chess24 Mar 18, 2019 | 2:10 PMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen shines in first Banter Blitz

Magnus Carlsen set the tone for his first ever Banter Blitz at the start, referencing a game from 11 years ago, quoting both the first World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz and Meat Loaf, and going on to win smoothly in 19 moves. In this recap we take a look at the eight games he played, and won, which you can also replay with computer analysis. If you missed out, don’t worry: Magnus is back for more Banter Blitz twice this week!

You now have a chance to do something in chess it’s almost impossible to do in any other sport – take on the World Champion in a direct encounter! Magnus is soon going to be very busy again, facing Ding Liren, Giri, Mamedyarov, Anand, Grischuk and co. in Shamkir Chess from 31 March, then Caruana, Anand, MVL, Aronian, Svidler and co. in the GRENKE Chess Classic from 20 April. Before that, though, he’s going to be playing here on chess24. Once again, for a chance to play against Magnus, all you need to do is ensure you’re a chess24 Premium Member and then challenge Magnus during the upcoming shows:

Not sure what to expect? Check out our recap of his first ever Banter Blitz:

Banter Blitz with World Champion Magnus Carlsen, #1

You can watch the one-hour session with Magnus Carlsen below:

Although Magnus has of course played on chess24 before (most infamously when he beat his second Jan Gustafsson incognito during a 72-hour Bantherthon), with his new username of MagzyBogues at the time of writing he’s played just 14 games - the 6-game match against Peter Svidler and the first Banter Blitz session. It hasn’t been going too badly!

You can check out all the details at his profile, but for convenience we also made the recent Banter Blitz games into a traditional tournament, so you can easily browse through them with computer analysis by clicking on a game (we’ll later add new sessions as new rounds):

So let’s take a brief look at the games:

1. MagzyBogues 1-0 ProselitoFritz69 | 3-minute game | video from 01:17

It’s traditional to have some technical hiccups at the start of a Banter Blitz session, and this was no exception. Magnus had to make a late change of computer to solve an issue with the webcam, was playing with just a trackpad, had some trouble scrolling to see challenges and we see the board from his opponent’s perspective until he flips it after about 3:45 minutes… but there was no issue with the World Champion’s chess or chess culture!

On move 8 he thrust his g-pawn forward two squares:

The first top player to have done that was his current coach, and we got a glimpse of Magnus’ near perfect recall:

This move, g4, is not a great move. It was popularised by Mr Peter Heine Nielsen, who won a great game with it at the Dresden Olympiad in 2008, against I think Veselin Georgiev, which is kind of a nice hybrid name of a couple of Bulgarian grandmasters…

Generally I’m not a believer in such, I don’t know what to call it, uninvited violence. Usually I believe in what Steinitz says about attacking when you have the advantage and so on, but I suppose we’re here to entertain, so why not!

Later he comments:

I could go 13.Bh6, but that’s a bit of a chicken move, so I won’t do that, as Meat Loaf once said…

Later Magnus does play the bishop to h6, and this is a rare chance to ask, “what should Magnus have played instead?”

Carlsen was choosing between the two moves he felt were intuitively correct – 16.Bh6 or 16.Bf4, but there was an instant destroyer: 16.Rxd7! and White is crushing however Black recaptures.

16.Bh6 got the job done quickly anyway, though, since instead of giving up the exchange with 16…g6 Black played 16…Ne8? and after 17.Qxa8 Qxh2 18.Qh1 (“just for fun!” – Magnus) 18…Qxh1 19.Rxh1 resigned a full rook down.

2. MagzyBogues 1:0 Galactic | 5-minute game | video from 06:19

Magnus has been known to play very random opening moves online and even in major rapid and blitz events at a physical venue, but for this session he was pulling no punches. He again dropped some knowledge after going for what he described as one of his “pet lines” – a French  variation with 6.Qe2+:

I had this against Caruana – this can also come via the Petroff, if White loses a tempo on d3-d4, so that’s how I got it against Caruana. I started playing this line after seeing a great game of the Armenian grandmaster Melkumyan. He won a very nice game in the Turkish League against Moiseenko, and after that I thought I might as well give this line a try.

