Magnus Carlsen - Wang Hao

Round 12
Tata Steel 2011


Note: To follow this game with computer analysis by Stockfish 2.0.1 click here

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 Where have we seen this recently? Of course, the same start as Nepo and Nakamura yesterday (replay game)! The advance variation where black had also the option 3...c5

4.Be3 alternative was Bd3 where after the exchange of the light-squared Bishops, Black's play is based on White's light-squared weakness

4... e6 5.Nd2 Nd7 6.Ngf3 Bg6 Extremly rare continuation for the game at such early stage. At grandmaster level there are only a few games to find, which explains the deep thought of Magnus Carlsen. 7. Be2 has been played, which is also natural if ...Bg6 was not on the board. The main idea of the bishop retreat for Wang Hao might be to free the f5 square, keeping at the same time full control over it, supported by the pawn at e6 and a developing Ne7

7.Be2 Ne7 Carlsen has to decide at this point, destabilize the bishop via Nh5 or castle and ocntinue white's development. If the first option, looking for N and B exchange, black will counter with Nf5 with a similar idea attacking the dark squared bishop or offering N and N exchange instead.

8.Nh4 c5 dxc5 is not recommended as white's center will fall appart 9. dxc5 Nc6 10. Nxg6 hxg6 11. Nb3 Ndxe5. On the other hand a silent 9. O-O will give the chance for a not well supported cxd4. The logical option for Carlsen is to support the central structure via 9.c3

9.c3 Qb6, Rc8, and Nc6 all help black's pressure towards the center.

9... Nc6 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.Nf3 Will Wang Hao continue with the suggested support moves or is it time to unleash 11. ... cxd4 12. cxd4 Bb4+ depriving Carlsen of either a dark squared bishop or a castle?

11... Rc8 Now there is enough time for Carlsen to castle and not worry so much about queenside attacks.

12.O-O a6 A move that goes perfectly with the strategy Wang Hao from the beginning of the game. He wants to preserve his knights as long as possible, beliving that with the given structure they have higher importance than the bishops. ...a6 also helps possible problems with cramped middlegame, freeing extra square for the knight on c6, at the same time supporting b5 for pawn advance.

13.g3 Magnus planning to bring the knight on h4 attacking g6? Easy way to stop it following the logic of Wang Hao, attack it and possibly exchange it for a bishop via Be7.

13... Be7 With the h file wide open and blacks pieces far away on the queen side with the king stuck in the center, can Magnus try development via h4, Kg2, Rh1 etc.?

14.h4 Only way to counter such plan of Magnus is queenside expansion via Qb6 or b5 as mentioned earlier.

14... b5 For those interested in the TCEC computer super tournament, Houdini 1.5 won again against Rybka 4, taking a 3,5-0,5 lead in the standings. All info here, replayable games here

15.a4 And to make the show complete, Gibraltar chess tournament is now live here.

15... Qb6 Both players follow the plans, after an exchange of pawns Carlsen will be able to continue with Kg2 idea mentioned.

16.axb5 axb5 17.Kg2 This move has also another effect, gets the king away from the problematic a7-g1 diagonal. Now any exchange of pawns there is fine for white.

17... c4 With the position closed, white can concentrate on the queenside. It will be hard for black to shift defensive focus to there.

18.Ng5 Qd8 What to do after 19. Bg4 Bxg5 20. Bxg5 Qc7? The Rh1 and h5 plan comes into action for Carlsen.

19.Bg4 19. ... Qb6 20. Nxf7 Kxf7 21. Bxe6+ Kxe6 22. Qg4+ Kf7 23. e6+ is of course much better for white. However, what to do, 19. ... Bxg5 20. Bxg5 f6 21. Bxe6 fxg5 22. Qg4 Ne7 23. hxg5 Rc6 24. Rh1 is even better for Carlsen, Wang Hao is running out of options.

19... Bxg5 20.Bxg5 Qc7 Qc7 is not a solution at this moment, allows immediate Rh1 and h5.

21.Rh1 Nb6 22.h5 gxh5 23.Bxh5 Na4 Wang Hao tries to find use for the knights. First of all it blocks the passage of the white rook, and second it threatens a pawn take. The threat is easily parried with Ra2 and attention will be again on the kingside. And how about a drastic bxf7 now? 24. Bxf7+ Kxf7 25. Qf3+ Kg8 26. Rxh8+ Kxh8 27. Qh5+ Kg8 28. Rh1

24.Bxf7 He goes for it! Now it is all strightforward as the line shown.

24... Kxf7 25.Qf3+ Kg8 26.Rxh8+ Kxh8 27.Rh1+ Kg8 28.Qh5 Rf8 Oh! Can he find it again? 29. Qh7+ Kf7 30. Rh6 Nd8 31. Rf6+ Ke8 32. Qh5+ Rf7 33. Rf3 Kd7 34. Bxd8 Qxd8 35. Rxf7+ Kc6 36. Qg6 Qc8 37. Re7 b4 38. Rxe6+ Kb5

29.Bf6 Even this is enough as 29. ... Qd7 30. Qg6 Rxf6 31. exf6 Qf7 32. Rh8+ Kxh8 33. Qxf7 is definite winner. Fantastic by Carlsen, he makes a second masterpiece in a row. Thank you for following the live coverage with and see you for more live commentary tomorrow! 1-0