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Magnus Carlsen in the Queenless Middlegame

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Nov 28, 2013
  • | 26376 views
  • | 52 comments

You knew it was coming - Magnus Carlsen just won the title of World Champion by defeating Viswanathan Anand in Chennai, so it is time for an examination of the modern-day-Capablanca's play in complex endings.

There is a huge amount of material on this subject by Carlsen, who is known for his relentless fighting for a win in every position. I have chosen several instructive examples.

First, we see the 16-year-old Carlsen trading queens on move 12 against GM John Nunn, fighting on and on for the win and finally obtaining it. Even at this early age we can see the qualities that made Carlsen World Champion - his ability to use small tactical points to keep the game going, creating unrelenting pressure on his opponent until they finally - and inevitably - crack. We can see the same thing in his victories in games five and six against Anand in the recently-concluded match.

In this game we saw an example of Carlsen's persistence in fighting for a win even in positions which are equal or nearly equal. It's hard to call this game any kind of masterpiece, but in the end he managed to grind out a win.

Carlsen vs. Nunn | Photo © Max Euwe Association

Now let's move ahead four years, to 2010, by which time Carlsen was already a "super-grandmaster", with a rating over 2800. In the Kings’ Tournament in Romania, Carlsen beat GM Wang Yue with the black pieces in very thematic style, showing the ease and simplicity of Capablanca:

Next we will see a game from the Bilbao Grand Slam in 2012, against GM Francisco Vallejo Pons. Here it is clear that Carlsen obtains the more comfortable position after the opening. But it is only subtle positional themes and deep calculation that allows him to turn it into a win.

Finally let's see a game from this summer, from a rapid match against GM Borki Predojevic. This has some similarities to the previous example. I think by looking at several thematically-similar examples at a time, you can learn a lot about a particular class of position.

Carlsen in 2006

Just as in the game with Vallejo Pons, Carlsen enters a queenless middlegame soon after the game begins, losing castling rights in the process. After various exchanges, a position occurs in which - as in the Vallejo Pons example - Carlsen has the superior minor piece, a bishop against a knight in a position where White has some pawns fixed on the same color as the black bishop. Finally the game ends with a well-judged exchange sacrifice.

It was said about the difference in style between Alekhine and Capablanca that when you played against Alekhine, you never knew what to expect; while when you played against Capablanca you knew exactly what he was going to do but couldn't stop it. Carlsen is very similar to Capablanca. In the above examples Carlsen's opponents lost in ways which had to be very familiar to them, as high-class players. But if you dig deeper into the simplicity of Carlsen's play, you can find that there are much deeper calculations, in addition to the total absence of mistakes. Now the question is whether there will be a modern-day Alekhine who will come along to fight with Carlsen.


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Comments


  • 10 months ago

    rranjann

    Jumping to conclusions are we?

    Marcokim:

    rajarrammohan is actually praising Carlsen see the part "with his deep calculation in ending once again world championship proved his skills" .

    abhijit2012 is  more or less stating a fact.(you would not have met many gushing about Carlsen's games, i have met a few who just can't stop about Fisher and Kasparove)

    And you are generalizing with a sample of 2 Laughing.

     

    Aaronsky72 :

    you are generalizing with a sample of 2 Laughing.

    at my level fun is more important in chess, so if i find ending boring(not that i do..ok may be a little)it is nothing against end-game masters

     

    since it's free advice article i might as well give you one: try romantic style of play for a week and decide(i am assuming you don't have a title as no title appears against your name) .

  • 10 months ago

    YurnalisDaulay

    very good

  • 10 months ago

    cLiPPi

    @veni-vidi-vici3 

    No, black just takes: Rxe4+ Kxe4. After that, the two connected passers win easily for black, as his king can easily stop the white b pawn. 

  • 10 months ago

    Marcokim

    btw.... those making disparaging comments using Fischer's name (mainly Indians - how sad guys even Anand would be ashamed of you), Fischer admired quiet play more than most people give him credit for.

    His favourite player was Capablanca and I am sure he would be a great Magnus fan too.

    Popular chess books tend not to use deep endgames as material for their audience because they know their readers are 1000 to 1800 Elo, and most "boring" master games are beyond their understanding (its business after all).

    There are many, many brilliant drawn games that are (apparently) very instructive to master players, but would hardly sell a chess book.

  • 10 months ago

    FM krstulov_alex

    good, I like this

  • 10 months ago

    colonelgreene

    APPARENTLY NUNN WAS BANKING ON A ROOK EXCHANGE IN THE FIRST GAME; HAD HE BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT THE BISHOP COULD NOT FORCE THROUGH THE ROOK PAWN AND QUEEN IT.

  • 10 months ago

    veni-vidi-vici3

    in the last match, could not be 57 Rxe4?

  • 10 months ago

    showkat

    Thanks

  • 10 months ago

    MindHunterPrash

    Thanks Bryan great article... till now i was thinking if u can't castle u r half defeated.

  • 10 months ago

    jbhifi

    Thank you youjustgotownedson - noted!

  • 10 months ago

    Idris23

    Great article nice ! U gr8 Carlsen!

  • 10 months ago

    youjustgotownedson

    jbhifi, to capture en passant, the pawn that does the capturing has to be on the same rank as the opponent's pawn that moved two spaces

  • 10 months ago

    jbhifi

    Wang Yue (2752) vs. Carlsen, M. (2813)

    - Why doesn't Wang Yue (white) en passant at move 39? There's obviously something I'm not aware of - please enlighten!


  • 10 months ago

    youjustgotownedson

    hey guys look at phoenix... he thinks he's staff.  cute.

  • 10 months ago

    phoenixFire2001

    Please be relevant,helpful, and nice

  • 10 months ago

    youjustgotownedson

    you chose some pretty dumb pictures of carlsen lol

  • 10 months ago

    PawnPromotes

    True, it's will exciting to see in next few years there will be a modern Alekhine win the right to challenge Carlsen for the world champion title. Ultimate positional player vesus ultimate aggressive tactician is often the most interesting type of match to watch.

  • 10 months ago

    maxnndispo

    Great article

  • 10 months ago

    GAChessBoy2006

    kcsmith 169 said Outstanding article, as always--thanks for the umpteenth timeCool

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Cool I enjoyed the games.Where did you find them?

  • 10 months ago

    leviathan606

    Excelent article thank you.

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