Leko, Peter - Carlsen, Magnus

Round 11
Morelia Linares 2008


Carlsen gains confidence as the tournament nears its end. The increasing number of mistakes by the participants due to tiredness - they keep on playing for 20 days, taking a break for a transatlantic flight - favors the Scandinavian for his excellent technique, as physical and mental preparation. Leko is having it very hard here and his play lacks punch. Normally he draws his Black and attempts to gain pluses as White. This strategy backfired a couple of times and he is clearly last on the table. Nevertheless he should try to make good use of his White color today as playing solid would serve him to secure the 8th place only. If he does, Magnus would be allowed to play interesting and creative chess as well and we may witness another fascinating game.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 Laker variation in is considered to be the solidest Black choice in Sicilian. Carlsen used it in round 10 to score his first half point against Anand.

9.Nd5 (9.Bxf6 was much more popular several years ago but after the revival of the 9... gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.Qh5 Rg8 line, the fashion changed.)

9... Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Bg5 12.Nc2 Ne7 ( White has recently demonstrated plans to fight for advantage in case of 12... O-O 13.a4 bxa4 14.Rxa4)

13.h4 ( A round ago Anand preferred not to include this move but draw was agreed shortly after 13.a4 . The idea behind such move is to deprive of this Bishop the possibility to be transfered via 'd8' to 'b6'.)

13... Bh6 14.a4 bxa4 15.Ncb4 O-O (15... Bd7 16.Rxa4 ! with excellent compensation for the exchange.)

16.Qxa4 Nxd5 17.Nxd5 a5 18.Bb5 Be6 19.Bc6 Rb8 20.b4 Bxd5 21.Bxd5 axb4 22.cxb4 Qb6 ( Still theory. This position is almost forced after 16.Qxa4. The ending in case of 22... Qb6 23.O-O (23.Rb1 supports b4-b5 but lets Black some activity or a bit different ending: 23... Qd4 24.O-O Bd2 25.Rfd1 Rxb4 26.Rxb4 Qxb4 27.Qa2 Bc3 28.Rb1 Qc5 29.Rb7 Qc8) 23... Qxb4 24.Qxb4 Rxb4 favors White because of his strong Bishop but is considered defendable. Leko thought already 30 minutes over his next move. The line considered best after 12...Ne7 is played, both opponents avoided the opening traps.)

23.Rb1 (23.O-O Qxb4 24.Qxb4 Rxb4 25.Ra6 should be draw but White may test opponents defensive technique for 50 more moves. Now it's Carlsen's turn to determine the further course of action.)

23... Kh8 Preparing f7-f5

24.O-O f5 ( Leko may now choose between the solid 24... f5 25.b5 ( or 25.exf5 Sample variations: 25... Rxf5 (25... Qd4 26.Be6 Qxh4 27.g3 Qg4 28.Qd1) 26.Qc6 Qd4 27.Qd6 Rbf8 28.Qc5 Qxh4 29.g3 Qd4 30.Bg2) Generally speaking White has several positional pluses and should be somewhat better, but there is a lot ot dynamics and every inaccuracy may completely change the evaluation. I guess this is the very reason the young Norwegian preferred 23...Kh8 instead of defending inferior ending.)

25.Qa5 Having spent a lot of time, Leko goes for simplifications.

25... fxe4 26.Qxb6 Rxb6 27.Rb3 White is trying to keep the Bh6 as long as possible out of action.

27... Rc8 28.Ra1 The same - no Bh6-d2 -a5 for the time being, while the 'a' file may prove handy.

28... g6 ( Renews the threat 28... g6 29.Bxe4 Rc4 but 30.Ra8+ Kg7 31.Ra7+ Kh8 32.Bd5 may let White develop initiative.) (28... g5 to give more air to the King has its logic as well: 29.h5 (29.hxg5 Bxg5 30.b5 e3 31.fxe3 Rc5 32.Ra8+ Kg7 33.Bc6 Rcxc6 34.bxc6 Rxb3 35.c7 Bxe3+ 36.Kf1 Rc3) 29... g4 enabling Kh8-g7-h6-g5 march.)

