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Norway Chess: Carlsen – Caruana annotated

Norway Chess 2015Norway Chess 2015 super tournament starts in a week with a fantastic field including Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 2876, Fabiano Caruana (Italy) 2805, Viswanathan Anand (India) 2804, Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2802, Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 2798, Alexander Grischuk (Russia) 2781, Levon Aronian (Armenia) 2780, Anish Giri (Netherlands) 2773, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) 2723 and Jon Ludvig Hammer (Norway) 2677. is going to follow closely the clash of the titans with live commentary, daily online pdf and pgn magazine, interviews, live games with analysis and more.

Top seeds for second consecutive year are Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. Enjoy their game from the 2014 edition of the tournament with exclusive commentary by GM Davorin Kuljasevic.

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Carlsen,Magnus (2881) – Caruana,Fabiano (2791) [D70]
Norway Chess 2014 (3), 05.06.2014
[GM Davorin Kuljasevic]

[Hello Dear chess friends! The drawing of lots paired the surprising tournament leader Fabiano Caruana and the world champion Magnus Carlsen in round 3. Caruana stands at the perfect score 2 out of 2, while Carlsen is probably not too happy with his 50% so far. Since the tournament has just begun, this one point difference between the players is not so important yet. Carlsen would definitely be happy to catch up with Caruana, although a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world either. From Caruana’s standpoint, a draw would be a very satisfying result. However, losing is not really an option for Carlsen as winning the tournament would then become “mission impossible”.]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 [It goes without saying that Caruana is one of the world’s leading experts on the Gruenfeld defence.]

3.f3!? [Carlsen “finally” plays something concrete against the Gruenfeld. He’s been toying with a host of off-beat systems against this opening lately, but today it seems that he is fully prepared for a sharp theoretical battle. We should add that this move prepares to take the centre with e4, but the main difference between this move]

[and the more natural 3.Nc3 is that in the latter case, Black can trade a pair of knights with 3…d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3]

3…d5 [Following the Gruenfeld course is Caruana’s favorite and usually the most natural choice for Gruenfeld players in this position. However, I will give a small expose on a number of other options for Black, which might be a good starting point for those interested in learning this interesting line.]

[King’s indian players prefer 3…Bg7 4.e4 d6 which usually transposes into the main lines of the Saemisch KID after 5.Nc3 (although another interesting development scheme exists – 5.Ne2!? 0–0 6.Nec3 aiming to develop the knight from b1 to d2 or a3.) 5…0–0 etc.; Another popular approach is “Tango” style 3…Nc6!? to which White usually responds with 4.d5 Ne5 5.e4 d6 6.Nc3 etc. with complex play.; Benoni aficionados would probably go for 3…c5 4.d5 Bg7 5.e4 d6 6.Nc3 e6; and those willing to experiment with totally unorthodox positions might try 3…e6 4.e4 d5; or even 3…e5 4.dxe5 Nh5 although this line may be too risky as the following game shows: 5.Nh3 Nc6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.g4 Ng7 9.f4 d6 10.exd6 Qh4+ 11.Nf2 Bxg4 12.dxc7 Be6 13.Qd2 0–0 14.Nc3 Bxc4 15.e4 Bxf1 16.Rxf1 Rac8 17.Nd5 Ne8 18.Qc3 Ne7 19.Qh3 1–0 (19) Hammer,J (2633)-Yankovsky,R (2474) Las Vegas 2012]

4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 [We can see now that white has avoided the knight exchange by postponing Nc3 and he still has a strong center. The f3 move has other drawbacks though, but to paraphrase an old saying: “no move is perfect”.]

5…Nb6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 0–0 8.Qd2 [Quite naturally, White prepares to castle long and follow up with a typical kingside attack: Bh6, h4–h5 etc.]

8…Nc6 [The first small junction.]

[8…e5 9.d5 c6 was topical for a while, but a few nice white wins after 10.h4 cxd5 11.exd5 N8d7 12.h5 Nf6 13.hxg6 fxg6 14.0–0–0 have generally discouraged black from challenging white center in such a direct manner. However, the line is not dead yet, as it was succesfully employed by Gelfand in the 2012 WCh match against Anand. For those interested in playing it, I suggest coming up with some improvement with engine assistance and triple-checking your analysis before the game.]

