The official blog of Magnus Carlsen
Here on Nordic`s website you will find an exclusive blog from Magnus Carlsen, the world`s no 1 chess player.
Grenke Chess Classic 2017 - Baden-Baden
Cudos to Levon Aronian winning the Grenke Chess Classics in style with a +4 score. Caruana and I shared second place with a modest +1. This is of course a disappointment for me, in a tournament marked by making far too many blunders in promising positions.
Fortunately it is not all dark. I did play well most of most games, although I realize that highlighting this puts the bar below where my expectations are and should be. Elite chess requires zealous dedication and focus to avoid serious mistakes throughout each game. This is generally one of my strengths, but maybe not so this time.
In the first game against Matthias Bluebaum I had equalized from the opening with black. His defense was solid and seemed impenetrable for some time, but when I continued to pose questions he went astray just before the time control. In a momentary lapse of concentration I considered the game won, and blundered back with e5 after which he could exchange material and reach a drawn ending.
The game against Aronian was typical for our encounters. He found a sharp line in the Ruy Lopez Anti-Marshall and was maybe slightly better. He probably overestimated his position and I got sufficient counterplay to reach a winning position. I thought I found two winning continuations (Ne5 and Qxe4) and went for what I considered the simplest line with Qxe4. Having missed Ne2+ he managed to reach a drawn ending, and subsequently won his next four games!
Against Hou Yifan I was slightly better as black in the middle game but again blundered badly (b5), having missed en passant followed by Rd5! In a difficult position I managed not too lose immediately and low on time, discovering that Ra1 and Rxa6 didn’t work, she went for simplifications and a drawn ending.
Another mistake (Nb5) killed any advantage I had against Caruana and finally I won in round 5 against Meier.
The games against Naiditsch and Vachier-Lagrave were interesting and complicated games both ending in a draw. Against Vachier-Lagrave I had a really promising position offering black little counterplay when I gave up most of the advantage with b4 as I had missed his defense Qb6 after d6.
As communicated to the organizer Sven Noppes I hope to be back and it would be great to have more rounds in the future. It was a well organized and interesting event. I liked playing in both the very different settings in Karlsruhe and Baden-Baden. Centerstage in the same playing hall as a huge Open tournament is fascinating, but I also really like the classical elite atmosphere in the Baden-Baden part.
I already look forward to Norway Chess in June. It will be strongest 10-player tournament this year.
Magnus Carlsen, Germany, Sunday April 23rd, 2017
Grenke Chess Classic 2017 - Karlsruhe
Baden-Baden Schachzentrum has been a power house in German chess for decades, organizing events and fielding the strongest team in the chess Bundesliga, a team for which I have played earlier in my career.
The eight-player 2017 Grenke Chess Classic takes place 15.-22.April with three rounds here in Karlsruhe and four rounds in Baden-Baden. The Karlsruhe part coincides with maybe the largest Open chess event in the world this year, a compact nine rounds in five days event that started yesterday. Some of my friends takes part.
In 2015, after we both reached 4,5 points in 7 rounds, I won an intense late night play-off against Arkadij Naiditsch. As in 2015 we are this year joined by Caruana and Aronian. The other players are Vachier-Lagrave, the best female player Hou Yifan and two strong German Grandmasters Bluebaum and Meier.
This time I traveled by ferry to Kiel and by car to Karlsruhe, arriving last night. Despite the more time-consuming journey, it felt convenient and it is more of an experience than the faster A to B flight plus train.
The hotel and surroundings has been a pleasant surprise so far. It all looks very nice and I enjoyed a visit to the zoo next door today.
The drawing of lots took place at the opening of the Open tournament yesterday, and amazingly I have white against my three top-10 opponents Caruana, Lagrave and Aronian, and black against the four others. The draw is quite a unique and interesting twist to the event for me.
In round one Saturday, I’ll play young Matthias Bluebaum, Germany (with the black pieces).
Magnus Carlsen, Karlsruhe, April 14th, 2017
Apart from the official FIDE national team championships (biannual Olympiad, World and continental team championships), there are not many team competitions at high level. Today the Norway Gnomes won our match in the new chess.com PRO league team competition. It is amazing that nobody has come up with this concept earlier. Each must present a team with maximum average rating 2500, but to attract the elite the 2700+ players count as 2700. Mission accomplished in that several top players are participating. We play 4 games of rapid chess (15 minutes + 2 sec increments) online every Wednesday. After a difficult start, we managed to scrape by from the initial group stage, and today won our first match in the playoffs. My own play has varied in the initial games while today I’m reasonably satisfied making only a very limited number of blunders and scoring 4/4.
The League has been a good source of practical chess training in February (besides playing games against myself on the Play Magnus app :)).
In the Tata Steel tournament in January I came second in the end with 8/13. The result was no catastrophe but my play left a lot to be desired, especially in the second half. It was not what I had envisioned. My plan for 2017 remains the same; I want to significantly improve my level of play compared to 2016.
Wesley So was still within reach for three of us before the last round. However, Aronian and Wei Yi both lost and shared third with Adhiban, while So benefited from a huge blunder from Ian Nepomniachtchi and won easily with black to take clear first with 9 points. Wesley has had a terrific halfyear. Congratuations!
As usual the organizer put together a great event continuing the cooperation with host cities (Rotterdam and Harlem this year). I hope to be back next year!
After Tata Steel I played two simultaneous displays in Oslo. In general focus is on the next elite events. I’m trying to do some cross country skiing in Norway as usual in February and Match and hope to be really energetic in next main event Grenke Chess Classic in the middle of April.
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, March 1st, 2017
Report from hotel Zeeduin
Hotel Zeeduin is indeed at the sand dunes next to the beach in Wijk aan Zee. It has been my home most of January for the 10 years in the A-group (of Tata Steel Chess) since 2007. As usual the weather is interesting and varied. We’ve had strong winds intermingled with quite periods, and bursts of snow, rain and sunshine already. Today was particularly beautiful.
In this 79th edition of the tournament, the organizer has brought together a strong field including five top 10 players.
Already in round 1 I played Wesley So, fresh from his London Classics and Grand Chess Tour 2016 overall victory. He is ranked as number two in the event and the only 2800 player in addition to me. As expected he did not take any risk despite playing white, and by finding a few decent moves I equalized early on. We drew after just two hours play. Sole winner in round 1 was Eljanov (against Rapport).
In round 2 I played white against Radoslav Wojtaszek (2750). When he started working with Anand years back he soon became a 2700+ player and occasionally plays in elite events. This was our fourth encounter in classical chess, and all games have been decisive with white winning 4-0!
I started with 1.e4 allowing the Sicilian. Wojtaszek knows mainline theory, and I went for 6.a3 inspired by Karjakin’s choice against Giri in round one. 7.Nf5 was inspired (but maybe slightly dubious). Anyhow I got a playable position with a strong unchallenged bishop on d5. I’m not sure how I could have made progress against stubborn defense as he had a solid king and possible counterplay on the queenside. Importantly it was easier to play white. As defense is not his main strength, he seemed quite pessimistic, probably beyond what was objectively warranted by the position. After spending too much time in the middle game he was quite short on time before the first time control and started to drift with Ra6 etc. I couldn’t find any decisive blow but gradually improved my position and he resigned facing the loss of a second pawn without any significant compensation.
Despite winning the last three times I’ve played here in Wijk (in 2013, 2015, 2016) I usually have a slow start. Consequently I'm very satisfied with winning my first white game this time.
Dimitry Andreikin, another very strong Russian born 1990, whom I played in my first international youth championships back in 2002, was my opponent in round 3. I was surprised by his Bf4 but is satisfied with the way I responded. Having equalized I was hoping for more. However, I could not find a way to make progress in a seemingly nice position and repeated moves after three hours play.Shared 2nd behind early leaver Eljanov is fine for now.
Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, January 16th, 2017
I have won several classical events (Wijk, Norway Chess and Bilbao), led Norway to 5th in the Chess team Olympiad, and won the New York World Championship match (on Rapid tie-breaks) against Karjakin in 2016. Performance-wise I’ve been successful in Rapid and Blitz events as well, with Norway Chess Blitz victory, second place in Paris and first in Leuven, before Doha. Still, I have mixed feelings about my play. Yes, I’ve played many good games and obtained good results, but I’ve made too many blunders, and even more importantly, the quality of my play has varied too much.
I’d again like to thank my main sponsors, Nordic Semiconductor, Arctic Securities, Simonsen Vogt Wiig, newspaper VG, and water provider Isklar for their continued support, and I look forward to our cooperation in 2017.
Magnus Carlsen, January 3rd, 2017
Doha Blitz World Championship 2016
I started well with 3/3. The quality of my play was pointing in the right direction, indicating that I handled the early rounds better than in Rapid.
Magnus Carlsen, January 1st, 2017
World Rapid and Blitz 2016 Doha
With the recurring Mainz Rapid and Amber Rapid & Blindfold events last decade, and recently the annual Rapid & Blitz World Championship, faster time controls have gained a more important place in the world of chess in this century.
That is very much to my liking. Faster time controls are exhilarating, emotional and intense for players and spectators, and it favors the stronger players more than in classical chess. I hope that the trend will continue, and I already look forward to the next fast play events.Most of the World elite have been in Doha the last week. The format was the same as in recent years with 15 games of Rapid and 21 games of Blitz in the Open segment.
I arrived in Doha 4 days prior to the Rapid and felt that I had adjusted reasonably well to the time zone, but for some reason my head did not work properly for the first two games each day. I scored a miserable 2.5/6 in these games and the excellent 8.5/9 in the latter three!The first round (lucky) draw against Ganguly and the loss against Pansulaia in round two was of course not the start I had hoped for or expected.
With three consecutive wins I was still in contention after day one but trailing early leader Korobov (5/5) by 1.5 points. Despite an excellent score against Ivanchuk early in my career, I have had problems with him in recent years and this event was no exception. He played better than I did and beat me convincingly. With two wins, including a nice win as black against Grischuk, and one draw, I ended day two at 7/10. Based on my winning scores in the 2014 and 2015 World Championship Rapid events, 11/15, or at least 11,5/15 would likely be enough for 1st.
In round 11 against Korobov I got an excellent position from the opening, but hallucinated and went for a non-existing mate with Qd7 and Ng5 having missed Bxg2. Suddenly black was just winning. This should just not happen in Rapid.
I’m quite proud of winning the last four rounds, especially the black games against Riazantsev and Nepomniachtchi.With 5 players on 10/14 I had to win the last round due to worse tie-break (average rating of opponents), and I did in a slightly messy game against Mamedyarov. It was not enough.
Both Ivanchuk and Grischuk won as well and Ivanchuk took gold, Grischuk silver and I came third on tie-break. I think it is my first significant loss on tiebreak for nearly ten years, but still a disappointment, especially since my play varied far too much. Impressive performance by Ivanchuk. Together with Anand, he was part of the chess elite when I was born! Overall it was a great event, and with the Blitz coming up, I was eager to strike back. More shortly.
Magnus Carlsen, Doha, December 31st, 2016
I’ve visited New York many times over the last 7 years. It is obviously a remarkable city and among other things, I’ve enjoyed long walks on Manhattan many times.
Playing a World Championship match seemingly twist perceptions and reduce outside sense impressions to the point that I felt I was experiencing a different city this time. The utter joy and relief of match victory will always make the thought of New York bring back fond memories. Nevertheless, I already look forward to be back in the city in a more normal setting as a visitor.
My opponent Sergey Karjakin proved extremely resilient, and I would also like to praise his sportsmanship and that of his trainer Potkin and manager Zangalis.
There where tense and critical moments in the first half of both the Chennai and Sochi matches against Anand. What made New York so much harder was experiencing highly critical and difficult moments late in the match. Losing game 8 after having overpressed and made some seriously dubious decisions, left me trailing in a World Championship match for the first time. It reminded me of the loss against Ivanchuk in round 12 of the London Candidates. It was difficult not to panic. Game 9 was also critical. Having gotten a promising position from the opening, Karjakin improved his position to the point that I might be lost before the first time control. Fortunately I calculated the remaining complications slightly better and escaped with a draw. Under the gun I really needed to win game 10. I obtained a lasting positional advantage in the opening and was horrified to discover his Nxf2 resource after having taken on e6 with my bishop. Karjakin played d5 instead and shortly after I gambled on the assumption that he would not see the more challenging Nxf2 resource after Qh5. He didn’t, and I got an overwhelming positional advantage. Again Karjakin defended well for a long time accepting total passivity. Defending his pawn weaknesses on b7 and e6 is possible, but when he tried to prevent my not so promising g4-break as well, his defense fell apart, and the extra pawn was enough to win and equal the match.
Having struggled immensely in the middle of the match, I felt better towards the end. Deciding to accept tie-break despite white in game 12 was maybe the decision I’m most satisfied with in this match. Suddenly I would have four (rapid) games instead of one classical to decide the match and three full days to prepare while my opponent would be occupied preparing for game 12.
I felt slightly uneasy on the last rest day, but after a good nights sleep I was in great shape and eager to play rapid chess on the 30th. Even the missed win in the second rapid game didn’t brake my stride or diminish the joy of playing rapid chess, and game three was probably quite good. I exploiting my terrain on the kingside and his weaknesses on the queenside, and after the e4 pawn sacrifice it was very difficult for black to hold. Rc7 lost on the spot, and for the first time in the match I was ahead. As white in the last game I got a positional advantage against his Najdorf and just had to avoid his counterplay. It was not a perfect game, but I managed to calculate the final lines correctly and finished Qh6! with mate in one!
My team in New York was the same as in Sochi; Thank you Peter, Espen, Magnus F., Brede, Bjørn and my family as well as sponsor representatives, friends and all the others that came over to support me. The openings went generally very well in New York thanks to all the great work by Laurent Fressinet, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Nils Grandelius, Samuel Shankland and others, and thanks to Kragerø resort for hosting camps both in September and during the match.
My heartfelt thanks to Doug and Holly Hirsch for accommodating me and my family at their beautiful place in Southampton before the match; to Charles Stonehill and Maria and Peter Hancock for opening their homes during the match, and to Yuri Milner for organizing a fantastic celebration party.
As always I´m grateful to my long time main sponsors Nordic Semiconductor, Simonsen Vogt Wiig, Arctic Securities and VG, as well as water partner Isklar who’s also a sponsor of the event.
I think the organizer Agon / World Chess did a good job, and I know they put in lots of efforts and significant resources to make the match a successful event. Many thanks to Ilya, Stas, Alvina and all the others involved for doing their utmost to make me and my team comfortable.
Last but not least, I’d like to express my gratitude to all the others, not spesifically mentioned above, who has helped me or my team one way or the other. Thank you!
An important result of the match is that the significant international media coverage contributes to make chess popular worldwide.
My next event is the World Rapid and Blitz World Championship in Doha, and I look forward to be back in Doha a year after the Open event last year!
Magnus Carlsen, New York, December 2nd, 2016
Continued suspense in Carlsen – Karjakin World Championship match
As in the Sochi-match, Magnus Carlsen himself will not be blogging during the ongoing World Championship match against challenger Sergey Karjakin, Russia. On behalf of Magnus and his team the undersigned will share some impressions instead.
Magnus is in New York with his usual World Championship Match team consisting of his head coach Peter Heine, manager Espen, chef Magnus, doctor Brede, myself, his sisters and mother part-time and friends visiting this week. Having spent a few days by the sea outside New York, Magnus arrived in the city on November 8th. We stay at the Ritz Carlton a 15-20 minutes walk from the playing venue at 12 Fulton Street.
The Match started November 11th, and after every two rounds there is a rest day. Magnus drew the white pieces in game 1 during the Grand Gala Opening Ceremony in spectacular Hotel Crowne Plaza on the 10th.
He probably surprised Karjakin with his opening choice playing the Trompowsky; an unusual opening at elite level. Karjakin gave Magnus a slight advantage, but managed to defend precisely and with relative ease.
In the second game Karjakin got a normal white initiative, but black was just fine. Having equalized in the early middle game Magnus was hoping to get some counter chances. Karjakin probably sensed that he did not have an advantage and steered the game to an uneventful draw.