29.Ra8 Rxa8 30.Bxa8 Bf8 31.b5 Be7 32.g3 Bd8 33.Bxe4 d5 Sacrifice of a pawn to activate the Rook.

34.Bxd5 Rd6 35.Bc6 Bb6 36.Rb2 Rd3 37.Kg2 Kg7 38.Be4 This ending should be draw. Anyway, as Leko is a pawn up and Black is tied down with defense only, he may freely try to trick his not so experienced opponent.

38... Ra3 39.g4 Bd4 40.Rc2 Having committed several inaccuracies - 28...g6, 30...Bf8, 33...d5 - Magnus has to be very precise from now on, else Leko's advantage may become decisive.

40... Rb3 (40... Rc3 41.Rxc3 Bxc3 42.b6 Bd4 43.b7 Ba7 44.g5 is easily lost.) (40... Rb3 41.Rc7+ Kh8 42.Rb7 Rb2 43.h5 puts Black King in dangerous situation.) Alas, once again Linares experiences translation problems.

41.Rc7+ Kh8 42.Rc8+ Kg7 43.Rc7+ Kh8 44.Rb7 This is the pawn to be protected as without it there are no real winning chances.

44... Rb2 45.h5 (45.h5 gxh5 may be answered by 46.g5 accumulating threats.) (45.h5 Re2 seems to save the day: 46.Kf3 (46.h6 Rxf2+ 47.Kh3 Rf8) 46... Rxf2+ 47.Kg3 gxh5)

45... Rxf2+ 46.Kg3 (46.Kh3 is a bit better as 46... gxh5 (46... Rf4 47.Bd5) loses to 47.g5)

46... Rf4 (46... gxh5)

47.h6 Rf8 It's hard to see how Leko is going to make any progress now but there is still a lot of venom here.

48.Rc7 Bf2+ 49.Kg2 White's best chance seems to be to look for R+B v. R ending.

49... Be3 50.g5 ( This is not obligatory. 50.Rc6 could be played reserving the 'g5' square for the King in some lines.) (50.g5 Rb8 (50... Bxg5 ?? 51.b6 winning.) 51.Rc3 Bd4 52.Rf3 Bc5 53.Rb3 Kg8 54.Bd5+ Kf8 (54... Kh8 55.Kf3) 55.Rf3+ Ke8 56.Rf7 is a nasty threat.)

50... Rb8 51.Rc3 Bd4 52.Rc6 Leko has extra King but is troubled by time so his first task is to make it to move 60 without spoiling anything.

52... Kg8 (52... Be3)

53.Bd5+ The King finally left the corner but the 'h7' pawn is vulnerable.

53... Kf8 (53... Kh8 54.Kg3 Be3 55.Kg4 Bd4 56.Re6 loses the 'e' because of zugzwang.)

54.Bc4 Ke7 Looking for some complications in Leko's time trouble.

55.Rc7+ Kd6 56.Rxh7 e4 57.Rg7 Kc5 58.Rc7+ Kd6 (58... Kb4 59.h7)

59.Rc6+ Ke5 60.Rxg6 The Hungarian makes all the precise moves almost without thinking.

60... Kf5 (60... Kf5 61.Rd6 Be5 62.Rd5 seals the game.)

61.Rd6 Be3 62.h7 Black resigned. Carlsen's opening choice backfired at him. That line as a rule leads to various endings with differently colored Bishops and a Rook each, Black having to defend precisely to neutralize opponent's activity. This game has clearly demonstrated that Magnus lacks experience in those. Such endgames are hard to play on calculations only if one does not 'feel' them. As a result his play was abundant with inaccuracies. Leko gave his best investing 3 hours in less than 20 moves in order to create problems for the youngster and his persistence was awarded. So three more rounds with Anand being a point ahead of 3 dangerous pursuers. The outcome is quite intriguing still. 1-0