Deja Vu? A surprising Kiwi Connection, by Bill Forster
The old saying "don't bother analysing a blitz game" probably should be confined to history.
The main reason is the liberating factor of a time increment on every move. The 3+2 time control has all but replaced the old 5 minute guillotine time control. This means that there's no danger of an absurd finish involving a player two rooks and a queen down flagging his opponent. The result between good players is surprisingly 'normal' high quality games.
Of course the pinnacle of Blitz is the World Blitz Championship, contested most recently in St Petersburg in December. Whilst reading the report in "New In Chess" I came across the following very high profile game from that event, and experienced a very strong feeling of deja-vu. Where had I seen all this before?
We'll answer that question in due course with the obscure Kiwi connection that justifies this article appearing in the New Zealand Chess Bulletin, but first let's dig into Carlsen-Giri. The game was analysed by Peter Heine Nielsen (a key member of "Team Carlsen") for New in Chess and also (lightly) by Leonard Barden in the Guardian. I reuse (with attribution of course) many of their comments, and add my own colour commentary.
Carlsen, Magnus - Giri, Anish - World Blitz 2018
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e4 Neilsen gives this move a !? and praises Magnus for choosing a comparitively rare option - not a move that would have escaped the notoriously encyclopaedic Giri entirely but certainly one for which he might struggle to remember the subtleties in a Blitz game 4...Bc5 Nielsen describes this as "the most principled move, forcing events", implying White is obliged to play the following little combination to avoid allowing Black a comfortable position with control over d4 5.Nxe5 Nxe5 6.d4 Bb4 7.dxe5 Nxe4 8.Qf3 Neilsen says that Qd4 is more common, and suggests this is a refinement ( The game Andreikin (2683) - Caruana (2709), Moscow 2010 saw instead 8.Qd4 and that game concluded 8...Nxc3 9.bxc3 Be7 10.Qg4 g6 11.Bh6 d6 12.Qg3
Moves are clickable
12...Bf8 13.Bg5 Be7 14.Bh6 Bf8 15.Bf4 dxe5 16.Bxe5 Bd6 17.Bxd6 Qxd6 18.Qxd6 cxd6 19.O-O-O Ke7 20.Be2 Be6 21.Rd4 Rac8 22.Re1 Rhe8 23.f4 b6 24.Bd3 Kd7 25.Rd1 Red8 26.f5 gxf5 27.Rh4 Rh8 28.Rf1 Rc5 29.Rh5 Ke7 30.Kd2 h6 31.Bxf5 Rxc4 32.Bc2 Rhc8 33.Rf3 Rg8 34.g3 Rh8 35.Re3 Rc5 36.Rh4 Kd7 37.a4 h5 38.Bd3 Rg8 39.Rf4 Rgg5 40.Ref3 Ke7 41.Rh4 Ra5 42.Rd4 Rgd5 43.Rff4 Rxd4 44.Rxd4 Rd5 45.Rf4 Re5 46.Bc2 Bg4 47.Bd3 Bd7 48.Bc2 f6 49.Bd1 d5 50.Rh4 Be8 51.Rd4 Kd6 52.Rf4 Ke7 53.Rd4 Bg6 54.Bf3 Ke6 55.Be2 Be4 56.Bf1 Kd6 57.a5 Rf5 58.Ke1 Rf3 59.axb6 axb6 60.Bg2 Rxc3 61.Kd2 Rc2+ 0-1 ) 8...Nxc3 9.bxc3 Be7 Neilsen criticises this move by reference to a game by Caruana, presumably the one quoted above where White played 8.Qd4 not 8.Qf3, saying that the difference here is that the White's queen is going to attack g7 from g3 not g4, so Black's later ...d6 will not come with tempo ( Leonard Barden in the Guardian recommends 9...Ba5! = ) 10.Qg3 g6 ( Neilsen: If 10...O-O 11.Bh6 g6 would be a decent exchange sac, except that White has 12.h4 with a huge attack ) 11.Bh6 d6
The same diagram as the Caruana game, but this time it is White to move 12.Be2 Be6 13.Rd1 Qd7 14.exd6 cxd6 15.O-O O-O-O
The relative safety of the two Kings is the main factor here. This is good news for bloodthirsty chess fans. We know that these absurdly strong players are right at home milking tiny advantages in thematic Catalan endgames (for example). But the nature of this position means that Magnus' main tools are going to be that axe on the wall and a murderous heart. 16.Be3 Having done its job preventing king side castling the bishop pivots to hurting Black on the queenside 16...Qa4 17.Qf3 Qc6 18.Qf4 The axe murder plan requires keeping the queens on. (18.Qxc6+ bxc6 19.Bxa7 lets Black off too lightly (the engine actually has this as dead level) ) 18...b6 19.a4! Rd7 ( Neilsen: 19...Qxa4 20.Ra1 Qd7 21.c5! is devastating ) 20.a5 bxa5 21.Rb1 Rc7