Things really changed after the first rest day, and despite the end result of two draws, both round 3 and 4 were long hard fought battles filled with tension and interesting chess.
Magnus against surprised Karjakin in the opening (Ruy Lopez with Re2 instead of the normal Re1) and was happy with his slightly more pleasant position. Having underestimated the countermove g5 Magnus felt any advantage he might have had was gone, nonetheless he continued to maneuver to improve his position and gradually outplayed Karjakin. After the first time control white was clearly better. A combination of a few missed opportunities and tenacious defense by Karjakin resulted in a draw. A relieved Karjakin and a slightly disappointed Magnus came to the press conference. This mood slightly misrepresented the essential takeaways from the round. Magnus had reason to be very happy with the way he had managed to fulfill the pre-match strategy of putting pressure on Karjakin using his strengths, and Karjakin had reason to be concerned about the way he was outplayed from an equal position.
Maybe these sentiments played a role in the development of game 4. Karjakin found an interesting plan in the anti-Marshall and after Qf3 black had only one viable continuation. Karjakin seemed very optimistic and liked the idea of Bxh6 Nxe4 Rxe4 sacrificing an exchange. Magnus instead went for Qc6 after Bxh6. The computer does not consider Bxh6 a mistake, but after Qc6 the position is maybe slightly more pleasant for black. At this point Karjakin seemed to panic and rather than choosing a continued middle game battle with three possible results, he went directly for a miserable ending with Bxc4. Over the next 20 moves Magnus pursued his positional advantage and right after the first time control both players thought black should be winning due to the kingside majority and bishop pair.
In an otherwise very good game, Magnus at this point made a significant mistake assuming he could infiltrate the white kingside after closing the kingside with f4. It turned out Karjakin had a fortress and after another long and hard fought game Magnus had to settle for a draw.
Norwegian chess enthusiasts following the match are blessed with several good alternatives in NRK and VG TV coverage. I also like the organizers coverage and commentary with Judith Polgar at worldchess.com.
Magnus wants to bring chess to the world, and during the match Play Magnus has launched a new chess app; The Magnus Trainer! Now available on Iphone, and more content and an Android version will follow soon.
Magnus played basketball in the sunny and nice November weather yesterday and looks forward to the next rounds.
For Team Carlsen, Henrik Carlsen, New York, November 17th, 2016
We enjoyed fairly good and stable weather in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew on the training camp that took place the last few weeks. In planning and executing the final stages of preparations for the match starting next Friday, I’ve benefitted from the 2013- and 2014-match experiences, and now I really look forward to the match against Karjakin.
October 27th I played the chess.com GM Blitz battle Championship final against Nakamura. The event (1 hour of 5-min games with 2 sec increments, 1 hour of 3-min + 2s and half an hour of 1-min + 1s) is a welcome addition to the elite chess circuit, and the internet is a good platform for chess events judging from the number of online spectators.We had both qualified for the final winning our quarterfinals and semi’s quite convincingly.
Still, I’m not really content with any of my matches. The excellent score (21-4) against T. Petrosian is slightly deceiving; he didn’t put up much of a fight.The semifinal against Grischuk could have become a real challenge as I was totally off my game for the first three games. When I managed to gradually get back and secure a lead before the 1-min portion, it was over as I won nearly every 1-min game.
The final against Nakamura went more or less exactly as I expected. I continued to play poorly in the Fischer random segment (one game starting each time control section). When I outplayed him in the 2nd game I understood that he wasn’t in his best shape either, and I got a 2-point lead in the 5-min section. Winning three in a row in the 3-min section sealed the match.
Nakamura is a very experienced online player. Especially in 1-min without increment he is a difficult opponent. With increments I expected an even fight, and after he won the Fischer Random the rest ended 4-4 yielding me 14,5-10,5 victory overall.
My favorite game was the 2nd game in the 3-min portion where Nakamura had the bishop pair and a clearly better position, and I managed to fight back and even win in the end.Most importantly the match was valuable training before the World Championship match.The Games start at 2 pm US East coast time. 4 days to go!
Follow live at the venue at the Fulton Market building in the Seaport District or at World Chess!
Magnus Carlsen, Caribbean area, November 7th, 2016
Before the Match
Hi everyone, I’m in the Caribbean area preparing for the upcoming World Championship match in New York starting November 11th.
In addition to preparations, I’ve played the Chess Olympiad in Baku in early September and an online match against Nakamura last week since the last blog.
The Chess Olympiad for national teams ended with a remarkable 5th place for our young Norwegian squad. The more remarkable, as the team overall lost rating. I was not particularly energetic, and second board Hammer had a lackluster event. Young Frode and Aryan on the lower boards did well. But most importantly, for once we had a reasonable good finish.
With the US and Ukraine at an impressive 20/22 points and Russia at 18, we were not really in contention for a medal after the loss against US in round 9. Having won the previous rounds, as well as the penultimate round (10) 3.5-0.5 against the young and very promising Iranian team, and the drawn match against 4th place India, the second half of the Olympiad was indeed something the whole team can be very proud of.
No, we did not play Russia, so I did not play my World Championship opponent Karjakin in Baku.
With 5 wins and 5 draws I cannot really complain, and a couple of the games went quite smoothly. As black against D. Solak, Turkey, I took some risk against a decent opponent and found a good way to develop my position. Everything fell into place. The way it worked out if might have looked deceptively easy.
The team spirit was quite good. Most chess players are individualists, and I’m certainly not an exception. Still, there is something both motivating and comforting being part of a team, sharing ups and downs. Maybe that is also why I’ve enjoyed the cooperation with my trusted main sponsors.
I’ve cooperated with Nordic Semiconductor for more than three years, and still counting. Thank you!
I’ll revert with some more on the Nakamura online match later this week.
Magnus Carlsen, Caribbean area, October 31th, 2016
Winning Bilbao 2011, 2012 and now 2016!
The tournament finished yesterday, and together with my parents and two younger sisters I’m still in Bilbao enjoying the luxury of staying an extra day before catching a flight home Monday. That usually feels pleasant after a long and tiresome top level event, and even more so after the tournament victory.
The second half of the tournament was not as exciting as the first, but in my own games there were quite some interesting moments.
I chose a quiet opening in the penultimate round against Anish Giri who had suffered losses in round 6 and 8. I found some interesting middle game plans offering to sacrifice my a-pawn and later h-pawn to gain reasonable compensation. He refused both offers and tried to avoid complications. Already his Nxe5 was actually a big mistake, but I did not see the relatively easy combination he allowed with c5! Also my choice cxd5 was pleasant for white. He managed to defend well until close to the time control, but short on time allowed the nice Nxf5 trick and soon went down. My first victory against Giri represented a welcome bonus to having secured Bilbao 2016 victory with one round to go!
After the last round my opponent Wesley So said that he wanted to play a normal game. It did not look that way as he chose a well know drawing line as white against my Ragozin defense. I should add that I was not at all unhappy about the one hour 38-moves draw, being low on energy and having a slight cold since the day before.
I’m grateful for the well-organized tournament in pleasant Bilbao, and I would like to thank the organizer for inviting me and my family back.
I'm satisfied having found interesting plans and possibilities in most of my games, and the plus 3 score (17/30 football score) feels much better than in Stavanger in April where my play was less inspired.
Of course I made several mistakes and also some blunders throughout the tournament, maybe too many. It was partly due to the complexity arising from taking quite a lot of risk in many games. Even better physical and mental preparation before events may contribute to avoid some of the mistakes in the future. It is good to know that there are areas where I can improve both in all the technical aspects of the game and also with regard to preparation and fitness.
Nakamura came second with his +1 score (11/30 football points) while Wei Yi and maybe also Wesley can be reasonably happy with their 50% score. Karjakin scored a winless -1 (9/30) and Giri suffered in the second half to end with a winless -3.
Prior to the World Championship match against Karjakin in November I’ll play the chess Olympiad in Baku for Norway early September and the chess.com Blitz event (semifinal against Grischuk August 18). But first I’m going to enjoy late summer in Oslo!
Magnus Carlsen, Bilbao, July 24th, 2016
I’m in Bilbao for the first time in summer. It is very nice and pleasant for a Norwegian not always spoiled with sun and summer heat. Since the organizer invited me to Bilbao Masters Final 2016 this winter, I’ve looked forward to revisit Bilbao where I was a frequent participant 5 times from 2007 to 2012 (and winning in 2011 and 2012.)
Bilbao, together with Leon, now carry the long and proud Spanish world elite chess tournament tradition manifested by Linares for so many years (where I was fortunate enough to participate three times early in my elite chess career).
We are playing a 6-player all-play-all twice with the rest day today (half way through the 10-rounds event). The interesting field – my competitors are World Championship match challenger Karjakin, Paris-winner Nakamura, young elite players Giri and So and the dangerous 17 year old Wei Yi – but somehow I’ve been involved in all decided games so far. For me the short time control (90 minutes per player) with no increment prior to 40 moves seems to help.
The first round loss against Nakamura was really bad. Having got an excellent position in the opening I got impatient and sacrificed a pawn to obtain what I believed was a significant advantage. Having missed his response e6 I was instead left with a strategically lost position, and Nakamura finished efficiently to score his first classical victory against me.
Fortunately my play has improved consistently and considerably since then. I managed to pose some questions to Wei Yi before the time control with the black pieces and got excellent winning chances. However, his brave counterplay and my inability to find a win in the immensely complicated rook and knight pawn-race could have ended in a draw. I left one last trap and he went for it and could no longer stop my c-pawn. The queen against rook and knight ending was easily won for me.
Against Karjakin I avoided main lines in the Sicilian, and well into the middle game his dynamic defense had at least equalized with black. Rc4 was a mistake and later he simply couldn’t stop my kingside attack. Not a perfect game but not bad at all.
As white against Wesley So I played the quiet Qe2 on move 6. Investing about half an hour on the clock familiarizing me with the a3-b4 plan I felt comfortable with the position throughout the rest of the game. So is normally very difficult to beat, but he seemed uncertain on how to respond to my set-up. The knight on f5 prevented short castle as it would be met with Bh6! He couldn’t didn’t find a good consistent plan, and ultimately left his king in the centre and then tried Nxe4 in desperation. By checking on b6 with my knight and on d2 with the queen before g4 and Rfd1 he resigned. A very nice game, although he did not put up enough resistance to put it high on my best-games list.
I think I played reasonably well against Anish Giri. Not surprisingly, despite a small but clear opening advantage as white, he went for a draw with Ne5. I had no intention of indulging him and after Nxe5, Bxh5 and Ng6 there isn’t an easy route to draw. He made several inaccuracies and despite the material balance black was clearly better due to the weaknesses in the white pawn structure and the black queenside pawn majority. I´ll admit I was quite optimistic as he didn’t seem to know how to defend the position. Once again his good tactical eye (and some luck) saved him as he just seems to hold after c4 although I’m pretty sure he had seen neither Qxa6 nor Qe2 when he allowed c4. I did not enjoy the press conference afterwards, but with soccer score 10/15 points gives me a solid lead (with Nakamura at 7, Giri at 5 and the rest at 4 points) halfway.
On the rest day today the temperature reached 40oC in the shadow. After the morning session with team chess with live pieces and press conference in the Campos Eliseos Theater, my family and I went for a boat trip along the coast. It turned out to be the ideal place on such a beautiful and hot summer day.
Tuesday I’m playing black against Nakamura at 4 pm.
Magnus Carlsen, Bilbao, July 18th, 2016
Leuven Rapid & Blitz 2016
While we all seemed happy to play in Leuven, I think none of us had completely recovered from the Paris Rapid & Blitz event. The “new face” Anand (replacing Fressinet), came directly from Leon, having scored his 9th (or so) Rapid cup victory there. The atmosphere between games and at night playing Avalon, were unusually collegial. That may have reduced some of the tension. Still, in my view, two 4-day rapid and blitz events in succession is more strenuous than a regular classical event.
The event developed quite differently than in Paris. Nakamura started with three losses in the Rapid section and never showed anything resembling his great Paris form. For me, one excellent day of rapid chess and a four game winning streak today was sufficient to win outright with three rounds to go. I’m of course very satisfied with the results in Leuven.
Winning both the rapid and the blitz stage (and overall) was very much what I could hoped for.
Chess is about continuous progress. I’m not really happy with my own play. On the first day I struggled a lot. In the first three rounds I fought as well as I could and managed to scrape out two points out of three. In round 4 I got a winning position as white against Caruana but managed to completely botch it by chosing the only setup providing him with counterplay, and later lost badly. In round 5 I simply blundered a piece in the opening against Nakamura. The second day of Rapid was a complete turn-around and by winning all four games (against Topalov, Giri, Anand and Kramnik), and I went from 8th place to 1st! It might have been my single day best rapid performance ever. I especially treasure the game against Anand. The slight asymmetry resulting from the Giucco Piano allowed me to tie up all his pieces, forcing a zugswang despite all the pieces left on the board.
It was frustrating to return to somewhat mediocre play the day after. Still, 5/9 on the first day of Blitz was enough to maintain my overall lead.
Today I got winning positions in all the first six games albeit with some help from my opponents. In general the way I managed to create chances in most games throughout the event is confirming that I’m making progress. Missing a tactical shot against Aronian and allowing a drawing combination against Kramnik doesn’t change that, and the 5/6 start secured victory with three round to go. The complacent three round finish wasn’t anything I’m proud of, but maybe it was a natural consequence of the reduced adrenalin level after having clinched first.
Despite scoring 1,5 points less than in Paris, I was 2,5 points ahead of Wesley So in 2nd place. Aronian finished third with Anand in fourth. Overall I’m leading the Grand Chess tour after two events but will of course be overtaken by others eventually as I won’t play neither in St.Louis nor in London due to the World Championship match in November.
The playing venue and overall playing conditions in Leuven were commendable, and I think all of the players join me in thanking and congratulating the organizers for a splendid event!
I’m leaving for Bilbao in three weeks from now. Fortunately I don’t have much on my schedule in the coming weeks and look forward to relax at home and with friends.
Magnus Carlsen, Leuven, June 20th, 2016
Paris – Wijk aan Zee - Leuven
The Paris and Leuven Rapid and Blitz events constitute half the Grand Chess Tour 2016. Having grown up watching Amber Rapid and Blindfold as a young chess player and qualifying in time to compete in the last five events until 2011, I was thrilled to see the addition of two major elite events with fast time control this year.
The Paris stage did not disappoint. Great playing venue in central Paris, a good mix of players, and four exciting days of Rapid and Blitz. After a time loss against W. So in round 1, I scored 5 wins and 3 draws in the Rapid part (that counted double compared to Blitz) and with 6.5 points was in second place behind Nakamura at 7. The first day of Blitz went well for me, but also for Nakamura. We shared the lead with the others trailing far behind.
Unfortunately I suffered a real meltdown on the last day and Nakamura had secured a deserved victory even before the last two rounds. Beating him in a fine game in the last round (for the second day in a row), in what was maybe my best Blitz game overall together with my white win against Aronian, was a small consolation, and sufficient to end on a high note. Overall I have to be fairly satisfied with my play 3 out of 4 days, and with my overall +9 score in 27 rounds.
Home-favorite Vachier-Lagrave came clear 3rd after a good last day performance.
I think we all look forward to the second event in Leuven starting with a simul event Thursday.
Having spent most of January in Wijk aan Zee on the Dutch coast since my early teens, we took the opportunity to visit Wijk between the Paris and Leuven tournaments. It was pleasant and relaxing to be there in summer without the tournament (and winter storms) looming. The swim in the sea definitely was more comfortable than in January. After some sun both yesterday and today, a heavy rain shower contributed to the mixed picture we are used to from all the great Tata Steel (and previous Corus) events.
Last time I blogged with three rounds left of Norway Chess in Stavanger, and the finish turned out to be both exciting and successful for me. Maybe playing on home turf takes more energy. Anyhow, for some reason I was not in good shape in round 7 and 8. In round 7 I got the chance to play a novelty by Hammer against Kramnik. He didn't find the best defense, and already after some 15 moves the rest was plain sailing for me. Not so in round 8. Aronian played an interesting variation as white and showed the creative style he is capable of. I did not respond well. I lost a pawn in the middle game, and short on time I blundered away the rest, having missed a mate threat down the line.
