13 January 2013

Aronian -- Carlsen, Tata Steel 2013

When two players rated over 2800 clash, even a short draw holds some interest. Of course, we hope that they slug it out until all hope of victory is gone. Today, in round two of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, last year's winner Levon Aronian has White against the highest rated player in history, Magnus Carlsen.

The game began with the 6.h3 line against the King's Indian Defense that Aronian employed yesterday. Carlsen's sixth move differed from Loek Van Wely's choice, however. Van Wely played the most popular line, while Carlsen opted for one less frequently explored.

Aronian,Levon (2802) -- Carlsen,Magnus (2861)
Tata Steel, Wijk aan Zee 2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.h3 Nc6

6...e5 is most frequent, and was Van Wely's move yesterday.

7.d5 Nb4 8.Be2 e6 9.Be3 Re8 10.Nd2 a5 11.O-O Bd7 12.Re1 b6

White to move

9.Be3 had not been played before, but after 11.O-O, the game is back into dimly charted territory. Carlsen's 12...b6 is the novelty, and now Aronian is thinking.

Doroshkievich,Vladimir K (2375) - Odeev,A [E91]
Voroshilovgrad op Voroshilovgrad, 1989

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0–0 6.Be2 Nc6 7.d5 Nb4 8.0–0 a5 9.Be3 e6 10.Nd2 Re8 11.h3 Bd7 12.Re1 c6 13.a3 Na6 14.Na4 exd5 15.exd5 cxd5 16.Bf3 d4 17.Bxd4 Rxe1+ 18.Qxe1 Bxa4 19.Bxb7 Nc7 20.Bxa8 Qxa8 21.Qe7 Nce8 22.Re1 Bc6 23.f3 Bf8 24.Qa7 Qxa7 25.Bxa7 a4 26.b4 d5 27.Bd4 Bh6 28.Be3 Bxe3+ 29.Rxe3 dxc4 30.Nxc4 Nd5 31.Re1 Nec7 32.Rc1 Bb5 33.Nd6 Kf8 34.Rc5 Bd7 35.Ra5 Ke7 36.Nb7 Bc6 37.Nc5 Nb6 38.Kf2 Kd8 39.Ke2 Kc8 40.Kd3 Bb5+ 41.Kd4 Kb8 42.h4 Bf1 43.Ne4 Ne6+ 44.Kc3 Bxg2 45.Nd6 Nd8 46.Rb5 Kc7 47.Ne8+ Kc6 48.Rc5+ Kd7 49.Nf6+ Ke7 50.Rb5 Kxf6 51.Rxb6+ Ne6 52.Ra6 Bxf3 53.Rxa4 h6 54.b5 Ke5 55.Ra7 f5 56.b6 Nd8 57.Rg7 Kf6 58.Rg8 Nb7 59.a4 g5 60.hxg5+ hxg5 61.Kd2 f4 62.Ke1 Bd5 63.Ra8 Nd6 64.Rf8+ Ke7 65.Rh8 f3 66.a5 g4 67.Rh7+ Ke6 68.Rg7 Ne4 0–1

I am following the game live, and am thinking along with Aronian.


As we wait for Carlsen's move, I continue to assess with Aronian. I have my favorites.


Carlsen prepares Ng8, one step towards the thematic f7-f5 pawn break.

Houdini 2.0, running on the tournament site, wants to kick away Carlsen's knight from b4. It is a logical move, but perhaps there is something better.

Update 5:59 am PST

I should not be up this early. Yet, somehow studying Grandmaster games as they are unfolding holds enough appeal to warrant sleep deprivation.

Aronian kicked the knight, and Carlsen retreated it instantly.

14.a3 Na6 15.Qc2

Aronian's queen finds its natural square.

15...e5 16.Rb1 Ng8

We expected this. White is playing for a pawn break on the queenside, while Black will seek counterplay on the kingside.

White to move

17.b4 f5

It is 6:12 am PST and I have a hot cup of coffee to aid my planning and support of Aronian's efforts.

Update 6:20 am PST

Just as I was taking my first sip of coffee, Aronian offered his dark-squared bishop for two pawns.


Carlsen had been moving quickly, but now he is thinking.

Update 6:34 am PST

While I was watching an interview with Ulf Andersson, Carlsen played his move, offering to trade dark-squared bishops. It is hard to see an alternative for Aronian even though the trade brings Carlsen's knight to a more active square.

18...Bh6 19.Bxh6 Nxh6 20.exf5

Black to move

20...gxf5 21.f4

Our opponent made the move we would have played, capturing with the pawn, and we immediately seek to disrupt his mobile kingside pawns. Aronian has moved ahead on the clock. The board, however, seems to offer equal prospects for both sides. Time pressure might become a factor.

I have been watching this game nearly two hours.

Update 7:05 am PST

21...exf4 22.Qc3+ Kg8

We might have played 19.Qc3 instead of capturing the bishop on h6, but somehow it seems better now.


This move was not possible when only one piece guarded b4.

Black to move

Update 7:15 am PST

The official website's game clocks do not seem trustworthy. Aronian was ahead by more than ten minutes not more than a quarter hour ago, and now he is behind by twenty minutes. That is a mathematical impossibility.


In any case, some thought is necessary as we explore the best manner of exploiting the pinned knight.

Update 7:42 am PST

The puppies awoke and needed fresh water. Once in the kitchen, I decided to make my oatmeal. Returning to the board, I find several moves have been played. As I was contemplating the changes, Aronian played the move that I favored: keeping the queens on the board.

24.Rxe8+ Qxe8 25.Qf6 Qf8 26.Bxf7+ Qxf7 27.Qg5+ Qg7 28.Qxf4 axb4

White to move

Of course, we plan to recapture with 29.axb4, but perhaps we should examine 29.Rb3 as well.

29.axb4 Re8 30.Nd4 Qe5 31.Qg5+ Qg7 32.N2f3 Qxg5 33.Nxg5

Black to move


It is 8:00 am in my time zone. The cooks in Wijk aan Zee should be preparing dinner while I finish my breakfast. In a couple of hours, it will be necessary to forget about chess in order to watch American football. Our Seahawks are in Atlanta with the intent of ending the season for the Falcons.

34.Nge6+ Kf6 35.Rf1 Bxe6 36.Nxe6 h5 37.g4

As the players rush to make the time control, my efforts to keep this post up to date falls behind.

37...hxg4 38.hxg4 Nxb4 39.Rxf5+ Kg6 40.Nf4+ Kg7 41.g5

Black to move

Aronian's last move caught me by surprise, as did the speed at which it was played.

Update 8:25 am PST


I fear that Carlsen cannot lose this position, although his hopes of winning have been gone almost from the beginning.

42.Kf2 cxd5 43.cxd5 Re5 44.Ne6+ Kg6

White to move

The engines say the position is a dead draw. Even so, the danger to the Black king is instructive. It turns out that White may force his g-pawn forward, but this action permits the Black king to play an aggressive role in a forced draw by repetition. 45.Rf6+ Kh5 46.Rh6+ Kg4 47.g6 Nd3+ and the White king cannot escape rook checks.

45.Rf6+ Kh5

45...Kh7 loses on the spot.

46.Kf3 1/2-1/2

A well-fought draw. I might take up this 6.h3 approach against the King's Indian Defense. Imitating Aronian cannot hurt my play.

Tomorrow, we may sit in the chair beside Anand as he takes on Fabiano Caruana. But, then, we might choose the Black side of that board to see if we can get something from a world champion who does not appear to be in top form.

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