22.c5 Leonard Barden in the Guardian gives this move a question mark and points out (22.Bxa7! Rxa7 23.Qd4 forking the rooks. Neilsen doesn't mention this, I suppose he could be protecting his boss, but it's just as plausible he doesn't really consider this to be a mistake. Pawn grabbing is not thematic in this game and a +2 advantage is ultimately going to generate the same result as a +3 advantage ) 22...dxc5 23.Bf3?! Neilsen: With his opponent short of time, Magnus commits a mistake (23.Bb5! would have been crushing, especially followed by Qa4, when Black's queenside collapses ) 23...Qd6? ( Neilsen: Now Giri could have fought back with 23...g5! when White suddenly lacks a good square for his queen. Best would be 24.Bxc6 (24.Qg3 Qd6 ) 24...gxf4 25.Bxf4 Rxc6 26.Rb8+ Kd7 27.Rxh8 but after 27...Rb6! 28.Ra8 Rb7! Black has very decent counterplay. Giri's mind, however, may have already been at the upcoming interview, and things now went very quickly. ) 24.Qe4 Rd8
Neilsen: Before completing this move, Black lost on time. Not that it mattered because (24...Rd8 25.Rb8+! wins on the spot 25...Kd7 (25...Kxb8 26.Qa8# ) 26.Qa4+ ) 1-0
Both the New In Chess and Guardian reports acknowledge that there was more than just chess happening in this game. Apparently the players have a little bit of antipathy (no doubt mixed in with lots of respect) for each other, so that their matchups are always grudge matches. Both reports quote Magnus Carlsen as saying about the game: "There are many who have fantasies as to what is the best way to start the day. This is mine".
So what is the Kiwi connection? During a recent discussion on the ChessChat.org forum, Michael Freeman presented an internet discovery, a forgotten game from an old and short lived chess column in Salient, the Victoria University of Wellington Students Association magazine. The column, from 1978, presented a game from the Wellington Easter tournament of that year. The annotator was David Beach, a strong player of that era who apparently gave up chess as a very young man. Part of the fun for me was that the column mysteriously omitted a move pair near the end, requiring a certain amount of detective work. In any case the game has duly now been resurrected and added to the New Zealand Games database.
And of course the justification for all this is that the players involved, Kai Jensen of Hamilton and the very obscure Dave Oliver of Wellington actually anticipated the contemporary Super GM theory from Andreikin-Caruana and Carlsen-Giri above. The first diagram position below, after 12.Qg3 appears in both of those games. Previously this position was first thought to have arisen in Tarasenko-Arbakov Moscow 1995, and only in a handful of games since. Kai Jensen did not anticipate Carlsen's refinement and missed out on the extra tempo. However, unlike Caruana Dave Oliver did not use the tempo wisely to challenge the bind with ...Bf8 and instead wasted the extra move and in fact only weakened his position with ...b6. Just like Carlsen, Jensen's next was the quiet developing move Be2 and just like Carlsen he produced a nice attacking game.
I'll conclude with a digital re-creation of the entire Salient column, with David Beach's original and unaltered annotations.
Jensen, Kai J - Oliver, Dave - Wellington Easter Open 1978
The Civic Chess Club ran a tournament over the long Easter weekend which drew entries from as far afield as Auckland and Christchurch. Murray Chandler, Wellington's youthful International Master was expected to be difficult to beat and he proved the pundits right by conceding only one draw to finish 1.5 points clear of the rest of the field. Hamiltonian Kai Jensen who represented New Zealand at the World Junior tournament in Austria last year looked as if he could be a largish stumbling block in Murray's path but had a disappointing tournament. He did however have a good win in the first round. 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e4 Bc5 5.Nxe5 A small combination with the aim of securing an advantage in the centre. 5...Nxe5 6.d4 Bb4 7.dxe5 Nxe4 8.Qd4 Nxc3? (8...f5 maintaining a presence in the centre was better ) 9.bxc3 Be7 10.Qg4 g6 ( The alternative to this weakening move was the commital 10...Kf8 ) 11.Bh6 d6 12.Qg3
Moves are clickable
12...b6? More weak squares. 13.Be2 Be6 14.Bf3 Rb8 15.O-O Black can only watch enviously 15...Bh4 16.Bc6+ Bd7 17.Bxd7+ Kxd7 18.Qg4+ Kc6 19.Qf3+ Kd7 20.Rad1 Re8 21.exd6 cxd6
22.Rxd6+! Kxd6 23.Qd5+ Kc7 24.Bf4+ Source: Salient (Victoria University of Wellington Student Association Newspaper) April 17 1978 Page 20 - Annotator David Beach. Thanks to Michael Freeman for unearthing this from the NZETC (NZ Electronic Text Collection) archives. 1-0