Galactic played well and could have seized an advantage in the middlegame, but eventually he came under an unstoppable attack. You don’t need to be the World Champion to see the final tactic:


3. MagzyBogues 1:0 Aleksandar-K (win on time) | 5-minute game | video from 15:01

It’s a sad truth of internet chess that however small the incentive some players will still spoil things by choosing to cheat, but in this case there was at least a positive to Aleksandar-K’s misdemeanour: we got to witness how the World Champion’s endgame technique is a match for Stockfish!

The game began with Magnus responding to 1.Nf3 f5 with 2.d3, something he recalled doing as a 13-year-old:

I played one of my better games as a kid against Dolmatov with this line – won a miniature.

That was one of the games Sopiko Guramishvili and Anna Rudolf looked at for their series on the young Magnus:

Queens were traded off on move 7, but after the pawn sacrifice 10…Nc6 Magnus knew he was in for a tough game:

These guys really have no respect. It’s a good thing, though, you shouldn’t be scared of me!

It soon became clear that silicon help was behind that fearlessness in this case, but it was impressive that Magnus didn’t put a foot wrong for the rest of the game. It wasn’t just about setting up a fortress-type position – the days when that was enough against a computer have gone – but finding all kinds of little tricks to stay in the game and even apply pressure. For instance:

31.c3! was based on 31…Nxb3 32.h4! when White would be slightly better. Black instead played the no. 1 move from Stockfish, 31…Nf5 and went on to lose on time in 35 moves. US Champion Sam Shankland recently commented on what it means to say Magnus is a genius:

If I knew what made Magnus the genius he is today maybe I would be the World Champion instead of him. He just has this way of looking at the board and he just knows what moves are most critical – not necessarily what moves are best, but what moves are most critical. He’s got this sort of Fischeresque thing when you look at him play. I saw some statistic that of the top 10 players in the world he matches the top choice of the computer the least of all of them… and he matches the top three the most, which essentially means that Magnus might not play the best move any more often than anyone else, but he always plays a good move, and just this lack of serious mistakes, because his natural feel is so great...

That was borne out here, where according to our internal system Magnus played 54% of engine first moves compared to 62% for Black, but 89% of his moves were in the top 3 compared to 82% for Black. Needless to say, Aleksandar-K was swiftly banned from the Playzone.

4. Roland 0-1 MagzyBogues | 5-minute game | video from 24:33

For the first time in this session Magnus had Black, and his opponent was looking to make the white pieces count:

He’s playing quite bravely, I must say. I’m not sure how good his position is, but I cannot argue against his will to attack!

When the white king began to wander the board, though, Magnus switched straight onto the counterattack with 13…e6!, “I don’t know if it’s great, but at the very least we might have some fun”. Soon it was just a question of time before Black won, but the World Champion’s maximalist streak was in evidence:

The question is, will I take the easy win with Qf2+, or will I go for mate? I have to go for mate, don’t I?

One of the appeals of Banter Blitz is that you get the chance to see how top players actually think in real time, and here we saw Magnus look at one of the fastest mates: 19…Rxf4+! 20.Nxf4 but then abandon it after checking only 20…Ne5+. The key move was 20…Nh2+! 21.Ke3 Bd4# Magnus instead commented, “Sorry, people, I’m lazy!” as he went for the mere mate-in-5 option of 19…Qf2+ 20.Kxg4 Qxg2+ 21.Ng3 h5+, when White resigned.

