Position from the Carlsen – Karjakin WCC Match

The 2016 World Chess Championship Match was played in New York City between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. Carlsen ended up victorious, but only after winning the tie-break.

The 12 classical games ended in a 6-6 tie where Carlsen missed several opportunities to take the lead in the first half of the match. He lost in game 8 (after pushing too hard for a win), and had to deliver a comeback in game 10 to level the score. In the tie-break, he proved a worthy champion.

I was in New York in November during the Match, giving a lecture on game 3+4 in the Marshall Chess Club. Game 4 was especially interesting, not only from a chess perspective, but also due to the comments and thoughts by the World Champion himself.

Karjakin – Carlsen, WCC (4), New York 2016

Black to move. Here Carlsen played the unfortunate 45…f4? which leads to a fortress position – something that Karjakin was immediately aware of and mentioned after the game. Instead, the challenger was expecting the move 45…Be6!

Carlsen said after the game that he was not a big believer in fortresses, because his own experience has proven him to be able to take them down. In this case, he thought 45…f4 was easily winning, because he had a route for his king over b3 (attacking the vulnerable b2-pawn). Only later did he realize the position was a fortress, and he rightfully called his play in this endgame sloppy. The thoughts on the diagram position can be found in the press conference by clicking on the link below (7:40 minutes in):

Press conference game 4

Let’s just say that Carlsen’s approach is not classical, but instead unorthodox and very pragmatic, relying on his own strength and knowledge. However, themes such as domination, zugzwang and fortresses are very much real, as this game proves. Try to answer the following two questions to the above diagram position:

  1. Why is the position a fortress after 45…f4?
  2. The best move in the position is 45…Be6. Why is White in zugzwang after this move?

Click here to see the solution.



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