Dogged Kar­jakin made Carlsen work to keep crown

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - DAVID R. SANDS ● David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

The champ earned his tri­umph, but let’s give it up here for the loser. The just-com­pleted world ti­tle match won by Nor­way’s Mag­nus Carlsen over Rus­sian Sergey Kar­jakin in New York City has in­spired much post­mortem grum­bling over the high num­ber of draws — 10 — in the 12 games played at tra­di­tional time lim­its. Vir­tu­ally all of the drama was crammed into last Wed­nes­day’s one-day four-game rapid play­off, with Carlsen fi­nally break­ing through with dra­matic wins in the fi­nal two games to re­tain his crown.

Sev­eral of the games, as we noted here last week, were a bit in­sipid — cau­tious open­ings, an un­will­ing­ness to take risks, a bumper crop of op­po­site-col­ored bishop end­ings. But give the un­der­dog Kar­jakin his due — he dis­played an in­spired de­fen­sive tenac­ity, slip­ping Carlsen’s trade­mark ana­conda po­si­tional squeezes again and again dur­ing the match. (Af­ter the 6-6 tie in the clas­si­cal match, Kar­jakin ac­tu­ally gained rat­ing points from his loss.)

His stale­mate trick to save the sec­ond rapid game with vir­tu­ally no time on his clock was a mas­ter­piece of fight­ing chess, even it is only earned him a half-point. Had the next two games gone the Rus­sian’s way, Game 2 would be a can­di­date for the an­tholo­gies.

Still, Carlsen’s win, notched on his 26th birth­day, was both de­served and pop­u­lar. He is by far the world’s most charis­matic chess star, and his time at the top is a boon for those try­ing to pop­u­lar­ize the game.

And Carlsen can play chess. The fourth and fi­nal rapid game, with the des­per­ate Kar­jakin need­ing a win at all costs, was han­dled bril­liantly by the champ, ex­ploit­ing his op­po­nent’s need to take risks, keep­ing a clamp on the po­si­tion, and fin­ish­ing things off with the queen sac­ri­fice heard ‘round the world. Black does get an un­bal­anced po­si­tion af­ter 34. Nb5 Rxb3 35. Nd4 Qxc4 36. Nxb3 Qxb3, but White’s care­ful play never al­lows his op­po­nent any king­side at­tack.

With Kar­jakin forced to take even more risks, White finds a bril­liant way to end the match: 47. Qxf4! Ra2+ 48. Kh1 Qh2 (Black’s at­tack fi­nally seems to be get­ting some se­ri­ous trac­tion, but Carlsen has things in hand) 49. Rc8+ Kh7 50. Qh6+!, when both 50...Kxh6 51. Rh8 and 50...gxh6 51. Rxf7 mate the Black king; Kar­jakin re­signed al­most in­stantly.

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For such a tal­ented, well­rounded, and much-liked player, Rus­sian Grandmaster Mark Taimanov was bit un­lucky. For all his great­ness, he is best re­mem­bered for the fa­mous 6-0 shel­lack­ing he took at the hands of Bobby Fis­cher in 1971 in their can­di­dates match, and then he had the bad tim­ing to pass away last week as the chess world was fo­cused on Carlsen-Kar­jakin, at the age of 90.

But Taimanov was the Soviet na­tional cham­pion in 1956, won nu­mer­ous big tour­na­ments and beat ev­ery world cham­pion ex­cept for Fis­cher from the 1940s to the 1980s. To­day’s di­a­gram shows Taimanov de­feat­ing world champ Ana­toly Kar­pov in 1977, when Kar­pov was at the height of his pow­ers. Kar­pov as White has an ex­tra pawn, but Taimanov’s pieces dom­i­nate, and an in­spired com­bi­na­tion fells the champ.

Black first par­a­lyzes his op­po­nent with 36...Qd4! 37. b6? (miss­ing Black’s idea; 37. Rb1 or 37. Rc3 had to be played) Ra1 38. Rb1 Ng3+!!, when it’s cur­tains af­ter 39. hxg3 (Qxg3 Rxb1) Ra8!, with 40...Rh8 mate up next; Kar­pov re­signed.

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