Giuoco Piano –The Italian Game

This opening has retained its value as a weapon from the earliest days of chess sport. Today it is still seen at the club level and in blitz play, even at the highest level.

GM and World Champion Magnus Carlsen adopts it here against GM Vishy Anand at the Leuven rapid tournament, 2016.

l. e4  e5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. Bc4  Currently all the rage since the Berlin Defense has somewhat defanged the aggressive Ruy Lopez. Carlsen chooses a quiet line that suggests no real problem for Black.

3. … Bc5 4. O-O  Nf6  5. d3  d6.  Kramnik, Anand and Giri each chose after 5. …O-O 6.c3  d5 7. e:d5 N:d5 8. a4!?

6.  c3 a6  7. a4 Ba7  8. Na3  Ne7  9. Nc2  O-O  10. Be3  B:e3  11. N:e3  Ng6.  Perhaps 11. …a5 to stop the pawn advance  and gain Q-side space was more appropo.

12. a5!  Ng4  13. h3  N:e3  14. f:e3  Qe7  15. Qb3  c6  16. d4  Be6  Like many of Carlsen’s games, equal is relative.  Here, sq/ct. shows itself as White has more space and the placement of the two Knights tend to favor White as well.  Microscopic things like this are a byproduct of Carlsen’s depth of understanding.

17. B:e6  f:e6  18. Rad1  Rae8  19. Qb4!  Adding pressure on square d6.

19. …e:d4  20. c:d4  e5  21. d:e5  d:e5  22. Q:e7  R:e7   23. Rd6  Nh8  24. Nd2  A strong idea here is 24. Rd3 > Rfd1 >Nd2, which cause Black more problems.

24. …Nf7  25. Rd3  Ng5  26. Rf5  h6  27. h4  Nh7  28. Nb3  Nf6 29. Nc5!  Finally reaching its destination which reduced Black to passive defense.

29. …Rff7 30. h5   Perhaps an Alekhine would have dreamed up a King journey to the Q-side here but Carlsen’s idea is also  fruitful.

30. … Kh7  31. Rd8  Black suddenly finds himself in a position of zugzwang where he is forced to play the crippling …g6.

31. … g6 32. h:g6  K:g6  33. Rd6!!  Kg7  34. Ne6+ Kg6  35. Nd8  Rf8  36. g4!!  c5  37. b3  Ree8  38. N:b7  Resigns (1-0).  A typical Carlsen style victory!

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