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Grand Swiss R04: Magnus Carlsen survives a massive scare

by Satanick Mukhuty - 14/10/2019

Magnus Carlsen made an unbelievable escape from a completely lost position in the fourth round of FIDE Grand Swiss in Isle of Man here. The World Champion was up against Vladislav Kovalev with the black pieces and just twenty-seven moves into the game found himself in severe trouble. But fortunately it was his opponent's poor management of time that finally spared him of what would only have been a crushing defeat. The first board encounter between the World No 2, Fabiano Caruana, and China’s Wang Hao ended in a draw. The two have now been joined at the top by the World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo and England’s Luke McShane who got the better of Vidit Gujrathi and Adhiban Baskaran respectively. Apart from the electrifying Kovalev-Carlsen clash, the performance of the Indian contingent in the fourth round was rather sombre. We bring an illustrated report. 

The stupendous escape of the day!

It is not just the ability to dominate one's rivals but also the resolve to bounce back out of impossible situations, the will to contain large damages and not letting them turn into catastrophe, that distinguishes a true champion from the ordinary. The fourth round of FIDE Grand Swiss 2019 reflected among other things the depths of the current World Champion's resilience. Magnus Carlsen was in the brink of an imminent loss against the 2661 rated Belarusian Grandmaster Vladislav Kovalev. But the World no.1 had only one thing going for him: Kovalev was in serious time trouble – he had less than two minutes to make 14 moves and reach the first time control. Magnus, resourceful as ever he is, exploited this little upside of an otherwise miserable situation to the fullest and as he kept finding one defensive move after another, his opponent faltered trying desperately to keep up with the ticking clock beside. The next thing you know, the World Champion survived and escaped unscathed with a draw after 47 moves!

Pictures do speak more than a thousand words. These vivid snaps captured by John Saunders in the venue say it all!

Without further ado let us see what exactly happened. Magnus had the black pieces and the game opened with a Sicilian Moscow - standard recipe for white players these days to bypass heavy Najdorf theory. Interestingly, till about move 10 the players followed one of Carlsen's own games from two years ago against Etienne Bacrot in Paris GCT. But soon enough the battle shifted into unexplored terrain.


Vladislav Kovalev - Magnus Carlsen, Round 4

It was at this point when Magnus became a bit wobbly as White got in 19.cxd5. The World Champion played 19...Ne7 here, can you suggest an improvement?

19...Ne7 followed by 20...Nf5 was perhaps an attempt to do something about the d-pawn but Black had a much effective approach with 19...Na5 20.Qa4 Bc7 21.Bd2 Nb7 22.Rae1 Qf7 23.Qc6 Rab8 etc to keep things in check. 


Analysis board

Black is doing absolutely fine after 23...Rab8 of the line mentioned in the last paragraph. As we can see he has very good control over the d6 square and there is little White can do to make progress here.

In the game however things turned tricky with Black's Ne7-Nf5 idea. White got in d5-d6 immediately and it was in the above position Magnus blundered with 24...Nxe3 

It is hard to imagine the World Champion erring so early in the game but that's what happened here. Soon White managed to push his d-pawn all the way to the seventh rank! This is very straightforward chess and everyone could see that Magnus was in serious trouble.

White's d7 pawn is well-supported by all the heavy pieces. It is quite clear what the logical result from this position is!

Kovalev had multiple ways to force a win from this position and even later (some sample lines can be found in the annotation below) but it was this plethora of choices that overwhelmed him. Of course, it was the clock that also betrayed, he came under immense time pressure and simply kept missing the winning moves that lay in front of him on the board. Check out the perpetual tragicomic turn of events for yourself below:

The Belarusian's plight was succinctly encapsulated by Emil Sutovsky, Grandmaster and FIDE Director-General, who wrote the following on his Facebook page: "Once Yussupov taught us, the young students of Polugaevsky chess school: when you are clearly winning - pick one move, focus on it and calculate till the end. Do not compare. But to Magnus' luck, Kovalev did not attend that lesson..."

Here is what Sutovsky expressed on his timeline just after the game:

Be it his X factor or indomitable will to defend, with this stupendous save Magnus has furthered his unbeaten streak to 94 games. It has been 439 days since the World Champion was last defeated! | Photo: John Saunders

A dismal day for Indians

While electrifying drama was unfolding on board seven between Kovalev and Carlsen, the Indian contingent wasn't experiencing all that great time. Sethuraman SP and Prithu Gupta were the only players to fetch wins on the fourth day of the event. Prithu had a devastating start with three losses in a row, he made his first point only in round four beating the Russian WGM Vera Nebolsina. Sethuraman's victory too came only against a lower rated opponent, IM Brandon Clarke of England. Elsewhere, Vidit Gujrathi, Adhiban Baskaran, and Nihal Sarin lost their respective encounters against Parham Maghsoodloo, Luke McShane, and Peter Leko. While Vishy Anand made a quick draw against Mircea Parligras.

