen (Norway) 10/12; 2-5. Vasyl Ivanchuk (Ukraine), R. Praggnanandhaa (India), Hans Niemann (USA), Arjun Erigaisi (India) 9; 6. Levon Aronian (USA) 8; 7-9. Radoslaw Wojtasek (Poland), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Vincent Keymer (Germany) 5; 10-13. Christopher Yoo (USA), Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), David Navara (Czech Rep.), Ivan Saric (Croatia) 4; 14. Liem Li (Vietnam) 2; 15. Baskaran Adhiban (India) 1; 16. Boris Gelfand (Israel) 0.
GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Baskaran Adhiban
Julius Baer Generation Cup Prelims, (3)
1.Nf3 f5 2.b4!? A cross between a Dutch and a Sokolsky/Orang-utan Opening – and Adhiban sportingly accepts the challenge. 2…e5 3.Nxe5 Bxb4 4.g3 Nc6 5.Bb2 Nxe5 6.Bxe5 Qe7 7.Bb2 d5 Adhiban has down well out of Carlsen’s obscure opening choice – but in doing so, early doors he’s eaten up valable time on his clock. 8.Bg2 c6 9.e3 Nf6 10.0-0 Be6 11.Nc3 0-0 12.Ne2 The knight is better placed on either d4 or f4. 12…Rad8 13.a4 Bd6 14.d3 Bc8 15.a5! Despite coming out of the opening worse off, Carlsen is now fighting back by staking a claim on his opponent’s queenside – and yet again, Adhiban has to go into the tank to figure out how he’s going to continue. 15…Rfe8 16.Qc1 Carlsen’s understanding of the dynamics of this position is very perceptive, as the innocuous looking Qc1 is the start of an imaginative regrouping of the Norwegian’s position with Bd4 to be followed by Qb2. 16…Qf7 17.Bd4 Bb8 The Black position is not so easy. The knee-jerk reaction with 17…c5? sees 18.Bxf6! gxf6 19.d4! and White will soon be preying on those weak pawns on d5, f5 and f6 – especially d5. 18.Qb2 And from nothing, suddenly Carlsen has a good position with Black’s queenside effectively in lockdown. 18…Ng4 19.Qc3 It’s all the little creepy moves from Carlsen that are beginning to make sense now, as he paves the way for Rab1 and more queenside play. 19…a6 20.Rab1 Re7 21.h3 Ne5 22.Kh1 Rde8 23.Ng1 Re6 24.f4! Now we see the real reason for Carlsen playing Ng1, as he looks to follow up with Nf3 and a big hold over the e5- and g5-squares. 24…Nd7 25.Nf3 h6 26.Rfe1 Bd6 The time invested in the opening, and now trying to navigate through a complex middlegame soon begins to mount up for Adhiban. 27.Qd2 Kh7 28.Kh2 Qe7 29.Nh4 Qf7 30.e4 More interesting looked the punt with 30.c4!? as 30…dxc4 31.e4! fxe4 (Not 31…cxd3? 32.Nxf5!) 32.dxe4 and Black faces real problems with the mobile e4 and f4 White pawns. 30…fxe4 31.dxe4 dxe4 32.f5 Rf6 33.Bxf6?! Carlsen is far too hasty to cash in on his promising position – better and much stronger was 33.Rxe4! Rxe4 34.Bxe4 Be5 35.Ng6! Bxd4 36.Qxd4 Nf8 37.Rf1 Qd7 38.c3 with White having an overwhelming position; the sort of position Carlsen normally loves to relentlessly grind opponents down. 33…Qxf6 34.Bxe4? Carlsen’s advantage has now all but evaporated, with Adhiban the one now with the upper-hand. Even the engine points out that 34.Qd1 Qe5 35.Rb3 Nf6 36.Rbe3 was better. 34…Nc5 Suddenly Black is the one in charge with all his pieces menacingly pointed towards the White king. 35.Bf3 Rd8 36.Qb4 Very risky, but, alas, very necessary, otherwise White will lose the hapless knight to …Qxh4 etc. 36…Nd3 37.Qg4 Nxe1 38.Rxe1 Be5 Adhiban is handicapped by being in time-trouble, otherwise he might well have spotted that the simple retreat with 38…Bc7 was the critical move to find – and with it, Black is simply winning as there is no way to stop …Bxa5. 