02 December 2016

Lessons from the Championship

My advanced students this week saw several positions from the tie-break games of the World Chess Championship.

White to move

The first position is from the final game. I wanted my students to first understand Black's checkmate threats.

The game concluded 48.Rc8+ Kh7 49.Qh6+ 1-0.

We also looked at 48.Qg3, which wins more slowly and the checkmate sequence that follows had Black played 48...Bf8.

If your opponent threatens checkmate in one move, making certain that all of your moves are check is the only way to conduct a counterattack.

The second position also concerns understanding threats. It is from the third tie-break game.

White to move

The game finished 38.Rxc7 Ra1 0-1.

We looked at Black's several checkmate threats in the final position and also how White could have kept the game alive by playing 38.Rb1. Failure to find this move was a rare defensive oversight by Sergey Karjakin.

Most complex was a series of positions from the second game.

Black to move

The key ideas here require understanding the checkmate patterns that White needs to win and Black's drawing resources. For example, if Black can get rid of White's g-pawn and the dark-squared bishop, he would happily trade everything.

The game continued 61...Re2 62.Bg4

White had better chances to win after 62.Kf7. I mentioned this to the students, but we did not explore it in detail as it is quite complex. It's no surprise that World Champion Magnus Carlsen missed it in a rapid game.

62...Re8 63.Bf5 Kg8 64.Bc2 Re3 65.Bb1 Kh8 66.Kf7 Rb3 67.Be4 Re3 68.Bf5 Rc3 69.g4

An important move shielding the king from harassment from the rear.

69...Rc6 70.Bf8 Rc7+ 71.Kg6 Kg8 72.Bb4 Rb7 73.Bd6 Kh8 74.Bf8 Kg8 75.Ba3 Kh8 76.Be6 Rb6 77.Kf7 Rb7+ 78.Be7

We went through these moves quickly, observing Black's plan of constant harrassment and White's efforts to create checkmate threats.

Black to move

Finally, from this position, Karjakin seized his chance to exchange into an ending where White's bishop operates on the wrong color squares.

78...h5! 79.gxh5 f5 80.Bxf5 Rxe7 81.Kxe7 Kg8 82.Bd3 Kh8 83.Kf8 g5

White to move

White has two ways to capture Black's pawn, both of which lead to stalemate. Leaving the pawn on the board also draws.

Carlsen captured en passant.

84.hxg6 1/2-1/2.


  1. Nice synopsis of important positions, James. Through which medium did you follow the World Championship?

    1. I followed the championship through the official website when home, occasionally supplementing with Chess24 on a mobile device. When I was away from home during the games, I used Chess24 on my phone or iPad. I watched the beginning of the last press conference on the official app on my iPad just before a chess lesson with a student. We then spent thirty minutes playing through variations from the first diagram above. He found Rc8+ before sitting down, but missed the follow-up. He's a young child who learned to play chess in January.