Carlsen Checkmates!

Carlsen Checkmates!

| 48 | Tactics

The most shocking chess episode of the year that everyone is talking about happened in the Tata Steel super tournament. Indeed how often does the world chess champion miss a checkmate in three, when he has plenty of time to think on his moves?

There are two curious things about this game. First of all, the final very rare endgame reminds me of another very famous game that lasted 215 moves. That is most probably the longest game ever played by two super grandmasters!

Also the checkmate missed by Carlsen against Giri looks quite similar to the one that the world champion delivered in one of his most memorable games:

Generally speaking, grandmasters don't allow the actual checkmate to appear on the board and prefer to resign before it actually happens, just like Karjakin did in the game above.

It is considered to be very embarrassing for a GM to actually get checkmated. The following notorious game is a good example:

While playing 56. Qxf7#, Tolush said something that can be roughly translated like "here is a little checkmate for you, Mikhail Moiseevich!. After the game Botvinnik stopped talking to Tolush for a very long time.

While an actual checkmate in the games of grandmasters is not very common, it does happen. Here's how it's possible. 

1. Oversight

As you can imagine, grandmasters don't usually blunder a checkmate in one, providing that they have time to think. Nevertheless, the next game shows that after all, GMs are humans too.

2. Time trouble

This is the most common culprit. Anything can happen in a time trouble! We already saw how the great Botvinnik got checkmated in time trouble. The following game is just another example.

3. Bluff

Sometimes, when the position is completely lost, a grandmaster can take the risk of being embarrassed by a checkmate on the board for a very remote chance to escape the defeat. Here is a good example from the same Tata Steel chess festival, but this time it is the challengers' tournament. Out of six possible legal moves White could play on move 55, four would lead to immediate stalemate, so Black decided to give it a shot.

Even though Magnus Carlsen missed a checkmate in his game vs. Giri, don't expect it to happen again anytime soon. In fact, It looks to me that Carlsen delivered more actual checkmates on the board than any other top grandmaster! Of course, most of his opponents still prefer the old-fashioned resignation one move before a checkmate, just like Karjakin did in their game we already discussed.

Jon Ludwig Hammer followed suit in the next game that we analyzed in this article.

Now let's take a look at the games where Carlsen's opponents preferred to get checkmated rather than resign. The following game is not quite typical, since Carlsen's opponent was just an amateur. Two years ago we devoted a whole article to this game!

It is a totally different story when a titled chess player plays till a checkmate. As I mentioned earlier, the world champion has surprisingly big number of games like this. Maybe Carlsen's opponents think it is an honor to get checkmated by the genius, sort of like a chess accolade?

Anyway, most of the games are great example of tactical chess, so you might want to find the moves on your own and therefore check your attacking skills. That's why most of the games are given as puzzles. 

And finally a checkmate to the fellow world champion!

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