Magnificent Magnus Wins Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz

In the end, the only thing that could stop Magnus Carlsen was a tummy bug.

courtesy STLCC; note that Nakamura scored 12 in the Blitz and not 11.

Carlsen shattered his own single-event Grand Chess Tour point record, scoring 7.5/9 in the Rapid and 12/18 in the Blitz to win the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz (Nov 22-26, Kolkata, India) with 27 points. (The previous record, per Tarjei Svensen, was 26.5, set at the Abidjan event earlier this year.) Hikaru Nakamura finished second at 23 points, a full 4 points behind the World Champion.

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Carlsen’s commanding victory could perhaps have been bigger, were he not hobbled by a stomach ailment at the start of Tuesday’s fifth and final round of play. After three quick draws, he recovered sufficiently to score 5.5/9 on the day’s play, second only to Nakamura, who scored 6.5/9. Rapid Carlsen utterly dominated the Rapid games, trouncing the field and giving himself a powerful lead heading into the Blitz. His game with Anand was perhaps the best game of the event, a hugely complex battle where Anand sacrificed an exchange, only to have Carlsen navigate the complications more successfully.

photo Lennart Ootes

[pgn] [Event "Tata Steel India Rapid"] [Site "Kolkata IND"] [Date "2019.11.24"] [Round "7.3"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D38"] [WhiteElo "2870"] [BlackElo "2757"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2019.11.22"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 O-O 8. e3 Bf5 9. Nd2 $5 {A very rare move here.} ({Carlsen himself faced the more common } 9. Qb3 Bxc3+ 10. Qxc3 Nbd7 11. Be2 c6 12. Nd2 Ne4 13. Nxe4 Qxh4 14. Nd6 Bg4 $11 {1/2-1/2 (30) Mamedyarov,S (2820)-Carlsen,M (2839) Porto Carras 2018}) 9... g5 10. Bg3 c5 11. a3 Bxc3 12. bxc3 c4 (12... Nbd7 13. Be2 Qa5 14. dxc5 Qxc3 15. Rc1 Qxa3 16. Bd6 Rfc8 $13) 13. h4 g4 ({If} 13... Nbd7 {(following Urkedal-Hammer 2018) White can try} 14. hxg5 (14. Be2 Kg7 {0-1 (35) Urkedal,F (2552)-Hammer,J (2631) Sarpsborg 2018}) 14... hxg5 15. Bd6 Re8 16. Qf3 $36) 14. h5 Nbd7 15. Bf4 Qa5 $5 16. Qc1 (16. Bxh6 {allows Black to sac the exchange with } Qxc3 (16... Rfe8 {is calmer and perhaps just as good, i.e.} 17. Qc1 Nb6 { wti ...Na4}) 17. Bxf8 Kxf8 18. Qc1 Qa5 {and dual threats of ...Ne4 and ... c4-c3 give Black good compensation.}) 16... Nb6 $5 (16... Kh7 {may in hindsight be best, but who can blame Anand for playing with such gusto?}) 17. Bxh6 Na4 (17... Rfe8 18. f3 (18. Bg5 Re6 $1) 18... Na4 19. Kf2 $13) 18. Bxf8 Rxf8 19. f3 {A critical position. How does Black justify the material investment?} Re8 $6 (19... b5 20. Kf2 Nxc3 {and only now ...Re8; here Black seems to have full comp}) (19... Nxc3 20. Kf2 b5 {transposes}) (19... g3 $5 { (preventing Kf2)} 20. e4 Re8 {and now White has to play} 21. Bxc4 dxc4 22. Nxc4 Nxe4 $1 {with the idea that} (22... Qc7 23. Qg5+ $1) 23. Nxa5 $4 {loses to} ( 23. O-O Qd8 24. fxe4 Qh4 25. Rxf5 Qh2+ 26. Kf1 Qh1+ 27. Ke2 Qxg2+ 28. Kd1 Qh1+ 29. Kd2 Qg2+ $11) 23... Nexc3+ 24. Kf1 Bd3+ 25. Kg1 Ne2+ 26. Kf1 Nxc1+ 27. Kg1 Re1#) 20. Kf2 b5 $6 (20... Nxc3 21. e4 Bxe4 22. fxe4 Nb5 $1 {is an engine line, but may be Black's best. He hits d4 and keeps the pressure on e4.}) 21. e4 $1 { White's central break is just in time, and the lack of pressure on e4 with ... Nxc3 proves the difference.} dxe4 22. Nxc4 $6 {Very logical, opening the diagonal for the queen to get to g5 and gobble material. But White may have had better.} (22. Nxe4 $1 Nxe4+ 23. fxe4 Bxe4 24. Rh4 $1 Qxc3 25. Qxc3 Nxc3 26. Rxg4+ Kh7 27. Re1 {and White's material advantage should prove the difference.} ) 22... bxc4 23. Qg5+ Kh7 $2 (23... Kf8 $1 24. Qxf6 e3+ $1 25. Kg1 Re6 26. Qh8+ Ke7 $132) 24. Qxf6 e3+ 25. Kg1 Be6 {Black is forced to waste time safeguarding f7. In a razor-sharp game like this, that's all it takes to lose - a tempo or two.} 26. d5 Qxd5 27. Re1 (27. fxg4 $1) 27... Qd2 28. Re2 Qc1 29. Qd4 gxf3 ( 29... Nxc3 30. Rxe3) 30. Qxe3 Qxc3 31. gxf3 Rg8+ 32. Kf2 Qg7 33. Qe4+ Kh6 34. Qf4+ Kh7 35. Qe5 Qh6 36. Rg1 Rc8 37. Qe4+ Kh8 38. Qd4+ Kh7 39. Rxe6 1-0 [/pgn]