Prithu Gupta registered a much needed win in round four after losing three games in a row | Photo: John Saunders

Vidit had the black pieces against the current World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo. After a miscalculation in the middlegame, the Indian Grandmaster ended up in a position with weak pawn structure. Maghsoodloo exploited this with precise play to clinch the full point and emerge as one of the leaders of the event | Photo: John Saunders

Although the 19-year-old Iranian talent is not able to don his lucky jacket in this event but that, as we can see, is not stopping him from winning games! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Adhiban Baskaran too had tough luck facing Luke McShane with black pieces. The English Grandmaster played some really sublime chess sacrificing a pawn in the middlegame to open up the center and then breaching the seventh rank | Photo: John Saunders 

Adhiban has slipped to the 23rd place after this defeat and faces GM David Howell in the next round | Photo: John Saunders

Nihal Sarin couldn't hold his own either against Peter Leko of Hungary. The two-time World Championship Candidate had the 15-year-old Indian boxed in right from the beginning until finally he yielded on move 38 | Photo: John Saunders 

Raunak Sadhwani had, at one moment, an inferior position against Ivan Saric but the 13-year-old youngster defended well to force the split of point | Photo: John Saunders 

Surya Sekhar Ganguly has remained unbeaten in the event so far. In round four he drew the strong Chinese Grandmaster Yu Yangyi | Photo: John Saunders

Harikrishna Pentala didn't have much difficulty to hold former FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov to draw | Photo: Maria Emelianova

Gukesh D too held the experienced English player Gawain Jones to a draw. Along with him S.L.Narayanan, Abhimanyu Puranik, Harika Dronavalli, and Soumya Swaminathan too drew their games against their higher rated opponents | Photo: John Saunders

The big game of round five!

The World Champion Magnus Carlsen has been paired up against Surya Sekhar Ganguly in the next round. This is surely the most anticipated encounter of round five | Photo: Wikipedia

Results of all Indian players (Round 4)

Rd.Bo.No. NameRtgPts. ResultPts. NameRtg No.
4448GMMaghsoodloo Parham 2664 1 - 0 GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi 271817
4634GMMcShane Luke J 2682 1 - 0 GMAdhiban B. 263973
4854GMGanguly Surya Shekhar 26582 ½ - ½2 GMYu Yangyi 27635
41156GMKasimdzhanov Rustam 26572 ½ - ½2 GMHarikrishna Pentala 27489
42378GMKuzubov Yuriy 26362 ½ - ½2 GMSasikiran Krishnan 267537
42746GMSaric Ivan 26672 ½ - ½2 IMSadhwani Raunak 2479129
4324GMAnand Viswanathan 2765 ½ - ½ GMParligras Mircea-Emilian 262989
44242GMLeko Peter 2670 1 - 0 GMNihal Sarin 2610105
447104GMNarayanan.S.L 2611 ½ - ½ GMZvjaginsev Vadim 264469
449114GMPuranik Abhimanyu 2571 ½ - ½ GMNguyen Ngoc Truong Son 263876
453122GMHarika Dronavalli 24951 ½ - ½1 GMGrandelius Nils 269127
45429GMJones Gawain C B 26881 ½ - ½1 GMGukesh D 2520119
46394GMSethuraman S.P. 26241 1 - 01 IMClarke Brandon G I 2445139
467116GMGonzalez Vidal Yuri 25521 ½ - ½1 WGMSoumya Swaminathan 2365149
474152WGMNebolsina Vera 2252½ 0 - 10 GMPrithu Gupta 2493124

Pairings of all Indian players for the next round

Rd.Bo.No. NameRtgPts. ResultPts. NameRtg No.
GMCarlsen Magnus 2876 GMGanguly Surya Shekhar 2658
GMHarikrishna Pentala 2748 GMSarana Alexey 2655
GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi 2718 GMHovhannisyan Robert 2639
GMAdhiban B. 2639 GMHowell David W L 2694
GMSasikiran Krishnan 2675 GMRakhmanov Aleksandr 2621
IMSadhwani Raunak 2479 GMEljanov Pavel 2663
GMBachmann Axel 26292 2 GMAnand Viswanathan 2765
GMKamsky Gata 26852 2 GMSethuraman S.P. 2624
GMSevian Samuel 26542 2 GMNarayanan.S.L 2611
GMAdly Ahmed 26362 2 GMPuranik Abhimanyu 2571
GMBerkes Ferenc 2667 GMGukesh D 2520
GMPiorun Kacper 2643 GMHarika Dronavalli 2495
WGMSoumya Swaminathan 2365 GMAlekseev Evgeny 2629
GMNihal Sarin 2610 IMZatonskih Anna 2422
GMPrithu Gupta 24931 1 IMGavrilescu David 2451

Results of top ten boards (Round 4)

Bo.No. NameRtgPts. ResultPts. NameRtg No.
GMCaruana Fabiano 28123 ½ - ½3 GMWang Hao 2726
GMAlekseenko Kirill 2674 ½ - ½ GMGrischuk Alexander 2759
GMCheparinov Ivan 2670 ½ - ½ GMVitiugov Nikita 2732
GMMaghsoodloo Parham 2664 1 - 0 GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi 2718
GMSargissian Gabriel 2690 ½ - ½ GMFedoseev Vladimir 2664
GMMcShane Luke J 2682 1 - 0 GMAdhiban B. 2639
GMKovalev Vladislav 26612 ½ - ½2 GMCarlsen Magnus 2876
GMGanguly Surya Shekhar 26582 ½ - ½2 GMYu Yangyi 2763
GMKarjakin Sergey 27602 1 - 02 GMDemchenko Anton 2655
GMAronian Levon 27582 1 - 02 GMSevian Samuel 2654

Top ten pairings for the next round

Bo.No. NameRtgPts. ResultPts. NameRtg No.
GMMcShane Luke J 2682 GMCaruana Fabiano 2812
GMWang Hao 2726 GMMaghsoodloo Parham 2664
GMAnton Guijarro David 26743 3 GMKarjakin Sergey 2760
GMGrischuk Alexander 27593 3 GMCheparinov Ivan 2670
GMKryvoruchko Yuriy 26693 3 GMAronian Levon 2758
GMFedoseev Vladimir 26643 3 GMWojtaszek Radoslaw 2748
GMVitiugov Nikita 27323 3 GMLenderman Aleksandr 2648
GMShirov Alexei 26643 3 GMSargissian Gabriel 2690
GMDreev Aleksey 26623 3 GMGelfand Boris 2686
GMBluebaum Matthias 26433 3 GMAlekseenko Kirill 2674

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