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Carlsen-Anand @ Tal Memorial 2013

User Rating: / 15
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 26 June 2013

By GM Lars Bo Hansen, PhD, MBA

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The last meeting between World Champion Vishy Anand and his challenger Magnus Carlsen before their upcoming World Championship match in November ended with a surprisingly smooth win for the challenger. Once again Carlsen demonstrated his subtle positional feel for the game, reminiscent of former positional greats like Capablanca, Smyslov, Petrosian, and Karpov. As in many games by these players, Black quickly fell into a strategically lost position without having made any really obvious mistakes, just subtle inaccuracies. A thorough study of how this game unfolded is highly instructive.

Magnus Carlsen (2864) vs. Viswanathan Anand (2786), Tal Memorial 2013. Photo by Eteri Kublashvili,

View the game

Three positional themes are clearly visible in the game. The first has to do with making the right exchanges, starting with 12. Bb4!

With all pawns on the dark squares, White is happy to trade the dark-squared bishops. Notice that the move order is important here; if White had first castled, Black would have been in time to prevent Bb4 by 12a5! As Reti used to say: Castle only when there is nothing better to do (by the way, this goes for any move; always consider if there is something better to do!).

The second important theme is piece coordination, which Black didnt get quite right. In the early middlegame, the two sides aim at positioning their pieces in anticipation of upcoming changes in the pawn-structure. Carlsen suggested that Blacks best setup was 16Ne4 (instead of 16Qd6) 17. Nf4 Nd6!

On d6 the knight takes the sting out of a white advance with the queenside pawns (as this would leave the square on c4 open to Blacks knight) and at the same time it restricts an advance in the center with f2-f3 and e3-e4. White would have some advantage due to the somewhat weak pawn on c6, but nothing major.

However, only 17Bc8?! was a real inaccuracy, allowing Carlsen to show the third positional theme of the game: Change of plans. Having a strategy (or plan) is great but you should always be willing to adapt the strategy according to the situation. Previously White had mainly taken aim at the c6-pawn but with Blacks pieces momentarily somewhat uncoordinated, he shifted his strategy to an advance in the center with 19. f3!, 20. e4!, and 22. d5!

These advances quickly caused Blacks position to collapse; probably the World Champion missed the winning sequence 24. Nxe6! (another right exchange!)

and 25. Bh3!, leading to a winning endgame.

Curiously, in a game against Wang Hao in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year, Anand also fell into a lost endgame with a white bishop vs. a knight.

If you like the article, you can learn more about GM Lars Bo Hansen & his books at

Related materials:
Strategy of Restriction

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 June 2013 )
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