Magnus Carlsen’s Masterpiece | Carlsen vs Aronian, 2008

One of Carlsen’s greatest victories. And absolutely incredible display of positional and tactical brilliancy in the Semi-Slav.

This game was played back in 2008. I chose it for this Saturday’s instructive game analysis because Magnus is currently playing his best chess ever. Probably better than in 2013 and 14, and definitely better than in 2008. Still, I have never seen a more beautiful game of his.

I needn’t mention that from a theoretical standpoint both him and Levon played perfectly. It was a normal Meran, in which Magnus chose the slightly uncommon a3 after Bb7, not the most active continuation.

This then became a pawn sacrifice. Magnus allowed Levon to take bxa3 and didn’t recapture. Instead he used the time gained to castle and start an attack.

Immediately after that, in a position in which he was a pawn down, Magnus gave up his second pawn. His bishop was on b2, after Levon had captured the full pawn with axb2. And the b2 bishop was blocked by the d4 pawn. Rendered completely useless by it. And Magnus played d5! An astonishing sacrifice!

An absolutely incredible idea. He sacrificed his pawn when ti could be captured four different ways. In exchange for that, his bishop became the best minor piece on the board.

So he was two pawns down and had the initiative. That kind of play is very rare today, and it’s a pleasure to watch games like these. They are not imprecise, don’t get me wrong, d5 was one of the best moves. After d5, Levon was struggling. Two bishops, a safe white king, two active rooks and a queen were too much.

His conversion was almost impeccable. I won’t spoil what happened.

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