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The Grand Chess Tour goes Africa - and so does Magnus Carlsen

Photo by David Llada

Fifteen years ago, Magnus Carlsen played the FIDE World Cup in Tripoli, Libya. Magnus had caught the attention of the chess world, having become the world’s youngest grandmaster some months prior, at just 13 years old. His opponent in the knockout format was Levon Aronian. It was the start of a great rivalry: as of today, they have faced each other 57(!) times in long time control games.

Today they are seasoned pros, but back then they both had something to prove. After two draws, the match went to tiebreaks. It was a closely contested match throughout, but in the end Aronian came out victorious when Magnus misplayed a drawing endgame.

Magnus-2004

It’s not very often that the best chess players in the world compete in Africa – that’s why Grand Chess Tour’s leg in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, is such a nice addition to the circuit. The participants were recently announced, and Magnus Carlsen will be playing. It will be the first time a reigning Chess World Champion has played a competitive game in Africa.

Magnus won’t get a chance to avenge his 2004 loss to Aronian, but among the competitors are Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave, Karjakin and Nepomniachtchi. That is a monstrous field for rapid and blitz chess! Play starts May 8th 2019.

We’ll take a look at the endgame which knocked young Magnus out of the World Cup:

Carlsen versus Aronian, Chess World Cup 2004
CarlsenAronian2004-copy

Did you know this endgame is a draw, even though black is two pawns up? It’s the most notorious of rook endgames. Magnus played it very well and used a trick in this position to kick black’s king back. Can you find it?

Unfortunately, with limited time on the clock (it was a rapid tiebreak), Magnus messed it up later, allowing Aronian’s king to go on a long walk to the other side of the board. When it became clear black’s king would reach g1 and help the h-pawn to promotion, Magnus resigned the game, and thereby also got knocked out of his first-ever World Championship.

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By GM Jon Ludvig Hammer