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Player: United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Gold Member Subject: Awesome Game, Dude

2020-08-02 10:25:28
Awesome Game, Dude

Just a few months ago (May 26, 2020 to be exact), chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen (best known as the world chess champion) took up a type of speedrun challenge. The chess website chess.com is the largest chess site in the world with over 40 million members and an average of over 5 million chess games played every day, but Carlsen does not regularly play on there (GM Hikaru Nakamura is one of the primary figure heads for chess.com). Carlsen had the idea to create a new chess.com account under the username alias “MenuGarden” with the idea of reaching the spot of number one ranked player in the world for blitz. He would then “retire” the chess.com account by closing the account while he was on top. He attempted to do this all in one sitting of blitz chess and he live streamed his attempt with self-commentary and his usual sense of humor.

As of the time of writing this article, GM Hikaru Nakamura has a bullet rating over 3200 and a blitz rating over 3200. His highest bullet rating to date was 3357 on chess.com and his highest blitz rating to date was 3332 on chess.com, so Carlsen had an ambitious goal to say the least. As of the time of this article being written, Nakamura is still rated number one on the chess.com global leaderboard for bullet rating and blitz rating.

Although Carlsen did not reach his goal of number one in a single sitting, he did impressively make it over 3000 blitz rating though. Additionally, we got some interesting games from this challenge. One of the games we will take a look at in further detail.

On Carlsen’s road to number one ranked in blitz, he had to play against a lot of strong chess competition including several Grandmaster (GM) and International Master (IM) players. In this chess.com game, Brazilian GM Luis Paulo Supi had the White pieces against GM Magnus Carlsen as the Black pieces.

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 The game begins with the Scandinavian Defense.

3. Nf3 Bg4 4. Be2 Nc6 Here we have the Mieses-Kotrc Variation of the Scandinavian Defense. This book line is less common than the 3. Nc3 lines to tempo the White Queen, but both sides are playing solidly. In fact, this position isn’t new for Carlsen; he has played the Scandinavian Defense a lot in blitz lately.

In this variation, Black typically just wants to castle Queenside quickly and play for swift piece development. Black playing 4…Nc6 also discourages White from playing d4 at some point. White, on the other hand, usually plays for castling Kingside soon and controlling the center more than Black is out of the opening.

5. Nc3 Qd7 6. h3 Bxf3 7. Bxf3 O-O-O 8. O-O Thus far, both sides have been playing ideas thematic for this opening. It reminds me of something Rudolph Spielman said about how chess should be played, “In the opening a [chess] master should play like a book, in the mid-game he should play like a magician, in the ending he should play like a machine.” Both sides are playing solidly from an opening theory perspective and the current position is about equal.

As IM Levy Rozman said in an analysis of this position, “…Magnus [Carlsen] has a lot of natural-looking moves. …e6, …e5, maybe …g6, maybe …Nf6.” All of these moves have the idea of furthering piece development in mind, but here, Carlsen decides to play 8…Nd4.

Nd4 The idea is quite straight-forward. Carlsen realizes that White’s Bishop is a strong piece on the f3 square and so he threatens to trade it off the board. How should White address this threat of …Nxf3+ here?

9. a4 This is a nice move that illustrates just how strong both chess players in this game are. Supi clearly understands the position and White decides that they should meet the threat of exchanging on f3 with a stronger threat. Remember that each side is castled on the opposite sides of the board, so pawn storms and playing for attacking chances are thematic. However, 9. a4 has more in mind than simply marching the a-pawn forward, White may utilize the pawn on a4 to support Nb5 and Black’s King is beginning to fall under attack as many pieces rush the King shelter. Black doesn’t want to trade Knights on b5 because then White gains an open a-file for their Rook(s).

One sample line may be: 9. a4 Nxf3+?! 10. Qxf3 Nf6 11. Nb5!? and once the White pawn moves d2-d3, then the Bishop may develop to e3 or f4 to attack the Black King. It is about the initiative and having the attacking chances: White would be preferred in this sample line ending with 11. Nb5!?

Kb8 After castling Queenside, the King move “towards the corner” of the chess board is often times a useful move where the King is a little less exposed.

10. Nb5 Nxf3+ 11. Qxf3 a6 We see this motif of Nb5 and attacking the King again. The move 11…a6 is trying to kick the Knight away from the King; White wants to bring more pieces into the attack whenever possible and Black wants to chase them away. 11…a6 is just the kind of move where I imagine the King shouting from his shelter: “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!”