Against Eljanov in the last round, I needed to win, and fortunately I felt in good shape and very optimistic. I managed to gradually outplay him to secure my first Norway Chess victory! Once again I like to thank the organizer for this great elite event in Stavanger.
Magnus Carlsen, Leuven, June 15th, 2016
Norway Chess 2016 with three rounds to go
As mentioned last week I was quite optimistic after the Blitz and round one. Subsequently my play has varied, while the results have been good. I’m in the lead with 4/6 before the final three rounds Wednesday to Friday. After six rounds in Stavanger Forum, we are playing in the Stavanger Concert hall from tomorrow.
In the Candidates tournament in Moscow in March a majority of the players (except Giri, Nakamura and Caruana) had participated in the Candidates before, and Karjakin, who came second in 2014, this time won after a last and decisive round victory against co-leader Caruana to qualify for the World Championship match in New York in November. Karjakin unfortunately, but maybe not surprisingly, subsequently withdrew from Norway Chess while Aronian, Giri and Topalov play both events. Topalov has had a bit of a comeback so far and is shared second with +1, Aronian has 50%, while Giri has an unusual -1 after his loss to Harikrisna yesterday.
My first two black games against Topalov and Chao Li were not particularly interesting. Both seemed happy with a draw. I did not manage to create enough from Li’s slight inaccuracies in a symmetrical position to pose any real threats. Against Topalov I didn’t try very hard.
The R3 game against Nils Grandelius was interesting. He played a somewhat dubious Sicilian sideline, and to avoid queen exchanges and a drawish endgame I simply had to sacrifice a piece for an advanced pawn. Objectively I might have just enough compensation, but black is uncomfortably tied down. After a long deliberation Nils decided to give a rook for the pawn. He snatched two more pawns on b2 and c2 attaching my king on e1. Still, the position was just lost for black. My pieces coordinated much better, and I won back the two pawns to reach a winning endgame.
Round five as white against an out of form Giri was disappointing. I played badly and was even slightly worse. Then Giri made several uninspired and inaccurate moves, but just before the time control I missed the opportunity to put some real pressure on him in the rook and knight ending. What a pity. Yesterday Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a somewhat tricky sideline in the Berlin defense against me, and I spent too much time calculating variations and seeing ghosts. Low on time I tried a trick (Re8) that he didn’t fall for, and the position started to look really grim. Fortunately I had and found Bxg4, a piece sacrifice Maxime had missed, that collected his last three remaining pawns in the remaining nine moves I had to play in under one minute before the first time control. He played on for some time, but I managed to hold quite easily.
We played football in the sun on the rest day today, and I look forward to play Kramnik with the white pieces Wednesday!
Magnus Carlsen, Stavanger, April 26th, 2016
In recent years I have typically played two top level events each quarter with minor variations. In general it has provided enough time for restitution between events but often left me slightly rusty early in the next tournament. As discussed in earlier blog posts I chose a different approach this winter to get back in form after varying results from June to November. It worked well. The subsequent two and a half months break, mostly at home, felt good. I enjoyed the excellent February/March skiing conditions locally and spent time with friends and of course followed the exciting Candidates tournament with interest. As last year before Shamkir (same dates as Norway Chess this year) I went south for a training camp early April. This time to Spain. Fortunately it seems to have contributed to a good start here in Stavanger.
The Blitz tournament yesterday was great fun although it was quite important for me as it more often than not predicts your classical chess form as well. I was even maybe a bit too excited, but it all worked out very well. Many good games and endgames and seven wins (and a draw) was enough for clear first ahead of Giri, Vachier-Lagrave and Kramnik. I chose start number five for the main event as I think the other winners of the Norway Chess Blitz have done in previous editions, providing me with the white pieces in both the first and the last round.
In my first World Youth event in Crete in 2002 Pentala Harikrisna was one of the favorites in the U/18 group, and he has made steady progress since. Lately he has challenged V. Anand for the position as top ranked Indian player and is currently ranked 13 in the world. I think this is his first participation in a top elite round robin (all play all) event, and I haven’t played him in a classical game before. I chose a somewhat unusual opening variation and after 13 moves we had both spent more than an hour on the clock. I think white was clearly better after the opening. Harikrisna found a way to avoid giving up material, but I was happy to oblige him, as the ensuing middle game was very pleasant for white. His isolated d-pawn and lack of counterplay gave me excellent winning chances. I gradually improved my position, but his decisive mistakes came in mutual time trouble. I felt in control although I was also scarily short on time close to the time control. The time control in Stavanger is accelerated compared to most top level events, and not surprisingly the three top ranked players (me, Kramnik and Giri) all won around move 40. Harikrisna resigned after the time control facing mate or loss of his queen.
People tell me I haven’t won a first round in nearly two years. On high time!
Tomorrow I’ll face V. Topalov with black. Veselin seemed out of shape in the Candidates and also yesterday (despite having a winning position in the blitz against me at some point). But, clearly one should not underestimate the winner of Norway Chess 2015, and he did play a decent game against Aronian today even putting pressure on Aronian despite the black pieces.
All rounds start at 4pm. The first six takes place in Stavanger Forum a short drive from the player hotel Scandic City Stavanger and once again the tournament is covered live on Norwegian television (TV2)!
Magnus Carlsen, Stavanger, April 19th, 2016
Back to business as usual!
In Tata Steel Chess 2016 I had the same good old feeling about chess as I had in the 1st quarter of 2015 and the two to three previous years. I felt in control during my games, and (with the exception of the game against Loek van Wely) the computer didn’t spring nasty surprises on me after the game. It clearly has helped to play several tournaments in a row. Right now I’m pretty tired but playing again soon would be tempting too. A good sign!
Leading a tournament is always slightly more stressful than trailing (if I’m not trailing too far behind of course). After 10 rounds I had 7 points and was sole leader while Caruana at 6.5 and theoretically the guys at 5.5 could still catch me. For me round 11 against the best female player in the world Hou Yifan became pretty decisive. As black she had held quite comfortably against Caruana with the Russian defense. I allowed her to play the same opening variation as I had some ideas on how to improve whites play. Her position was passive in the early middle game. She could hardly move, but the plan she found of moving the queen from d7 to f8 seemed good. At the critical junctions I probably played slightly inaccurate and she defended well. I had to exchange most pieces without significant progress. The queen endgame is better for white but I could not find a way to make further progress and allowed the exchange of queens with 44.Qc3. She thought for quite some time and did exchange queens followed by h5. Playing 45…. a5 instead would have drawn and during the game I was quite surprised by her mistake. When it happened it seemed quite obvious to me that a5 would hold. Well, it turns out that a5 indeed would have held, but not at all as easily as I had thought. White can still push and in many variations the correct defense (and triangulation) black needs to find to stop white from entering either on the queenside or in the middle is very difficult to find. In the game after h5 I could just move my king to b6, play b4, b5 etc. In the end she loses the d-pawn and the game.
With a one-point lead I was satisfied with a short draw as black against Wesley So in round 12 and to enter a slightly better rook and bishop ending against Ding Liren in the last round. Caruana had won round 12 and could still catch me even if I drew, but after he made a mistake in the opening his opponent Tomashevsky played maybe his best game in the event and won quite convincingly. Ding managed to hold the rook against rook and bishop endgame and the draw left me with 9 points in total (+5) and clear first one point ahead of Caruana and Ding. It is my fifth tournament victory in the A-group in Wijk aan Zee and I’m especially satisfied with having won the last three editions I’ve participated in (2013/15/16).
I’d like to thank Tata Steel management, the organizers and all the volunteers for keeping this great tradition alive and kicking. As last year people from Wijk had gathered on the main square after the last round and they greeted me with speeches and songs before we went to the closing ceremony over at Tata Steel.
I’m still in Wijk aan Zee and today I went for a swim in the inviting but pretty cold sea followed by a simultaneous display in the Dutch parliament in Den Haag!
Tomorrow I’m flying to Los Angeles for an event and a week overseas.
Wijk aan Zee, February 2nd 2016, Magnus Carlsen
January at the Dutch coast
You will find my own take on the chess year 2015 on my youtube channel. Overall I’m quite satisfied having recovered well from some unusually poor performances in June in Stavanger and on Iceland in October. Winning five strong classical tournaments with elite participation in a calendar year is a personal best for me and probably quite unusual by any standards.
I looked forward to Tata Steel Chess (and nearly three weeks on the Dutch coast) more than in many years and it feels good to be in the lead with four rounds to go.
It is hard to match the sensation of playing here for the first time (in the C-group) back in 2004 as an IM at 13 being able to watch the world elite playing in the same event. Now, at 25 I’m part of this great tradition for the 12th time!
As last year I had a slow start here in Wijk, but after four draws I’ve played several exciting games and been victorious in four of them. Early leader Fabiano Caruana is a point behind in second.
On the rest day yesterday we walked along the beach over to the pier by the channel leading to Amsterdam in beautiful weather. A sunny and warm day with little wind!
Two of the rounds are organized in major Dutch cities, and tomorrow I’ll play Anish Giri with the black pieces in the Utrecht Railway Museum!
Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, January 26th
Qatar – ending 2015 on a high note!
Qatar Masters Open 2015 has been a great experience. The strong field, the playing hall, the Torch Doha hotel, the atmosphere, summer outside and the organizer’s attention to detail made this an extraordinary event. And for me personally winning really helps.
Success brings confidence of course. By nature I’ve always been optimistic prior to tournaments and before individual games. As a youth I played a majority of higher rated players but never felt intimidated. Nonetheless my not so stellar performance in the six months period prior to London Classics did put a dent in my usual confidence, and I needed to stabilize to get back on track. I was close to winning several of the first games in London, but maybe the combination of somewhat lowered confidence and slightly more of a safety first-approach than earlier this year contributed to some missed opportunities.
In Qatar I managed to continue where I left in London (where I won two out of the last three games as well as the tie-break rapid match against M.Vachier-Lagrave). After conceding a draw in the first round I won four in a row including a quite spectacular game against Chao Li (2750). There were more draws at the top boards than last year, and after two draws against Wesley So and Anish Giri I was still joint leader and on board one in the penultimate round. Despite the black pieces I won quickly against Mamedyarov. His attacking plan simply didn’t work, but understandably he didn’t want to play d5 and enter a slightly worse ending with a miserable few hours ahead. A few accurate defensive moves were sufficient to defuse his attack and a pawn down he went berserk and lost immediately. As white against Kramnik today I decided to play safe. Half a point behind me Kramnik needed to win but seemed happy with a quick draw in a topical Ruy Lopez 5.Re1 line.
Last years winner 21 year old Yu Yangyi finished impressively again with two wins including a fighting victory against Wesley So today. In the Blitz tie-break for first, Yu never got going. I won a decent game with white and when he had blundered a piece on move 16 in the second game he simply resigned. 7/9 followed by 2-0 in the tie-breaks, and my first Open tournament in some 8 years ended with victory!
I’d like to thank Nordic Semiconductor and my other main sponsors for the good and pleasant cooperation in 2015 and wish all of you a successful 2016!
Magnus Carlsen, Doha, December 29th, 2015
From London to Qatar
Early in my chess career I sometimes traveled from one tournament to the next without any brake. Not so in recent years. After London a part of me wanted a brake, but most of all I’m eager to play again.
Flying via Doha many times in 2013/14 to other destinations, my first real visit to Doha was for a training camp prior to Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan in April this year. That turned out to be one of my best tournaments ever so going back to Doha for the Qatar Maters
Open 2015 brings forth fond memories and pleasant feelings.
Having struggled tremendously in Stavanger and to some extent also in Sinquefield Cup it was a huge relief and highly satisfactory for me to win London Classics and also the Grand Chess Tour last week! As most chess-pundits know by now, things went my way on the last day. Trailing the leaders by half a point I had to win. I outplayed Grischuk in the early middle game but it was hard to make progress. I lost control and we both blundered in the complications that arose. Fortunately he missed his one chance for a clear advantage, and later missed the draw. Instead he went for a perpetual that just wasn’t there, leaving him without any more options. He resigned a rook down. As expected both leaders (Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave) drew with black and play-offs followed. Having beaten Nakamura and Grischuk (and not tail-enders Anand and/or Topalov as the others had done), I had the best SB correction giving a bye in the first rapid play-off round. By the time Maxime had returned from the abyss and won against Giri in the armageddon I felt calm and very confident (as opposed to earlier in the day against Grischuk). In game one, Maxime somehow managed to escape from a precarious middle game but failed the last study-like rook-ending test. In the second game he threw light punches at me throughout the game, and all I needed to do was to spend enough time to refute the challenges. When he sought a repetition in a lost ending that was fine with me. 1,5-0,5.
The stay in London was overall very pleasant and the playing conditions at the London Chess Classics very good. The organizer did a good job, although the Grand Chess Tour does need to review regulations and their communication for 2016 as much can and should be improved upon. Three such top-level events with great merits on their own can’t afford any lack of professionalism when brought together to bring mutual benefits for all.
I look forward to starting over in Stavanger in April, but first there is Qatar Masters Open 2015! After two days in Oslo we flew directly Oslo-Doha yesterday and has settled in excellent The Torch Doha close to the playing venue here in the Aspire zone in Doha. I drew the white pieces in round one and look forward to getting started tomorrow!
Magnus Carlsen, Doha, December 19th, 2015
London Chess Classics 2015
I did not expect to enter the rest day with 5 draws, but it does not bother me much. In 2015 more than half my games have been decisive, including way too many losses. Having had favorable or clearly favorable endings against Caruana, Anand and Adams in round 2, 3 and 4, I would normally have a plus score. They all defended well, and I did not manage to convert any of the advantages.
Despite the no-draw-offer rule we have seen just four decisive games overall. Except for Grand Chess Tour-leader Topalov, who lost three games already. we are all at +1 or 50% and the tournament is wide open.
Fortunately the lack of a driving license did not stop me from featuring in a cool campaign launch for the new Porsche 911 aired today. I think it is a sign of chess becoming accepted with a wider audience. I hope you like it when you see it!
Just returned from Chelsea – Porto in the Champions League that ended 2-0. Entertaining game, good atmosphere and a pleasant way to spend the rest day.
In the final stretch of the Classic this coming weekend, I start off playing black against Anish Giri in round 6 Thursday.
Magnus Carlsen, London, December 9th, 2015
Back in London for the Classic
London Chess Classics has become a Classic and it is great to be back for the 7th edition. When I heard about the plans to stage a top level event in London back in 2009 prior to the 1st edition, I felt that it was such an encouraging step for our sport to be represented in this great city. And of course winning the first two editions and also the 4thcontributed to a sense of satisfaction and anticipation knowing that the Classic goes on. The last time I played in London was the highly intense Candidate tournament in the spring of 2013. Due to World Championship matches in November 2013 and November 2014 I have not been playing the 5th and 6th editions.
As you may know the London Chess Classic has partnered up with Norway Chess and Sinquefield Cup (in St.Louis) this year for the Grand Chess Tour. The results in the first two events have left the overall competition wide open, and the winner of London is likely the overall winner as well.
A lot of good work has been done with chess in schools in the UK in parallel with the Classics over the last 6-7 years, and maybe it was a sign of the times that I was invited to a major talkshow earlier tonight (BBC The One Show). After an intro about Fischer-Spasskij I played bullet chess with time handicap with one host while the other host fired questions at me. A good concept in my view. I hope the audience enjoyed it as well.
The pairing for the 9-round main event was done earlier with colors reversed from Sinquefield, and tomorrow I’m black against the Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. We have had many interesting battles including a few this year. I look forward to get started, at 4 pm local time tomorrow. The tournament will be covered live on Norwegian TV and on internet.
Magnus Carlsen, London, Dec. 3rd 2015
After Berlin 2015
I considered myself the main favorite in the Blitz World Championship last week, but maybe it was easier to win the Rapid part. Not necessarily because of how it turned out in the end. The margins are smaller in Blitz, and my own expectations maybe too high. In the longer time control I managed to stay calm and won fairly controlled by playing reasonably well with just a few exceptions. In the Blitz I played really well the first day, but the last round loss against Karjakin (resulting in 9 out of 11 after day 1) rocked the boat. In three-days events you may win even with one poor day, not so in a two-day Blitz. I blundered over and over again on the second day, and didn´t manage to find my rhythm. Despite the poor 50% score of the day I was still in contention for 1st with two rounds to go. Blundering mate in two against Ivanchuk in a good position after having survived a disastrous opening sealed a 6th place in the end. Congratulations to Grischuk who clinched 1st in the end ahead of long time leader Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik.