9.0–0–0 Qd6!? 


[This move is the new hit. Caruana has already played 4 games with it, losing two and drawing the other two. His decision to stick with it is a sign that he has upgraded his analysis.]

[A long time ago, the principled looking 9…e5 10.d5 Nd4 was played almost exclusively, but things have proved to be a little suspicious for black after 11.f4 etc.; Another common approach is 9…f5 10.e5 Nb4 11.Nh3 Be6 although it has been going through a certain crisis over the past few years.]

10.Nb5 [Immediately attacking the queen is the most popular move here.]

[Last year, Nakamura has challenged Caruana with 10.h4 Rd8 11.Nb5 Qd7 12.h5 a6 13.Nc3 when the young American-Italian blundered with 13…Nxd4 (13…Bxd4 is possible as well.) 14.hxg6 hxg6?? (14…fxg6 15.g4 would lead to a complicated position.) 15.Bxd4 Qxd4 (or 15…Bxd4 16.Qh6 and black loses a lot of material) 16.Qe1 and black had to give up the queen for no compensation in Nakamura,H (2772)-Caruana,F (2779) Elancourt FRA 2013, 1–0 (34).]

10…Qd7 11.Kb1 [The last word of theory. Several moves have been tried here with pretty good success for white. The theory of this line is still developing, so I will just mention a few recent games that are relevant for the 9…Qd6 line. The reader is free to explore them more deeply at his leasure.]

[11.f4 Qe6 12.Nc3 Nc4 13.Qe2 Nxe3 14.Qxe3 Nb4 15.Kb1 c6 16.Nf3 Nd5! 17.Nxd5 cxd5 18.e5 and black was doing ok in a game that was played just a few days ago: Bachmann,A (2589)-Kovchan,A (2558) Zalakaros HUN 2014, 0–1 (36), although he won the game only after his opponent blundered.; 11.Bh6 Bxh6 12.Qxh6 a6 13.Nc3 Nxd4 14.f4 f6 15.Nf3 e5 16.fxe5 fxe5 17.Nxe5 Qd6 18.Nf3 c5 19.Bd3 Qf4+ 20.Qxf4 Rxf4 21.Nxd4 cxd4 and players reached a drawish endgame in Sadler,M (2646)-Svidler,P (2758) London ENG 2013, 1/2 (44).]

11…Rd8 [The optimistic experiment 11…f5 didn’t end well for black after 12.h4! fxe4 13.h5 e5 14.d5 Nd4 15.Nxd4 exd4 16.Bxd4 Qxd5 17.Bxb6! Qxd2 18.Rxd2 axb6 19.Bc4+ Kh8 20.hxg6 and white soon won in Laznicka,V (2677)-Zhigalko,A (2619) Warsaw POL 2013, 1–0 (31) .]

12.d5 [The pressure on d4 became unbearable (a6 was threatening), so white pushes the pawn further.]

12…a6 13.Nc3 [13.dxc6 wins a pawn after 13…Qxd2 14.Rxd2 Rxd2 15.Bxd2 axb5 16.cxb7 but Black gets a strong compensation after (or 16.Bxb5 bxc6 17.Bxc6 Rb8) 16…Bxb7 17.Bxb5 Rd8]

13…Qe8 [A very useful move. The queen gets out of the way of the other pieces and wants to use the pin to break white’s center with e7–e6 push.]

14.Qc1 [Carlsen deviates from the game Gelfand-Caruana in Zurich last year. With this move he still keeps his attacking prospects with Bh6 open.]

[Gelfand copied Caruana’s queen manoeuvre with 14.Qe1 and the game continued 14…Na7!? 15.h4 Nb5 16.Nge2 Nc4 17.Bd4 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Nb6 19.h5 e6 20.hxg6 hxg6 21.f4 giving rise to a sharp play where black was doing great. The game, however, ended in a draw.]

14…Na5 15.Bh6 


[A logical follow-up.]

