2013 Championship

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Even Carlsen Loses to Basic Tactics

Today's emphasis on tactical training might seem a drudgery to some. The thinking is that most games between club players are actually decided by simple tactics, not opening knowledge or endgame technique. And so the study and practice of tactics can often bring the greatest results in chess improvement no matter your strength or weakness in that part of the game. But still, some don't believe.

Check out this recent game from Corus 2010 pitting Magnus Carlsen against Vladimir Kramnik and you'll see that even at chess' highest levels, this rule can still hold true.

Carlsen, M 2810 - Kramnik, V 2788 0-1
E04 Corus A Wijk ann Zee NED (9) 26.01.2010

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 a5 7. Nc3 O-O 8. a3 Be7 9. Qa4 c6 10. Qxc4 b5 11. Qb3 Ba6 12. Bg5 Nbd7 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. Qc2 b4 15.Na4 Rc8 16. O-O c5 17. d5 exd5 18. Bh3 Bb5 19. axb4 axb4 20. Rfd1 d4 21. Bf5 Ne5 22. Bxh7+ Kg7 23. Nxe5 fxe5 24. Bf5 Rc6 25. Qe4 Rh8 26. Qxe5+ Bf6 27. Qe4 Re8 28. Qg4+ Kf8 29. Be4 c4 30. Bxc6 Bxc6 31. Qh5 Re5 32. Qh6+ Ke7 33. e4 d3 34. Qe3 Bxe4

Carlsen returned to the place where he first burst onto the international scene with his win in the C group of Corus in 2004, earning him his first grandmaster norm. This game was played in the 9th of 13 rounds. The two players reached this materially even position in the game featuring the Open Catalan system.

Carlsen has let his opening edge dissipate into a probably equal but certainly foreboding position, but all seems safe. Or is it? Fritz recommends 35.Qf4 with a dead even evaluation. But Carlsen falters and uncorks 35.Nb6 ??, perhaps believing that he can snatch the pawn on b4 and stop the passed pawn on the e-file. Can you see the simple tactic that refutes Carlsen's move?

Kramnik unmasks an attack to decoy the queen off the diagonal, remove the defender of the newly placed White knight, and force this finish to the game:

35... Bb7 36. Qf4 Qxb6 37. Qxc4 Re2 38. Rf1 0-1

Nevertheless, Carlsen held on to win the tournament. But what Dan Heisman wrote in his Best Novice Nook Ideas applies here as well as in your own games: "basic tactic skills should be used to prevent an opponent’s tactics, not to find winning tactics for oneself!"

Check out Kramnik's own analysis of the game at the official tournament site.

1 comment:

Ernie said...

First I looked at 35...Qxb6 36.Qxb6 (considering captures) and that sizzles out fast. Then I saw 35...Bc6 or 35...Bb7 with a basic removal of the guard--one of Dan's top recommended tactics to study. I thought 35...Bb7 was best with no additional analysis after about 30 seconds.

Initially I looked only at 35...Bc6 and 35...Bb7, keeping the bishop on the a8-h1 diagonal. 35...Be4, 35...Bf5, and 35...Bg6 also look interesting. 35...Bd4 just didn't feel right but I never analyzed it further. 35...Bh7 can be tossed out pretty quickly as white "could" respond 36.Qh6 with a counter-attack, causing suspicion.

After about 15 minutes, Fritz 9 gives Bb7 as #1 choice (-4.46) and Bc6 as #2 (-2.22). Bg6 is much worse at #3 (-0.63).

Good point about Dan's quote on tactics, though. It does appear that Carlsen didn't "test" 35.Nb6 for tactical safety before playing it.