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Magnus Carlsen vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
GRENKE Chess Classic (2019), Baden-Baden GER, rd 9, Apr-29
English Opening: Symmetrical Variation. Two Knights Line (A37)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Apr-29-19  Fanques Fair: Ok, everything you all observed about the accureness of his recent play and the changes of style is correct. But, it still remains that sacrificing a pawn as Black in the opening against Carlsen nowadays is asking to lose.
Apr-29-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

The match he lost v Aronian had an impact. Candidates Match: Aronian - Carlsen (2007)

Then in 2009ish Kasparov joined him. Carlsen said different things about that training session but last time I read about them he said they helped him a great deal.

Carlsen has not recently changed or re-vamped his style, he always had the ability he is now being allowed to display.

The regular bods he plays against in these closed shop top rated players only tournaments have never been able to play against him (now and then he has an off day.) He knows them so well he can beat them in his sleep and he is now knocking them down like nine pins.

It's them who have changed, they are trying to keep away from the grind so they are taking a few middle game and opening risks. Carlsen is proving them wrong.

Need more Vincents, new blood, the current lot of same old faces are doomed before they even sit down.

***

Apr-29-19  Fanques Fair: Sally Simpson, so you may agree that the main issue here is psychological . I think you-re right. Magnus is indeed the World Champion, he's the best, but only that does not explain why these top chessplayers are playing so badly against him. Actually, the boy made the best effort agains the Champion, being with a better position for most of the game.

Having said that, I guess that even if there is a new young player who would be capable of posing real dangers to Magnus would appear, he would have to be very well prepared psychologically not to stumber like this.

Caruana made a good try at the World Chapionship last year, tying the match , only losing in rapid. But he does not seem to have the proper killer instinct that one has to in order do defeat the Champion.

Apr-29-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: MLV = Magnus Latest Victim
Apr-29-19  Kirth Gersen: Peter and Jan seemed to think ...d5 around move 13 was MVL's intention and it didn't work. There must have been something concrete he had in mind and realized too late it was an illusion.

This sort of thing is why people make quick draws in the last round, otherwise you risk an embarrassing collapse as we saw from MVL, Keymer and Meier (whereas Anand and Caruana did a quick memory check on Svidler and Aronian, then shook hands). Kramnik once had a good position with time on the clock against Topalov in the last round of Mtel, and simply hung a knight, there was not even a tactic he just un-defended a threatened piece. This is certainly not a game from which you can draw any broad conclusions about Carlsen's superior chess understanding; his opponent just hallucinated and pitched a pawn from a symmetrical position. If we can draw any big conclusion it's that Carlsen's excellent physical condition is worth 50-100 Elo points in the last couple rounds.

Apr-30-19  Eyal: Yes, MVL gave up a pawn in the opening without getting any substantial compensation; btw, he also collapsed very quickly in the queen endgame - it was possible to put up much tougher resistance there. So it's a game MVL would like to forget, and it probably won't appear in any collection of Carlsen's greatest games. Having said that, it's still quite impressive how cleanly and confidenly Carlsen converted his advantage after move 10. (For example - it was very clever to recapture on f3 with the pawn rather than the bishop, although this might look "ugly" at first glance, since it allows f4 which weakens the black pawn structure and helps simplification.) Anyone familiar with MVL's style and games knows what a master-swindler he can be in tough positions.
Apr-30-19  greenfield67: MVL may have given up a pawn for next to nothing. But Carlsen still had to: choose the recapture exf3; choose to play against the c5-pawn; see, at move 24, that the extra pawn could be maintained by 33.Bd5.

That's probably a routine conversion for Carlsen, but it still required a sequence of good, pragmatic decisions. He earned the point.

Apr-30-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jambow: < CountryGirl: Bobwhoosta wrote "not only has he completely revamped his style, ....He used to be a grinder.." I remember, way back when, when Carlsen was first beating grandmasters, he was actually a very aggressive, attacking player. And also lost quite a few games. The endgame master came later, when he realised he needed a more reliable way to win. >

For me when I first became aware of Magnus Carlsen he was just rated under 2700. I pegged him to be world champion before too long, and he became worlds #1 rated player shortly there after. The WC took a bit longer mostly due to FIDE failings rather than Magnus being incapable.