Overall it was a great and very exciting event and hopefully a valuable learning experience for future Rapid and Blitz events.
The coming week I’ll visit Trondheim for my main sponsor Nordic Semiconductor on Monday and Bergen to play a simul for my main sponsor Simonsen Vogt Wiig on Wednesday. I look forward to both events.
The next two weeks will be relatively quiet before a period of four classic events in just two and a half months. First I’ll play for Norway in the European Team Championship in Reykjavik from November 13, followed by London Classics early December, Doha Open late December and last but not least Tata Steal Chess 2016 in 2nd half of January.
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, October 19th, 2015
Rapid and Blitz World Championship Berlin 2015
The Rapid and Blitz World Championships take place in well-suited facilities in Bolle Meierei in Berlin this year.
I’ve been looking forward to these events for quite some time. Winning both events in 2014 in Dubai gave me the clear goal of defending my titles, and I’ve prepared specifically for these events for some time, which included a training camp with Nielsen and Fressinet in Oslo the week before last.
A week ago I did a challenging blindfold clock simultaneous display against 5 players with 12 minutes on the clock in Vienna for one of my main sponsors. Arriving in Berlin early I spent three days playing training games with Vladimir Kramnik (who finished 6th in the rapid).
The Rapid event attracted most of the World elite grandmasters with the exception of the strongest Americans who takes part in Millionaire Chess instead and the Chinese.
The time control was 15 minutes each plus 10 seconds increments per move per player. We played 5 rounds spread over more than 7 hours per day for three days.
Last year I scored 4, 4 and 3 points on the three playing days and 11 points was enough to win outright. 4/5 on day one was enough for shared 2nd this time, and another 4/5 on day two, once again, brought me into shared lead. I was generally doing well winning several hard-fought battles in pressed situations by a combination of more time on the clock, experience and good technique.
As usual the final stretch was decisive. In 2014 I played Aronian, Anand and Grischuk in rounds 11 to 13 while this year they were all out of contention (with 5.5/10 points) at this point. In round 11 I played black against surprise co-leader Sergei Zhigalko whom I met for the first time since Youth events in 2003! Sacrificing a pawn to activate my pieces in the Ruy Lopez variation, after a complicated middle game I managed to force mistakes in the rook and queen endgame and win. In round 12 I met Ivanchuk who had been on a rampage winning something like 6 in a row and he outplayed me in the middle game with black. I defended stubbornly and when he over-pressed slightly in the rook endgame I quickly changed mindset and starting to play for a win. He gradually slipped allowing me to reach a queen and pawn against queen endgame. It is tricky to defend against a c-pawn and he went quickly went wrong with queen checks forcing my king to b6.
With a 1,5 points lead and 3 rounds to go, I played two quick draws against Dominguez and Kramnik. It was enough to secure 1st with one round to go!
After a 75 minutes break It was difficult to focus in the last round against Mamedyarov. Having more than equalized with black from the opening I made several inaccuracies, and he put me under serious pressure at some point. Fortunately I managed to defend and draw to stay undefeated with 8 wins and 7 draws and 11,5 points in total. Ian Nepomniachtchi came second with Teimour Radjabov 3rd both a point behind.
The two-days Blitz event October 13-14 is my favorite event, and it feels great to enter the battle with the Rapid win in the pocket.
We will play 21 rounds in total, and Norwegian Television channels NRK and VGTV will cover the event live. I look forward to an exciting finish to the Berlin championships!
Magnus Carlsen, Berlin October 12th, 2015
Sinquefield Cup 2015 rollercoaster
After a controlled draw with black against co-leader Aronian in round 6 I was very optimistic, but the next two white games was just miserable. I made several mistakes against Grischuk, and inexplicably squandered a winning position against Nakumura in the penultimate round. Aronian had won against Nakamura in round 7 and he could cruise to sole victory in the last round. Despite the emotional rollercoaster of miserable losses and lost opportunities following enjoyable fights and wins in this tournament, I’m taking great comfort from achieving 2nd place on tie-break in the end, despite scoring just 5/9. Nakamura, who saved my day with his last round win over Grischuk (who would have been second with a win or a draw), came third with Vachieve-Lagrave and Giri next. The final standing in Sinquefield Cup differ to such an extent from Norway Chess that Topalov is still leading the Grand Chess Tour with 17 points despite 7th place here. Nakamura is next with 16 followed by Aronian at 15 and me at 14.
While 2nd place is acceptable I’m still concerned about the higher than usual level of mistakes. In the London Classics in early December it will be all about winning. Most likely the London Classics winner will also win the overall 2015 Grand Chess Tour. However, coming up next is the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Berlin October 10-15. That is going to very exciting. In November I’ll play for Norway in the European Team Championship in Iceland.
The Sinquefield Cup finished on 1st of September and today the annual Ultimate Moves spectacle with GM’s trying to help out Rex and Randy Sinquefield took place. It was quite enjoyable but the trash talking still leaves room for improvement, and we have got a full year to prepare one-liners:).
The usual August heat wave arrived last week and we spent more time by and in the pool than running and sporting towards the end. The Sinquefield Cup has been well organized and features lots of memorable games and battles. I’d like to thank the Sinquefields and all the staff and volunteers for the efforts and kindness and hope to be back next year.
Before returning to Norway I’ll head out to the west coast for a few days for an event. I look forward to see friends, good contacts, the Play Magnus folks and representatives of some of my main sponsors over there.
Magnus Carlsen, St. Louis September 3rd, 2015
Sinquefield Cup 2015 R5
Things have been shaping up for me after the shaky start. I got a small but clear edge from the opening against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and managed to put enough pressure on him to win quite comfortably. Against Anish Giri in round 4 I was doing fine out of the Sicilian Sveshnikov opening. He outplayed me for some time in the middle game and I had to find some accurate moves to keep the balance. He offered a draw in a dead drawn position as soon as the no-draw-before-move-30-rule allowed him to. Wesley So, whom I know from a training camp many years ago, is now playing for the US and he got the organizer wild card for the Sinquefield Cup. Wild card might be a bit misleading as he was offered a regular place in the whole Grand Chess Tour but had to decline due to other obligations. As white I played the Najdorf with Be3 and he played a sideline I didn’t know that well. White has compensation for the pawn but after my Bc4 black had his share of the chances. Maybe he played slightly indecisively at some point, and I improved my position gradually with the monstrous knight dominating on d5 more than compensating for the pawn down. Close to the time control I was a bit fortunate to find and play winning moves despite a couple of oversights.
We have seen more than 50% decided games and I’ve contributed more than my part with just one draw. Most of the top ten players in the world, of which nearly all are present in St.Louis enjoys a fighting game and the lack of increments before the first time control clearly increases the likelihood of decisive games. The lack of restrictions on our use of time should in theory improve the quality of the games, and I think we all try to manage our time efficiently. Clearly indecision and not correctly foreseeing the remaining complexity until move 40 sometimes cause crazy time scrambles as in my game with Caruana in round 2. Yesterday against Wesley So I was generally doing fine time-wise although a missed opportunity on move 40 brought two more hours of concentrated thinking to bring home the full point.
As last year I’ve played football and basketball (twice) with the chess students over at Webster University after the round, and enjoying the rest day today I’m optimistic about the continuation of the tournament.
Following our mutual training camp prior to the tournament, Aronian – who scored another brilliancy in round 4 against Wesley So - and I, have raised our level significantly compared to Stavanger and share the lead with 4 rounds to go!
Magnus Carlsen, St. Louis August 28th, 2015
Sinquefield Cup 2015 R2
Today it was great fun playing chess. Mostly because of the good fight. Black against Fabiano Caruana (who won the Sinquefield Cup so convincingly last year) is always a challenge. Today I managed to get a reasonable position in an Arhangelsk Spanish opening transposing to Anti-Marshall. Fabiano played the middle game slowly but well and I was forced to calculate deeply to find countermeasures to keep the balance.
Short on time long before the first time control we could both have chosen more drawish continuations. Both desperately wanted to win as I lost to Topalov and Caruana to Aronian in round 1 yesterday. My b4-push kept the position messy while probably objectively dubious. Despite having to blitz out moves Caruana played well nearly all the way to the time control. Then he went from clearly better to about equal and in move 40 blundered away the game by first trying to avoid a perceived mate threat (where the saving combination eluded both of us) and by capturing on d2 on reflex.
After the horrible result and play in Stavanger in June (7th place) I hope the training camp with Peter Heine and Levon Aronian - who is playing very well here in the Sinquefield Cup - at the East coast a week ago helps bringing me back to normal form. I’m feeling fine and it is fun playing chess. I can’t ask for more really.
Sinquefield Cup is part two of the new Grand Chess Tour (following Norway Chess in Stavanger), and Topalov, who won in Stavanger, has taken the lead with 2 points here.
Magnus Carlsen, St. Louis August 24th, 2015
Successful Gashimov Memorial 2015
You don't have to be superstitious to appreciate the statistics of tournament performances. In recent tournaments I've often lost round 3 and struggled in the last round. In Shamkir I won round 3, despite the black pieces. Yesterday as white against lowest rated Rauf Mamedov I got everything I could hope for from the opening having cemented his weak b-pawn at b7 and a pawn majority in the center. In the middlegame I did not find the best continuation and he defended very well. The queen and rook endgame is pleasant for white, but without a clear mistake from black it is difficult to make progress. If I had started to move my kingside pawns he would get counterplay. Surprisingly, slightly short on time, he blundered a pawn before the time control and resigned in disgust when I played Qf7. Not an entirely convincing last round victory, but overall I'm very satisfied with having made few mistakes, and the result 7 out of 9 is of course far better than expected.
Most of my strongest tournament performances in the past have been in 6-player double round robin tournaments. In 10 player all-play-all events (mainly Tal Memorial and Norway Chess) I?ve consistently scored +2 for several years. With the Grand Chess Tour using the 10-player format in Norway Chess, Sinquefield Cup and London Classics, scoring +5 in Shamkir was an encouraging prelude to the Tour?
V.Anand played very well in Shamkir. In addition to the three victories he had some very promising and few worse positions. His clear 2nd place secured sufficient rating point gain to place 2nd on the May rating list.
My younger challengers Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana placed three and four with 5/9.
I'm leaving Shamkir tomorrow having spent the day at the local chess center playing a simul and enjoying a tour with spectacular views into the nearby mountains in the Gadabay district.
I hope to be back next year. The organizer Synergy Group has done everything possible to make the stay in Shamkir comfortable and pleasant for me and my team. I'm sure the other players join me in expressing gratitude for staging Vugar Gashimov Memorial 2015 in such an excellent way. Thank you!
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 27th, 2015
Gashimov Memorial 2015 R7
I have to go back to the winning streak in Wijk aan Zee in January to find something resembling the comfortable feeling of being in the zone at the chess board experienced here in Shamkir this week.
Today I tried to surprise Vladimir Kramnik in the opening with the choice of 1.e4 and a novelty in the d3 Ruy Lopez. Kramnik is probably the player with the best opening repertoire in the world, but still I was impressed with his knowledge in the variation today. He took the pawn I offered him on a5 and objectively the position was about equal. When he allowed Nxc6 I was getting optimistic and the queen against rook and bishop ending he went for should be winning for white. He made it simple for me with his Rd1.
The victory brought me to 5.5 points and a clear lead with two rounds to go. Anand won after an interesting exchange sacrifice against Adams and is sole second at 4.5 followed by Caruana and my opponent tomorrow Wesley So, at 4 points.
As during most chess tournaments my focus during the event is quite limited. I do appreciate that Shamkir is surrounded by snow-covered mountains in the horizon, and it?s quite a sight on a clear sunny day. We visited a very good local restaurant a few kilometers out of town at the rest day Wednesday after the important and fun football tournament staged the same day.
I'm black against So at the usual 3pm local time Saturday.
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 24th, 2015
Shamkir 2015 R3
About an hour into round one Friday I blundered against Anand; A pawn down without counterplay. How different compared to last year when I started off with two quite nice victories and was close to winning round 3. Surprisingly I?ve reached the same 2,5 our 3 as last year. After the blunder I defended quite well against Anand. There might have been a win for white but the Kf5-line he chose ended draw after a few accurate defensive moves. Yesterday I won a smooth game against home favorite Mamedyarov. In round 3 as black against Caurana today I was a bit fortunate when Caruana started to drift in a drawish ending. He thought there were many ways to draw, but allowing Nf3+ was a mistake, and I don?t think he could save the rook ending. Until a year ago we won several games each with white for a fairly even score, while from June 2014 onwards I?ve had black in six of our seven classical encounters and black has won four, white none!
Wesley So has played well and is co-leader after beating Giri and Adams with white and even putting some pressure on Kramnik as white. Kramnik is 3rd with 2 points followed by Anand, Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedov at 50%.
I have black tomorrow as well, against Michael Adams. I have a great score against him as white, but black is another matter.
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 19th, 2015
Gashimov Memorial 2015 in Shamkir
Last year Synergy Group demonstrated that they know how to organize a top level chess event, and I was thrilled to hear that they would host another elite event in memory of Vugar Gashimov in Shamkir this spring.
At the end of Easter I went for a training camp with Peter Heine Nielsen and others and arrived via Baku three days before the event. My opponent tomorrow, V.Anand, was already here. I drew no 7 and five black games in the grand opening ceremony earlier tonight. Having drawn 1st I have no one else than myself to blame?. On the bright side I won most of the table tennis matches against Peter, my father Henrik and our chef Magnus Forssell this afternoon.
Despite the harsh drawing, I?m filled with a joyous anticipation after a two-month tournament break.
We are staying at the fine Excelsior hotel a 10-minutes walk from the playing venue.
The participants includes world no 2 Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand (6), Anish Giri (7), Wesley So (8), Vladimir Kramnik (9), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (11), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (13), Michael Adams (16) and Rauf Mamedov.
I've written a lot about my esteemed opponent tomorrow, V.Anand, in the past, and probably also the fact that we played already 10 years ago in a rapid-event in Leon in Spain. Since then we have played more than 50 classical games and many rapid and blitz (and blindfold) games, and finally during the World Championship match in Sochi last autumn I reached a positive score in classical chess after having trailed heavily in my teens (up to 1-6).
The organizer will broadcast the event and provide commentary in three languages. Round 1 starts at 3 pm local time (12 CET) Friday.
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 16th, 2015
A year ago my Rapid and Blitz chess ratings and world ranking (4th) was not satisfactory, and I promised to change the situation. Winning the World Rapid and Blitz Championships last summer helped, and based on live ratings I expect to be no 1 on both rating lists March 1. It feels great to have all three World Championship titles and top rating spots simultaneously, but it is not going to be easy to defend that position.
In Baden-Baden early this month my level of play varied again as in Wijk, but as long as the overall performance was reasonably good, I?m quite satisfied. The final stage of the tournament was a thriller. After catching up with Naiditsch near the end, I had the chance to decide the tournament in the last round as white against Bacrot. It was not to be as I squandered a winning position just before the time control. Both Naiditsch and I drew our games reaching 4.5/7 and there was a blitz playoff that went all the way to Armageddon. After playing well in the first Rapid game my level of play went down drastically. With 2-2 in the Blitz portion I was unusually tense also for the must-win-with-white Armageddon. I got a nice initiative and he blundered or went astray with Bc5 after which I was simply winning due to his exposed king. I?m of course happy to have won another strong elite tournament, and I?m grateful to the hosts for organizing such a strong event in beautiful Baden-Baden!
My next tournament will be the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan in mid April, and if feels great finally to have had a few weeks at home, and still have time to both relax and prepare for the next event.
Next week I?m off to Barcelona and the week after to Nice for sponsor events. I?ll also visit Iceland during Reykjavik Open, without playing myself, to finally see some of the attractions I missed out on in 2004 and 2006, and to see how some of my friends and my father are doing first hand?
