Carlsen-Radjabov, Biel 2007

Magnus Carlsen is justifiably lauded as the brightest prospect in chess. At age 16, he is ranked 17th in the world, an unbelievable achievement. But Radjabov (at the tender age of 20) is equally astonishing, and is ranked 9th.

In Biel today, just when Carlsen looked tired and burnt-out (after two consecutive losses) and Radjabov looked on fire (two wins and a draw from his last three games), Carlsen has produced a spectacular win in 28 explosive moves against his main opponent! This was a hugely complex and tactical game, brilliantly played by Carlsen. Radjabov was leading by half a point (with Onischuk) over Carlsen, Pelletier, and Polgar. He probably figured that a draw was sufficient to secure first place, or a share of first place. Carlsen needed to win. (Thanks to for relaying the games. A highly-recommended email chess site.)

Carlsen, Magnus (2710) vs. Radjabov, Teimor (2746), Biel 2007.

1. e4 d6  Classically called a Pirc, but black avoids playing g6, which is not usual for the Pirc. 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nge2 Nbd7 5. g3 White is instead doing the fianchetto. With his knight on e2, it is the only logical move to develop his bishop. 5 …c6 6. Bg2 b5 Looking for rapid queen-side expansion. 7. a3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. h3 a5

Position after a5

More expansion. Black’s structure resembles a Ruy Lopez, but White’s structure is completely different to the normal white side found in that opening. Carlsen decides to launch an ambitious king-side attack. Note that the centre is very fluid. Normally, a flank attack is only advised when the centre is solid…but here White envisages a very broad attack, also using the centre, so it isn’t really just a flank attack. 10. g4 Ba6 11. Ng3 b4?! Black’s whole plan looks dubious to me. He opens the b-file, but in the meantime, he forces both the knight on c3 and the rook on a1 over to the central attack for white. Any complications are bound to favour white here. 12. Nce2 bxa3 13. Rxa3 d5 14. Re3 White has managed to centralise his queenside rook to e3, while black is hoping the open b-file will prove useful. Now the complex tactics begin. Black should at least try Bb4.

Position after Re3. White is piling up in the centre.

14 …dxe4 15. Re1! Ignoring the pawn for the moment. It won’t be going anywhere. Still, I always admire the way GMs can calmly develop attacks when down in material. 15 …Qc7 16. Nf5! A knight on f5 is a good attacking piece & square combination. It radiates threats all around the board. Now black’s white-squared bishop looks lost on a6 and it cannot defend f5. His piece coordination is now badly hampered and his rooks are not connected, after the other bishop retreats. White has a huge advantage here. 16 …Bd8 Again, maybe Bb4 should be tried. On d8, it cuts off the rooks and has little or no mobility. I guess Radjabov was nervous about moving it away from the kingside during white’s attack.Position after Bd8.

17. g5 Nd5 18. Rxe4 f6 19. Neg3 White’s pieces continue to gather towards the king. Meanwhile, black is having to defend with weakening moves and his pieces are not coordinated very well. 19 …g6?! I think black’s plan here is dubious. He weakens his kingside in order to get the knight off f5, but I cannot help thinking that it is a double-edged move that only helps white. 20. Nh6+ Kg7 21. dxe5 fxg5 Hoping to snatch the knight on h6. But he has given white a very mobile passed pawn, supported by both rooks. 22. e6 Kxh6? Fritz claims this is the real losing move. Instead, he should have tried N7f6 apparently. But I assume Radjabov was trying to tuck the king into a relatively secure spot, with those two g pawns providing some cover. Carlsen quickly shows that this is illusory.

Position after Kxh6

23. e7! Simply taking the knight is not strong enough. This forks the bishop and rook. 23 … Qb6

Position after 23 …Qb6

Black’s pieces cannot help their King. Taking the pawn by Bxe7, might allow the moves Rxe7, Nxe7, Rxe7, Rad8 (to save the pinned knight), and then Qg4!, with an overwhelming attack. Qxg5++ is in the air and if Rf4 to block, then simply Bxf4 and the house falls in.

Everything from this point onwards is practically forced, but I cannot say if black had a better defence or not. Qb6 might be the key losing move. With some more time, this needs exploration.

24. exf8=Q+ Nxf8 25. c4! A great move: white removes a key defender before moving in with the final attack.  Nf4 26. Qd6 Kg7 If Bc7?, then Nf5+! (using the pin), Kh5, Qd1+!!, g4, Qxg4++. 27. Bxf4 gxf4 28. Re7+!  Black resigns.

White wins 1-0. There is no way to stop mate. After, say, Bxe7, Rxe7+, Kh6, Qxf4+, g5, Qf6++; or Bxe7, Rxe7+, Kg8, Qf6, mate happens on g7 in a couple of moves. A great win for Carlsen! 



  1. Juicy Plums said,

    August 2, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Nice annotation, I’ll watch out for more, very good game by Carlsen. Best wishes, Martin (aka Juicy Plums)

  2. August 3, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    […] He had to win against Radjabov and then hope that Onischuk could only draw, or lose, to Motylev. In the end, he crushed Radjabov in a thrilling, spectacular game and Onischuk only drew. Radjabov is no mug himself (he is ranked 9th in the world) and is as tactically astute as any player in the world. But he lost his way pretty quickly once Carlsen turned up the heat. You can read through my notes to the game here. […]

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