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Magnus Carlsen vs Yifan Hou
"Victory from the Jaws of Drawfeat" (game of the day Jan-26-2017)
Tata Steel Masters (2016), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 11, Jan-29
Russian Game: Nimzowitsch Attack (C42)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jan-30-16  nok: Well there aren't too many entry points into Black's position, but even if you're unsure of the evaluation (which a 26+ GM with 20 min on the clock should not be), you at least see the most pressing to cover is b6.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Eyal>. Thanks for your link and analysis, fascinating and instructive as always.

<Peligroso> I wouldn't "overinterpret" the five second she spent on 45....h5; presumably she spent most of those ten minutes on the previous move thinking about the K+P ending. That she seemingly had no clue of the strength of the Kb4-b5 plan suggests she needs to study the book at chancho's link! But even Svidler was asking Gustafson <now how does White win this?> before he worked out b4-b5, trading off the c- and a-pawns, then playing c2-c3, Kb5-b6, and c5-c6.

Still, the fact that 45....a5 is by no means a trivial draw does not mean it doesn't make a lot more sense than 45.....h5. Svidler was quite shocked by Hou's 45th move.

Jan-30-16  Sally Simpson: When others (and their engines) were claiming a draw and it was pointless playing on I was not too sure. Anyone can see the position still had potential for a human blunder and to expect one.

and then it happened...

"Oh why Oh why did she take the Queens off."

She has been on the wrong side of a Queen ending v Magnus before.

Yifan Hou vs Carlsen, 2013

...and how about history repeating itself.

" Hard to believe black could lose it, but that's just Magnus with his magery."

Posted by Pulo y Gata,

Not this game but the 2015 Tata Steele game.

Carlsen vs Yifan Hou, 2015

If you fail one Magnus examination he will keep testing you.

Jan-30-16  johnkr: Many are missing the point here! Okay we are all "geniuses" post mortem. But the point is, Hou Yi fan is a GM she should see the dangers of the K and pawn ending. I believe the safest course for her is to stay in the Q ending. Andy Soltis in recent Chess Life mag article said, the rule is: Never enter a K and pawn ending unless you are willing to bet your first-born on the outcome. Words of wisdom.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: In chess terms, I 'grew up' solving pure pawn endgames. (For a quite a long time, Emil Richter's book on pawn endgames was <the quality> chess book that I somewhere inherited.) Till today, I love pawn endgames, and 'hate' queen endgames.

Quite naturally then, I started to solve the pawn endgame(s) here even before Magnus' <43.Qc3...> was on the board. My impression was that Black trouble would increase many-fold if she traded the queens on c3 (game) or allowed the Queen swap on f6. Among the variations I examined, I saw the <45...h5? 46.Kb4...> variation pretty much as it transpired in the game, and also examined two variations after the <45...a5!> -- (i) <46.b4...> and (ii) a tempo play <46.Kd4 Ke6>, postponing <b4> for after a prep (probably then spent on c3).

If I recall correctly, while I saw the game variation all the way through, I also thought that at least one of the variation after <45...a5> was going forcibly through, or damn close to it. I changed my mind about the <45...a5!> variation only after the game, when I started moving pieces.

Therefore, I was quite convinced that Black should not trade queens. However, and that was another problem for Black here, even the Q endgame defense gets tougher when you can not trade the queens and have to concede files and diagonals when challenged.

(For completeness, I do not use engine.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Eyal....I'd be very curious to see how many of the geniuses around here ridiculing Hou Yifan for her blunder would play all the necessary only moves in that variation.>

Does not raise hand--my surpassing brilliance might well find the fastest way to lose.

Jan-30-16  Karposian: <johnkr: Many are missing the point here! Okay we are all "geniuses" post mortem. But the point is, Hou Yi fan is a GM she should see the dangers of the K and pawn ending. I believe the safest course for her is to stay in the Q ending.>

Absolutely right. It seems that some posters here are forgetting basic endgame rules. I'm surprised that <Sally Simpson>, who is a good player, defends Hou Yifan's decision to exchange queens with the ridiculous argument that she had lost a Queen ending against Carlsen before.

I'm repeating myself, but BASIC ENDGAME RULES are not something one should overlook, yet <Sally> and others here are ignoring it.

I have Reuben Fine's classic book 'Basic Chess Endings' in my collection, the edition revised by Pal Benko. In chapter X there are Fine/Benko's "Twenty rules for the endgame" (Fine's original rules plus a few added by Benko).

