Understand The Position 24: The Strange Novelty of Carlsen
The following example is from Super Tournament in Bilbao. Two exceptional players were sitting at the board. Each one is exceptional for a different reason. Magnus Carlsen, actual World No. 1 player, played as White; Vassily Ivanchuk, who is considered by his colleagues as the biggest chess genius of these days, played as Black. They nicknamed him Planet Ivanchuk for his unique and unpractical approach to the royal game and life.
Translated by: Dusan Turcer
Boris Gelfand recently merged these two big names in an interesting statement. He said: “Who plays better: Carlsen or Ivanchuk when in the form? In my opinion Ivanchuk.”
The game in Bilbao had also another significant point of view. Ivanchuk was the actual leader of the tournament and if Carlsen wanted to catch up, he had to beat him with white pieces. Nimzo-Indian Defence appeared on the chessboard and it seemed that the game will have a peaceful continuation…
The position on the diagram looks terribly ordinarily. Similar situation may arise from Nimzo-Indian, Queen’s Indian or Dutch Defense. However, the following Carlsen’s move looks purely shocking. Young Norwegian played seemingly incomprehensible 10.Bh3!?N.
Where is the bishop going? Barrier …d7-e6-f5 looks very strong, while the position of the white king looks pretty unstable without the bishop on g2. Finally, shouldn’t be the light-squared bishop opposed to his rival on b7?
In fact, the move 10.Bh3 is far enough logic, although it looks extravagantly. We will explain why.
- Black exchanged his dark-squared bishop on c3 for the knight, which was controlling the central squares e4 and d5 very well. Translated into a strategic language: Black exchanged the advantage of a bishop pair for good control of the central squares.
- If White wants to have advantage from the opening, he needs to fight for the squares e4 and d5. Paradoxically, he has a better chances on d5, because this square is covered by the c4-pawn. If he would like to fight for the e4, he would have to play f2-f3 because this square is very well controlled by black pieces. This would mean to retreat with the knight, to play f2-f3 and maybe sometimes e2-e4.
- White, however, doesn’t want to exchange light-squared bishops in this battle of the squares e4 and d5. Of course, he would lose the advantage of the bishop pair.
- Carlsen moved his Bf1 to h3 instead of g2 for two reasons. Firstly, after the further 0-0, the knight on f3 can retreat without allowing the exchange of light-squared bishops. Secondly, the d4-d5 advance is getting stronger – White often captures the f5-pawn, which is attacked by Bh3.
Rest of the game gave Magnus the truth. The long white diagonal, which is the spinal cord of the Black’s position, was cut thanks for the d4-d5 advance and in the resulting open position the released bishop pair of White was ruling. The Norwegian won nicely.