Paco Vallejo - Magnus Carlsen, annotated by GM Ivan Sokolov

Paco Vallejo - Magnus Carlsen, annotated by GM Ivan Sokolov

Dec 16, 2011, 5:48 AM |

Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov, for many years one of the world’s leading chess players, is commenting the games from Sao Paulo - Bilbao Grand Slam live on, together with his colleagues from the “Chess Evolution” team.

Author of six chess books, out of which “Winning Chess Middlegames” was one of the best selling chess books in the world of 2009, and the most recent “Ruy Lopez Revisited” was published about six months ago.

Regular commentator since 2007 in Tata Steel Chess, Wijk aan Zee, Super Tournament.

His insights on the 3rd round game between Paco Vallejo and Magnus Carlsen are posted bellow, please note that this was a real-time commentary.

Paco Vallejo - Magnus Carlsen
Sao Paulo Masters Final, round 3

Hello everyone, I am GM Ivan Sokolov, member of the Chess Evolution team, and will be commenting for you the games from Sao Paulo today! Vallejo lost first two games and he is likely eager to get back in the tournament, will Carlsen allow this or he will go himself for the highest spot in the table?

1. Nf3 g6
Interesting start! Pirc or KID?

2. e4 Bg7
So Magnus wants Pirc or fianchetto. It is important that Paco is also 1.e4 player, so he is not confused with this stuff.

3. d4 d6 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. Qe2
Usually Paco wants on 4…Nf6 to employ the e5 line and he goes for it. After 5…O-O a good option is, 6. e5 something that Vallejo has in his arsenal.

5… O-O
6. e5 is a logical consequence of 5.Qe2 and would be strange for white now to change his mind and go for another set-up.

6. O-O
Still keeping the e5 possibility, probably just a transposition. Bg4 and c6 are on the list for Magnus. Anyhow black has to be ready for white’s 7.e5 here.

6… Bg4
To mention as an alternative to e5 is 7.Nbd2 with 8.h3 to take a bishop pair is logical for white. Will Paco go for it?

7. Rd1
Keeping both options open. Paco is trying to get back in the tournament, but on the other hand 0/3 would have been a disaster, so he would likely try to play a balanced, controlled game. 7…c6 is a first hand option for black. With 7…c6 black is ready to play 8…d5, while at the same time gets this square defended as an outpost for his knight.

7… Nc6
Carlsen is preparing on 8.e5, to play 8…Nd7. White can no longer play 8.Nbd2 (d4 hangs) hence white might likely play c3, a good option. Black is with his strategy fighting for d4 square, so white c3 might be logical, though black is still likely to continue with e5. Paco is thinking, not an easy decision, he understands that 8.c3 is logical, but he might not like 8…e5, since than after 9.d5 black has more or less a regular KID position, while it would take white quite some time to start a regular KID queenside pawn advance. Maybe 8.h3 taking the bishop pair, though black looks ok after 8…Bxf3 9.Qxf3 e5.

Paco Vallejo - Magnus Carlsen

8. Bb5
Attacking Nc6 and hence fighting for the d4-square.

8… Nd7
Black is renewing pressure on the d4-square. And again on 9.c3 black is likely to play 9…e5. I think that Carlsen is having a comfortable game. Maybe after a 0/2 start it is difficult for Vallejo psychologically. It might well be that Vallejo would have to go something like 9.c3 e5 10.Bxc6 bxc5 11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nbd2 with 13.h3 to follow. Immediate 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.h3 is not good for white, since black gets an excellent game after 10…Bxf3 11.Qxf3 c5. Carlsen is ahead in development and Vallejo would have to stabilize the position. At some stage he is very likely to take Bxc6 in order to minimize the dynamic element in a position.

9. c3 e5 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. h3 Bxf3
As expected Paco has exchanged black knight on c6 in order to release a central tension. I still think that 11.dxe5 with Nbd2 and h3 to follow was better option for white. Namely black can now get a good game with 12…exd4 13.cxd4 c5

12. Qxf3
Option for Carlsen to consider here is also 12…f5!? as after 13.exf5 he can proceed with 13….d5, later collecting f5 pawn and having a great game. White’s main problem is that he is behind in development. Black is very comfortable. Carlsen understands perfectly well that he is very fine. He is now looking for the ways to take over.


12… exd4
So Magnus decides to open the long diagonal. Now after 13.cxd4 he would likely proceed with 13…c5

13. cxd4 c5
14.Be3 now looks like almost forced for Vallejo

14. Be3
14…Qb8 is a standard plan. 14…Rb8 is also good. Vallejo’s problem after 14…Rb8 is that its difficult to defend b2.