<Rule no.10: The easiest endings to win are pure pawn endings.

Rule no.19: Perpetual check looms in all queen endings.>

Now, take these two rules into account and the answer to the question of whether Hou Yifan should have kept the queens or not is obvious. The drawing chances are far greater with the queens still on the board.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Video analysis of this game:
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Karposian....It seems that some posters here are forgetting basic endgame rules....>

Been there, done that, even before becoming a hasbeenusetawas.

<....I'm surprised that <Sally Simpson>, who is a good player, defends Hou Yifan's decision to exchange queens with the ridiculous argument that she had lost a Queen ending against Carlsen before.>

I suspect that is <Geoff>'s droll sense of humour at work.

Jan-31-16  Ulhumbrus: After 45 Kxc3 suppose Yifan Hou tries 45...Kc7 with the idea of 46 Kb4 b6 before White can play Ka5.

Then however White can play 46 Kd4 and Black cannot stop Ke5 followed by Kxf5.

Now let us look at the related squares.

When White's king is on d4 Black's king has to be on e6 to keep White's king out of e5. So d4 and e6 are related squares.

When White's king is on c3, Black's king has to be on c7 so as to support the advance ...b6 in reply to Kb4, so c3 and c7 are related squares.

From c3 White can get to d4 in one move but Black's king takes two moves to reach e6 from c7.

So with the kings on c3 and c7 Black's king can't reach e6 in time and Black loses.

Jan-31-16  Sally Simpson: Hi perfidious,

No droll sense of humour at work.

Yes keeping the Queens on offered a better chance of a draw but it also allowed Carlsen to carry on with more grinding and probing and testing.

As I said earlier we have seen other GM's blunder when facing a Carlsen examination. His knack for leaving his opponent only one correct move in a position where there seems to be a vast choice cannot be underestimated. It's called playing chess.

When you are on the receiving end of such play and see a chance a to end it you give it your full attention.

Yifan talked herself into ending the torture, relaxed after the Queen swap and quickly played the one bad move of the game.

And torture is the correct word. Imagine what it's like being given the Magnus Maltreatment with clocks ticking and every move made against you with a confident sweep of the hand and this huge presence oozing across the board.

I not saying Yifan lost on purpose but it may explain her Queen swap decision. And it was her decision, she knew what she was doing. Comparing it to Petrosian blundering his Queen is complete nonsense.

In hindsight, where all these amateur armchair analysts ply their trade, all she did was took herself of the rack on moved onto the thumb screws.

Jan-31-16  nok: <Comparing it to Petrosian blundering his Queen is complete nonsense.> Look, after the queen trade, what's the most glaring feature in the position? The hole on b6. Any player remotely her class sees that once the White king goes there, bang you're dead. Yet she immediately played something irrelevant. The only explanation, barring strange backstories, is she just had a braindead moment.
Jan-31-16  Sally Simpson: Hi Nok.

"Hou's ...h5 is truly inexplicable. Petrosian once hung his queen, but this is worse."

click for larger view

She probably made up her mind to play h5 during her 10 minute think when deciding to chop Queens. The speed at which 45...h5 appeared would indicate so.

The idea is simple enough to see. There are entry points at h5 and e5. So the plan to is to seal the Kingside with h5-h4 and nothing gets through there.

Then play Ke6-f6-e6-f6 which keeps the White King out of the other glaring hole at e5.

She did not miss playing a5, she was saving it.

She was expecting MC to play Kd4 and had this position in mind.

click for larger view

The only White try is b4-b5. THEN play a5.

click for larger view

And that is a draw. The White King cannot get in after b6 or bxc6 even after c2-c4 and dxc4. The Black King always has e6 & f6.

In her rush to establish a cold draw on the board she tidied up the kingside first.

If some are saying from here....

click for larger view

They can see the winning move is 54. c2-c3

click for larger view

Giving the fact if it was White to play here then it's a draw. Then why are they posting here and not playing there?

That's my take of 45...h5. Plausible enough. There is an explanation. She expected MC to head for e5. If White gets there then it's a clear White win.

Now can someone explain why here.

click for larger view

Petrosian played 36.Ng5 and resigned next move and why Yifan's 45...h5 was a much worse blunder.

