Carlsen’s Positional Traps
IM Valeri Lilov is an absolute expert in tactical and positional aspects of the game. He has already produced plenty of videos on these topics. This time, he analyzes the positional skills of the World Chess Champion himself, GM Magnus Carlsen. And tells you the secrets behind Carlsen’s profound positional dominance over his opponents. He investigates the positional traps he sets up for his rivals and how his brilliant positional technique allows him to be completely superior to his opponents.
IM Lilov analyzes three hugely instructive games by Magnus Carlsen in which he seems effortlessly to outplay his opposition by making simple but effective moves and waiting for mistakes. In fact, however, he sets up subtle positional traps which many of his rivals fall for. Let’s take a quick look at two key positions of his games.
Magnus Carlsen – Sipke Ernst (Wijk aan Zee 2004)
The first example is taken from a game when Magnus Carlsen was 13 years old and rated around 2500 ELO. It is surprising to see how strong his positional and tactical skills were at this young age.
The position at hand was reached after 16 moves in a Caro-Kann main line. It is White to move. White has more space and his pieces are quite well developed. The only chance for Black to generate any counterplay is to open up the position with the move …c5. Magnus – unsurprisingly – anticipated Black’s idea and set up a beautiful positional trap with the move 17.Qe2.
At first glance, this move looks harmless and only removes the queen from the d-file. The deep idea behind this move becomes obvious after Black’s next move, 17…c5. This move looks like a logical follow up but actually, it’s a big mistake. White has the nice move 18.Ng6! at his disposal. GM Ernst – already under great pressure – accepted the sacrifice with 18…fxg6 but this loses by force. 19.Qxe6 Kh8 20.hxg6! Ng8 21.Bxh6! gxh6 22.Rxh6 Nxh6 23.Qxe7 (threatening mate on h7) Nf7 24.gxf7 +- (see the second diagram).
The game is basically over.
Black’s king is far too exposed to escape White’s attack and the Black pieces are far away from where the action takes place.
Magnus Carlsen – Jan Werle (Wijk aan Zee 2004
Magnus Carlsen played this game in the same tournament as the previous game we analyzed, back in 2004. His opponent was rated around 2400 and it is great to see how Magnus crushes him by simply playing natural and positional sound moves. The game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 d6 7.g3 Qc7 8.Be3 b6 9.Bg2.
This is the Kan Variation of the Sicilian Defense. White has a space advantage again and only played solid developing moves. And, believe it or not, Magnus Carlsen’s positional trap is already set up!
It is extremely though for Black to develop his pieces to good squares. He is under a lot positional pressure right from the start. The game continued with the natural moves 9…Bb7 10.0-0 Nd7 11.Rc1 Be7. Here is when the real trap begins. Magnus played 12.Nd5!, surely shocking his opponent.
A perfect move.
After 12…exd5 13.cxd5 Black’s position looks awful as all White pieces work perfectly together. Black had to remove his queen with 13…Qb8. But now 14.Nc6! Bxc6 15.dxc6 followed and Black already had to give back a piece. A move like 15…Nc5 (removing the attacked knight) would run into 16.e5! (opening up the diagonal for the bishop on g2) and c6-c7 with devastating threats.
After 15…Ra7 16.cxd7 Nxd7, Magnus reached a clearly superior position and converted his advantage into a full point without much effort. A better pawn structure, the bishop pair, and better development is clearly more than Carlsen needs to win.
If you want to see a third instructive game played by Magnus and listen to the detailed explanations by GM Lilov, you should definitely watch the whole video!
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