When I first observed Magnus play he was already a positional oriented player not so much favoring open dynamic tactical positions like a Nakamura, Aronian, or Anand who all strove for and excelled at open games with chances all over the board. What Magnus could do then was to survive a tactical onslaught from anyone to enter a benign looking end game and through persistence introduce subtle traps and problems that could catch even an elite grandmaster. This at least when he was in his most dominant form. So the only Carlsen I have known did very seldom win with the dynamic style he now is winning with, at least often enough now. That legitimizes the statements that there has been a metamorphosis in his style over the past few years.

What scares me is that for the first time Magnus may have an edge over the entire field in all aspects of play. Could just be short term great form, however the change in style through my patzer vision lenses appears not so accidental. A few years back Magnus ceased trying to even go into those subtle endgame positions he could squeeze a drop of poison from. I don't think everyone suddenly figured him out. More likely Magnus realized they eventually would and made the adjustments we see in effect today.

This particular game however was simply Magnus playing solid chess that Caruana, Giri and many others would have. MVL gave away a pawn and was subsequently beaten to death with it. Magnus didn't forget how to win the long game MVL, give an edge at this level and expect bloodshed.

Enjoy it while it lasts next stop 2900 elo? Who knows only Magnus looks capable among carbon based engines.

Go Magnus!!!

Apr-30-19  starry2013: Carlsen got some good early advantages, suggesting his prep was the extra boost. Of course he isn't a computer and does make mistakes, like any other human. People always tend to exaggerate wins or loses at this level.
Apr-30-19  Eyal: Position after 15.b3:


click for larger view

Some people noted that Black played a Benko-type pawn sac. That's true up to a point, but as can be seen in the diagram position there's a very important difference compared with Benko gambit positions - a white pawn on d3 rather than d5; this makes White's position considerably more solid, depriving Black of several key ideas such as c4 or Ne4.

Apr-30-19  SChesshevsky: <Eyal..Some people noted that Black played a Benko type..> Yes, but as you noted very important differences. From the position blacks LSB, Q, and Rooks don't look well placed for Benko play and white has the powerful a8 diagonal. Blacks ...e5 seemed to kind of admit an opening failure.

MVL probably should get some credit for generating some counterplay from that rough spot though.

May-01-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Magnus comments about this game.

"I played white against Vachier-Lagrave and in a symmetrical English Opening he chose 6…. Bf5 planning to control the c8-h3 diagonal.

I prioritized 7.h3 to counter his plan, and out of the blue he sacrificed a pawn with 10… b5 Benko style. His problem was that while his structure resembled the Benko, my pawn structure was significantly more compact than in the Benko.

Maybe he had a slight compensation for the pawn initially, with the pin on c3 and control of b4 and d4 but it only took a few precise move to cement my advantage.

I think his decisive mistake was 17…. Nxf3 and that he maybe had missed 19.f4. The queen, rook-and-bishop-ending a pawn down is maybe not totally lost for him but in practice very difficult.

He seemed to have mentally resigned when we entered the pawn-up queen ending, and after 35… h5 I had a quite comfortable win."

Magnus Carlsen (kibitz #84450)

Upon reflection it appears Carlsen agrees with me (he's obviously seen my post) that Black had comp for the pawn. You feel these things OTB rather than look for concrete lines.

"but it only took a few precise move to cement my advantage."

For him precise moves are second nature. To us 'sac because it looks interesting' crowd the word 'precise' is not in our vocab.

"He seemed to have mentally resigned when we entered the pawn-up queen ending."

Again more proof he has seen my post: (yes I'm joking but I did say;)

"I do not know if the Queen ending is won with best play. But after being on the receiving end of that, [moves 27-35] you as Black know it's lost."

