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Magnus Carlsen - Levon Aronian

Round 6
Grand Slam Final
Bilbao

08.09.2008

Having there first rest day on Sunday, the participants are to resume the chess battles in Bilbao. The provisional standings are: Topalov - 9, Carlsen - 8, Aronian - 6, the rest - 4 points each. In an event with only 1/3 decided games this means that we have 3 contenders only for the tournament title. That logically presumes that today's featured game should be Carlsen - Aronian. The Norwegian at this point got to N.1 in the rating list thanks to Anand's bad performance here. The Armenian recovered from his 1st round loss and is chasing the leaders. In such field it will be hard for him to repeat his winning streak during the last rounds of Sochi that brought him the title there, but nonetheless we know what is he capable of. Carlsen is playing uncompromisingly and the last 3 games sacrificed a pawn for initiative. Would he keep on in the same manner today, or facing excellent tactician like Aronian he will choose a more subtle approach. Depending on his first move Ruy Lopez or Slav Defense is to be expected. The start of the round is delayed. I don't know the reason but only the arbiter is walking between empty tables. Observing him checking the ventilation and wiping the sweat off his forehead, I guess the rumors about the air conditioning of the 'cage' - the glass case - malfunctioning could be true. By the way if anyone is curious how such 'aquarium' is constructed here is a link: construction of the sound proof aquarium . 17.35 CET - finally the players are seated and the games are about to begin. Another technical problem - the electronic boards were out of order - validating Murphy's law.

1.d4 So it is going to be Slav.

1... d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 ( Carlsen deviats from 5.Bg5 which was his usual repertoire.)

5... Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 ( The fashionable alternative to 8... a6 in the Merano line.)

9.a3 b4 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Bxe4 bxa3 12.O-O Magnus is sacrificing a pawn fourth game in a row.

12... Nf6 13.Bd3 axb2 14.Bxb2 a5 ( This move was first played in the game Gelfand - Kramnik, World Championship 2007. The game followed 14... a5 15.Qa4 (15.Qb3 deserves attention) 15... Bb4 16.Ba3 Nd5 and was drawn in 26 moves.)

15.d5 Carlsen had excellent positional compensation but he considers that his lead in development may grant him more, so second pawn is sacrificed to open the position up.

15... Nxd5 (15... exd5 16.Nd4 Be7 17.Nf5 O-O 18.Nxg7 Kxg7 19.Qg4+ Kh8 20.Bxf6 Bxf6 21.Qf5 illustrates well White attacking prospects.)

16.Ne5 Nf6 Not letting Qh5, Aronian prefers to complete his development to moves like 16...Nb4 or 16...Qc7, in which case the pressure over the a1-h8 diagonal can be quite unpleasant.

17.Qa4 Bb4 (17... Bd6 18.Nxc6 Qd7 19.Rac1 does not facilitate Black to castle.)

18.Nxc6 Bxc6 19.Qxc6+ Ke7 20.Rfd1 Magnus maximized the activity of his pieces. If only his Queen could attack at 'g7' Aronian would be in trouble.

20... Rc8 21.Qf3 Qb6 Preparing Rhd8. ( The direct attempt 21... Qb6 22.Bd4 Qc6 23.Qg3 Rhd8 24.Qxg7 is refuted by 24... Rxd4 25.exd4 Rg8)

22.Bd4 Qb8 The Armenian prefers not to let the White Queen on 'g3'.

23.Ba6 Rcd8 ( There is no apparent refutation of 23... Rc2) (23... Rcd8 24.Rab1 hinders Black in coordinating his pieces. 24... Rd6 25.Qg3 Rhd8 26.Be2 Rxd4 27.Rxd4 Qxg3 28.hxg3 Rxd4 29.exd4 Kd6 should be sufficient to hold.)

24.Bb7 ( Permits Aronian to simplify the situation after 24.Bb7 e5 25.Bb6 Rd6 26.Rxd6 Qxd6 27.Bxa5 Bxa5 28.Rxa5 Rb8) Time: 0.37 0.37

24... h5 25.h3 Including the moves with 'h' pawns may favor only White.

25... h4 26.Rab1 ( Preparing to meet 26.Rab1 e5 by 27.Rxb4)

26... e5 As this is the only way Black may ease the pressure, it was batter to play so a couple of moves ago.

27.Rxb4 Did Levon miss that move? Clock readings: 0.27 0.14

27... axb4 Looks like a suicide.

28.Bc5+ Ke6 29.Ra1 Sealing the win.

29... Rd6 30.Bxd6 Kxd6 31.Qc6+ Ke7 32.Ra8 Wins a Rook.

32... Qd6 33.Qxd6+ Kxd6 34.Rxh8 b3 35.Ba6 Nd7 36.Rxh4 Nc5 Aronian can make it to the time control but does it matter being a Rook down? Black resigned. A great game by Carlsen. He sacrificed 2 pawns this game to have the initiative. The Armenian defended well and had almost equalized, when he didn't sense the danger and carelessly wasted a couple of moves pushing his 'h' pawn. Afterwards facing troubles he got himself in zeitnot and missed 27.Rxb4 and 29.Ra1. which lead to the win of the current N.1 in the rating list, who is only at one victory distance from reaching the 2800. 1-0