In Barcelona I'll play several Blitz chess games (with 1 against 5 minutes) against pre-qualified opponents for my main sponsor Nordic Semiconductor on Tuesday 3rd at 3pm at the Norwegian Pavilion (Hall 6 - stand 6H20) during the gigantic Mobile World Congress 2015.
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo February 28th, 2015
Baden-Baden Grenke Chess Classic 2015
I played some Bundesliga games for the strongest German team Baden-Baden many years ago. It is great to be back in Baden-Baden for the arguably strongest tournament in Germany ever. The famous spa-town does have a long and important chess history with major events stretching back to the 19th century, as well as the first two editions of this event in 2013 and 2014.
I couldn?t have asked for a better way to spend the few days between Tata Steel Chess and this event. Lots of sports every day and a great cross-country skiing trip last Saturday.
We are staying at the very good and grandiose Brenner?s Park-Hotel & Spa close to the playing venue, and during the five minutes walk to the venue for round 1 yesterday we had some real Norwegian weather with snow and hail. This must be my tournament!
We are playing 7 rounds with a restday Thursday, and my competitors are Caruana, Anand, Aronian, Adams, Bacrot, Naiditsch and Baramidze. The two local players qualified by winning the all-German edition last year. Except for Baramidze we have all played for Baden-Baden in the past or are playing for Baden-Baden now. Some of the players as well as my coach Peter Heine Nielsen came straight from Bundesliga Sunday evening.
As in Wijk they turned the rating list upside down, and when it was my turn during drawing of lots Sunday night, no 6 was left resulting in 4 black games overall and 3 in the first 4 rounds.
The round 1 game against Aronian yesterday was quite interesting. After some maneuvering I got a bit too optimistic. Allowing gxf5 was an oversight, and I needed to find some accurate moves to equalize in time trouble from a cramped position. His advanced f-pawn turned out to be a weakness and I managed to but pressure on him in the 5th and 6th hour of play. He defended well and the long game ended in a draw, as did all the other games.
Today I played white against the strongest UK player Michael Adams. He helped me during the World Championship match and knows me well. It was quite a challenge to find an interesting and promising opening. It was probably fairly balanced out of the opening, but at least my strong pawn center provided the potential dynamics to allow a lot of maneuvering. I felt I had found a good plan with a4 followed with b4 and a5 to force his bishop to a7. Surprisingly it was probably not enough to break through. Maybe he could have defended more successfully by simply standing still but completely passive defense is never easy. He gave up his b-pawn to keep his pieces active. It turned out he didn?t have enough counterplay and I could slowly improve my position and trade off to a winning rook ending. All the other games ended draw despite lots of action, and I?m sole leader after two rounds.
Next I?m black against Naiditsch who beat me at the Olympiad in Tromsoe last year.
Magnus Carlsen, Baden-Baden February 3rd, 2015
Winning Tata Steel 2015!
It feels like ages since I had my 6-game winning streak. There are not many above-ten rounds elite tournaments outside FIDE, and even if I really like to come back to Wijk aan Zee year after year the last week is always long.
Some of my young competitors seemed to have retained enough energy for the last round, and I needed a draw to avoid a five-way tie for first.
The final round draw against Saric was my fourth in a row, and although I was unhappy with my own play (reminding me of the near-loss against Caruana in the last round of 2010), it was enough to win outright at +5. It brought me a slight rating gain for the first time since February 2014, and my fourth Tata Steel tournament victory.
It is also my first two wins in a row (2013 and 2015) in Wijk aan Zee as I didn?t participate last year.
Vachier-Lagrave, Giri, So and Liren all ended at +4. Suddenly there are some 15-20 players in the world that may all win top events on the right day.
I need to continue to make progress to stay ahead in the future. A formidable challenge!
My 7 out of 13 decided games was more or less representative of the stat?s for the Masters group. It is always good to see a high number of decisive games.
On the way to the traditional closing event I was treated with an unexpected and heartwarming ceremony at the market square in Wijk aan Zee with the mayor, the local choir and lots of people present. Thank you!
The organizer did a great job as usual making the players feel most welcome and I think the ?tour? ? playing two rounds in other cities - works well.
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, January 27th, 2015
Tata Steel Chess Tournament R10
In my last blog the tide had started to turn with the R4 victory against Loek van Wely. I consider myself an optimist but winning the next five rounds as well came as a pleasant surprise. I did play well in the important games against Aronian in R5 in Rotterdam and against Caruana the day after. I have mixed feelings about the next three games as I missed some tactical tricks. On the bright side my positional evaluations were in general satisfactory. And of course; Winning helps.
Maybe inspired by Norway Chess two rounds are played in other Dutch cities. With the traveling it results in potential long days for the players, but it is a great way to bring chess to the world.
Against V. Ivanchuk you never know what to expect. It turned out he just wanted to force a draw with white yesterday and the Ragozin line I played did not offer any real possibility of stopping him. The game in Den Haag finished in less than half an hour. I was happy to spend 30-40 minutes as a live-commentator instead. For those interested there?s an imbedded video at: https://chess24.com/en/read/news/carlsen-rampage-ends-with-a-brilliant-interview.
The ridiculously short game yesterday followed by a rest day today is a bit too much. It helped to play some bowling yesterday evening and a long session of basketball this morning.
Currently I?m sole leader with 7.5/10 followed by Wesley So, US (former Phlipines) and Vachier-Lagrave, France at 6.5 and F.Caruana, Ding Liren from China, A.Giri from Holland and Ivanchuk, Ukraine at 6.
The below-25 players are dominating thus far. Whether it is the anticipated change of guard or the young composition of the field (without for instance Anand, Topalov, Kramnik and Grischuk) is hard to tell.
I look forward to play again Friday. I?m white against Vachier-Lagrave at 1:30 pm, and the tournament finishes Sunday.
Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, January 22nd 2015
Tata Steel Chess 2015 is on!
Eleven years ago I scored my first Grandmaster norm in the C-group here in Wijk aan Zee. At the time it was by far my best performance to date.
After two subsequent years in the B-group, I played the A-group seven years in a row 2007-13, winning three of them. It was with mixed feelings I watched the tournament last year from afar and I?m really happy to be back this year.
The Tata Steel Chess tournament (formerly Corus and before that Hoogovens) stands out due to the combination of strength, long tradition (77th edition!), the unique 14 players all-play-all format, and the combination of elite events with plenty of amateur tournaments in parallel.
With 13 rounds a slow start is not necessarily critical, but 1/3 after two draws against Giri and So and a loss against Anand-second Radoslaw Wojtaczek was just dismal.
Over the years the Dutch organizers hase been forthcoming in many ways, and on a number of occasions also the Dutch participants have contributed significantly to my results?
Yesterday as black against Look van Wely I was worse out of the opening. He played solidly and my attempt at creativity once again turned out less of a success than I had hoped for.
Fortunately he spent a lot of time in the critical early middle game and with several good knight-options available went for Qb3 instead having missed my response Qe6. After trading queens the position was about equal but with a lot of play for both sides. Short on time he made some accuracies and I managed to play fairly precisely to win just after the time control.
Ivanchuk is sole leader with 3.5/4 followed by Caruana and Ding Liren with 3/4. I?m in the middle of the pack with 2/4.
I?m here with my coach P.H.Nielsen as well as my father Henrik, and for a few days now a couple of friends from back home as well.
As usual we played football with some of the other chess players on the rest day today.
Last year the organizer introduced new playing sites for some rounds and this year round 5 will take place in Rotterdam and later we will go to Den Haag for round 10.
With 9 rounds to go I look forward to the continuation, and tomorrow I?m white against four-time winner of this event Levon Aronian!
Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, January 14th, 2015
Looking back at 2014
2014 has been a very good year for me as a chess player. Probably my best to date although while the results have been fully satisfactory for me, my level of play has varied too much. I?ll be striving to improve my game in 2015.
What about memorable moments? It depends on what matters most.
It is hard to compare winning the top titles (classical, rapid and blitz) in chess, or winning a close to perfect game, or the sensation of exceeding your own expectation or reaching a challenging target.
In the spur of the moment any one of those experiences are truly exhilarating, even compared to winning my first Norwegian (U11) championship back in year 2000 which in a way has been a yard stick for me personally.
Longer term; titles, world ranking and maybe also Chess Oscars are permanent achievements I will treasure now and later in life.
2014 has been remarkable in that most top level events have been covered live on main TV and through extensive internet coverage. I was thrilled to learn that more than half the Norwegian population tuned in to the Carlsen-Anand World Championship match live TV coverage from Sochi in November.
The cooperation with Nordic Semiconductor as a main sponsor started back in 2013, and I hope the cooperation with be as stimulating in 2015 as it has been in 2014. I wish all of you and all those reading this blog a Happy New Year!
Last but not least, let me thank all of you; sponsors, management, trainers, seconds and family and others, that have helped in the past or are helping me day to day or occasionally, one way or another, contributing to success!
Magnus Carlsen, December 31st, 2014
Sochi World Championship Victory!
Yesterday was a highly emotional day. Surprisingly I remained relatively calm during most of the game even when Anand got some initiative through his well-timed b5-break. But when he sacrificed the exchange on b4, and I subsequently moved my king to the centre (e4), played Nh5 and saw Rd7 that should be winning for me, I was overcome by anxiety. The release of emotions suppressed for weeks was overwhelming.
With some time on the clock I managed to calm down and finish the game efficiently to clinch the World Championship title with 6.5 – 4.5 !
With the next match coming up in two years, the time has come to reveal all my seconds and helpers for this match.
Thinking back one year; In addition to several of the above seconds, Pavel Eljanov contributed significantly before and during the Chennai match.
Magnus Carlsen, Sochi, November 24th, 2014
Halfway lead in Sochi match!
The opponent W. Anand is the same as in Chennai. The match format, regulations and FIDE rules are the same as in Chennai. But each match has a life of it’s own, as has been demonstrated in the first six rounds of the Sochi match.
This time the players offered energetic fights and exhilarating excitement from day1.
Magnus felt slightly uncomfortable in the early middle game against the innocent-looking Bd2 variation in the Grunfeld. The white bishop on h3 paralyzed black, and Magnus had to find several precise defensive moves. Anand let him slip and the slightly better ending for black was nothing but harmless. Magnus achieved a significant edge, but instead of the probably winning Re3 he went for Re2. He had missed Anand’s only defence (Qh1), leaving both players fairly satisfied with the outcome of the first game.
Game 2 was a treat for the spectators. After achieving a fairly equal but playable position Magnus launched a formidable kingside attack. Anand’s defensive moves where not always the best, and in due time Magnus could convert the attack into dominance of the open e-file supported by the white f5-pawn. Anand blundered in a difficult position and Magnus got an early match lead.
Anand hit back immediately and impressively after being close to winning out of the opening in game 3.
In the next two games, white was pressing. Magnus drifted a bit in game 4 and Anand escaped by finding some only-moves in the queen ending.
Magnus was in trouble in game 5 but surprisingly Anand decided to force a draw instead of trying to push to benefit from the destroyed pawn structure of white.
Game 6 has already received a lot of publicity due to the mutual blunders. The rest of the game is worth a closer look. Magnus got the opportunity to demonstrate how to exploit the initiative with a nice rook lift to d3 and pressure in the g- and h-files. As warranted by the general game development (outside the blunders), Magnus won his second white game in the match to catch the lead 3.5 - 2.5 at the halfway mark!
Calling the hotel, the food and the playing venue in Chennai high class is an understatement. The Radisson Blu Paradise hotel we are staying at in Sochi is also very good. In addition to the usual amenities, the spa and the outdoor sports facilities are splendid. Coupled with close to 20oC in the sun at noon, Magnus and his team are enjoying the days in Sochi!
The match is covered extensively in Norwegian media, including live coverage in main channel NRK1 and VGTV, and the coverage is also impressive in many other countries.
Towards the end of the match we expect more journalists and visitors from Magnus’s main sponsors.
Hopefully the basketball session today is a good preparation for the important game 7 tomorrow. Colors are reversed halfway in the match, so that Magnus has the white pieces once again in game 7.
For Team Carlsen; H.Carlsen, Sochi, November 16th, 2014
World Championship match 2014
When I visited the winter Olympics in February this year, the idea of coming back later this year for the World Championship match did not cross my mind, and certainly not when (non-Russian) Anand won the Candidates. In retrospect maybe it is not such a surprise that Sochi was chosen as the venue in the end considering how the Russians consistently host international events in Sochi. Last month they staged a Formula 1 race, and towards the end of November chess will coincide with the World Robot Olympiad.
It’s now two months since I signed the contract to play in Sochi at the backend of the Sinquefield Cup 2014.
Preparations for the match have progressed as planned. My team and I particularly enjoyed a week of chess, hiking, skiing and team building in the Alps in the middle of October.
I arrived in Sochi Tuesday night together with manager Espen, trainer Peter Heine and my father. The chef Magnus was already in place and the doc’ Brede arrived yesterday to complete the core team.
We are staying at the seaside Radisson Blu Paradise hotel in Adler. The climate is nice and we enjoyed a good game of basketball in the sun both yesterday and today.
The playing venue is scheduled to be ready tonight for the final inspection. The opening ceremony is Friday November 7th (as last year!) and Game 1 Carlsen-Anand 2014 finally starts on Saturday at 3 pm.
Magnus Carlsen, Sochi, November 6th, 2014
Sinquefield Cup 2014 Half way
In the first half we saw 10 decisive games out of the 15 exciting games, and Caruana cruising through the field with a highly impressive 5/5.
In round one as black against Vachier-Lagrave I accepted his invitation to play a sharp line. Unfortunately he seemed better prepared, but I managed to find the right continuation. The ensuing battle was tense and sharp all through the game. He found a perpetual at the end. If felt great to play in St.Louis once again!
I was black again against Nakamura in round two, where I went for an unusual sideline. My opponent chose the safe rather than risky continuation both in the opening and in the middle game. I allowed the awkward looking pawn structure in the centre with my pawns on d4 and d6, with just enough time to create a king side attack before he could round up my d4-pawn. He wisely allowed a perpetual, and in lack of any better alternative for me, we drew well before the time control. Caruana won against Vachier-Lagrave with a novelty in a sharp Caro-kann and Aronian’s bishops came alive to finish off Topalov after the latter won an exchange out of the opening.
With white against Caruana I made several mistakes in the opening, and by the time I understood I was worse I was already in trouble. When he allowed the interesting bishop sacrifice on f7 I felt the game could go either way. Despite the ensuing complications, he played the rest of the game very accurately. Having missed his great Nd3 resource I ended up a pawn down without much hope of salvation, when I even blundered horribly just before the time control losing immediately.
In round 4 with white against Topalov I had a strong initiative in the middle game with ample compensation for the sacrificed pawn. My e4-plan was dubious as he could sacrifice back a pawn to reach an equal ending. I seemingly tried very hard to lose the game, over-pressing well beyond being in control. If he had seen Rc5 I would have had to find some really accurate defensive moves to save the draw. He didn’t, and we swapped all pieces and drew with kings and one knight left each.
Despite playing below par in round 3 and 4, it didn’t feel as if I was doing as bad overall as the meager 1.5/4 would indicate, and it felt great to win with black in round 5 against Aronian. A fairly decent game by me, but winning with black usually requires some assistance from your opponent as well. A pawn down he seemed to be defending. His Nb3 was a mistake, and maybe the 5 against 4 pawn-ending can be held for white but it is pretty difficult. Instead of pushing g6 he could have chosen the 3 versus 2 pawn ending where I would have had a passed pawn in the e-file. That might also be a theoretical draw, but in practice it is very difficult to defend. Finally I got my first victory in this event, and Topalov and I are an ocean of points (2.5) behind Caruana with 5 rounds to go.
On the rest day today we played golf at the excellent 1904 Olympic course at Glen Echo, and later there was The Burning Boards event at the World Chess Hall of Fame in the evening. Tuesday at 2 pm local time I’m white against Vachier-Lagrave.