Petrosian vs Bronstein, 1956

Premium Chessgames Member
  boz: <...if Hou had been facing an opponent more readily inclined to split the point as soon as there was theoretically “no way to make progress” in a position, she might not have felt the same temptation to “simplify” by exchanging queens.>


Premium Chessgames Member
  flimflam48: 45)...a5 (0.26);...h5 (3.48) Komodo 8 analysis. Big difference!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Carlsen's own thoughts on what went in this game, from his blog:

<....For me round 11 against the best female player in the world Hou Yifan became pretty decisive. As black she had held quite comfortably against Caruana with the Russian defense. I allowed her to play the same opening variation as I had some ideas on how to improve whites play. Her position was passive in the early middle game. She could hardly move, but the plan she found of moving the queen from d7 to f8 seemed good. At the critical junctions I probably played slightly inaccurate and she defended well. I had to exchange most pieces without significant progress. The queen endgame is better for white but I could not find a way to make further progress and allowed the exchange of queens with 44.Qc3. She thought for quite some time and did exchange queens followed by h5. Playing 45…. a5 instead would have drawn and during the game I was quite surprised by her mistake. When it happened it seemed quite obvious to me that a5 would hold. Well, it turns out that a5 indeed would have held, but not at all as easily as I had thought. White can still push and in many variations the correct defense (and triangulation) black needs to find to stop white from entering either on the queenside or in the middle is very difficult to find. In the game after h5 I could just move my king to b6, play b4, b5 etc. In the end she loses the d-pawn and the game.>

Feb-05-16  yurikvelo: <45)...a5 (0.26);...h5 (3.48) Komodo 8 analysis. Big difference!!>

Komodo 9.3, Syzygy 6, D=41
+0,39 45. ... a5
+M41 45. ... h5

Before 45 neither side made mistakes and game was drawn all time

Feb-05-16  frogbert: <Playing 45…. a5 instead would have drawn and during the game I was quite surprised by her mistake. When it happened it seemed quite obvious to me that a5 would hold. Well, it turns out that a5 indeed would have held, but not at all as easily as I had thought. White can still push and in many variations the correct defense (and triangulation) black needs to find to stop white from entering either on the queenside or in the middle is very difficult to find.>

Very difficult to find? Nah... Only for world champions and elite players; everybody else immediately saw that a5 was a dead draw.

Feb-05-16  cro777: Black had to prevent White from activating his king.

click for larger view

GM Baburin suggested:

45...a5 46.b4 h5! 47.h4 Kc8 48.bxa5 Kd7

click for larger view

Feb-11-16  kereru: Nice piece on this ending by Kavalek.

After 45...a5 46.b4 Ke7 (or any king move) is best, then after 47.bxa5 Kd7! is the only move. It's based around co-ordinate squares, which is an extension of the theory of the opposition. Black has to be in a position to reply to Kd4 with ...Ke6 and to a6 bxa6 Ka5 with ...Kb7

Black could also interpolate 46...h5 47.h4 per Baburin, not a huge difference. If White plays h4 at some point Black must immediately reply ...h5.

Kavalek also analyses the line 45...a5 46.b4 axb4+ (?!). After 47.Kxb4 Kd8! 48.Ka5 Kc7! 49.c3 Kc8 50.Kb6 Kb8 51.a5 h5! (setting up the stalemate defence) 52.h4 Ka8! 53.Kc7 Ka7 54.Kd6 Ka6 55.Ke5 Kb5! 56.Kxf5 Kc4! 57.Kg6 Kxc3 58.f5 d4 59.f6 d3 60.f7 d2 61.f8=Q d1=Q 62.Qh8+ Kb4 63.Qxh5

click for larger view

Black's reward for her extremely accurate play is another several hours of torture by Magnus in a Queen ending a pawn down. It's probably a theoretical draw but against Magnus?

Feb-12-16  PJs Studio: Brutal efficiency. He plays as if he doesn't care if the game ends in a draw, and then he just wins. Scary good.
Apr-04-16  phulong87: Magnus Carlsen || Tata Steel Chess Masters 2016

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: pawns,pawns,pawns.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beenthere240: How Magnus has changed -- now he pushes the draw -- and loses!
Jan-26-17  The Kings Domain: The champs of their respective genders go at it. Carlsen was probably aware of his opponent's somewhat timid positional play and elected to start with a different line in the opening and boldly castling on the queenside to throw her off. Hou's 48)... Kb8 blunder was much commented on and the poor gal probably broke under the strain and just wanted to get the game over with.
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