20 January 2013

How Carlsen makes us feel better about chess II

As with the previous post on Carlsen's attitude, I'd like to briefly comment on what Carlsen's approach offers the Class player.  In this case, the reference is the GM Daniel King commentary from round 6 of the 2013 Tata Steel (Wijk aan Zee) tournament presenting Magnus Carlsen's win over Ivan Sokolov.

The basic strategy Carlsen followed was simply to get a playable position in his game as White, in this case a relatively quiet line of the Ruy Lopez (aka Spanish Game).  The most striking aspect to me was Carlsen's understanding of the position and what possibilities it gave him on the board, along with the necessary patience to wait for his opponent to go wrong.  This was the secret to his success in this game, rather than Kasparov-style cutting edge opening preparation intended to overpower his opponent.  The full commentary is well worth reviewing, as Daniel King explains the key ideas at every turn, which I found understandable.  Carlsen's own post on the game makes a good counterpoint to it, with an objective and critical (including self-critical) summary of key points.

I am a fan of opening study and this game by Carlsen demonstrates the powerful idea that one should have a deep understanding of one's opening repertoire and the core ideas and requirements of the middlegame positions that result, rather than being "booked up" on memorized lines or having to play sharp, tactical openings to obtain winning chances.  In this case, even a Class player can follow the thread of the game and see how key positional goals were identified and executed, with a final tactical flourish.

While this is an example of top-level chess, I feel that Carlsen's basic approach is well worth emulating by the improving player.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    I totally agree with you on that! I think that as club players we should focus much more on sound positional play and less on opening theory. Many club players seem to think that the only way to win a game is the Kasparov-way... :-)


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