Magnus Carlsen, St.Louis, September 1st, 2014
Sinquefield Cup 2014 in St. Louis
It was not only about chess. I’ve looked forward to coming back to St. Louis and the Sinquefield Cup for some time, having had lots of good experiences during the visit last year. The people, excursions, sport activities, restaurants, the nearby park and even some sightseeing are fond memories. And, it was no drawback that I won and gained confidence prior to the Chennai match.
The hospitable Sinquefields hosted a nice dinner yesterday, and today we had signing and photo sessions, did interviews, and of course the opening ceremony with the drawing of lots.
For once I’ll start with two black games against M. Vachier-Lagrave and H.Nakamura. The rest of the historically high-rating-field averaging above 2800 consists of L.Aronian, F.Caruana, V.Topalov and me.
The chess Olympics in Tromso wasn’t a great success for the Norwegian top team as lost a critical match against Croatia in the penultimate round. Until then we had had many good results merged with the occasional disappointing result. In the last round my teammates won 4-0 as expected, and it was enough for 29th place. In the past, being the best Scandinavian country was an ambitious goal. This time this achievement did not feel as much of a consolation.
I’d like to congratulate the Open group winners China, and the silver and bronze medalists from Hungary and India with their impressive results. Especially when considering that none of them were rated top three in advance and both China and India played without several of their highest rated players.
Hopefully the Olympics and the broad Norwegian media coverage contributed to an (even) broader national chess interest.
The Sinquefield Cup will be covered live on TV2 starting tomorrow at 2 pm local time in St.Louis (9 pm back home).
Magnus Carlsen, St.Louis, August 26th, 2014
Tromsoe Chess Olympiad 2014 Round 9
I started with a decent win against Caruana after the rest day. Since then my play has been unusually erratic.
Spoiling a much better position against Najditsch and even losing in the end was pretty tough, especially as we lost the match against Germany 2.5-1.5.
I wasn’t happy with my play yesterday against Borki Predojevic either, but it was enough to win.
Today we faced Turkey and in the NRK live studio after the game one of the reporters questioned my inspiration. The problem today was rather too much inspiration. In a topical Slav set-up I went for a g4-g5 plan, while missing the strength of Solak’s counterplay a pawn down. Without a safe haven for my king I chose to castle long. He maintained a strong initiative but seemed to panic in time trouble, and after his a3-check I was calling the shots and managed to win the tricky ending. With two draws and a loss on the other boards we drew against Turkey and needs to win tomorrow against Croatia in the penultimate round.
Norway2 came close to another sensation today but lost 2.5-1.5 against Russia in the end.
I look forward to the rest day after tomorrow!
Magnus Carlsen, Tromsoe, August 11th, 2014
Tromsoe Chess Olympiad 2014 R5-6
The favourites start to float to the top in the Open section with Azerbaijan and Cuba at 11 match points ahead of Russia, China, Armenia ++ at 10.
After nice summer weather early in the Olympiad, we’ve had a few days of tropic rain hopefully making travellers from afar feel at home. Unfortunately, a heavy rainfall on the rest day yesterday coincided with our daily football session. Fortunately, I avoided catching a cold, and the football might even have helped me stay focused during the game today.
In my second black in a row against a 2800 player, Caruana this time, I was slightly worse out of the opening, without any real compensation for his bishop pair. The flip side was that the unusual Scandinavian variation brought us out of known territory and he spent much time in the early middle game.
At one point I had to calculate precisely to avoid real problems, but when he played e4 I was starting to get ambitious. I did not like his Nd6 plan. (Well I guess I liked facing it, but it wasn’t the best plan available for white.) Later he could have entered a drawish position by returning to e4 with his knight in time, but after c5 his position quickly deteriorated, and I followed in the footsteps of my compatriots Lie (18-move victory) and Hammer to secure a solid and strong Norwegian 3-1 victory against Italy to reach 9 match points.
This was just what we needed after the 2.5-1.5 loss to Armenia in round 5 (where Agdestein lost a difficult ending, and the rest of us drew.)
The Norwegian top female team outclassed the strong Venezuelan team 4-0, and things look quite promising for the home teams with 5 rounds to go.
Tomorrow we face Germany.
Magnus Carlsen, Tromsoe, August 8th, 2014
Tromsoe Chess Olympiad 2014 R2-4
In round 2 on Sunday our team drew all the games against Finland despite a clear rating advantage on every board. After finally having equalized with black against Nyback in the late middle game I blundered with a6, and was fortunate not to get into real trouble.
Our 2nd team in the Open group made the headlines holding the strong Ukrainian team to 2-2 with the reigning Norwegian champion Frode Urkedal beating Ivanchuk on board one!
After a less than optimum start, the Norwegian team has turned the trend with two strong victories in round 3 against Montenegro and today against (15th ranked) Polen.
With the white pieces I’ve won both my games. Yesterday Hammer won as well and today both Hammer and Agdestein had good winning chances as some point.
In my game against Anand-second Wojtaszek I chose an unusual opening to get a complex position and a game outside theory from early on. As I was hoping I managed to outplay him in the middle game and won quite comfortably.
Tomorrow I expect much more difficult opposition as we’ll face Armenia (with World no 2 Levon Aronian on board one). Rating-wise they are only a slight favourite, but their Olympiad merits are simply astonishing having won 3 of the last 4 Olympiads!
The team spirit and general mood in the Norwegian team is excellent. We are playing football nearly every night and the location and quality of the (Rica Ishavs-) hotel is good.
From the impressive opening ceremony onwards, it is fair to say that the organizers have done a good job so far, and I look forward to the continuation!
Magnus Carlsen, Tromsoe, August 5th, 2014
Tromsoe Chess Olympiad 2014
The Rapid and Blitz World Championships in Dubai in June had high priority for me this year. I hoped the Dubai Chess & Culture centre would continue to be a successful venue for me 10 years after scoring my final GM norm down there.
A month later it has resided into the background, but at the time winning the Rapid and Blitz titles resembled the feelings after round 10 in the World Championship match against V.Anand in November last year! The tense, sometimes nerve-wracking swings within games and in the standings during the tournaments made it exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. I look forward to similar events in the future.
With the titles in my belt, it is good to have a variety of challenges ahead. Having dropped the 2012 Chess Olympiad, I’ve looked forward to playing on home soil in the Tromsoe Olympiad together with the great bunch of GM’s (Agdestein, Hammer, Johannessen and Lie) on the Norwegian team.
And, I’ve already achieved one of my ambitions during the Olympiad having trekked the Tromsdalstind (1238 meter above sea level) with my parents earlier today.
In my absence the Norwegian 1st team won 2.5 – 1.5 against Yemen in Round 1, and we will gradually meet stronger opponents in the days ahead. Finland is next.
Magnus Carlsen, Tromsoe, August 2nd, 2014
Dubai next after Norway Chess
I arrived in Dubai late last night with my main coach Peter Heine Nielsen for the Rapid and Blitz World Championship 2014. Dubai brings back fond memories as I secured my third and decisive Grandmaster norm here 10 years ago. The venue is the same; The rook-shaped Dubai Chess & Culture Club.
Norway Chess in Stavanger finished Friday and Karjakin won as last year at 6/9. I came second half a point behind, with Grischuk in clear third at 5 points. Karjakin’s 3 out of 3 finish was as impressive as his start last year, winning from equal middle and endgame positions.
A week ago I would have said that a missed win would never be as painful as an outright loss, but my penultimate game against Svidler came close. He botched up the opening and with the black pieces I had perfect coordination and could win material in many ways. Instead I went for an illusionary mate, having missed his Rg3 defense.
Winning round 9 against compatriot Simen Agdestein did not help as leader Karjakin exploited mistakes by Caruana just before the time control.
The organizers headed by Kjell Madland and his board and large group of volunteers, and the sponsors deserves unconditional praise for staging a great event and for being helpful in every way. Thank you!
I’m reasonably happy with the +2 score. I was doing fine from the opening in most games, but my middle and endgame play was too uneven this time to be really satisfied. Fortunately the initial Blitz went fine and I look forward to the Rapid and Blitz starting Monday.
Magnus Carlsen, Dubai, June 15th 2014
Shared lead in Norway Chess 2014
The way I spent May, with two busy weeks with events in Norway, Nederlands and New York followed by two relatively quiet weeks at home, felt like a reasonable preparation for the Norway Chess 2014. And I did feel great both during the initial blitz tournament that I won with a somewhat flattering 7.5/9 out at the magnificent Flo & Fjaere island and in the first few main rounds. After the first rest day I have not been in my best shape although I don’t really know why. My play has been somewhat questionable while the results are just fine fortunately.
In round 4 against Topalov I snatched a pawn on a2 but underestimated his counterplay. He had more than adequate compensation for the pawn. It was not obvious how he should continue, and running low on time he chose to force a repetition of moves. The alternative for me of giving up an exchange to play on would leave me fighting for a draw and nothing more.
Against Aronian I was outplayed in the middle game despite the white pieces, but the position was complicated, and in time trouble he went astray. He thought the ending after exchanging queens would be better for him, but it was white that could play for two results. I found a reasonable plan and managed to gradually improve my position. With a few inaccuracies from my opponent I managed to bring home the full point on a long and difficult day.
Today’s draw with black against Karjakin finished quickly and was uneventful. That was somewhat of a pity as I really like the playing facilities out at the Aarbakke factory!
Thanks to losses by the leaders in both round 5 (Caruana lost to Kramnik) and today when Kramnik lost to Topalov, I’m suddenly in shared lead with Caruana and Kramnik at +1, and all players are within 1 point before the last three rounds.
After the short game today there was time for some football with friends in the nice summer evening. I look forward to playing white against world no 3 Alexander Grischuk Tuesday at 3:30 pm back at Scandic at Forus.
Magnus Carlsen, Stavanger, June 9th 2014
No Logo Norway Chess 2014
Despite the strong tournament last year, the organizers headed by Kjell Madland have managed to put together an even stronger field this year in a top notch event. I’m up against most of the world elite - Aronian, Grischuk, Caruana, Kramnik, Topalov, Karjakin, Svidler, Giri and Simen Agdestein who qualified by beating Jon L. Hammer in a rapid match late April.
On the rest day today we all visited a school team competition held at Science factory (Vitenfabrikken) in Sandnes. 29 local schools participated - not bad at all!
The favorite attraction among the top players was a two-player mindgame measuring brain waves with a headband. Aiming at total relaxation, the lower activity will drive the ball into the court of your opponent. Most of the grandmasters did well. I’m not sure if we’re just a lazy bunch or good at controlling brain activity
In the first edition of Norway Chess in 2013 I started with four draws. This time I’ve started with three draws. The first two games were pretty decent. My opponents Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik defended well. Yesterday I got a promising position from the opening against early leader Caruana, but blew it all in a few moves having missed his a5 resource. Fortunately I managed to draw a difficult endgame a piece down.
Caruana is playing well and is sole leader with 2.5 points ahead of Grischuk and Kramnik at 2 points. The main revelation so far has been my former trainer Simen Agdestein who has three draws but managed to put a lot of pressure on both Aronian and Karjakin with the black pieces!
The media coverage is quite amazing, and after each game we visit two live studios and make several TV interviews onsite at the Forus venue before heading back to the hotel in Stavanger.
Tomorrow at 3:30 pm local time I’m playing black against former World Champion Veselin Topalov in round 4.
Magnus Carlsen, Stavanger, June 6th 2014
Shamkir Chess 2014 – great event!
With a busy schedule this week and next, I’ve enjoyed a few days off after returning from Shamkir last Thursday.
After the up’s and down’s in both quality of play and results, the last round victory made all the difference. Outright victory with 6.5/10 after sharing the lead (with Fabiano Caruana) before the last round, was just what I needed: Finishing on an upbeat note with a decent result overall.
Looking back at ‘Shamkir Chess 2014 – in memory of Vugar Gashimov’, there are several reasons to be uplifted. The tournament was flawlessly organized at the highest level in an amicable atmosphere. Many of the strongest players in the world under age 30 participated and in addition there was a very strong B-group. The event took place in the homeland of Vugar, and the uncompromising fighting chess in his style seen throughout the event was a worthy way of honoring him.
During the tournament I was frustrated with making too many blunders. In retrospect my overall level of play was probably okay. Five wins, and some very good games compensate significantly for the weaker days, and in my two losses my opponents Caruana and Radjabov after all played more or less flawlessly. Apart from Mamedyarov, who seemed to lack the level of energy needed for his uncompromising style as displayed more successfully in the Candidates, most players are probably reasonably happy with their result. Importantly for Azerbaijan, Radjabov seems to have done a lot of good work recently and has definitely reversed the downward trend and rating loss experienced in 2013.
In addition to thanking the organizer Synergy Group, all the individuals involved one way or another, and the family of Vugar, I’m grateful to my coach Peter Heine as well as my father Henrik and the ‘security’ man Bjorn for their support. I hope the Shamkir Chess tournament will become a tradition.
Tuesday 6th there is a media day, followed by an event in Trondheim for Nordic Semiconductor on Wednesday and an internet match against ‘Norway’ on Thursday 8th, organized by VG. Later on the 8th I’m playing a simul at a Simonsen Vogt Wiig event.
My next tournament is Norway Chess in Stavanger early June!
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, May 5th
Shamkir 2014 R7
Except for the draw against Karjakin in round 3, all my games have been decisive. This is not what I expected prior to the tournament. It’s partly a result of ambitious play combined with higher than usual variation in the quality of my play, but it is mostly coincidental.
The round 4 and 5 losses against Caruana and Radjabov were of course frustrating. Against Caruana I was clearly worse after inaccurate play in the Berlin. I went on to blunder the c7-pawn without any compensation. Against Radjabov I seriously misjudged the middle game position and level of compensation for the sacrificed exchange. It is fair to say that both my opponents played very accurately in these games and converted the advantage flawlessly.
The rest day with the exciting football cup was just what I needed. Our team of international players, with help from two Azeri players in the final, won on penalty shoot out. I’m feeling more energetic, and although my play isn’t perfect, the results have been terrific after the rest day. Two wins in row with black are of course more than I could expect.
Yesterday Mamedyarov sacrificed a pawn in the opening for compensation. It was an interesting position and not clear who was better. At one point he could have sacrificed his bishop on h6 and forced a draw. His decisive mistake was probably 22.f5. He mistakenly thought he had Rd1 at the end of the variation, and his position just collapsed very quickly.
As in Zurich in February Nakamura tried the f3 Nimzo-Indian variation against me. I thought I was fine in the opening. Soon I discovered that 10… Bd7 was a mistake, as I had to play it back to c8 later to free d7 for my knight. My position seemed precarious, although it is not obvious that he had any forced winning or even significantly better continuations. Having spent 25 minutes on 26.Nxd3 Nakamura was short on time well before the first time control. The pawn-up ending was maybe slightly better for him, but the way he played in time trouble I got everything I wanted, and with the passed pawn on b2 it was a matter of technique in the end. The knight walk from e5 to d1 resulted in a winning exchange-up endgame. 0-1, and once again I’m the sole leader at +2 with Radjabov half a point behind.
I’m happy to see that Shamkir Chess 2014 is shown live on Norwegian television, and TV2 even has a crew onsite for the 2nd half of the tournament!
Having had black in four of the last five games, I have white against Karjakin Monday followed by black against Radjabov and finally white againt Caruana in the last round.
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 27th, 2014
Shamkir 2014 R2 and R3
I did not manage to play as accurately as in round 1, but still I’m fairly happy with my level of play both yesterday and today.
Against Nakamura yesterday I got a small but comfortable positional edge out of the opening, and close to the first time control Nakamura made a few inaccuracies. My two extra pawns should be more than adequate, but he kept putting up strong resistance, and I really had to focus in the 5th and 6th hour of play to win in the end. A great start!
The hotel spa in the cellar turned out to be very good. It helped me relax after the round.
Today Nakamura won quite convincingly as white against Mamedyarov. By this time, I had already enjoyed a comfortable edge as black against Karjakin for some time. He went for the f3 Nimzowitch variation, and I managed to sidestep his preparations with an early Nh5. He burned lots of time on the clock. Soon I was even slightly better and the advantage seemed to grow. I may have played inaccurately before the first time control, but anyhow the prospects looked good. He defended very well in the time trouble, and afterwards I probably went wrong with Kf7. Nf4 first would have been a better try. Having put pressure on him for more than 4 hours I’m a little disappointed with the draw. Overall 2.5 out of 3 is a great start, and I’ve got a full point lead over Karjakin, Nakamura and Caruana, whom I’ll face Wednesday.
