Magnus Carlsen writes on his first major victory (part 1)

Magnus Carlsen in his first major victory back in 2004

In this classic story from New In Chess magazine the 13-year old Magnus Carlsen himself describes how he blew everybody away with his performance in the C Group at Wijk aan Zee. This story was published in 2004 and gives an unique insight in the early development of the World #1.

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My Wijk aan Zee debut , by Magnus Carlsen

Having read about this great tournament since 1999, I’ve always dreamed about coming to Wijk aan Zee and watching the big guys in action. Therefore I was very happy when the organizers found a place for me in the C-group this year.
In the first round I pressed with white against Lahno, but was unable to win the long endgame. Then, for the next 6 rounds, everything went my way, resulting in 5 wins (of which 3 against strong GMs) and one draw. After the win against Pavlovic in Round 3, I felt quite confident throughout the tournament.

pavlovic carlsen

In this position Pavlovic optimistically tried 19. cxb5 cxb5 20. d4 c4 21. d5 Bxd5 22. e6 maybe having missed the reply 22… Qd6 after which he never got compensation for the pawn.

In round 4, I met GM Popov as White, and I fortunately decided not to fear my highly-rated opponent and went for a sharp Najdorf.

Magnus Carlsen -Valery Popov

Wijk aan Zee C 2004 (4)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2 Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. f5 Nc6 11. fxe6 fxe6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. e5

calsen popov

13… Nd5 This is quite a rare move and at this point I was out of theory. 13… dxe5 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Ne4 Be7 16. Be2 h5 has been considered good for Black since it was introduced by Fischer. However, 17. Rf1 (see Yearbook 68) is very interesting and has renewed White’s interest in this old line. Popov tried 15… Qxa2 16. Rd1 Be7 against Pavlovic later in the tournament, but the result was no better. 14. Nxd5 cxd5 15. Bd3!? 15. Be2 is the normal line, but I saw no reason not to put the bishop on d3. This move also keeps the possibility to play Qf2 later. 15… dxe5 16. 0-0 Be7 17. Kh1!? With the idea of 18.Qf2 Bxg5 19.Qf7+ Kd8 20.Qxg7. 17… e4 18. Be2 Threatening 19.Qd4. 18… Rf8

19. c4! Opening all lines. The position is very difficult to defend and even the computer prefers White here! 19… dxc4 This loses instantly 19… Rxf1 20. Rxf1 Bb7 gives White a pleasant choice between 21. Qf4 and 21. Bg4 20. Rxf8 Kxf8 20… Bxf8 21. Bh5 g6 22. Qd8 Kf7 23. Rf1 Kg8 24. Qe8 Ra7 25. Qxc8 is game over. 21. Qf4 Ke8 22. Rf1 Ra7 22… Bxg5 23. Qf7 Kd8 24. Rd1 forces 24… Qd3 23. Qf7 Kd7 23… Kd8 24. Qf8 Kd7 25. Rd1 is even worse. 24. Rd1 24. Bxc4 also wins rather simply. 24… Kc6 25. Qe8 Kb6 Understandably, Popov did not want to suffer the hopeless endgame after 25… Bd7 26. Qxe7 Qxe7 27. Bxe7 26. Qxc8 Black resigned in view of 26… Bxg5 27. Qxe6 and Black will have to suffer enormous material losses to avoid mate.


In Round 7, I was hard pressed as Black against Gagunashvili. At one point I had a losing position, but Gagunashvili failed to take advantage of this and went further astray in time-trouble. After the time control he was simply losing. Next I played Werle and having secured my first GM-norm I could relax and concentrate on the game without thinking about the result.

Magnus Carlsen – Jan Werle

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 Werle usually plays the Classical Sicilian 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. c4 Kasparov’s favorite move. 5… Nf6 6. Nc3 d6 If Black wants to play the Hedgehog, then 6… Qc7 7. a3 7. Be2 Bb4 is OK for Black 7… d6 is more accurate. 7. g3 Qc7 8. Be3 b6 9. Bg2 Bb7 10. 0-0 Nbd7 10… Qxc4 11. Rc1 is unplayable for Black. 11. Rc1

11… Be7 ?! 11… Rc8 is better, but White would have an advantage anyway. For instance, after 12. f4 12. Nd5! exd5 12… Qb8 13. Nxe7 Kxe7 should also be clearly better for White and 12… Qd8 13. e5 is also strong. 13. cxd5 Qb8 13… Qd8 is no better. 14. Nc6 Bxc6 15. dxc6 Ra7 15… Nc5 16. c7 Qxc7 17. e5 loses the exchange. 15… Ne5 16. c7 Qc8 or 16… Qb7 17. f4 Neg4 18. Bd4 threatens e5 and material gain. 16. cxd7 Nxd7 17. Bh3 !? I didn’t want to give the c5-square to the black knight, combined with a5 protecting the queenside. 17… 0-0 18. Bxd7 Rxd7 19. Qd5 Black has no counterplay. 19… b5 20. Rc6 Qa8 21. Rfc1 Rfd8 ?! 21… Bf6 should have been tried. 22. Bb6 Re8 23. Qf5! Rb7 24. Bd4

24… Bf8? A bad move, but it was hard to give any good advice. White dominates. 25. Rc8 Rb8? 26. R8c7? I had lots of time on the clock, but even so I failed to find 26. R1c7! f6 27. Rxg7! Bxg7 ( 27… Kxg7 28. Qxf6 Kg8 29. Rc7 ) 28. Qe6 mating. 26… Re7 27. Rxe7 Bxe7 28. Rc7 Re8 29. Qd7 Qd8 30. Qc6 Bf8 31. Ra7?! Qc8 32. Qd5

32… Qe6 ?! With so little time left, it is understandable that Black chose to simplify, but the endgame is hopeless for him. 33. Qxe6 Rxe6 34. f3 d5? 35. Ra8! Rc6 36. exd5 Rc7 37. Bc3 Black resigned.

In Round 9 I lost against Pavasovic and then met the two lowest-rated opponents before facing co-leader Ernst in the penultimate round. At this point we both had 9 out of 11, and as Ernst had beaten third-placed Smeets the round before, this was the C-group final.

End of part 1

Expect part 2 of the wonderful article by Magnus Carlsen for New In Chess tomorrow on the pages of Chessdom. For introductory subscription and full articles by Carlsen and other top players check out the New in Chess special promo offer here.

Magnus Carlsen in Wijk Aan Zee 2004

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