I won a highly interesting game against Karjakin yesterday to secure 1stwith a round to go. It was my third consecutive win with black against the 7.Nd5 Sveshnikov this year. After 12.Qa4 Bd7 13.Qb4 Bf5 I allowed a repetition of moves, but as expected he deviated with 14.h4 h5 and 15.Bg5. (Caruana played Be3 in our 12thWorld Championship game). I didn’t expect him to repeat moves both due to the tournament situation and because it doesn’t make sense to prepare all the 7.Nd5 lines if you are planning to accept an early draw.

As against Jorden van Forrest in Tata Steel in January I sacrificed the pawn on h5 and had sufficient compensation with e4, Ne5 and the white square weaknesses around the white king. His c5-move trading his c-pawn for my e-pawn made sense, but he had had to follow up with Qc2 despite the unpleasant pin Bf5 against his knight on e4. Playing Nc3 instead he expected me to force a draw with Bd3 Bxd3 Nf3+ Nxh4 etc. At this point I started to really like my position, with more than compensation for the pawn. The critical moment came after Qf5 when he should have tried to bail out with f3 and hope for a draw. His f4 ran into Qg6 threatening Qxg3 and black is already lost. It took me a while to find Qg6 as it is not an obvious move. With the pawns on c4 and b4 and my three pieces in the center, the tactics should normally work for black, and as expected there was Queen to g6 utilizing the white weaknesses. Gradually lower on time, he didn’t manage to coordinate his pieces and lost on time in an awful position just before the time control.

In the last round against Grischuk, I didn’t get anything from the opening. I just tried to find reasonable moves and didn’t focus on the result at all. Only after 17. Nb3 I felt I got a small edge. Grischuk thought for a long time and ended up trading on b3 conceding the bishop pair. In hindsight the plan with Ng4 and Rd6 just ended up losing time and allowed me to develop my pieces optimally. I was getting quite optimistic when I found the pawn sacrifice with Be3 recapturing on f4 with the g-pawn (as against Giri) after which the position was almost critical for black. Short on time he succumbed to continuous pressure in open the d and e-files. 

I’m not sure I’m generally playing these kinds of positions any better than before. The main difference is maybe that I feel more at ease now in high-stakes positions due to more experience (and good results). Round 7-9 against Giri, Karjakin and Grischuk were simply very enjoyable games for which I’m grateful.

In football Expected Goals (xG) is based on the number and quality of chances everyone has. A similar concept would be interesting in chess. 

Last year I suffered from too many missed opportunities throughout most of the year, while so far this year I’ve taken more or less every realistic winning chance in my games. How to attribute weight to my own play, my opponents play and the kind of chances that I’ve got, is not straight forward. Clearly, I’m highly satisfied with the development and is eager to play again less than two weeks from now in Grenke Chess Classics.

I think it is obvious to anyone that has been in Shamkir or have watched my games that I’m very comfortable playing here. Everyone have such a passion and respect for chess, and my team and I have been treated with great hospitality. Thank you all very much!

 

Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 9th2019