A series of good and 'precise' (I like that word) moves can make you downhearted and begin to feel like it's pointless carrying on. Instead of resigning he could done a Svidler.


click for larger view

43...Qg8 44. h4 Qh7 45. Qg5 mate.

Carlsen flicks out, not a classic, but a mini gem and shrugs his shoulders like he does not know he is doing it.

***

May-01-19  rogge: Carlsen: "It looks like a free pawn, so I'm just going to spend one minute and take it"
May-01-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Count Wedgemore: <Sally Simpson: Upon reflection it appears Carlsen agrees with me (he's obviously seen my post) that Black had comp for the pawn.>

Not really, Geoff..

It's quite clear that Magnus did not believe much in MVL's pawn sacrifice. And saying that: <Maybe he had a slight compensation for the pawn initially, ---but..> isn't really agreeing with your enthusiastic nod of approval for 10...b5 :)

May-01-19  Ulhumbrus: After 12 Nxb5 Black has two semi-open files and central pawn superiority.

If other things are equal and if Black can make all three of these assets count, he has enough positional compensation for the pawn.

However other things may be not equal. To give one example, Black's QB seems placed badly on f5.

Moreover can Black find a way to make his assets count? That means not just his queen side open files but his pawn centre as well.

One alternative to 12...Qa5 is 12...Qb6.

This defends the c5 pawn and so frees the d6 pawn to advance.

Now on 13 Nc3 d5 has become possible and Black threatens the fork ..d4.

Now let us try a few more moves: 14 d4 c4 15 Nh4 Rf8-d8 16 Nxf5 gxf5 17 Bf4 Ne4 18 Nxe4 fxe4.

Black has a potential queen side attack and perhaps some positional compensation for the pawn.

It may be that we have not heard the last word on this pawn sacrifice. It remains to be seen what the final evaluation is.

May-01-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <...

Caruana won in round 7 and 8 and could theoretically catch up with me in the last round. I played white against Vachier-Lagrave and in a symmetrical English Opening he chose 6…. Bf5 planning to control the c8-h3 diagonal.

I prioritized 7.h3 to counter his plan, and out of the blue he sacrificed a pawn with 10… b5 Benko style. His problem was that while his structure resembled the Benko, my pawn structure was significantly more compact than in the Benko. Maybe he had a slight compensation for the pawn initially, with the pin on c3 and control of b4 and d4 but it only took a few precise move to cement my advantage.

I think his decisive mistake was 17…. Nxf3 and that he maybe had missed 19.f4. The queen, rook-and-bishop-ending a pawn down is maybe not totally lost for him but in practice very difficult. He seemed to have mentally resigned when we entered the pawn-up queen ending, and after 35… h5 I had a quite comfortable win.

...>

From a longer MC's report on the second half of the tournament.

May-01-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Hi Count,

Even slight compensation for the pawn sac is better than no compensation which is what a lot of posters were missing.

And Carslen's slight compensation easily handled by a few precise moves is him admitting it needed careful handling till he calmed it down.

Against a lesser player MVL would have been allowed to create more problems and we would have seen some of the tangible counter-play that lay just beneath the surface. MVL picked the wrong guy to bluff.

Also perhaps a wee bit of psychology going on there with Carlsen only needing a draw. Maybe MVL saw Carlsen signalling to his chums on the football field that he will be out to play in 5 minutes so 'Here Ronaldo, catch this pawn.'

(I think it was Euwe or Edward Lasker who mentions that Yates once did something like that v Capablanca who turned up for an adjourned game in tennis gear. Yates kept him at the board till it got dark.)

It may have worked better if it appeared he was losing a pawn and this pawn sac was forced. An out of the blue sac (Carlsen's words) puts you on full alert.

It was interesting, but I do not think we will see it again. The shock value has gone. Produced a good though. I really admire 27. Rc1. It has that touch of class and it is as unexpected as MVL's pawn sac. One good turn deserves another.