[It might seem like 15.Bxb6 cxb6 16.b4 wins a piece here, but black has a nice tactic 16…Bd7! 17.bxa5 Rac8 18.Nge2 Rxc3! 19.Nxc3 Rc8 that equalizes the game after 20.Rd3 Bb5 21.Re3 Bxf1 22.Rxf1 Bxc3 23.Rxc3 Rxc3 24.Qxc3 Qb5+ The point! 25.Kc2 Qxf1; A recent game Berczes,D (2497)-Sarkar,J (2452) Dallas USA 2014, 1/2 (45) saw 15.h4 e6 16.Bg5 f6 17.Bd2 Nbc4 18.Bh6 Bxh6 19.Qxh6 exd5 20.h5 d4 with a complicated position, when black was, again, doing more than fine.]

15…Bxh6 [Caruana shows that he knows in’s and out’s of this line.]

[The immediate 15…e6 would be inferior as after 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.h4 exd5 18.h5 the king is more exposed on g7 than g8.]

16.Qxh6 e6 17.Nh3 [Threatening Ng5 and Qxh7.]

[If white attacks with 17.h4 exd5 18.h5 black wins an important defensive tempo with 18…Qf8! since the queen trade is in his favor.]

17…Qe7 [Caruana decides to stop the threat with defense along the 7th rank,]

[although chasing the queen away from h6 with 17…Qf8 was a noteworthy alternative.]



[I was wondering what Carlsen would play in this position as it seemed that his attack has come to a halt. He came up with a very interesting pawn sacrifice that allows him to complete the development.]

[18.Ng5?! would only help black 18…f6 19.Nxe6 Bxe6 20.dxe6 Rxd1+ 21.Nxd1 Qxe6 and it’s already white who fights for equality here.; 18.Nf4 e5 19.Nd3 seemed quite decent. With the knight out of the way, white is ready to push h4. But black probably equalizes after 19…c6 20.Qe3 Nac4 21.Qc5 Qxc5 22.Nxc5 Ne3 etc.]

18…e5 [Caruana decides to refuse the Greek gift and probably rightly so.]

[White’s attack after 18…exd5 19.Nf4! looks scary in all variations. 19…Be6 (19…c6 20.exd5 cxd5 21.Nh5!; 19…d4 20.Ncd5 Qe5 21.h4; 19…dxe4 20.Nxe4 followed by Ng5 or Nh5.) 20.Nh5! (or 20.h4) ]

19.Nf2 [However, with the closed center, white now has a free hand on the kingside. If black doesn’t manage to push c6 soon to break white’s center, he will find himself in a difficult position with little counterplay.]

19…Nbc4 [Caruana activates his idle knights.]

[It turns out that 19…c6 is one move too slow due to 20.h4 cxd5 21.h5 Qf8 22.Qg5! f6 23.Qc1 d4 24.hxg6 hxg6 25.Nd5! and white has a crushing attack.]

20.h4 Rd6!? 


[A move that black probably doesn’t want to make as this blocking square is usually reserved for the knight, but it stops h5 for the time being.]

[The active try 20…Qb4 runs into 21.Bxc4 Nxc4 22.Nd3]

21.Bxc4 [I was a little puzzled by this positional decision. Trading the bishop has positive sides, like freeing the d3 square for the knight, but I think it also makes black’s life easier.]

[That being said, I think it was better to avoid exchanges and immediately play 21.Qc1 b5 22.h5 g5 23.b3 Nb6 when black has two clumsy knights to worry about, rather than one, like in the game.]

21…Nxc4 22.Qc1 [Making h5 thrust possible.]

22…b5 [This move is strategically risky as it weakens the queenside, but black can hardly do without it.]

[If he plays 22…c6 now, white obtains a nice advantage with simple forcing moves: 23.b3 Nb6 24.Qe3 cxd5 25.exd5 f5 26.Rhe1; On the other hand, 22…Rb6 is simply answered by 23.Nd3]



[Now white controls critical squares b4 and c5 and all he needs to do is take measures against c7–c6. If he manages to do that, his position will be clearly better simply because he controls more space and his pieces are superior to his opponents.]

23…Bd7 24.b3 Nb6 25.h5 g5 [Up to this point, Carlsen played a perfect game. But now he plays a careless move that throws away everything he’s been working for…]

[Allowing white to open the h-file 25…c6 26.hxg6 fxg6 would be terrible risky. White can continue 27.Rh6 Rf8 28.Qa3! with dangerous threats all over the board.]



[The idea of opening up the kingside with f4 is sound, but the timing is completely off. Black now gets the time to open the center with c6.]

