Magnus Carlsen’s Best Chess Game Ever
Magnus Carlsen is the undisputed World Champion, with the best performances ever seen since Kasparov left the professional chess world. Although in the last months he was a bit deconcentrated (his new girlfriend has something to do with it?), he return to the lead with his great win in the Isle of Man Open.
His chess career is far from over, but GM Nadya Kosintseva shows us his best chess game until now, his game against Wesley So in the Sinquefield Cup 2015. It’s difficult to decide which is the best one, as he has played tons of beautiful games. But Nadya’s election is very well founded and we are sure you will be delight with it.
Let’s look at some of the most important moments of the game. But don’t forget to watch the full video to discover all the secrets behind Magnus Carlsen’s play.
A Positional Pawn Sacrifice
The game started with an unusual opening election. We are used to see Magnus avoiding opening debates and playing secondary lines. In that way, he avoids being outprepared while he relies in his natural ability to play good moves.
But in this game, he chooses the mainstream English Attack against the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense. A very complicated line! But he managed to impose his style even here. In his 15th move he played a typical Magnus-move:
Black has just taken a pawn on d5, which White can recover with 15.Nc6 Qc7 16.Nxb4. But in doing so he will open lines towards his own king. Opening theory gives White a slight edge after this, but giving his opponent attacking chances is not Carlsen’s style.
Instead, he played 15.Nc4!?, sacrificing the pawn! After 15…Nxe3 16.Nxe3, what did he get in return? In fact, his Ne3 is very powerful, as he can jump into d5 or f5. But his advantage lays in the bad-placed Be7 and the presence of opposite colored bishops. Now White has full control over the light squares!
This is typical pawn sacrifice in the Nadorf. If you want to learn more about this attacking variation, you must check Mastering the Sicilian Najdorf, by GM Volokitin (peak rating: 2725), which you can get with an special discount here.
Playing Against the Bad Bishop
After a few more moves, the next position was reached:
It’s clear that White has a big compensation for the pawn. His full control over the d5 square and his space advantage on the kingside makes a great impression. Even if the Bd5 is exchanged, the white knight is ready to replace it. And it can be even more frightening!
But the problem is what to do know. The easy plan is to take advantage of the kingside’s space advantage to start an attack with h4-h5 and g5-g6. But then the Be7 can be placed on f6, defending the kingside and activating on the long-diagonal (a pawn sacrifice with …e4 is on the agenda now).
Instead, Magnus Carlsen decided to play a more positional approach (as usual!). He played the deep 22.Rhf1!, threatening to play f3-f4-f5-f6. So, Black was almost forced to play …f5 after f3-f4, when his kingside was even more weakened. Then White put pressure over the e5-pawn to force the …e5-e4 advance, when the position was blocked and the Be7 has no free diagonal to activate himself!
Gaining More Space
The next step on the plan was to win more space on the kingside. How to do it?
Now that the g-pawn was defended, White advance his h-pawn as much as possible, creating the pawn structure that can be seen in the diagram.
White pawn’s on f4-g5-h6 make a big impression. Black’s bishop is imprisoned, while the long dark-squared diagonal is very weak. Although it doesn’t seem easy to give a check mate with Qg7# (the g7-square can be easily defended), the h7-pawn is a big weakness that should be decisive in an endgame.
Just imagine a rook endgame. White’s rook invades on the 8th rank and the h7-pawn falls. Or even in a minor piece ending. If White can play Nxg6!, then the h6 pawn will be unstoppable. Such cases aren’t strange!
From a Positional Grind to an Attack
Wesley So didn’t want to wait for the execution, and he tried to activate his bishop and create an attack on the queenside. But Magnus Carlsen was prepared for the complications. He won a pawn but, more important, he create a strong attack against a lonely king.
In the diagramed position he played 38.Nd8! Ra7 39.Ne6+ Ke8 40.Nd4 (40.Nxc5, followed by 41.Qg8+ was even better) 40…Qxa5 41.Qg8+ and 42.Qxh7+, winning the important h7-pawn.
Black’s attack seems powerful, but with precise play Magnus avoided any danger and he easily transposed to a won endgame. The h6-pawn was decisive at the end!
Carlsen completely dominate his strong opponent in every phase of the game. He displayed a deep positional knowledge with his pawn sacrifice and strong calculation skills when the game was more complicated. But he always performed almost perfectly!