photo Lennart Ootes

It was only in his game with Vidit that Carlsen was in any trouble whatsoever. After essaying a line in the Tarrasch thought to be imprecise (5. … Nf6?!), he held things together and drew with excellent technique.

[pgn] [Event "Tata Steel India Rapid"] [Site "Kolkata IND"] [Date "2019.11.23"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D32"] [WhiteElo "2722"] [BlackElo "2870"] [PlyCount "148"] [EventDate "2019.11.22"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bg5 Be6 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. e3 O-O 9. Be2 h6 10. Bh4 Nc6 11. O-O Rc8 12. Rc1 Be7 13. Nd4 a6 14. Nxc6 Rxc6 15. Bf3 Rc4 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. Nxd5 Rxc1 18. Nxf6+ Qxf6 19. Qxc1 Bxa2 20. Bxb7 Rb8 21. Qc7 Qd8 22. Rc1 Bc4 23. Qxc4 Rxb7 24. b4 Qf8 25. Qxa6 Rxb4 26. h3 Rb8 27. Qc4 Qd6 28. Qg4 g6 29. Rc8+ Rxc8 30. Qxc8+ Kg7 31. Qc3+ Kg8 32. Qd4 Qe6 33. g4 Qc6 34. Qf4 Kg7 35. Kh2 Qb5 36. Qd4+ Kg8 37. Qe4 h5 38. Kg2 hxg4 39. hxg4 Kg7 40. Qd4+ Kg8 41. Kg3 Qb8+ 42. f4 g5 43. Qe5 gxf4+ 44. exf4 Qb6 45. Kh4 Qh6+ 46. Kg3 Qb6 47. g5 Qg1+ 48. Kf3 Qf1+ 49. Ke3 Qe1+ 50. Kd4 Qb4+ 51. Kd3 Qb1+ 52. Kc4 Qd1 53. Kc5 Qd8 54. Qd6 Qc8+ 55. Kd4 Qc1 56. Ke5 Qc3+ 57. Kf5 Qc8+ 58. Kf6 Qc3+ 59. Ke7 Qe3+ 60. Kd8 Qe4 61. Qb8 f6 62. gxf6 Kf7 63. Qe5 Qa8+ 64. Kc7 Qa7+ 65. Kd6 Qb6+ 66. Kd5 Qxf6 67. Qh5+ Kg7 68. Qg4+ Kf8 69. Qc8+ Kg7 70. Qd7+ Qf7+ 71. Qxf7+ Kxf7 72. Ke5 Ke7 73. f5 Kf7 74. f6 Kf8 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Hikaru Nakamura was the only other player to have a positive score in the Rapid, ending at +2 (5.5/9). The other American in the field, Wesley So, was among three players to finish the Rapid with an even score. Blitz Carlsen and Nakamura shared top honors in the Blitz, with both players scoring 12/18 over the two days of play. Only Nakamura went undefeated in the Blitz, as Carlsen lost twice to Ding Liren. Ding’s dancing king made a great impression in their first game, as the king’s evacuation to the queenside left space for Ding’s heavy pieces to spring to life.

