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Radjabov – Carlsen

Chess Grand Prix Baku preview

Magnus Carlsen and Teimour Radjabov are two of the young chess stars in the Baku Chess Grand Prix. They have met recently in Morelia Linares. Radjabov managed to win in Morelia and hold Carlsen to a draw in Linares.

Carlsen is top seeded for the Grand Prix in Baku and will try to come back from the recent loss. Radjabov, on the other hand, is playing at home and will want to confirm his good performance against Carlsen. Here is a recent game between the two. Expect live commentary at the Baku Grand Prix page

Teimour Radjabov – Magnus Carlsen
Morelia Linares 2008
Round 6

1.e4 e5
Magnus is back to expected 1…e5 after knocking Topalov off the balance with Alekhine defence in the previous round.

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6!? 4.d3
Topalov also played Berlin variation in the Ruy Lopez against Radjabov and achieved good position, particularly after Radjabov blundered his central pawn. Here he is deviating from that game and employs newer line with 4. d3.

4… Bc5
Main alternative is 4… d6, fancied by GMs Kobalija, Aleksandrov and Armenian duo Aronian/Sargissian.

5.c3 O-O 6.O-O
Berlin became fashionable line after Vladimir Kramnik used it to dethrone Garry Kasparov in their London 2000 match. Nearly all top players tried it at least once, before reviving Marshall Attack again.

6… d5!?
Not so popular like 6… d6, which was preferred by already mentioned Armenian players, but expected from a fighter like Magnus. He already achieved good score with Chigorin/Marshall hybrid, so why not try it again? Etienne Bacrot also played d5 against GM Kobalija and another lower rated player.

White is simply developing pieces. 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.Nxe5 dxe4 9.d4 Bd6 10.Nxc6? Qe8 and black is better.

7… dxe4 8.Nxe4!?
Usually, white would recapture with a pawn and continue Qe2, Rd1, Nf1 in similar structures.

8… Nxe4 9.dxe4
This is plain equal position, but players might still be able to find some active possibilities.

9… Qf6!
Logical. Magnus would never trade queens so early and kill all the fun. Probably Radjabov expected such decision and intentionally offered the exchange. But there is no obvious benefit for white..

It appears that Radjabov’s main intention was to take Magnus off his preparation and reach a playable position. Azeri players are known for their fantastic improvisation. On 10…Bg4, maybe 11. Be3!?

10… Bg4 11.h3!?
White won’t mind doubled pawns if queens are exchanged and he keeps the bishops pair. It might be important, at the later stage, if black is missing light-squared bishop to prevent rook invasion on d7.

11… Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Qxf3 13.gxf3 Ne7
Normal reaction as b4 and d4 are not available for black knight. Carlsen also wants to prevent his pawn structure from damaging, although immediate opening of b-file might not be in white’s favor. The knight will also keep an eye on white’s weak squares f4 and h4.

Better to straighten pawns before black blocks f4 with Ng6 or even Bd6.14…Ng6!? 15. f5 Nf4!? deserves attention.

14… c6 15.Bc4 exf4
This might be considered as concession, but Carlsen is hoping to block this pawn mass. Dark-squared bishop is playing important role.

16.Bxf4 Ng6 17.Bg3 Rfe8
Black is directly pressing on e4, but rook move might be slightly neglecting f7 point. This could be important tempo for white in some hypothetic course of events where he includes rook in the attack. However, Carlsen might want to double rooks on e-file. Interesting alternative was 17…Kh8 with idea f5!?

18.Rfe1 Rad8
Black is doing fine, his pieces are optimally placed. White still has to coordinate with covering entry points on d-file and weakness on f4. But if those e and f pawns start rolling, black could be in trouble. Still a very sensible position.

19.Rad1 Rxd1 20.Rxd1
If 20…Rxe4 21. Rd8+ Nf8 22. Bd3 white has compensation for the sacrificed pawn in view of certain pressure on the back rank.

20… Rxe4 21.Rd8+ Nf8 22.Bd3
Everything as expected. Now 22…Re1+ 23. Kg2 introduces nasty threat of b4 with Rb8 and unpleasant pressure.

22… Re1+ 23.Kg2 a5!
Excellent! Preventing b2-b4. It seems like white can still regain the pawn by harassing black queenside with rook and light bishop.

Radjabov is implementing this plan against queenside pawns. He wants to provoke b6 and then continue with Rc8.

24… Rd1 25.Bc4!?
25. Be4 was expected, but Radjabov probably wants to keep an eye on f7.

25… Bb6?
25… b6 appeals better…

26.Rb8! Rd7 27.Ba6!
and now white takes the advantage because black’s pawn structure is falling apart. There isn’t much of a counterplay either…

27… bxa6 28.Rxb6 f6 29.Rxa6
a4 or Rxc6 were also good. Carlsen will probably continue with 29…Rd2

29… Rd2 30.b4
30…Rxa2 31. Rxa5… it really looks grim for black.

30… axb4 31.cxb4 Rb2 32.Bd6 Ne6 33.a4
Radjabov can simply push a-pawn after 33…Nd4 or 33…Rc2. It looks like white is unstoppable.

33… Rc2 34.a5 Kf7 35.Bc5!?
White has Rxc6 to pin the knight should black decide to take on c5… 35.Rb6 was probably faster.

35… Nf4+ 36.Kf3 Nd5
Nakamura says 36… Nd3 “is dead equal”, but white has simple 37.Ke3 and f4 on Ne5

Radjabov has nice sense of humor. Black can’t take on b6, because white recaptures with a-pawn and bishop is helping promotion on b8. 37…Rc3+ maybe?

37… Rc4 38.Rb7+ Kg6 39.a6 Rc3+ 40.Kg2 Nf4+
Time control has passed. Simple 41. Kg1 Nxh3+ 42. Kh2! with next a7 quickly finishes this game.

41.Kg1 Nxh3+ 42.Kh2 Nf4 43.Be3!
Best to prevent inconvenience with Rh3+ before pushing the pawn. Carlsen resigned as there is no hope to stop the queen promotion. He achieved good counterplay after the opening, and then became a little bit over-ambitious with pawn grab on e4. Still, his position was good until he missed better move instead of 25…Bb6.


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