We saw lots of fighting chess and decisive games in the B-group both days, and I hope the spectators at the venue and elsewhere are happy thus far!
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 22nd, 2014
Shamkir 2014 starting well!
During the press conference after round 1 I was asked about a perceived tendency to start slow and spend some rounds to get going. There might have been a few tournaments in a row where this happened a few years back, but that was more the equivalent of tossing several coin-flips in a row showing “heads up” than a relevant trend. Right now I’m quite satisfied having won the first round in several tournaments in a row. It helps of course to start with two white games.
Shakryar Mamedyarov is currently ranked no 10 in the world and while we have played in the same tournaments many times from the 2003 World Youth onwards, we haven’t played against each other that often.
He is a highly gifted tactical player, and I tried to play positional chess without allowing messy tactics. Admittedly I was surprised in the opening. He does play 5… Nbd7 and the Cambridge Spring variation, but I was not really prepared for playing white in the line in which I was black against Gelfand in the Candidates last year. I deviated with 11.Be2 and in retrospect it turned out to be a good choice.
The critical point in the game was before his 21… Ng6. He had missed some kind of tactics and after 22.Qd3 I was clearly better with a pleasant positional advantage. With his bishop stuck on a5, a weak pawn on e6 and my control of g6 and the d-line it was a matter of technique. He tried to find a sacrifice leading to a perpetual just before the first time control, but I had enough time left to calculated the critical variation. 1-0.
I thought Caruana would join me in the lead as he had turned a worse position against Nakamura into a winning advantage. But low on time he missed the win and the game ended in a draw. Karjakin had the initiative as white against Radjabov in a topical line of the French Tarrach variation. Radjabov defended well and drew in the end.
The tournament 40-move rule - no draw except by repetition of moves before move 40 – works. Not surprisingly we saw hard fought games on all boards in both A and B groups today.
Tomorrow I’m white against Hikaru Nakamura!
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 20th, 2014
Shamkir Chess 2014 – in memory of Vugar Gashimov
The biggest chess news coming into April was clearly the convincing Candidates tournament victory by V. Anand, qualifying for the next World Championship match scheduled to take place in November. Carlsen-Anand II was not what I expected before the event, but Anand emerged as a clear winner going undefeated through the long event.
I’ve been abroad the whole month. The training camp in Muscat prior to the World Championship match last autumn was an entirely positive experience, and I decided to go back prior to the Shamkir Chess 2014 tournament.
The organizer has been very helpful also in this respect and this morning it was brought to the hotel in Shamkir. With the sports equipment in place, my trainer Peter Heine faced another tough challenge, two hours of basket ball in the sun in anticipation of the NBA playoffs starting tonight!
I’ve played in some memorial tournaments in the past, but this is of course something very special as Vugar was someone I knew personally and appreciated. He was not only pleasant and kind, but a highly creative and innovative elite chess player.
The well registered and touching opening ceremony today took place at the playing venue; the magnificent Heydar Aliyev Center in Shamkir.
Once again I managed to draw no 1 in the drawing of lots. The players I face in the A-group are F.Caruana from Italy, H. Nakamura, USA, S.Karjakin, Russia, and the two strong Azeri players S. Mamedyarov and T. Radjabov.
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 19th, 2014
With the app Play Magnus I hope to contribute to bring chess to the world. We had more than 100.000 downloads of the free Iphone app the first month and plan to expand to other platforms in the not too distant future.
I’ve commented on the ongoing Candidates tournament (the winner will challenge me in the next World Championship match) on my Youtube channel yesterday. With two rounds to go and a full point lead (plus favourable tie-break) it looks very good for Anand. The Candidates last year was my toughest chess challenge so far, and I’m quite happy to be a spectator this year. Only first place counts, and this explains the higher tension and slightly desperate approach seen by most players compared to other events. Only Anand, and Aronian in the first half, have been able to find the right balance.
Karjakin still has an outside chance if he can beat Anand in round 13 today.
Early March I played two rapid events and did two simuls in Caxias do Sul in the south of Brazil and was happy to see the interest and enthusiasm surrounding chess down there. Fortunately I managed to win both events.
The closed cup against local GM’s Leitao and Milos, and IM Vila from Uruguay took place in a glass cube.
I haven’t played internationally in an Open in quite some time. With several hundred participants it was quite different from the closed events I normally play. It reminds me of playing in the Olympiads. If you struggle it is easy to get annoyed by the noise and different playing conditions. When you are motivated and the results are good, you feel great about playing together with so many others. Fortunately the Open went very well for me. I was in some trouble in a couple of games, but beating my coach Peter Heine in a rook endgame in the last round secured 1st with 8.5/9. Overall it was a great experience!
The next stop was the French Riviera and two great events at a real estate conference with two of my main sponsors. (And a round of golf with manager Espen)
Next week I’m off to a training camp in Oman before playing Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir in Azerbaijan late April.
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, March 29th, 2014
Back from fascinating days in Sochi
I don’t remember much from the Lillehammer Winter Olympics 1994 despite watching the 30 kilometer skiing competition with Alsgaard and Dæhlie ringside. Lillehammer was the “state-of-the-art” Olympics according to most Norwegians; Compact games, 16 days of beautiful winter weather (and plenty of Norwegian medals).
Following the Nordic Skiing World Championship in Trondheim in 1997 is a fond memory, and I was so happy to be back ringside in Sochi this week as a member of ‘Prestasjonsklyngen’ associated with ‘Olympiatoppen’.
Watching the athletes compete up close is something very special, just as with football matches. The speed with which the skiers climb uphill is very impressive. Takes a lot of technique and amazing shape.
Taking the cable car twice in vain (postponed due to fog), I really appreciated the exciting men’s biathlon mass start won by Svendsen when it finally took place.
Fortunately the Norwegians have already won too many medals to name them all:) Congratulations!
In Zurich earlier this month the last day rapid games should be forgotten as quickly as possible, but it was enough to bring me overall victory.
I’d like to thank the organizers and main sponsor Oleg Skvortsov for a great event!
Next week (25th) I’m going to announce some good news for chess fans:)
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, February 22nd, 2014
Zurich Chess Challenge 2014 Classical part.
I’ve been in Zurich a few times before, mainly in connection with the Biel tournament and hiking trips to the Alps. During chess tournaments I’m generally too focused on chess to have the time or the energy to be a tourist, but obviously Zurich has an excellent location with the lake in the southeast and the magnificent view to the Alps.
Today my game finished early, and I’ve played some basketball with my coach Peter Heine Nielsen and had dinner with one of my main sponsors.
I’m very happy to finish the classical part of the tournament with a lead. This was one of my main objectives going into this first tournament as World Champion.
The game against Nakamura Saturday was a real cliffhanger. I made some mistakes early in the game and was strategically busted as his attack seemed unstoppable. Fortunately I hung in and tried to find counterplay. Close to the time control I had pinned my hope on the natural d6 advance that he actually chose. Winning a piece must have looked tempting, but it was all I needed to activate my rook and queen, and after another mistake by Nakamura I could even turn defeat into victory in the end!
The game against Caruana on Sunday was really enjoyable for me. Apart from the inaccurate Qe7 the game went very smoothly and I’m satisfied having played two (very) good games (against Gelfand and Caruana) out of five.
Tomorrow we are playing five rounds of rapid chess with opposite colours of the classical part, and I’ll start with black against Gelfand followed by black against Aronian.
I’ve got 8 points before the rapids, Aronian has 6 after losing to Caruana (5) today, but I’ll try to reset and mentally start from scratch as if the rapid was a separate event.
The time control is 15 minutes per player per game plus an increment of 10 seconds per move, and it’ll be my first rapid games for a long time.
Magnus Carlsen, Zurich, February 3rd, 2014
Zurich R2 against Aronian
Over the last few years Oleg Skvortsov, the Savoy Chess Corner and the Zurich Chess Club have put Zurich firmly back on the international chess map.
The 1953 Candidates Tournament in Zurich still has a prominent place in chess history, and as many others I’ve read the Bronstein book from the tournament.
This year the Savoy Festsaal is packed with spectators and people queuing up outside, and I’ve seldom seen more press people expect during the main championships.
Norwegian TV2 is covering the whole event live both on TV and internet back home!
As white against Aronian today, in what was obviously an important game for the outcome of the tournament, I did not get much from the opening.
It was difficult to develop my plans without creating significant weaknesses, but I was quite satisfied with Bg4 which seemed to surprise Aronian. Maybe I could have put more pressure on him, frankly I don’t know, and I couldn’t find any way to make real progress during the game. Draw against such a strong player is an okay result, and the tension in the tournament is definitely maintained.
Nakamura joined the leaders by outmanoeuvring Anand after an interesting piece sacrifice.
I’ll play black against Nakamura Saturday at 3 pm as usual.
Magnus Carlsen, Zurich, January 31st, 2014
Zurich Chess Challenge 2014
Irrespective of how much I enjoyed a long break from tournament chess after the World Championship match in Chennai, I’m simply delighted to be playing the unprecedented category 23 (average rating 2801) Zurich Chess Challenge.
The first round classical game against Gelfand today was exactly the kind of chess game I like to play. The queenless middle game fight offered positional and tactical nuances on every move. It is hard to say where Gelfand went wrong, but after 15.g4! his position was quite tricky. I allowed my pawn structure to be totally busted, but as long as I could keep on putting pressure on him on every move, my advantage quickly became quite significant. By the time he got into time trouble the position was probably already winning for me. He resigned just before the first time control.
Aronian outplayed Anand in the early middle game. After a possibly dubious piece sacrifice, Anand defended well for a long time, but Aronian managed to convert the game to victory and we share the lead after round one.
As yesterday I needed close to an hour to get warmed up. Today it meant spending 30 minutes procrastinating on how to meet 9…. Bf5.
In the blitz yesterday my situation was pretty desperate being a pawn down and low on time against Aronian in game 3, after having lost to Caruana and saved a draw against Gelfand. I woke up in time to save the draw against Aronian and beat Anand and Nakamura to clinch 1st on tie-break ahead of Aronian.
The tournament takes place in the “Festsaal” of Hotel Savoy le Baur Ville.
We have quite a schedule these seven days. From today until Monday we play the round robin classical part of the tournament, and any drawn game prior to move 40 will be followed by a rapid game with opposite colours.
Tuesday we play 5 rounds rapid chess each carrying half the weight of each classical game.
Friday I have white against co-leader Aronian who came straight from a convincing victory in Tata Steel Chess.
Magnus Carlsen, January 30th, 2014, Zurich
Year end thoughts 2013
Looking back at tournaments won (Tata Steel Chess, the Candidates and Sinquefield Cup), and the successful World Championship match, 2013 is without much doubt my best chess year ever.
But, I’m equally thrilled by the prospects ahead.
The continued motivation to improve and understand more chess makes me fortunate to be a professional chess player.
Taking a two months break after the match as planned unfortunately meant missing the great events London Chess Classics and Tata Steel Chess, but I look forward to play again in Zurich at the end of January and several more tournaments later in 2014.
Live coverage of the World Championship match in Norway brought the chess interest to a completely new level, and I also appreciate the great amount of national support.
The timing is excellent with the Norway Chess tournament again taking place in June and Tromsø hosting the Chess Olympiad in August!
For the first time since late 2008 I’ve taken part in the World Championship cycle this year. Frankly I enjoyed the match itself much more than I had expected and already look forward to the next match. The overwhelming media and public interest in the match strengthens the case for continuing the tradition. The system of champion privileges (waiting for the next challenger) is not perfect, but having a predictable qualification system has merits. The Candidate tournament in London was a great sporting event in many ways, and the next one in Khanty Mansiysk should be exciting as well.
For the time being, it could be argued that having the top rated player as the world champion adds credibility to the cycle.
Before the match we praised named and unnamed seconds, former trainers, current and former sponsors and others that have helped me get to where I am, and I was delighted to see many of you in Chennai during the match. To all of you, and to my family, my team in Chennai and manager Espen; Thank you very much!
I’m just back from a peaceful family vacation in Engerdal.
After returning to Norway late November, I’ve mostly relaxed at home and spent time with friends and family. I also celebrated my birthday November 30th taking a memorable ceremonial kick-off in Real Madrid – Valladolid at Santiago Bernabeu, spent one day in London for G-Star, visited my old highschool NTG together with the Prime Minister and the Minister of culture, and had some brief meetings with main sponsor representatives and award ceremonies with the media.
Early January I’ll travel to London and the US for sponsor events and as ambassador for America’s Foundation for Chess together with Espen and representatives of most of my main sponsors Nordic Semiconductor, Arctic Securities, Parallels, Simonsen Vogt Wiig and VG.
I wish all of you at Nordic Semiconductor and the readers of this blog a Happy New Year!
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, December 31st, 2013
Chennai World Championship Match 2013 Victory!
Magnus and (most of the) his team returned to Norway yesterday to a great reception. It is time to finally provide an account of the last games.
The change of direction of the match after the last rest day was appreciated by the spectators. In game 9 Anand came out blazing with 1.d4 and the 5.f3 Nimzo-Indian. The early g4 lead to a race, Magnus advancing on the queen side and Anand’s pawn storm on the king side. It looked dangerous for black and Magnus needed to find all the right moves to survive. After white played Rf4 threatening Rh4 and mate on h7, the position was still unclear despite the extra black queen. With less than 10 minutes left on 12 moves Anand suddenly miscalculated and after Nf1, (instead of Bf1) Qe1 clinched a full point for Magnus. Not many had significant expectations for the last game as a draw with white would finish the match for Magnus, and Anand seemed beyond realistic hope trailing 3-6. Some inaccuracies by both players, including what was probably a missed win or two by Magnus does not diminish the fact that they fought until just kings were left on the table! Consequently Magnus won the World Championship title with 6.5 points against 3.5 in the best-of-twelve match!
On the prize giving ceremony, Magnus was awarded an impressive trophy, a gold medal, a symbolic check and a garland, and Anand received a huge silver plate and his check.
In the VIP lounge right after the ceremony, eager photographers taking pictures of Magnus with the gold medal fought for the best places creating a commotion we have never experienced before except maybe earlier in this match! With some help from the organisers and local police Magnus and the team could move on to interviews and press sessions in the media centre upstairs.
Magnus felt the turning point of the match was game 3 and 4. Despite Magnus’s difficult position in game 3, the way that Anand seemed slightly uncomfortable and did not go for the critical lines contributed to a renewed confidence on Magnus’s part. From game 4 onwards he settled into his usual stride and just enjoyed the match.
It might be a disadvantage to play on your opponent’s home ground in chess as in other sports, but this effect was ameliorated by the way the organisers, headed by Mr. Sundar, and the hotel with all its great staff and our butler Syed, really did everything they could to make Magnus and the team comfortable. The playing conditions, the hotel rooms, the food, and service, the opportunity to play football and basketball on some of the rest days and the hospitality and kindness shown by Indians we met, all contributed to our wellbeing. Thank you, we are eternally grateful!
Once Anand lost in round 5, playing at home with all the expectations and broad support he received throughout the match might even have been a significant disadvantage in the end. After the match Magnus observed that playing on one of the players home ground adds another dimension to the match.
At the airport we were greeted with water canons and met by the Baerum mayor, journalists and enthusiasts.
Magnus are really grateful to his seconds, headed by Jon Ludvig Hammer, his team, and everyone who has supported him one way or another to help him reach and win the World Championship match against V.Anand. Thank you!!
For Team Carlsen, Henrik C., Haslum, November 28th, 2013
Chennai World Championship match 2013 Game 7 & 8
There is different ways of looking at the pro’s and con’s of having white in game one of the match as Magnus did here, but clearly one key aspect is having the black pieces two games in a row in the middle of the match. One implication pointed out by observers early in the match was that game 4 to 7 was a really challenging stretch for Magnus (with three black and one white game).
In game 7 Anand seemed to be in damage control mode, despite the white pieces. He continued with 1.e4 and the Ruy Lopez. Magnus again responded with the Berlin defence.
