Magnus Carlsen’s Attacking Masterclass

Magnus Carlsen’s Attacking Masterclass

Magnus Carlsen is at the top for a reason – he really is the best current player. His endgame play is at times simply unmatched, and he’s a player who loves to attack. In this video, GM Eugene Perelshteyn takes an in-depth look at one of Carlsen’s best attacking games, a game from the 2011 Wijk aan Zee tournament against Hikaru Nakamura. The fact that Nakamura is also one of the best attacking players in the world makes Carlsen’s fantastic demolition win even more impressive.

The game kicks off with 1. e4 c5, a Sicilian Defense known for sharp attacks and counterplay. 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6. Nakamura opts to play the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defense. This is one of the most attacking and fighting openings available for Black, favored by legends throughout history such as Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

Magnus Carlsen's Attacking Masterclass
The position after 11…Nb6

Next, Carlsen plays 6. Be2a tricky sideline, usually followed up with 0-0. We’ll see why this move is important soon… 6…e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 0-0Castling here for Black is a slight inaccuracy. Be6 may have been better. 9. g4 Be6 10. g5 Nd7. White now has a firm grip on the d5 square. 11. h4 Nb6. Nakamura also had the option to play …a5  or Nc6. Black’s idea is to take control of the half-open c-file and use c4 as an outpost for a knight.

The game continued with 12. Qd2 N8d7 13. f4. Carlsen decides this game will be all about the attack! 13…exf4 14. Bxf4 Ne5 15. 0-0-0. If we take a look at this position, it is something that is typically seen in the English Attack, but there is a key difference. In that opening, the f-pawn would have been on f3, and then pushed to f4. Here, Magnus Carlsen has saved tempo by playing f2-f4 in one go! After the game, Carlsen revealed that he was familiar with this idea from the outset and had this all planned out and calculated ahead of time. This extra tempo gives White a slight advantage – when both sides castle to opposite sides, it is all about who can get their attack rolling the fastest to break through to the opponent’s king. White’s plan is to play Nd4 where it attacks the bishop and can jump into f5 when needed. The pawn storm of h5, g6 is also coming. With Black focusing on the c-file, both sides are going into the next phase of this game with all guns blazing.

Magnus Carlsen's Attacking Masterclass
Position after 18. Ka1

15…Rc8 16. Kb1. A somewhat surprising move from Magnus Carlsen at first glance. Why play Kb1? Carlsen knows that before you can launch an attack, you need to make sure your king is safe! On the c-file, where it is x-rayed by Black’s rook on c8, tactics may come into play later on in Black’s favor. Kb1 cuts out those options. 16…Qc7 17. h5 Rfe8 18. Ka1 and another king move from Carlsen that needs analysing. The king looked safe on b1 already, didn’t it? Well, there are some variations starting with …Nc4, where the king would be misplaced on b1 and Black can gain a tempo, and could lead to some sacrificial ideas on b2, or …Na3+. This is a prophylactic move, making sure that the defense is all set up and ready to cope with Black’s attack before Carlsen launches one himself!

18…Bf8 19. Nd4 Qc5 20. g6 Nc4 21. Bxc4 Nxc4 22. Qd3 fxg6 23. hxg6 h6. Nakamura sets up his own defense of the king, asking Carlsen how he could possibly break through.  24. Qg3 Qb6 25. Rdf1 Ne5 26. Nd5 This is a key move! It blocks the bishop, it removes any options Black may have been considering with sacrificing on c3, and it centralises both knights. 26…Bxd5 27. exd5 Qxd5

Magnus Carlsen's Attacking Masterclass
Position after 30…Nf7

28. Bxh6 and Carlsen offers not one, but two sacrifices! Black has the option of taking the bishop on h6, or the hanging knight on d4. Nakamura chooses the better option and takes the bishop (taking the knight would have led to mate – watch the video to see the variation!) 28…gxh6 29. g7 Be7 30. Rxh6 and Carlsen offers another sacrifice. Of course, Nakamura can not accept the piece, or would lose the game. 30…Nf7.

How can White finish this game off and win? You’ll have to watch the video to find out!

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