5. MagzyBogues 1-0 Zoltar | 5-minute game | video from 31:32

Magnus was playing against a 1290-rated opponent, and while there was an inevitability to the 11-move win, the World Champion stopped to share some tips along the way:

And now he’s begging me to go Bxh7, and I’m not going to be asked twice. Everything that I know about chess tells me that this particular attack must win. This is something you should always look out for when you’ve allowed an early e5 – Bxh7 is always in the air, but it’s something you learn with more experience.

The game ended 9.Bxh7+! Kxh7 10.Ng5+ Kg8 (“Also the conventional wisdom is that you have to try Kg6…”) 11.Qh5 Black resigns

6. MagzyBogues 1-0 Cicero28 | 5-minute game | video from 34:35

Carlsen’s explanation for his opening here referred to a Jussupow-Speelman game from Linares in 1991:

That’s reason enough to mention that you might also want to prepare for Magnus by watching this fascinating series on the World Champion’s style that chess coach and once world no. 3 Artur Jussupow filmed with Jan:

Magnus has short-term memory recall as well, and noted that on move 4 his opponent chose not to repeat what Magnus himself played a couple of games earlier!

This is a bit funny that we got the same position as I had against Roland earlier. Evidently, Cicero either didn’t see that game or feared that I may have an improvement planned, because he didn’t play my c5 – he went for Nf6 and 0-0, which is obviously quite sensible as well.

The game remained tense, but Magnus pointed out his opponent spent too long trying to organise the b5-break, when he could have played it earlier due to a little tactic (e.g. 12…b5! and if 13.axb5 axb5 14.Nxb5 there’s 14…Bxd5!). By the following position Magnus was ready to strike:

He called 17.Nf4! Ne5 18.Nxh5! “a pretty nice attack”, and after 18…gxh5 Black’s position crumbled fast. Ignoring the knight with e.g. 18…b4 would give more chances of defending.

7. babyseal 0-1 MagzyBogues | 5-minute game | video from 45:50

“Babyseal, that’s a cute name”, commented Magnus, before going on to play the Sicilian Dragon and batter the defenceless animal to death, is a rough summary of this game… although it was only after a slip on move 16 that everything fell apart for White.

8. Supermichi66 0-1 MagzyBogues | 5-minute game | video from 51:14

Supergrandmasters struggling for ideas against Magnus might note his comment on seeing 1.e4 c5 2.c3 here!

It’s an old nemesis of mine – never was very comfortable playing against the Alapin.

Statistics seem to bear that out, with Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergei Tiviakov and Vlad Tkachiev (blitz) having beaten the World Champion in the line, while Australian GM David Smerdon had winning chances before taking a draw in the 2016 Olympiad in Baku. This time around Magnus didn’t have too much trouble, commenting, “Now I’ve got a little trick planned, but I’m not going to say what it is…”. Perhaps that unwillingness to spill the beans angered the tech gods, because shortly afterwards Magnus lost his Skype connection…

The trick worked, though! White has just captured twice on e6:

15…Nd4! and after 16.Rxb6 (16.cxd4 Qxe6 is even worse for White) 16…Nxc2 17.Bxc2 axb6 Black had won an exchange. Another slip accelerated the end, and Magnus went on to make it a clean sweep of wins in his first Banter Blitz session. He commented at the end, “for all of those who challenged me and didn’t get the chance you will get another chance, so don’t worry,” and that chance is now fast approaching!

This Wednesday and Sunday Magnus will again be playing chess24 Premium members at 18:00 CET (13:00 EDT), and all you need to do for a chance to play the World Chess Champion is:

  1. Go Premium, if you’re not already
  2. Go to the show: Banter Blitz with Magnus Carlsen, March 20, 18:00 is the first
  3. Hover over the username MagzyBogues and, when Magnus is online, you can click “Challenge me!”
  4. Choose a time control and click “Challenge” (last time Magnus preferred 5-minute games, but this time he expects to have a mouse and better setup, so 3-minute should also be fine)
  5. Wait, enjoy the show, and if you’re picked you should be taken straight to the game!
  6. Good luck! 

See also:

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