14… Rb8
If 15.Qe2, black would hit on e4-square. 15.b3 Rb4! might go terribly wrong for white. White cannot sac b2-pawn in a clever way. 15.b3 is not an option (due to 15…Rb4), so 15.Qe2 looks forced. Not easy for Paco, when you start 0/2 this is not kind of a game you are looking for!

15. Qe2
Now lets see how Magnus develops his initiative, white needs just one move 16.Nc3 and has completed development and is ok. Can Carlsen play 15…Rb4 16.a3 Rxd4! with a great compensation for the exchange.

15… Rb4
Yes he does!


16. a3 Rb3
No Rxd4…. a pity… I am convinced that the compensation for exchange would have been great. 16…Rb3 is btw positionally very sound, white b2 pawn is now weak. I think Paco has to play 17. Nc3. 17.Nc3 Qb8 and now if 18. Rab1 cxd4 and after swapping everything on d4 white Nc3 would hang, therefore 17.Ra2

17. Ra2
This looks very unnatural for white and cannot be good.

17… Qb8 18. Qc2
Rf8 is black only unemployed piece and is likely to now get in action. Vallejo threatens to consolidate, so Magnus has to be smart and has to be fast.

18… a5
Carlsen plays 18…a5 in order to protect his rook position on b3. If white now plays move like 19.Nd2 black calmly responds with 19…a4. So Vallejo would have to develop his knight to c3. Can Vallejo take dxc5?

19. dxc5 Nxc5
20.Bxc5 is to be expected. The drawback of early take of c5 for white is that black now threatens to place his bishop to d4.

20. Bxc5 dxc5 21. Qxc5
Paco does not allow Bd4 plan. I am under the impression that Magnus did not take the most out of the position. Perhaps sacrificing an exchange on d4 was to be considered after all. Black Rb3 is dominant to white passive Ra2, so Rd8 may look logical.

21… Rd8
Since black rook is dominating white, Magnus would like to exchange some pieces, so this domination would be more felt.

22. Nc3
Deep thought for Vallejo and not much time left. This was, however, probably the best move. Perhaps 22…Rd1 23.Nd1 Rd3. Carlsen is thinking, though difficult to come up with something else rather than 22…Rxd1.


22… Rxd1+ 23. Nxd1 Qd8 24. Ra1
24.Qd5 was an alternative.

24… Qd2
Black is very dominant, though not that many pieces left on the board. Not easy for Paco to entangle his pieces, perhaps Rc1?

25. Rc1
Yes, it is played, but the computers immediately show it is not a good idea… apparently Qe1 with Rd3 to follow is strong for black.

25… Qe1+ 26. Kh2
Now Rd3 wins material, due to a terrible position of his king, white can after Rd3 not prevent material loses. 26…Bh6 is also maybe winning.

26… Qxe4
Strange, but still lot’s of problems for white. A great game by Magnus until now, amazing to see how he is finding chances to play for a win. The Rd3 missed is probably due to time trouble.

27. Qc2 Be5+ 28. g3
Black’s position is still better and he should try to keep the queens on the board. Maybe now 28…Qf3 with future h5-h4. Actually the position is much more easy to play for Black than for White, Black got a clear target - White’s king! Paco will have here a very hard test to survive the next 12 moves until the time control.


28… Rd3 29. Ne3
Of course White needs to get their knight finally in the game, also next move could be Qc4 in a hope for a Queen exchange. Somehow Black’s 28…Rd3 is not looking to good.

29… h5 30. Nc4 Qd5
Amazing, Magnus blundered a piece?

31. Nxe5 Rd2
Such mistakes we don’t see very often from Carlsen…probably his biggest blunder of the 2011 year…

32. Qc5 Qxc5
White’s position is totally winning.


33. Rxc5 Rxf2+ 34. Kg1 Rxb2 35. Rxc7 Rb3 36. Kg2 Rxa3 37. Nxf7 a4 38. Ra7 Ra1 39. Ne5 g5
What to say…. Black played a great game, overplayed White, been very close to winning, then let White a bit of “fresh air” and blundered a full piece in one move… Very sad story for the current World Number one…

40. g4 hxg4 41. hxg4 a3
White can play now the simple Nf3-g5… seems that Black got no chances at all.

42. Nf3 1-0
And the game concludes with 3 full points for Vallejo, who is now ahead of Carlsen in the table. Thank you for following with me GM Ivan Sokolov and the Chess Evolution team. See you tomorrow for more commentary from the Grand Slam!