Magnus Carlsen - Levon Aronian

Round 4
Corus 2009
Wijk Aan Zee


It seems that because of Carlsen fans' voting the other players in the Corus A will be part of a featured game only when they face him. Well, his games are always full of fighting spirit and we often witness completely unexpected turn of events and there are no dull draws, so one can[t complain too much. If you have a favorite to be included in a featured game - then vote here for the round 5 live games.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 (4.e3 was played by the Norwegian yesterday but his opponent had no problems equalizing.)

4... e6 5.e3 No Moscow variation today.

5... Nbd7 6.Qc2 and no Meran either

6... Bd6 7.b3 An old and calm system

7... O-O 8.Be2 b6 Nowadays most strong players prefer to accomplish their development this way. Of course there are other viable plans involving the preparation of e6-e5.

9.Bb2 Qe7 10.O-O Bb7 11.Rfe1 Rfe8 12.Rad1 Rad8 13.Bf1 Both sides developed their pieces. Nothing new for the moment. Now the mid-game planning begins.

13... Bb4 (13... c5 is the main line. The game move has its point - pinning Nc3 makes it hard for White to prepare e3-e4 but now there is a tactical trick and 14.a3 is to be reckoned with.)

14.a3 Bxa3 Slav devotees don't trade their dark-squared Bishop for a Knight.

15.Bxa3 Qxa3 16.cxd5 exd5 A sad necessity played after a long period of thinking.

17.Ra1 Qd6 18.Rxa7 Qb8 White is clearly better. Aronian missed the 14.a3 resource - which is far from obvious - and is experiencing difficulties.

19.Rea1 c5 20.b4 This push in similar structures becomes Carlsen's trademark.

20... cxd4 (20... c4 is way too static for Aronian's style - he doesn't like to defend passively.)

21.Nxd4 Rc8 22.Qb3 Ne5 23.h3 A long-term positional advantage has been secured. Now comes the hard test - how to convert it into something real.

23... g6 24.Be2 Re7 25.R7a2 Nc4 26.Rd1 The Norwegian is manoeuvring his pieces to good positions but some plan has to be demonstrated.

26... Nxe3 27.fxe3 Rxe3 As I have already said Aronian excels in tactical play not in passive defense, so suddenly he unbalanced the position.

28.Rd3 ( The situation is very complex and Carlsen's desire to trade the active Re3 is quite natural. 28.Bd3 Qg3 29.Nce2 Qg5 30.Qb2 Rxh3 31.Qd2 was an alternative.)

28... Qg3 29.Nd1 Qe1+ 30.Bf1 Rxd3 31.Qxd3 Clock readings: 1.03 0.08

31... Qxb4 Black has 3 pawns for the sacrificed piece but that is hardly enough in this position for full compensation.

32.Qd2 Qd6 33.Nf3 There was no need to let the Black Rook to 'c1'

33... Ne4 34.Qd4 Rc1 35.Rb2 Time 0.54 0.02

35... Qc5 36.Ne3 Ba6 37.Rxb6 Qxd4 38.Nxd4 Bxf1 39.Nxf1 Nd2 40.Rf6 Rd1 Aronian's time trouble is over. With the material on board so reduced and the active Black pieces, the impression is that Black may hold.

41.Ne2 d4 42.Neg3 h5 Leaving White no time to consolidate his position.

43.Rf2 Nb1 Controlling the 'd2' square to prevent eventual Rd2.

44.Rb2 f5 45.Nh1 A paradox decision. Normally one would play Kf2 and Ne2.

45... Nc3 46.Rd2 Ra1 I am not sure that after let's say 46...Kf7 White would be able to win the resulting ending but Aronian prefers to keep his active Rook.

47.h4 Kg7 48.Nhg3 Ra4 49.Nh2 Ne4 Besides the possible draw material 2Knights vs King, exists Rook + Knight vs Rook.

50.Rd3 Nxg3 51.Rxg3 d3 52.Rxd3 Rxh4 53.Rd7+ Kh6 54.Nf3 Re4 Aronian's position is a reliable fortress and soon a draw may be agreed.

55.Rd6 Kg7 56.Kh2 Kh6 57.Nd4 Rh4+ 58.Kg3 Rg4+ 59.Kh3 Kg7 60.g3 Kf7 The last White pawn is to be exchanged soon.

61.Nf3 Ke7 62.Ra6 f4 63.gxf4 Rxf4 64.Ne5 Re4 65.Nxg6+ Draw agreed. Carlsen got opening advantage but let his opponent by clever tactical tricks to create counterplay. After the piece sacrifice maybe White could have found a stronger reaction but the fact is that Aronian fully deserved his half point for the creative chess he demonstrated today. 1/2