A Magnus Opus

[Event “Corus Group C”]
[Site “Wijk aan Zee NED”]
[Date “2004.01.24”]
[Round “12”]
[White “Magnus Carlsen”]
[Black “Sipke Ernst”]
[Result “1-0”]
[BlackElo “2474”]
[ECO “B19”]
[EventDate “2004.01.10”]
[WhiteElo “2484”]

1.e4 { Magnus opens with a center pawn. }

1…c6 { Ernst Responds with the Caro-Kann Defence. In the Caro-Kann it is black’s intention to confront white’s center with d5. }

2.d4 { When your oponent does not match your center pawn, get two. }

2…d5 { As expected, black stakes his claim in the center. }

3.Nc3 { The only knight worth developing for white as Nf3 would allow black to play dxe4 with tempo. }

3…dxe4 { Ernst captures Carlsen’s king’s pawn and is thus inviting Nxe4 which is all very much part of Caro-Kann strategy. }

4.Nxe4 { Magnus accepts. }

4…Bf5 { For a moment, black gains the initiative. }

5.Ng3 { And then white takes it right back. } 5

…Bg6 { And black continues into the main lines of the Caro-Kann. }

6.h4 { Threatening to trap black’s bishop. }

6…h6 { But black easily creates an escape square. }

7.Nf3 { Oftentimes white plays h5 here. }

7…Nd7 { In the classical Caro-Kann, black’s knights are placed on d7 and f6. }

8.h5 { And now white plays the afformentioned h5 because he can. }

8…Bh7 { And Ernst’s bishop goes into its bunker. }

9.Bd3 { White is willing to trade this bishop for a little development. }

9…Bxd3 { And black is just happy to get rid of his “bad bishop.” }

10.Qxd3 { Carlsen now has three pieces developed and a pawn in the center. }

10…e6 { Ernst takes a moment to complete the Caro-Kann pawn structure. }

11.Bf4 { White now has a four-on-one advantage in development but it’s against the ultra-solid Caro-Kann. }

11…Ngf6 { Black develops the other knight to where it influences two center squares. }

12.O-O-O { With the h-pawn already advanced, castling queenside makes the most sense. }

12…Be7 { In the Caro-Kann, black does not play ambitiously with their dark bishop. }

13.Ne4 { Oftentimes, white plays Kb1 here first to tighten up their castled king. }

13…Qa5 { The main line here is: }

(13…Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Nf6 15.Qe2 {and then the black queen can either got to d5 or a5.} )

14.Kb1 { With a2 now threatened, Carlsen now takes a moment to play Kb1. }

14…O-O { Now we have a position which has occured in a hundred or so master-level games. }

15.Nxf6+ { Magnus trades one knight so that he can safely move his other knight to e5. }

15…Nxf6 { Black reloads the knight on f6 but this allows white to play Ne5. }

16.Ne5 { Carlsen’s knight can now safely advance to the e5 outpost. }

16…Rad8 { Ernst places his rook into the semi-open file with Carlsen’s queen. }

17.Qe2 { Carlsen drops his queen back to e2 in response to black’s last move. }

17…c5 { Playing c6 to c5 is a common theme in the Caro-Kann in which black is seeking to eliminate white’s remaining claim to the center. }

18.Ng6 $1 { Carlsen makes an ingenius knight offering to create a strong attack. }

18…fxg6 $2 { Capturing the knight here is an easy mistake to make. However, it is still a mistake. Ernst needed to decline the knight offering by instead playing: }

( 18…Rfe8 19.Nxe7+ Rxe7 20.dxc5 Red7 21.Rxd7 Nxd7 { I prefer capturing with the knight here to target the c5 pawn and it keeps white’s queen off e5. But Rxd7 was also playable. Now I wonder if Magnus would have played the defensive Be3 or the offensive pawn to g4. Based on what we have so far, I will continue with pawn to g4. } 22.g4 Nxc5 23.g5 { And things seem rather precarious for black. However, black has some reasonable defensive resources if he doesn’t panic. Starting with: } 23…Qb4 24.Qe5 Qe4 { Exchanging queens to remove the threat of mate. } 25.Qxe4 Nxe4 26.gxh6 gxh6 27.Bxh6 Nxf2 28.Rg1+ Kh8 { And Sipke Ernst would have survived Magnus’ attack but white still has a small edge. } )