[Carlsen should have simply played 26.Qe3 when c6 is impossible as the knight on b6 is hanging. If black tries to defend it with 26…Rb8 white can answer (26…a5 may be a little better, but white still keeps a clear positional advantage with 27.Qc5 b4 28.Nb5 Bxb5 29.Qxb5) 27.Qc5 c6?! 28.Nb4! with a winning position.]

26…c6 [Just in time! Now the game becomes completely unlear.]

27.f4 [The best chance.]

27…cxd5 28.Nxe5? [But this move is a mistake.]

[White has to play 28.fxe5 and then 28…Rc6 29.Qd2 Be6 leads to a dynamically balanced position. Black’s chances may be slightly better, but this was definitely better choice than the game continuation.]



[This move works due to a nice tactic that Carlsen may have missed somewhere in his previous calculations. Now black takes over the control of the game.]

29.Qa3 [Trying to utilize the pin on Rd6.]

[The point is that 29.Ne2 is answered by 29…Bc6! 30.Nxc6 Qxe4+ and Black is on top.]

29…a5 30.Nxb5?! [Maybe not a bad practical decision, but definitely giving up a piece can’t be right from a purely chess perspective. But this move gives us some valuable insight into the inner workings of the world champion. This is not the first time he gives up material in a troublesome position in order to keep his opponent busy and maintain piece coordination. He likes to do this especially as the time trouble approaches, putting additional psychological pressure on his opponents and making conversion of the advantage more difficult.]

[30.Nd5 Nxd5 31.exd5 was objectively better, but Carlsen probably judged that Caruana would find the best moves more easily in this kind of position than the game.]

30…Bxb5 31.Rxd4 


[White has two pawns for the piece and some activity to show for it. Generally speaking, though, black should win this game with precise play.]

31…Re6 [Black doesn’t lose any of his advantage by exchanging queens.]

[However, he could have also avoided the queen swap with 31…Rad8 32.Rhd1 Nc8! (The tempting 32…Rxd4? 33.Qxe7 Rxd1+ would be a huge mistake as white’s threats are far more serious than black’s. 34.Kb2) 33.Rxd6 Nxd6 and if 34.Qxa5 f6 Sometimes, especially with exposed kings, this kind of material advantage can be converted more easily with queens on the board.]

32.Qxe7 Rxe7 33.Rc1 Nd7! [The knight on e5 holds white’s position together, so this move makes the most sense.]

[33…f6 would only create additional weaknesses in black’s camp. 34.Ng4 would follow, with a sufficient compensation.]



34…Nxe5? [The right idea, but wrong execution. Caruana maybe got a little excited, or he was in a slight time trouble, so he forgot]

[an important intermediate move 34…gxf4! and after 35.gxf4 (The point being that 35.Nxd7 is answered by 35…f3! 36.Nf6+ Kg7! 37.Rxe7 f2 38.Rd1 Kxf6 and Black wins.) 35…Nxe5 36.Rxe7 Nc6 37.Rd5 Nxe7 38.Rxb5 Nc6 we reach a similar position as in the game, but with an extra pawn for black. His extra piece should definitely prevail in this endgame.]

35.Rxe7 Nc6 [Nicely using the geometry on white rooks.]

36.Rd5! [But white has a trump of his own. This move keeps Carlsen in the game.]

36…Bd3+! [An important intermezzo.]

[36…Nxe7? fails to the intermediate move 37.Rxg5+ Kf8 38.Rxb5 and with three pawns for the piece white already has little to worry about.]

37.Rxd3 Nxe7 38.fxg5 


[We have reached an unusual endgame where white has, let’s say, 2 and a half pawns for the piece. Black should have better chances to win the game, than to draw, but Carlsen is known as a very resourceful defender, so it might be closer to 50–50 in this case.]

38…Rb8 39.Rd7?! [It is clear that black wants to play Rb5, leaving the eight rank open, so why waste time on this manoeuvre?]

[It would have been more purposeful to activate the king, for example 39.Kb2]

39…Kf8 40.Ra7 Rb5 41.Ra8+ Kg7 42.Re8 [An interesting try was 42.Ra6!? hoping for 42…Rxg5 (However, black can just play 42…Rc5! followed by Nc6 etc.) 43.h6+ Kh8 and then (43…Kf8?? 44.Ra8+) 44.Kc2 and white will eventually win the a-pawn with good drawing chances.]

