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Norway R01: Hari outplayed by Force Magnus

by Sagar Shah - 20/04/2016

Playing a super-elite tournament after almost two years is a difficult task in itself. You are definitely not helped by the fact that you have to face the World Champion with black pieces. Magnus played a nearly flawless game and won in smooth positional style. Hari's mistake can be traced all the way back to the eighth move when by not following the theoretical paths he landed in an inferior position. We have detailed analysis as well as a nice a suggestion for you on how to combat the Queen's Indian.

The last time Harikrishna played in a super-elite tournament was back in July 2014 when he was invited to play in the Biel Masters. Since then he has played in a lot of strong open events, team tournaments and also closed Round Robins but not of the stature of the Norway Chess 2016, which he is now competing in. And it really is a tough challenge when you are facing the World Champion in the first round with the black pieces.

Harikrishna played the black pieces against World Champion Magnus Carlsen
As Hari said in the press conference, his mistake could be traced back right to the opening when he played the move 8...0-0 instead of the well established lines 8...cxd4 and 8...Bb7. The Queen's Indian that Hari tried, most probably inspired by Sergey Karjakin's success, didn't go so well and Magnus had a typical slight edge out of the opening. It was just the type of position that Magnus would have hoped for as he slowly and systematically increased the pressure. 
The thing about playing Magnus is that he hardly makes any errors. Throughout the game he made the best possible moves and Hari was left with simply no chance to fight back. You could say that it was sort of a one sided affair but we are sure that our man will fight back in the second round. He faces Pavel Eljanov with the black pieces.
"It's not easy to catch the World Champion. Poor Hari now has to explain the game to us", is how Jan Gustafsson started the press conference. 
Here's the entire game with in-depth analysis:
[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2016.04.19"]
[Round "1.2"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E15"]
[WhiteElo "2851"]
[BlackElo "2763"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2016.04.19"]