19.Qxe6+ { The obvious way to continue after the knight sacrifice. }

19…Kh8 { Definitely not: }

( 19…Rf7 $4 { because of: } 20.hxg6 )

20.hxg6 { Black’s king is cornered and Magnus’ rook on h1 suddenly becomes a credible threat. }

20…Ng8 { Ernst defends h6 a second time with the knight while simultaneously attacking Magnus’ bishop. }

21.Bxh6 { Carlsen starts his final assault with a bold sacrifice. }

21…gxh6 { and certainly not: }

( 21…Nxh6 $4 22.Rxh6+ $1 gxh6 23.Qxe7 { Leaves Ernst with no meaningful way to stop the checkmate on h7. } )

22.Rxh6+ $1 { The onslaught continues. }

22…Nxh6 { Ernst’s only other choice was: }

( 22…Kg7 $4 23.Rh7# )

23.Qxe7 { Magnus captures the bishop but more importantly is threatening mate on h7 again. }

23…Nf7 { The only way for black to avoid the checkmate is to give back some material. }

24.gxf7 { Ernst survives for now and is rook up. But since the safety of his king is a deciding factor. Black now has the choice to pick his poison. }

24…Kg7 { Had he chose: }

( 24…Qa6 25.Qg5 Rxf7 26.Rh1+ Rh7 27.Qxd8+ Kg7 28.Qe7+ Kg8 29.Qxh7+ Kf8 30.Qf5+ Kg8 31.Qg5+ Kf8 32.Rh8+ Kf7 33.Rh7+ Ke6 34.Qe5# )

( 24…Qb6 25.Qe5+ Kh7 26.Rh1+ Qh6 27.Qf5+ Kg7 28.Rxh6 Kxh6 29.Qf6+ Kh7 30.c3 cxd4 31.g4 Rd7 32.Qf5+ Kg7 33.Qxd7 dxc3 34.Qxb7 Rxf7 35.Qxf7+ Kxf7 36.bxc3 { Is easily winning for white } )

25.Rd3 { Magnus lifts the rook to the third rank so that it can slide over and enage black’s king in the g-file. }

25…Rd6 { Under extreme pressure, Ernst misses his best defence which is in fact using the queen to black the coming check instead of the rook. For instance: }

( 25…Qa6 26.Rg3+ Qg6 27.Rxg6+ Kxg6 28.g4 Rxd4 29.c3 Rd1+ 30.Kc2 Rdd8 31.f4 Kg7 32.g5 Kg6 33.Qf6+ Kh5 34.g6 Kg4 35.g7 { which is losing for black anyways. } )

26.Rg3+ { Magnus’s rook greets the black king with a check. }

26…Rg6 { Black defense has just one problem. }

27.Qe5+ { Which, of course, Magnus exploits. }

27…Kxf7 { The alternatives would have been: }

( 27…Kh7 28.Qh5+ Rh6 29.Qf5+ Kh8 30.Qe5+ Rf6 31.Qxf6+ Kh7 32.Qg7# ) ( 27…Kh6 28.Rh3# )

28.Qf5+ Rf6 { Ernst could have tried: }

( 28…Ke8 29.Re3+ Kd8 30.Qxf8+ Kc7 31.Qf7+ Kc8 32.Qf5+ Kc7 33.Re7+ Kb6 34.Qxg6+ Kb5 35.a4+ Qxa4 36.Rxb7+ Ka5 37.Rxa7+ Kb4 38.Rxa4+ Kxa4 39.Qb6 cxd4 40.Ka2 d3 41.b3# )

( 28…Ke7 29.Re3+ Kd6 30.Qxf8+ Kc7 { and then we’ve reached the same position as the afformentioned variation. } )

29.Qd7# { Magnus concludes his opus with a very artfully played Epaulette mate. } 1-0

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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