12. c4 IM Levy Rozman calls 12. c4 “a gangster move.” If Black takes the Knight, via 12. c4 axb5? 13. axb5 then the open a-file “looks extremely dangerous for Black; especially because Qa3-[Qh8] is just devastating.” Rozman then adds that 12. c4 axb5? 13. axb5 “and if you play a move like [13…] e6 to stop the Queen from coming to a3, I’m going to play Qb3 and Qa4. I’m still going to find a way to get to that side of the board…”.

However, Rozman is also quick to point out that after 12. c4, “…I think both players here may have overlooked, I mean dare I say ‘overlooked’, the defensive resource of …Qd3.” Rozman gives several annotations after, but all of them merely illustrate Black would be winning after 12…Qd3. One testing line he avoids discussing is 12…Qd3 13. Qd1 Qxc4 (He discusses 13…e6 instead). My take on the position after 13…Qxc4 is that Black is still winning, but this position is testing because it isn’t extremely obvious how White may continue the game now that the White Queen isn’t reaching the a-file anytime soon. An interesting line I found was 14…Qxc4 15. b4!? Qxb4 (Queen deflected from the c-file at the cost of a pawn) 16. Qc2 Qxb5 17. Bb2 when Black is still winning by a lot, but White’s pieces are much more active than Black. Unfortunately for White, Black’s big lead in material will prove itself once Black catches up in development by getting the dormant Black Kingside pieces into play.

e5 Carlsen instead plays a logical move with 12…e5. The Kingside pieces are in need of activity and this move allows the Bishop to come out, then perhaps Knight to f6 and getting the Rook out of the corner.

13. d4! Remember, Carlsen was streaming these games live: we have the added benefit of watching his reactions to the moves in real-time. When Supi played the pawn to d4, you could tell Carlsen was impressed with the move. Carlsen’s self-commentary during the game here was, “…that’s, at the very least, quite creative.”

From my perspective, this looks like a move Mikhail Tal might play. Let us consider White’s position immediately before move 13.

White’s primary asset in the position is their Queenside activity and attacking potential - thanks to the initiative. However, this can quickly dissipate if Black is given the chance to develop the Kingside pieces and defend the King shelter from White’s incoming attacking prospects. The creative 13. d4! idea is that Black must react to this pawn and so they don’t have time to bring out the Kingside pieces. After the d4 move: Black can accept the pawn sacrifice, but then Bf4 next continues the attack while bringing another piece to the party. Perhaps Black could sacrifice a pawn themselves with 13…Ne7 14. dxe5 Nc6 but White is up in material even if the Black Knight on c6 is an important defender of the Kingside shelter.

exd4 14. Bf4 Carlsen does accept the pawn sacrifice from Supi and 14. Bf4 is played quickly. The Bishop and Knight are now coordinated against the c7 pawn. Something like 14…Bd6 can be met with 15. Nxd6 cxd6 16. c5 or alternatively 16. Rfd1. Both options give White the better game.

axb5 With a little more than two minutes left on Carlsen’s clock, he then spends 26.5 seconds before playing 14…axb5. Time management does not seem as intuitive to players who stay away from bullet and blitz chess, but this is a lot of time spent on just one move for the time control; this is roughly 25% of Carlsen’s remaining time spent on a single move. Of course, Carlsen is far from real time pressure: he could easily play an entire game within one minute (as Carlsen is one of the world’s leading bullet chess players), but I’m sure the time control in the back of his mind contributed to just making a move. This analysis of psychology is reinforced by Carlsen’s live reaction. As he plays the move 14…axb5, he mumbles “yeah whatever, whatever…I’m just going to do this” in a way that signifies: “I don’t have the clock time to calculate too deeply here.” Carlsen, literally two seconds later, humbly senses the danger of the position and says: “I’ll probably just lose in a few moves.”

15. axb5 Bd6 This is a very reasonable move for Black because their Bishop is much less active than the attacking Bishop from f4, so it makes sense that Black would seek to trade those pieces. Another instructional point is that when you are under attack in chess, you can usually use piece exchanges as a defensive resource. With less pieces on the board (especially the heavy pieces [Queen and Rooks]), there is a better chance the defending King can avoid checkmate and enter an endgame situation where the King may become active by leaving the King shelter earlier than the opponent.

16. Ra2 This is a strong move because the threat of doubling Rooks on the open file is tough to meet. However, 16. Ra2 misses a crushing move that instantly wins the game. 16. c5! was strongest. Now the d6 Bishop would be in trouble; where can it safely go? If it retreats with a move like 16…Be7, then 17. Qa3 forces an unavoidable mate in one with Qa8# coming regardless of what the opponent plays. If the Bishop on d6 takes the f4 Bishop, then 16…Bxf4 is still in a forced mating net by 17. Qa3 and again the a-file is where White will infiltrate for the win.

