SANDS: Carlsen steamrolls elite chess field in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands

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Not since the days of Thor has a Norwegian wielded such a mighty hammer.

Obliterating a world-class field, Norway superstar GM Magnus Carlsen has taken the first major tournament of the year, winning the elite Tata Steel “A” Tournament with a stunning 10-3 score, matching the record total for the event set by former world champion and onetime Carlsen coach Garry Kasparov.

With a last-round draw against Dutch GM Anish Giri, Carlsen finished 1½ points ahead of Armenian star GM Levon Aronian and two full points clear of world champion Viswanathan Anand of India and Russian GM Sergey Karjakin. The Norwegian was the only player to get through the 14-grandmaster premier section without a loss.

German GM Arkady Naiditsch won the “B” invitational on tiebreaks over 16-year-old Hungarian prodigy GM Richard Rapport, while Italian GM Sabino Brunello took the “C tournament with a very nice 11-2 result.

Truth be told, a scalpel is more appropriate than a hammer for the surgical Carlsen, who appears to enjoy torturing opponents deep into the endgame, slowly slicing up lesser mortals down with an indomitable will and impeccable technique. But the 22-year-old superstar finally loosened up with a Round 12 pasting of American No. 1 GM Hikaru Nakamura, steamrolling one of the world’s best players in just 31 moves.

In a Kalashnikov 6. g3 Sicilian, Black’s provocative play suggests he has no interest in a lengthy struggle trapped in the coils of Carlsen’s technique. But Carlsen after the game said he felt little concern over Black’s aggressive 12. c3 h4?! 13. Nc2 Bxd5 14. exd5 Na5 15. f4 Nf5?! (better, though still not good enough, was 15hxg3 16. hxg3 Rxh1+ 17. Bxh1 Qd7) 17. g4 h3 17. Be4, when 17Qh4+ 18. Kf1 “is not dangerous at all for me.”

With 21. gxf5 Ng2?! 22. f6! Bf8 23. Qf3, White totally dominates Black’s disorganized forces, with the advanced knight and the weak pawn on h3 just a couple of Nakamura’s many concerns.

The positional dominance — and the Black king’s unfortunate position in the center of the board — quickly lead to tactical opportunities: 27. Bg5! Rg8 28. Qh5 Nb6 29. Be6! (using the pin to defend d5 and threaten the deadly 30. Ne7) Rxg5 (desperation) 30. Qxg5 fxe6 31. dxe6!, when 31Qxc6 32. f7 is mate and Black has no good defense to 32. f7+, winning the queen; Nakamura resigned.

Maryland IM Elmir Huseynov took top honors with a 41/2-1/2 score in the Champions section of the fifth annual Chesapeake Open, held earlier this month in Gaithersburg, Md. The well-attended event put on by the Maryland Chess Association attracted 135 players in seven sections.

Jared Defibaugh, Scott Low and Chris Sevilla, all Free Staters, shared second at 4-1, with Sevilla earning his pay with a wild and woolly last-round win over veteran Virginia expert Robert Fischer. In a Grunfeld, White’s unexpected 7. Qb4 b5 8. Nb1?! (White may be worried about his queen being trapped, but a more forceful counter was 8. d5!? Bxd5 9. 0-0-0 a5 10. Qf4 Nbd7 11. Bxf6, when 11Nxf6? 12. e4! gives White the edge) Ne4 9. Be3 Bd5 (Bc4!, with 10e5 on tap, would also have been very hard to meet) 10. Qa3 e6 11. Qd3 Na6 gives the position a positively Steinitzian feel, with basic rules of development being neglected and pieces finding themselves on the most unlikely squares.

Sevilla gets into the spirit of things with 13. Qd1 Bh6!? (Nd6 is more normal and equally playable) 14. Bxh6 (fxe4? Bxe3 15. exd5 Qh4+ 16. g3 Qe4 17. Nf3 Nc2+ and wins) Qh4+ 15. g3 Qxh6 16. Nh3? (once again eschewing regular order with 16. Bg2! Nc5 17. Kf2, with equality) Qe3!, when 17. fxe4 Bxe4 18. Qd2 loses to 18Nc2+ 19. Kd1 0-0-0! 20. Qxe3 Nxe3+ 21. Kd2 Nc4+ 22. Kc3 Bxh1.

White seeks salvation in tactics, giving up a piece in hopes of trapping the Black knight on g2. But the idea leaves him open to a powerful counterpunch: 21. Qxe3? (a better execution of the same idea was 21. b3! Bd5 22. a3 Na6 23. Nxd5 exd5 24. Qxe3+ Nxe3 25. Rc1 Nxg2+ 26. Kd2, and it’s still a game) Nxe3 22. Kd2 Nxg2 23. b3 (see diagram) Rd8! 24. e3 (bxc4 Rxd4+ 25. Kc1 Rxc4 26. Nfe4 Ke7 27. Kb2 Ne3 and wins) e5, and suddenly the White king is exposed to a powerful central attack.

Fischer still dreams of corralling the impudent Black knight, but the effort runs to grief after 30. Kf2 fxe4 31. Nxe4 (Kxg2 exf3+ 32. Kh3 [Kxf3 Rd3+; 32. Kf2 Rd2+ 33. Kf1 Nc2 34. Rc1 Ne3+ 35. Ke1 Red8 36. Ne4 Re2 mate] Rc4) Rexe4! 32. fxe4 Rd2+ 33. Kf3 Nd3 34. g4 (e5 Nxe5+ 35. Ke4 Ng4 36. bxc6 Nf6+ 37. Ke5 Kf7 38. Rad1 Ng4+ 39. Ke4 Nf2+) Rf2+ 35. Kg3 h4+, and White resigned before Black could administer 36. Kh3 Ndf4 mate.

As Tournament Director Michael Regan noted in his write-up for Chess Life Online, both of White’s rooks remained on their original squares for the entire game.

Carlsen-Nakamura, 75th Tata Steel “A” Tournament, January 2013

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 6. g3 h5 7. N1c3 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Nge7 10. Bg2 Bg4 11. f3 Be6 12. c3 h4 13. Nc2 Bxd5 14. exd5 Na5 15. f4 Nf5 16. g4 h3 17. Be4 Nh4 18. O-O g6 19. Kh1 Bg7 20. f5 gxf5 21. gxf5 Ng2 22. f6 Bf8 23. Qf3 Qc7 24. Nb4 Nb7 25. Nc6 Nc5 26. Bf5 Nd7 27. Bg5 Rg8 28. Qh5 Nb6 29. Be6 Rxg5 30. Qxg5 fxe6 31. dxe6 Black resigns.

Fischer-Sevilla, 5th Chesapeake Open, Janaury 2013

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Qb3 c6 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. Qxc4 Be6 7. Qb4 b5 8. Nb1 Ne4 9. Be3 Bd5 10. Qa3 e6 11. Qd3 Na6 12. f3 Nb4 13. Qd1 Bh6 14. Bxh6 Qh4+ 15. g3 Qxh6 16. Nh3 Qe3 17. Bg2 Nd6 18. Nc3 Bc4 19. Nf2 h5 20. Qd2 Nf5 21. Qxe3 Nxe3 22. Kd2 Nxg2 23. b3 Rd8 24. e3 e5 25. bxc4 exd4 26. exd4 Rxd4+ 27. Ke2 O-O 28. cxb5 Re8+ 29. Nfe4 f5 30. Kf2 fxe4 31. Nxe4 Rexe4 32. fxe4 Rd2+ 33. Kf3 Nd3 34. g4 Rf2+ 35. Kg3 h4+ White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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