[pgn] [Event "Tata Steel India Blitz"] [Site "Kolkata IND"] [Date "2019.11.25"] [Round "5.3"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C85"] [WhiteElo "2870"] [BlackElo "2801"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2019.11.25"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. d3 Nd7 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. a4 a5 10. b3 f6 11. Nh4 Nc5 12. Nf5 Ne6 13. Nc4 b6 14. Nxe7+ Qxe7 15. Ne3 g6 16. Bb2 c5 17. Qd2 Bb7 18. Rae1 Rad8 19. f3 Kf7 20. Qf2 Ke8 21. Qh4 Kd7 22. f4 Nxf4 23. Rxf4 exf4 24. Ng4 g5 25. Qh6 Qe6 26. Nxf6+ Kc8 27. Qxg5 f3 28. Rf1 Rg8 29. Nxg8 Rxg8 30. Qe5 Rxg2+ 31. Kh1 Qg6 32. h4 Bc6 33. Qf4 Rxc2 34. Rg1 Rg2 35. Qe3 Qg3 0-1 [/pgn]

Viswanathan Anand struggled in the Blitz, dashing any hopes of his qualifying for the GCT Finals next month, but he did have the move of the tournament in his game against Wesley So.

[pgn] [Event "Tata Steel India Blitz"] [Site "Kolkata IND"] [Date "2019.11.25"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2757"] [BlackElo "2760"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "99"] [EventDate "2019.11.25"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 Be6 7. O-O Bd6 8. d4 Nd7 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Nxe5 Bxe5 11. f4 Bd4+ 12. Kh1 f5 13. Qh5+ g6 14. Qe2 O-O 15. Nf3 Bf6 16. e5 Be7 17. Rd1 Qe8 18. Nd4 Qf7 19. Nxe6 Qxe6 20. Be3 Rad8 21. c4 a6 22. b3 Kf7 23. h3 h5 24. Bf2 Rxd1+ 25. Rxd1 Rd8 26. Rxd8 Bxd8 27. Qe1 Qe7 28. Kh2 Ke6 29. Qd2 Qd7 30. Qb4 Kf7 31. Qxb7 Qd2 32. e6+ Kg7 $6 (32... Kxe6 33. Qxc6+ Kf7 (33... Qd6 $2 34. Qe8+ Be7 35. Qxg6+) 34. Qf3 Qxa2 $2 {The queen can't leave defense of the central squares.} (34... Be7 35. Be3 Qd3 $16) 35. Qd5+ Ke8 (35... Kf6 36. Bd4+ Ke7 37. Bc5+ $18) 36. Qe6+ Be7 37. Bc5 $18) 33. Bg1 $3 {Anand correctly sees that the f4-pawn is meaningless in this position. His king will be safe and Black's queenside pawns are ripe for the picking.} Qxf4+ (33... Qd6 34. Qxa6 Qxf4+ 35. Kh1 Qe4 36. Qc8) 34. Kh1 Qd6 35. Qxa6 Qxe6 36. Qa7 g5 37. a4 g4 38. Qe3 Qc8 39. Qe8 gxh3 40. Bd4+ Kh6 41. Bf6 hxg2+ 42. Kxg2 f4 43. Qg8 Qd7 44. Qg5+ Kh7 45. Qxh5+ Kg8 46. Qh8+ Kf7 47. Qg7+ Ke6 48. Qxd7+ Kxd7 49. Bxd8 Kxd8 50. Kf3 1-0 [/pgn]
The Finals

courtesy STLCC

With his victory in Kolkata, Carlsen takes home 13 GCT points and $37,500. Just as importantly, he seems to have regained a bit of his swagger after his dramatic loss to Wesley So in the World Fischer Random Championship.

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The lineup for the GCT Finals, to be held as part of the London Chess Classic, is also set.

courtesy STLCC

Carlsen is joined by Levon Aronian, Ding Liren, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Viswanathan Anand missed out on qualifying by a single GCT point. Anand gave it his all on the final day of play, but suffered some tough luck, including flagging in a won position against Giri in round 15.

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