42…Re5?! [It’s hard to judge this move as it seems so natural to win the pawn.]

[However, a move that appeals to me better is 42…Nc6 which immediately activates the knight. Maybe Caruana didn’t like the fact that white can win the h-pawn by force with 43.h6+ Kg6 44.Rg8+ Kh5 45.Rg7 but here I like 45…Ne5 46.Rxh7 Kxg5 47.Rh8 Ng6! and I have a feeling that black should win this endgame.]

43.g4 Rxe4 44.Kc2 Re5 45.Kd3 f6


[Black’s main problem is passivity of his pieces. Even though he is a piece up, it is not being felt. and Carlsen just keeps on forcing pawn exchanges, inching his way closer to a draw…]

46.gxf6+ Kxf6 47.Rh8 Kg7 48.Re8 Kh6 [After a long think, Caruana sets his king on a logical course towards the g-pawn. The only question is, will he be in time?]

[Perhaps the last opportunity to activate the knight was 48…Nc6 White should then go 49.Ra8 (as the K+N vs. K endgame after 49.Rxe5 Nxe5+ 50.Kd4 is lost for white after 50…Nxg4 51.a4! Kf6! 52.Kc5 Ke6 53.Kb5 Nf6 54.h6 Ng4 55.Kxa5 Nxh6 56.Kb6 Kd5! 57.a5 Nf7 58.a6 Nd6 59.b4 Kc4 60.Kc6 Nb5) 49…Rg5 50.Ke3! Rxg4 51.Ra6 keeping drawing chances.]



[The next few moves are pretty much forced.]

49…Kg5 50.Rh8 h6 51.Rh7 Re6 52.Rg7+ [The only move. Carlsen keeps on walking a tightrope successfully.]

52…Kf6 53.Rh7 Ke5 [Caruana finally goes after the g-pawn.]

54.Rg7 Kf4 55.b4! [Carlsen manages to create counterplay with the passed pawn just in time.]

55…axb4 56.axb4 Nc6 57.b5 Ne5+ 58.Kd4 Nxg4 59.Kc5 Re5+ 60.Kc6 


[It is obvious now that black will have to give back the knight to stop the dangerous passer, which would leave him with an extra h-pawn in the R vs. R endgame. Unfortunately, this kind of rook endgame has drawish tendencies, unless the defender’s king is cut off very far (at least on the d-file).]

60…Rxh5 [60…Ne3 was the first opportunity to do so 61.b6 Nc4 62.b7 Na5+ 63.Kb6 Nxb7 64.Rxb7 Rxh5 but it seems that white would have no trouble holding the draw after 65.Rh7! Rh1 66.Kc5 h5 67.Kd5 h4 68.Rf7+ Ke3 69.Re7+ Kd3 70.Ra7 etc.]

61.b6 Ne5+ 62.Kc7 Nc4 [Caruana basically agrees to a draw by move repetition.]

[62…Nd3 was a little more stubborn, as black manages to trade the knight for the pawn after 63.b7 Nc5 64.Kd6 Nxb7+ 65.Rxb7 Ra5 and white can still go wrong for instance with 66.Rb4+? (But it’s still a draw after 66.Ke6! h5 67.Rh7 Kg4 68.Rg7+ Rg5 69.Ra7 h4 70.Ra4+ Kh5 71.Kf6! Rd5 72.Ra3 Rd2 73.Kf5 Rf2+ 74.Ke4 Kg4 75.Ra8 Re2+ 76.Kd3 Re7 77.Rg8+ Kh3 78.Kd2 etc.) 66…Kg5 67.Rb8 h5 68.Rg8+ Kf4 69.Rh8 Kg4 70.Rg8+ Rg5 and black is winning]

63.b7 Rc5+ 64.Kd8 Rb5 65.Kc7 Rc5+ 66.Kd8 Rb5 67.Kc7 [A good fighting game with a somewhat dissapointing result for both players. Carlsen had a clear advantage in the middlegame, but spoiled it in one move, while Caruana walked by a few promising ways to capitalize on his material advantage.]

1/2 – 1/2 

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