{Going into the game Magnus was definitely to win this battle considering the
limited experience Harikrishna has at super-elite tournaments and also because
the World Champion had the white pieces.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 {
Hari doesn't go for the QGD with 3...d5, and instead opts for the Queen's
Indian Variation.} 4. g3 Ba6 5. Nbd2 {This is known to be a pretty unambitious
line. Mainly because the knight is not so well placed on d2. Of course it
would like to go to c3. But the problem that White faces after the move Ba6 is
that any and every move that he plays to defend the c4 pawn has some drawback.
If he goes b3, the dark squares are weakened a bit and Black can take
advantage of it by Bb4+. If Qc2 or Qa4 is played then the control on d5 is
lost and hence after c5, d5 becomes a gambit. Tough Nbd2 is not dangerous for
Black, whatever Magnus plays could be the start of a new direction in theory.}
Bb4 {Threatening to win the c4 pawn.} (5... Bb7 {is the main line and after} 6.
Bg2 c5 7. e4 cxd4 (7... Nxe4 $2 8. Ne5 $18) 8. Nxd4 Bc5 {With a hedgehog like
position.}) 6. Qa4 $5 (6. Qc2 {is the line suggested by Simon Williams in his
latest DVD on beating the Queen's Indian. This move was a favourite of Vassily
Ivanchuk and Anatoly Karpov.}) 6... c5 7. a3 Bxd2+ 8. Bxd2 O-O $6 {White
hasn't really scored well in this line in the past. But he has a decent
position with the double bishops and good chances of trying for an opening
edge.} (8... cxd4 9. Bg2 (9. Nxd4 Bb7 {looks a little uncomfortable for White
who now has to play f3} 10. f3 O-O 11. Bg2 Nc6 {I don't really see how Black
can be worse here.}) 9... Bb7 10. O-O Bc6 11. Qc2 Bxf3 $5 12. Bxf3 Nc6 {
And it is not going to be easy to win the d4 pawn.}) (8... Bb7 {is the main
line.} 9. Bg2 {tranposes to the above variation.} (9. dxc5 bxc5 {looks pretty
ok.})) 9. dxc5 $146 {Technically this is a novelty but the character of the
position remains the same.} bxc5 10. Bg2 $14 {White has got what he wanted. A
slight pull from the opening.} Qb6 11. O-O Nc6 (11... Qxb2 12. Rfb1 {traps the
queen.}) 12. Be3 Rfc8 $5 (12... Ng4 $2 13. Bxc5 Qxc5 14. Qxa6 $16) 13. Rfd1 $1
{Avoiding the temptation of taking on c5.} (13. Bxc5 Qxc5 14. Qxa6 Qa5 $1 {
A strong move foreseen by Harikrishna.} 15. Qxa5 Nxa5 16. Ne5 Rab8 $44 {
And Black has enough counterplay.}) 13... d5 (13... Rab8 {Keeping the position
as it is, but still White is better after} 14. Bf4 Rb7 15. e4 $1 Nxe4 16. Ne5
$36) 14. cxd5 exd5 15. Bxc5 Qa5 (15... Qxc5 16. Qxa6 $16) 16. Qc2 (16. Qxa5
Nxa5 17. Nd4 $1 (17. b4 Nb3 $11) 17... Rxc5 18. b4 Rc4 19. bxa5 $14 {White has
a slight pull here. But nothing very serious.}) 16... Bxe2 17. Qxe2 (17. b4
Bxd1 $1 $17) 17... Qxc5 18. Rac1 Qb6 19. b4 {With the isolated queen pawn to
play against and the queenside majority White has a clear advantage.} h6 20.
Qe3 $1 {Why would a normal person be ready to accept a sickly looking isolated
pawn on e3. And that too voluntarily in a position where there are other
better moves? Well, the secret to this lies in the fact that Magnus is very
well acquainted with the Classics. Most probably he drew this idea from the
game Botvinnik versus Boleslavsky.} Qb7 {Hari prefers to keep the queens but
now he just much worse.} (20... Qxe3 21. fxe3 {It is true that the e3 pawn is
weak but now White has much greater control on the d4 square and it is not so
easy to take advantage of the e3 weakness. Meanwhile d5 is pretty ripe and can
fall any moment.} Ng4 22. Re1 $1 {Keeps the tension and prepares Nd4.} (22. Bh3
h5 23. b5 (23. Rxd5 Nxb4 $1 24. Rxc8+ Rxc8 25. axb4 Rc1+ 26. Bf1 (26. Kg2 Nxe3+
$19) 26... Rxf1+ 27. Kxf1 Nxe3+ $17) 23... Na5 24. Rxc8+ Rxc8 25. Bxg4 hxg4 26.
Ne5 {White wins a pawn but with all these weaknesses it should be close to a
draw.}) 22... Ne7 23. Nd4 Rxc1 24. Rxc1 Nxe3 25. Re1 N3f5 26. Nxf5 Nxf5 27. Re5
$14) 21. Bh3 $1 Re8 22. Qc3 Ne7 23. Nd4 $16 {White has absolute control on the
position and against Magnus this is surely a recipe for disaster.} Ne4 24. Qc7
Qa6 25. f3 Ng5 26. Bd7 $1 {The precision with which Magnus plays is just
mindboggling.} Red8 27. h4 $1 {The knight is almost trapped.} Nxf3+ {It's a
practical try but Black surely doesn't have enough here.} (27... Nh7 28. Re1
Qf6 29. Rcd1 {Doesn't look appetising at all for Black.}) 28. Nxf3 Qxa3 29. Kg2
Qb2+ (29... Qxb4 30. Nd4 $18) 30. Rd2 Qxb4 31. Re1 a5 32. Rde2 Ng6 33. h5 Nh8 (
33... Nf8 34. Be8 $1 $18 {The f7 pawn is the problem.}) 34. Bf5 a4 {Even
before the a-pawn could get even slightly threatening Magnus launches a
decisive attack.} 35. Ne5 Qd6 (35... a3 36. Nc6 $18) 36. Qc2 $1 {Keeping the
queens is the easiest way to finish off the game.} Re8 37. Bh7+ Kf8 38. Qf5 (
38. Nd7+ Qxd7 39. Qc5+ {was another pretty way to win.}) 38... Re7 39. Bg6 Kg8
40. Nxf7 Rxf7 41. Bxf7+ {And before he would be mated. Harikrishna resigned.
Overall I think it was a flawless game by Magnus Carlsen.} 1-0
If you would like to learn how to play the Queen's Indian better with the White pieces where we have the DVD by Simon Williams which has recently been introduced in the ChessBase Shop.
You can read more about the DVD here. It's seven hours of training material mainly focusing on the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2!? with the white pieces.
For Indian residents it is available in our ChessBase India shop for Rs.999/- If you are interested in buying the DVD write to us at