***

May-01-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Hi Count,

Even slight compensation for the pawn sac is better than no compensation which is what a lot of posters were missing.>

Hi Sally, 10....b5 was a crap move and everybody knows it. Stop beating a dead horse.

May-02-19  SChesshevsky: Related to Carlsen's comment on the Benko aspect, one Benko idea can be to hinder whites queenside pawns with pieces and especially Bg7. Exchange or offset whites LSB. Chip away at whites extended pawn center often with ...f5. Some Carlsen examples were v. Onischuk in 2007 and Gelfand in 2011.

Here MVL had a somewhat Benko formation but without access to that idea, so needed some other plan which was tough to find.

May-02-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: White to play, <14.?>


click for larger view

Let's face it, Benko is a delightful but iffy idea to begin with. It sometimes works in part because Black rooks have a 'secure staging area' a7-a8-b7-b8 at the base of the two semi-open files a and b. One of the signature features of common Benko is the typical blocked white pawn at d5; it cuts short the reach its own bishop Bg2. In contrast, here that pawn is still at d3. Combine that with the unusual-in-Benko Black bishop at f5 and we see that in this pseudo-Benko position the White squares a8 and b7 are not secure at all.

May-03-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: <Sally Simpson> I didn't mean that they adopted that "I am going to lose approach" just that people might feel somewhat as Golombek said he did versus Capablanca.

I think that Svidler played a one-off bad game and it was easy for Carlsen. On another day he would probably have drawn. Somehow he made a relatively elementary oversight and lost.

Also I thought his opening move of Nd2 I think it was, early on, was -- while playable -- inferior to 0-0 which the machine agrees with. Sometimes the natural plan is best.

I don't think anyone throws games against Carlsen.

May-03-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: 10...b5! - an excellent unbalancing move against chessgames stalwarts. They will surely crumble.

10...b5!? An interesting move in an open tournament with average 2500 Elo.

10...b5?! A questionable move in a closed super tournament.

10...b5? a mistake against Magnus Carlsen

May-06-19  Ulhumbrus: Here are remarks by Vachier-Lagrave from the chessbase website :

<Dhananjay Khadilkar: ...Many following your game against Carlsen wondered why you played the move 10...b5. Could you tell us the reasoning behind the move that handed Carlsen an advantage?

Vachier Lagrave replies: ...I didn’t expect the move ♗e3 from Carlsen. After this move, I realized I couldn't be too passive. So my plan with a6-b5 was the correct one — to prevent d4. I thought that after a6 - ♕d2 and b5, if he took the pawn, I would have very serious compensation.

On hindsight, I should have prepared the b5 move with ♜b8. After my move b5, he took the pawn very quickly. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that i didn’t have even small compensation — one way or another he was going to consolidate on the queenside and then execute some plans for the king side or in the centre.

My position was just worse. I tried to fight but it was too difficult. However, there were some moments when I thought I was somewhat back on track, and he could have had done some things smoother earlier. But Carlsen found this forcing line where he ended up in a pawn up queen endgame which I thought was winning for him.

But I might have underestimated my defensive chances and collapsed right away instead of staying passive. I felt in the long run I couldn't afford to do so. But I should have stayed passive and then gone active. But not active, in the way I did it in the game...>

Here is a link to the chessbase website page: https://en.chessbase.com/post/mvl-q...

May-08-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jambow: <It's quite clear that Magnus did not believe much in MVL's pawn sacrifice. And saying that: <Maybe he had a slight compensation for the pawn initially, ---but..> isn't really agreeing with your enthusiastic nod of approval for 10...b5 :)>

I would say temporary compensation for a few moves for a long term disadvantage really is a polite way to say a bad move...

May-09-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: Moves like 18.exf3 always amaze me. My classic chess training has instilled in my brain the importance of protecting my pawn structure, playing 18.Bxf3 automatically. Maybe if I had grown up in the era of computer analysis I would not be so rigid.

The computer confirms that 18.exf3 is much better than 18.Bxf3, of course. And Carlsen shows how 18.exf3 gives him active and dangerous piece play.

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