39.Re2 Kg8? The vagaries of zeitnot by making a quick “non-move” with the worry of a Qg6+ “happening”. Instead, even now, admitting your previous move was wrong and retreating with …Bc7 was still good for Black – but his advantage has all but evaporated now. 40.Qc4+ Kh7 41.Bh5! Bc7 Too little too late now. And Black can’t chop on f5 as it falls into the trap of 41…Bxf5? 42.Nxf5 Qxf5 43.Bg4 which will win the bishop to a Qe4+, leaving Black to the mercy of 43…Bxg3+ 44.Kxg3 Qxa5 45.Qf7! Qg5 46.Re7 and despite the three pawns for the piece, Black’s king is going to get caught in the crossfire. 42.Bg6+ Kh8 43.Qe4 Bd7?! Understandable given the time-trouble and the back-rank fears. However capturing on a5 is very, very risky; not the sort of thing you’d want to enter into, but the engine – showing no fears or nerves – gives not a jot and wants to play 43…Bxa5!? 44.Qe8+ Qf8 45.Qe3 Bb4 (Pushing the pawns 45…b5? is a risk too far.) 46.Nf3 Rd7 (46…Bxf5 47.Nh4 Bd7 48.Bd3 Be8 gleefully pointing out that White has nothing better other than repeating moves with Bg6 and Bd3 etc. But all of this would just be too risky for the human emotions to calculate in a time scramble, hence Adhiban’s preference for the more natural looking …Bd7. 44.Qb4? Carlsen continues to gamble in his opponent’s time-trouble – and it pays off big-time for the world champion. Best was 44.Nf3! Rf8 45.Qe7 Qd6 46.Qxd6 Bxd6 47.Nd4 Bb4 48.Re4 Bxa5 49.Ne6 Rg8 50.Rd4 Be8 51.Bxe8 Rxe8 52.Rd7 g6 53.Rxb7 gxf5 54.Nd4 and White should easily pick-off one of the four isolated pawns for a draw. 44…c5! Did Carlsen simply miss this shot? 45.Qxb7 No better was 45.Qxc5 Bb5! winning. 45…Qd6? It’s the comedically fabled Morecambe & Wise Grieg’s Piano Concerto: Adhiban is playing all the right moves, but not necessarily in the right order! As pointed out in the above note, the winning plan was 45…Bb5! as 46.Rf2 Qe7 47.Kg2 where now 47…Qd6! is winning outright. 46.Qf3 Bc6 47.Qe3 The back-rank mate keeps Carlsen in the game – and forces an increasingly desperate Adhiban to make rash decisions in his time-trouble. 47…Qd1 48.Ng2 Rf8? Perhaps not so obvious right now – and certainly not in the heat of battle – but the saving move was 48…Qd4! that more or less forces 49.Qxd4 Rxd4 50.Re6 Bb5 51.Re7 Bxa5 52.Nf4 Rd2+ 53.Kh1 Bc3 and both sides have to continue with great care – and because of this, the game will likely peter out to a draw. 49.f6! Boom! [see diagram] Incredulously, Adhiban thought that by playing …Rf8 he would have had at least avoided a Qe8+ moment – but Carlsen hits him hard with a winning move that there’s no recovery from. 49…Qd6?? Adhiban panics in the time-scramble – he had to first play 49…Bxg2! 50.Rxg2 and then 50…Qd6 51.Rf2 and there’s still hopes to save the game. But now he’s dead in the water. 50.fxg7+ Kxg7 51.Nf4 It’s not the loss of a pawn that leads to Adhiban’s downfall, it’s his vulnerable king as Carlsen’s piece now spring to life. 51…Rxf4 The only way to avoid losing by Qe7+ – but it is all hopeless now. 52.Qxf4 Qd7 53.Bf5 1-0 Adhiban resigns in view of 53…Qf7 54.Qg4+ Kf8 55.Be6 Bf3 56.Rf2! Bxg4 57.Rxf7+ Kg8 58.hxg4 easily winning.