White: Levon Aronian
Black: Magnus Carlsen
Date: Fri Mar 15 2013
Hello everyone I am GM Christian Bauer and will follow for you the Candidates matches with live commentary. I have 27 games in my database featuring Aronian with White vs Carlsen with an interesting tendency: before 2007 Aronian didn’t lose a single one, and after he didn’t win anymore! The last victory of the Armenian vs the world N1 was in the Candidates 2007, when, back at that time, he was the better rated/stronger player.
When Aronian plays on the black side things are a bit different however, wins have been shared from the beginning of their meetings. In Reykjavik 2004, even though Carlsen is leading on the score. So, shall one expect Aronian to play cautiously today or take more risks in order to try beating Magnus (once more) again ? As an interesting read before the games, check out the article by Magnus Carlsen himself published on Chessdom on his first major tournament victory.
1. d4 So 1.d4, which had to be expected ; most of the time they discussed 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3, but in Wijk Aan Zee this year Carlsen surprised his opponent with 2…g6
1… Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 3…Bb4+ and 4…Bxd2+ means Carlsen wants something solid for this 1st round, no early complications. This is rather logical in such a tough and long event
4. Bd2 Although Black isn’t supposed to equalize so easily with this system, the choice may be dictated by the surprise value again, like in Tata Steel
4… Bxd2+ 5. Qxd2 d5 6. Nc3 O-O and the game has reached a sort of Queen’s Gambit declined without the dark-squared Bishops
7. e3 the Bc8 may remain a bit passive for the next half-dozen of moves, but Black has got a solid position ; Black has less space so having swapped the dark Bishops has also some merits for him
7… Qe7 Now if White plays something “standard”, we will either reach the Carlsbad pawn structure (I think it is called like this :), after cxd5 exd5, or Black will continue developing with …Nbd7 then …dxc4 and eventually free himself with …e6-e5
8. Rc1 “funnily” all 4 games have started with 1.d4, even Svidler-Kramnik ; does it mean only weaker players start 1.e4 nowadays ?!
8… Rd8 9. Qc2 both Aronian and Carlsen continue to play fast ; White didn’t want to commit his Bishop/lose a tempo after Black moves …dxc4 Bxc4 and with Qc2 he rules out a possible …Ne4. I guess Carlsen will either play …c7-c6 or …Nbd7 now. Not sure if …c6 is really necessary. I suppose a move like …c7-c5, intending to trade all “c” and “d” pawns + put the Knight at c6, is too ambitious and would run into tactical problems.
9… a6 …a6, so does that mean Carlsen wants …dxc4 followed by …b7-b5 next …Bb7 ? That would create a hole at c5, but if Black manages the …c7-c5 push he will be very fine. I suppose a2-a3 is a candidate-move here, while closing the queenside with c4-c5 doesn’t look appropriate ; B would answer …Nc6 next …e6-e5
10. a3 the question is thus a3 dxc4 Bxc4 b5 Be2 (or d3) and then either …c5 or …Bb7
10… Nbd7 11. Be2 Now that White has ran out of useful semi-waiting moves he finally goes Be2
11… dxc4 if now 12…b5 13.Be2 c5 14.dxc5 Nxc5 W wins a pawn with 15.Nxb5, but 14…Qxc5 seems alright, i.e. fully equal. Black isn’t forced to play …b5, by the way, he can also go …c5 at once. All in all it seems Aronian has failed to cause his opponent any opening problem, and soon, after a later …cxd4 Nxd4, or if White takes dxc5 himself, a simplified position will arise
12. Bxc4 c5 the computer suggests that White should have tried 11.cxd5 in order to fight for a small edge, but that would also have unbalanced the game, with an asymmetric pawn-structure. Quite possibly Aronian would have played this way vs someone else, or even vs Carlsen in other circumstances, but he decided to be more cautious
13. Be2 b5 14. dxc5 Qxc5 Castle is now a logical continuation for White, with next 16.Rfd1, but Aronian is spending some time on this move so perhaps he is looking at something more concrete.
15. b4 15. b4 As predicted, Aronian delayed the castle in order to slip this move in. The queenside structure won’t be locked for too long because either White will push a3-a4 or Black will play a6-a5.
15… Qe7 16. O-O Bb7 17. a4 Qxb4 Obviously Carlsen guessed what was Aronian contemplating before pushing 15. b4 and had his reply prepared. White will now take on b5 and continue with 19. Rb1 or perhaps even better to involve the Knight with 19. Nd4.
18. axb5 axb5 19. Qb1 After clearing the pawns from the whole flank Aronian is offering exchange of the Queens.
19… Qxb1 19…Qe7 was possible maybe. But it looks like both players are content to start the tournament with a safe way.
20. Rxb1 Bxf3 21. Bxf3 Rab8 , 22. Nxb5 Ne5 23. Nd4 Nxf3+ 24. Nxf3 Rxb1 25. Rxb1 h6 After massive exchanges in a blitz manner, we can confirm this game is heading for a draw.
Carlsen will face Kramnik, while Aronian will play with Gelfand. 26. h3 g5 27. g4 Kg7 28. Kg2 Rd7 29. Rb2 Rc7 30. Nd4 Nd5
Thank you all for following with me GM Bauer. See you in next rounds for more commentary and for some blitz games in the Arena. Do not forget also to try out the NIC editions. Enjoy the rest of the games, see you tomorrow! 31. Rc2 ½-½