When both castled long the position looked balanced, although Anand was maybe slightly better due to the pawn structure. In the end Magnus was tied up guarding his c6 and f-pawns. Apparently there was not any way to make progress for white, and they repeated moves. Consequently the game 4 to 7 phase of the match ended 3-1 to Magnus!
In game 8 Magnus played 1.e4 himself for the first time in the match, and Anand seemed quite surprised. Anand went for the Berlin and they played the very old 5.Re1 variation. In my understanding this was not considered very ambitious in modern time until Magnus got a decisive advantage against Anand in this variation in Nanjing 2010. (Anand defended well and saved a draw in that game.) Magnus had a slightly better position. In the press conference he said that he was not in the mood to think hard and pursue the tiny edge, and simplified to a dead draw ending. As the day before, the game was not particularly exciting for the spectators.
More importantly the match situation is interesting, and trailing by 2 points with 4 games to go we must expect Anand to come out fighting in game 9 tomorrow.
The interest in the match is still beyond every expectation back in Norway, and the timing of starting the Norway Chess tradition in the Stavanger region this year and bringing the Chess Olympiad to Tromsoe in 2014 could not have been better!
For Team Carlsen, Henrik C., Chennai, November 20th, 2013
Chennai WC 2013 Game 3 & 4
Game 3 and 4 in the World Championship match in Chennai had everything except a decisive result.
Magnus played the white pieces Tuesday. He did not get much of an advantage out of the opening, if any. A few inaccurate moves was expertly exploited by Anand, and black was better in the middle game. Rather than wait for the black pawn majority advance Magnus in typical style sacrificed a pawn with e3! to create counterplay. Not the preferred choice of the computers, but clearly a good practical decision.
As expected Anand, also short on time, avoided the sharpest lines. After the time control Magnus was even slightly better in the queen and opposite bishop endgame due to black having the weaker king and isolated e6 pawn. Anand easily managed to trade off the g and h pawns and a draw was agreed on move 51.
In game 4 Anand repeated 1.e4 and Magnus responded e5 this time. In the ensuing Berlin wall of the Ruy Lopez, Magnus went for the Be7-line. This time Anand made a few inaccuracies and when Magnus was allowed to take on a2, black was already better anyhow. Anand had some counterplay and the spectators could enjoy a long intense fight. Magnus expertly tried to untangle to benefit from the extra pawn, but Anand kept finding the necessary resources, and just before the time control Magnus let most of the advantage slip. Assisted by computers commentators and spectators might have thought the problems was over, but Magnus continued to but pressure on Anand, and the latter just made the second time control avoiding all the pitfalls of the position. The two against one rook ending was quickly drawn after six hours play.
Both players seemed to have enjoyed the fight and amicably exchanged variations both in the playing hall and in the press conference.
I’d like to put the challenge Magnus is facing into historical perspective. The last time a challenger won the Candidates qualification step and continued to win (or lead) his first World Championship match in 12 games, was in Fischer-Spassky in 1972. Fischer won the 24 games match and had a clear lead after 12 games. Even Kasparov needed 72 World Championship games to secure his first title.
On the first rest day the Carlsen team enjoyed a two hours session of indoor football and basketball courtesy of the organizer and a local school. Today the team has retreated to Fisherman’s Cove and we all look forward to game 5 on Friday!
For Team Carlsen, Henrik C., Chennai, November 14th, 2013
Chennai WC match 2013
Magnus Carlsen arrived in Chennai last Monday for the World Championship match against reigning champion Viswanathan Anand. Going on the inspection trip in August definitely was a good idea, the arrival experience and general impressions were as expected for Magnus and his team. The sisters and mother of Magnus on the other hand, felt quite stunned by all the new and intense impressions.
After two days at a resort south of Chennai, Magnus arrived at the playing venue Hyatt Regency on the 6thof November. The 7th was quite busy with technical meeting, players meeting, press conference, a well-orchestrated and impressive opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, and finally the welcome banquet at the hotel. It is fair to say that so far Indians have been hospitable and the organizers and hotel staff have made every effort to make Team Carlsen feel comfortable in Chennai.
Our impression is that the press interest and coverage have been huge in general. This is certainly the case in India and in Norway. Combined with the long preparatory stage leading up to the match, not surprisingly both players were eager to get started on the 9th.
Going back in history, the first game in their first World Championship match has been difficult for the challenger on several occasions. To mention two players; Petrosian in 1963 and Fischer in 1972, both lost the first game and went on to win the title.Magnus was caught out in his preparation in game one, and as he pointed out at the press conference, he reluctantly had to pull the emergency brake. Anand was maybe slightly better already, but he decided to force a repetition of moves. Magnus could not deviate without being worse or lost, and the game was drawn after 16 moves and 90 minutes only.Amazingly game two finished even faster, although 25 moves were played.
Magnus managed to surprise Anand with the Caro-Kann (1…. c6). Anand deviated from his game against Ding Liren earlier this year, and played 15.Ne4. Magnus exchanged knights followed by Queen to d5. This was another critical junction, at which Anand decided to trade queens instead of the sharper continuation Queen to g4, and forced a draw a few moves later with Rh3-g3-f3-g3-f3.Not surprisingly Anand looked less confident today, while Magnus was quite satisfied with the game.
Monday is a rest day. On the 12th at 3pm local time, Magnus has white in game 3.
For Team Carlsen, Henrik C., Chennai, November 10th, 2013
The road to Chennai 2013 – Success at the top
Towards the end of 2008 we discussed a cooperation with Garry Kasparov, and Espen Agdestein, who had already helped us secure the sponsor FAST the year before, agreed to work as a sponsor agent to help finance the cooperation. Espen has been the manager of Magnus from 2011.
Financial firm Arctic Securities and Simonsen Vogt Wiig lawyers have now been main sponsors of Magnus for four years already. They share with Magnus the emphasis on focused dedication, attention to details and uncompromised quality.
Espen and Magnus have continued to make sure that new sponsors represent high standards, and later Norway’s main newspaper VG, software company Parallels and recently high tech company Nordic Semiconductor have joined as main sponsors.For Magnus interactions with his main sponsors have provided valuable experience and perspectives balancing life as a professional chess player.
Magnus appreciated the 13 months cooperation with Kasparov, “the one who invented a lot of the modern concepts of chess”. He came close to winning both in Linares and Sofia 2009, and suddenly everything worked out perfectly in Nanjing 2009 resulting in clear first with 8/10 and an above 3000 rating performance. Later that autumn he won the Blitz World Championship with nearly 75% score, and the London Chess Classics.In general, Magnus has preferred to prepare on his own during tournaments. He has worked with other strong GM’s on many occasions, and Ian Nepomniachtchi was also his second during the successful London Chess Classics 2012.After the Kasparov cooperation in practice ended early 2010, Magnus scored 7.5/10 in Bazna in June despite less focus on preparation. Maybe the games lost during the 2010 Olympiad and subsequent Bilbao Masters served as a wake-up call. For the last three years his tournament rating performances have all been well above 2800 bringing his rating to an all-time-high of 2872 in February 2013, and securing yearly Chess Oscars from 2009 onwards. Among his tournament victories are Tata Steel Chess (former Corus) and London Chess Classics three times, and Bilbao, Nanjing, Bazna and Biel two times.
Over the years he has played a few matches. In rapid chess I remember vividly the 5-3 victory against Peter Leko in 2008. Magnus was under pressure in several games, and in one of them he had to find about 20 only-moves with 10 seconds increments to draw.In classical chess he participated three times in the World Cup in his youth with shared 3rd in 2007 as his last and best result. In the Candidates earlier that year in Elista in Kalmykia, at 16, he lost a tense and even match against Levon Aronian after equalising three times in the classical stage (3-3) and rapid phase (2-2), before succumbing in the final blitz games. Due to changes to the rules in mid-cycle, Magnus withdrew from the Grand Prix in November 2008, and he did not participate in World Championship qualifications until 2013.
In March this year he qualified for the match against V. Anand starting November 9th in Chennai, by winning the Candidate Tournament in London on tie-break after a tense finish. Peter Heine Nielsen was helping him in London, in addition to a team of other strong grandmasters contributing from home.Kenneth Gvein and Metronet have helped professionalizing Magnus' digital appearance. Online activities will only become more important in the future.
Thanks go also to Basefarm for providing important hosting support.
Somewhat unusual for a chess player, Magnus became a campaign model for G-Star Raw clothes in 2010/2011. It was flattering that they wanted to renew the cooperation for 2014, as announced last week. Magnus’s last tournament before the World Championship match was the Sinquefield Cup in St.Louis in September and he won quite convincingly with 4.5/6.
Last but not least, we would like to thank all the unnamed - but not forgotten - tournament organisers, organisations, chess colleagues, seconds, spectators, fans and friends that have been supportive and contributed with practical help, encouragement, enthusiasm or otherwise on the long road to Chennai 2013. Thank you!
For Team Carlsen, Henrik C., November 3rd, 2013
The road to Chennai 2013 – Early development
What did it take for a Norwegian to reach a match for the World Championship title.
In addition to a talent for and deep interest in chess, I think it was important to get possibilities and encouragement on the way. Support from family, friends, trainers and sponsors are helpful in providing the necessary possibilities. Encouragement came through results and also support from various people.
During the Norwegian youth team championship in 2000, a strong junior player was asked for the result by a friend after one of the rounds, and he responded with self deprecating irony something like: “Well, I played a 9-yr old as white and was a piece up by move 5…”. His friend had drawn his conclusions by the time he added: “And I lost”.Magnus’s piece sacrifice was not theoretically correct but highly enjoyable for the spectators and certainly encouraging for people around him. For Magnus personally, the last round draw against the strongest Norwegian U16 player Tallaksen was maybe even more gratifying.
By this time Magnus had already had a couple of valuable sessions each month for half a year with Torbjorn Ringdal Hansen (Simen Agdestein’s assistant) at the Top Athletes School Chess group. In Norway children participation in sports competitions is restricted in general. In chess the practices have varied, and when Magnus was 11 back in 2002 he was allowed to participate in the European and World Youth U12. This represented a first opportunity to fight with the best peers in the world (except for Karjakin who was already a GM and did not participate any longer). In the European U12 Championship the Russian child stars Nepomniachtchi and Andreikin dominated as usual, while in the World Youth U12 Magnus was already catching up and came 2nd on tiebreak after the winner Ian Nepomniachtchi.
By this time, Simen Agdestein himself had already been the trainer of Magnus for about a year, and a little later Computas became his first sponsor for 6 months.
In January 2003 another event was staged by Hans Olav Lahlum at the traditional chess site of Gausdal amidst inspiring mountains with downhill and cross country skiing tracks. Magnus needed a last round win against his somewhat older adversary and friend IM Bluvshtein from Canada, and surprised many by achieving the necessary victory after a good game and a hard fight.The international break-through securing a GM-norm and winning the Corus C-group in 2004 is well known to many, and less emphasis is put on the huge number of tournaments Magnus played in the autumn of 2003 during a family sabbatical year, that prepared him for the progress seen in 2004.
By this time, Microsoft Norway was sponsoring Magnus and facilitating his participation in tournaments every month. Prior to our sabbatical, Simen Agdestein and other Norwegians had been very optimistic about the prospects of Magnus as a chess player, and during the 1st half of 2004 a number of strong players and international chess journalists showered praise on the young Norwegian providing encouragement for both Magnus himself and people around him.
To be continued.
For Team Carlsen, Henrik C., October 29th, 2013
The road to Chennai 2013– Match information
Being busy with preparations for the World Championship match against Viswanathan Anand starting in a little over two weeks, Magnus has asked me to write about the match and how he got there. Let me start with some practical information about the match.
The match will be held in the Hyatt Regency Chennai hotel in Chennai in India. The opening ceremony and drawing of lots takes place November 7th 2013.
They play best of 12 rounds. The match is decided if and when one player reaches 6.5 or 7 points. In case of 6-6 after 12 rounds the match goes to tie-break; four rapid games, and if still equal, there will be two blitz games at the time. If still undecided after five times two blitz games, an Armageddon (sudden death) game will be played with a time handicap for black and white has to win.
The time control for the classical 12 round part will be two hours for 40 moves, another hour for the next 20 moves, and another 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus 30 seconds increment per move from move 61.
The 12 rounds are scheduled for 3 pm local time on November 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24 and 26th. There is a rest day after every second round, and an additional rest day between round 11 and 12.
The tie-break is scheduled for November 28th and the closing ceremony for November 29th. If the match finishes earlier, the closing ceremony is one or two days after the last game.
The homepage of the match: http://chennai2013.fide.com/ has more information and online purchase of tickets to the playing hall.
V.Anand is qualified for the match being the reigning World Champion, after successfully keeping his title in the match against Boris Gelfand in Moscow in 2012.
Magnus qualified as the challenger by winning the Candidates Tournament in London in March 2013.
The World Championship match follows a more than century-long tradition although the format has changed several times. 24 game matches used to be the standard, as in the Spassky-Fischer match in Reykjavik in 1972. Some World Championship Tournaments have been held. First to six victories was used for a period but abolished after the never-ending Karpov-Kasparov match in 1984. The number of games was gradually reduced and from 2006 onwards 12 games have been played.
V.Anand has played several World Championship matches in the past, while for Magnus it is his first title match.
For Team Carlsen, Henrik C., October 24th, 2013
Sinquefield Cup 2013 Victory
The Sinquefield Cup was my last tournament prior to the World Championship match in November, and it exceeded expectations both with regard to the excellent organisation of the event and my own result.
Kamsky had a promising position against Nakamura in their sharp encounter in the last round yesterday, but the latter put up a tenacious defence and it ended in a draw.
Kudos to both players for putting up a real fight. Well before the first time control Aronian and I knew the stakes. I needed a draw to win the tournament, he needed a win for a three-way play-off. Aronian had outplayed me early in the middle game from the black side of the Ruy Lopez in a line we played also in London Chess Classics 2012. His piece activity more than compensated for his pawn weaknesses. He won a pawn on a5, but suddenly his pieces were tied up defending the knight on a5 and the pawn on b4. With his rook on d2 the position was balanced, and when he withdrew his rook white was already better despite the pawn down. He offered a draw, but I decided to play on as the game continuation looked fairly promising and I really wanted to win the last game. After capturing on c4 his position just collapsed. 1-0, and with 4.5 points I won outright ahead of Nakamura at 3.5 points, Aronian 2.5 points and Kamsky 1.5 points, gained 8 rating points to get back to 2870 and gained confidence prior to the match in November.
It was my first tournament in the US but certainly not my last. I’d like to thank the Sinquefields for organizing this great event, and everyone involved for being helpful and showing great hospitality!
I spent the evening today playing football and basketball at the Webster University and enjoyed another dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. We are leaving for Europe tomorrow.
Magnus Carlsen, St. Louis, September 16th, 2013
Penultimate round lead in Sinquefield Cup
I played Americans with the black pieces two days in a row and with good results.
Feeling a bit tired after all the workout on the rest day I ate a heavy brunch before the game against Kamsky yesterday.
For about three hours I felt good, and he went astray early with Re2, instead of Rf3. I got a comfortable edge with black early on, somewhat similar to the game against Aronian. In the fourth hour of play I could neither calculate properly nor take decisions and nearly lost my way. Capturing on b2 would ensure a winning rook endgame, but short on time I just moved Be7 without any real purpose.
Fortunately my advantage was still significant. I’ve seen the computer recommended a rook endgame rather then the bishop endgame I chose, but this might be a horizon effect. I was pretty optimistic and after his Bc3 I was clearly winning.
Nakamura went down against Aronian, and suddenly I was the sole leader with two rounds to go.
Today, against Nakamura I just felt in excellent shape and played quickly and confidently. My initiative and pressure in the f-file was sufficient to compensate for his bishop pair. His decision to force a draw by repetition around move 30 was probably a wise choice.
Aronian-Kamsky was a draw as well, and going into the last round Sunday (starting already at 11 am local time), three players are still in contention for 1st (I’ve got 3.5 points, Nakamura 3, Aronian 2.5).
In the last round I’m white against Aronian and Kamsky white against Nakamura.
Magnus Carlsen, St. Louis, September 14th, 2013