As I'm sure you have noticed, Magnus' chess has been brilliant lately. It would be insane not to try to understand some of the things he is doing right, so you can use some of his secrets in your next chess game.
2019 has been a great year for Magnus, and last week he won his fourth tournament in a row. There is no doubt that his play has improved, and I have a feeling this is connected to his work before the World Championship match against Fabiano Caruana. Whatever the reason for his sudden improvement, many of his recent wins have something in common.
What struck me most about his play, was the number of games where he sacrificed a pawn for abstract compensation. The first impression of the sacrifice is that it appears slow or unlikely to work. Then, suddenly, it all becomes clear that Magnus has a decisive attack. Why do these sacrifices work? And how does he see them in advance?
Just in the games played during the last month, I have found six games by Magnus with this scenario. I started to wonder; maybe taking a close look at his games can help me make similar sacrifices in the future?
In the first game against Giri, Magnus realized that he had to play aggressively thanks to the slight lead in development. What he chose looks at first sight unplayable as Black takes a pawn with a check, but that doesn't stop Magnus from investigating the position further. In the game, Black was neither in time to catch up, and thanks to Magnus prophylactic play, he was unable to get pieces over to the kingside. Awesome stuff!
Magnus Carlsen - Anish Giri Gashimov Memorial
In the second game, Karjakin decided to challenge Magnus' Sveshnikov Sicilian. That was probably not a good idea, as the World Champion has an excellent understanding of the potential that lies in Black's position. Once again, Magnus sacrificed a pawn, and in this game, White struggled with the queen and eventually knight stranded on the queenside. White was unable to defend against Black's growing threats on the kingside.
Sergey Karjakin - Magnus Carlsen Gashimov Memorial
The third example was a rapid game. Once again Magnus sees something most people can't comprehend. At first sight, it looked like the World Champion had a few problems, but then he offered a pawn. After some thought, the Chinese player took it, and just like the others, he had to face Magnus's active pieces. Once again the Norwegian got a winning position.
Wei Yi - Magnus Carlsen Grand Chess Tour Cote d’Ivoire (Rapid)
You have seen three of Magnus' late wins. Do you see the similarities between these games? Well, these are just half of the instances where it's the same story!
Photo credit: Phil Dera