Qf5 The plan behind the …Qf5 move is the threat of …Qxf4 and getting Queens off the board but also to give an escape route for the Black King by …Kb8-c8-d7. The first time I put this position into the chess engine Stockfish, it claimed that 16…Qf5 is the only winning move for Black and that the evaluation was about -2.50 once played (In chess computer evaluations, negative numbers favor Black and positive numbers favor White. -2.50 means that Black is winning by about 2 and a half points of material if one was to combine material advantage with positional advantage). This is a bold claim because two and a half evaluation either way is a huge advantage for strong chess players: Hungarian grandmaster Judit Polgar once said something along the lines of, “playing a piece down in chess [plus or minus 3.00 computer evaluation] is like trying to swim an Olympic sized swimming pool with one hand tied behind your back.” Stockfish needs to run for about 20 moves deep before it realizes that 16…Qf5 is losing too. Once it realizes the idea from Supi, it changes the evaluation from -2.50 or so to about +11.00! In human speak, this is the equivalent of saying that after …Qf5 White has about the same chance of winning as swimming an Olympic sized swimming pool with one hand tied behind its back and then completely changing its mind and claiming that now White is winning and Black’s chance of winning is now about two swimming pools distance away!

17. Rfa1 Kc8 It looks like the Black King is evacuating, but it isn’t too intuitive how White can prevent this and remember that Black is up 3 full points of material. Any endgame will almost certainly be won by Black, so White must find a way to maintain the attack.

18. Qc6!! “Oof. That is dirty! Wow.”

This was Carlsen’s actual response. Carlsen was a great sport about it and was very complimentary to his opponent. After a few more “wow” exclaims, he continued with things like: “that is awesome…really awesome…really awesome” and “…there’s nothing, nothing I can do right? It is just mate? Wow. Okay, I resign.” Carlsen then finishes with “Awesome Game, Dude...”

1-0 At 17…Kc8, Stockfish (after running deeper than 20 moves or so) calculates that White has a forced checkmate in 6 moves. 18. Qc6!! is the clincher. The showy move Queen to c6 has one simple point: it is just to stop the Black King from escaping to d7. Ra8# is inevitable. If Black accepts the Queen sacrifice with 18…bxc6, then 19. bxc6 recapture also controls the d7 square and there is still no way Black can stop Ra8#. Black has 5 pieces on the board, to protect the Black King, but all of them are helpless in preventing Ra8#.

Supi played a beautiful game that impressed even the chess world champion, but at what point in the game did Carlsen go wrong?

According to Rozman, it was accepting the pawn after 13. d4! since he recommends 13…Ne7 14. dxe5 Nc6 as an improvement for Black.

According to Bobby Fischer, it would probably be on move 1 for playing …d5?! in response to 1. e4. Fischer notoriously considered the Scandinavian Defense dubious for Black and even laughed at one of his opponents when he played this opening against him.

Granted I am no International Master like Rozman, nor am I Bobby Fischer. However, I think Carlsen’s problem was not playing …e5 fast enough. By delaying this move, he delayed developing his Kingside pieces and by not developing his pieces in time, his King shelter quickly became under attack. At move 8. O-O, I would prefer 8…e5 as Black and then developing further; especially my f8 and g8 minor pieces. By no means do I consider Carlsen’s choice of 8…Nd4 a mistake though; on the contrary, I find it a creative way to play. If 8…Nd4 is played though, …e5 really should be played soon, or at least …e6. After 9. a4 from White, I think Black had another chance at playing …e5.

I hope this game was as entertaining for everyone as I found it to be. This is a pretty miniature where even Carlsen was impressed and I think we will see more, in the future, from the Brazilian GM Luis Supi. Supi is already over 3000 blitz rating on chess.com (In this game Supi was rated 3050 and “MenuGarden” Carlsen was rated 3078) and Supi is currently rated 2572 FIDE (as of June 2020). Supi is already the number two ranked chess player in Brazil (GM Rafael Leitao is currently first) and I see no reason why the 23-year old grandmaster Luis Supi can’t reach 2600 or 2700 within the next year or two.

GM Luis Supi looks like a chess player we will see more of in the near future. Awesome game, dude.
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2United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Gold Member2020-08-10 13:37:35
Yes. Carlsen is extremely talented to create a new online chess account and still get the rating up to 3000+ in one sitting! I agree that is most impressive. Of course, cool games like this along the way also reveal that Carlsen is not unbeatable (no one is) - but I think this just highlights just how "far ahead" Carlsen is often times because of how often he does win.