Magnus Carlsen of Norway defended his title as World Chess Championship against challenger Fabiano Caruana of the United States this past month. Caruana went toe to toe with Carlsen and forced the match into the tiebreaks. The sped-up time controls favored Carlsen, who then prevailed.
This week’s position is from the second tie-breaker game. Caruana is white; Carlsen, black. White’s knight threatens black, but black’s knight carries more punch. With this hint in mind, what is black’s best move? And what is black’s counterattack?
Each side’s knight attacks the other player’s queen. Black’s knight directly attacks white’s queen. White’s knight threatens to fork black’s king and queen from e7, with check. Carlsen saw that side-stepping the queen trade was best, and black’s threats are too much. Hence, moving the black king to f8 or h7 wins. Carlsen chose h7.
Although it was now white’s turn, black’s knight had its own fork. That was why Caruana resigned on the spot.
That is, from here white’s best move is to retreat its queen to e2. Black’s knight leaps to d3, forking the white king and rook, with check. Meanwhile, there is a discovered attack on white’s knight by black’s queen. These two lines of attack nets an overwhelming amount of material while exposing white’s king to mating lines (see next diagram).
Carlsen’s accomplishments are legion. He was the second youngest person at age 13 years and 4 months to achieve the title of grandmaster (the youngest ever was Sergey Karjakin, against whom Carlsen defended his crown in 2016). In 2011, he became number one rated player in world – a position he has not since relinquished. In 2012, he won the World Blitz Chess Championship and the World Rapid Chess Championship. He has since lost and regained the title of blitz champion several times while holding onto the title of Rapid Champion since 2012.
In 2013, Carlsen defeated reigning World Chess Champion Vishy Anand in classical time controls to become the second youngest World Chess Champion in history. He has since defended his crown twice. And he is only 28 (historically, former champions typically snared the title in their 30s or 40s).
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