Carlsen – Karjakin, Game four


If you read the subheading and wondered why I used the word another three times, I can only reply that I didn't feel confident enough to refer to the Carlsen – Karjakin game four with only one another, with the phrase: „Another one bites the dust.“

One third of the match is now behind us and neither player has managed to score a win so far. Carlsen – Karjakin game four of the 2016 Chess World Championship Match almost resulted in shaking the equilibrium.

Once again the champion was unable to breach the tenacious defence of the challenger in another close-to-7 hours marathon. And once again Magnus' chances were so serious,  that as a result of the game one of the questions at the post-game press conference included potential naming of Karjakin as Putin's Minister of Defence.



Although it made little sense to me, since Putin is pretty capable of playing chess himself. You know i couldn't resist saying it.


The „queenless middlegame“ theme continues to dominate through this match. Carlsen – Karjakin game four was no exception. The game could possibly be described as some sort of a blend between game two and game three.

First of all, the opening stage of the game four saw a repetition of the Closed variation of the Ruy Lopez. However, instead of repeating the variation that occurred in the second game, Karjakin chose the historic Re1 main variation.

As a result, Carlsen got to choose which variation he wants to play as Black. Since he castled before moving the d pawn, probably he was ready to enter the main lines of the Marshall Gambit. This famous gambit  wasn't played in a World Championship match since 2004 and Kramnik – Leko match.

Alas, we will never know what would be the choice of the World Champion, since Karjakin avoided the Marshall altogether with the move h3. Although the pawn sacrifice on e5 is possible even here, Carslen refused to go for it but rather defended the e pawn with his d pawn. Thus, a protracted battle in another typical Spanish structure was ensured.

Further course of the game soon led to the afore-mentioned „queenless middlegame“ position. Because after the typical maneuvre of the f3 knight to h2 (which somehow doesn't pay White that many dividens in modern times as it did in the past – see Fischer's Ruy Lopez games), Carlsen immediately got in d5, guided by the principle that flank operations are best parried by the play in the centre.

The sequence of moves that the central breakthrough initiated left Carlsen with no convenient way to defend his h6 pawn. Consequently, Karjakin grabbed the pawn and thought it was brilliant. He demonstrated some very nice variations in the post game press conference.

However, Carlsen's saw one move further and played his queen to c6 (a brilliant positional move), a move which Karjakin overlooked. His further psychological state should be familiar to anyone who has played a tournament game in his life. After overlooking something simple, a player starts imagining „all sorts of ghosts“ and starts evaluating his position in a rather pessimistic manner.

Therefore, being in such a nervous state, it is no wonder that Karjakin immediately went astray and „chopped“ the „nagging“ knight on c4. Curiously, the move was instantly severely condemned by both Svidler and Hansen on the chess24 live broadcast.

Here is the link to Svidler's highlight video. ONLY 40 min.

As a result Carlsen obtained the middlegame with the „eternal“ pressure on the b2 pawn, which soon transposed into the queenless endgame. Such turn of events where Carlsen plays  for two results is highly resemblant of the events that happened in game three.

In addition, contrary to game three, Karjakin had zero counterplay . There was all the time in the world for the champion to find the  way of breaching the challenger's position.

During a protracted middlegame struggle Carlsen did what Carlsen does best. By the move 40 his advantage was huge enough that his position can safely be evaluated as „close to winning“.

However, the endgame proved to be much more complex than it initialy seemed. Almost everyone was condemning Carlsen's 45th move, which let Karjakin create a fortress. A fortress, that proved to be unbreachable, even for Carlsen who "doesn't believe in fortresses"
However, i was unable to find a sure path to win after the suggested 45...Be6.

It seems that much more deep solution earlier in the game was required. The solution that I first saw mentioned by user "Eyal" here.

The solution that even Caruana tweeted afterwards.

Therefore, there remained nothing for Carlsen but to agree a draw. He was obviously frustrated with the outcome. So frustrated that he had to "sucker-punch" his predeccessor. I quite liked when he said that Anand always tries to make fortresses when he is worse.

To conclude, this was another interesting technical game. The fact that Carlsen missed another win might be very significant for the rest of the match. It will be interesting to follow whether frustration will reflect on the standard of his play.

He doesn't have to worry though. In purely chess sense he proves to be superior.

Let's just hope he will manage to prove it at the "green table" as well.

Even though that would mean i failed at my pre-match analysis.

I hope the football principle of receiving goals when you fail to score won't apply here.

Yes, I AM a Carslen fan. 🙂

P.s. Apparently there are pictures of Carlsen taking a nap on some couch during the game. I just wanna add it is nothing new, here is one moment from the Anand matches.


And they say chess isn't boring.



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5 Responses

  1. Henrik

    Impressed by your analysis!! What a great job you have done here. Nice verbal comments followed by a lot of moves. I have not played through and checked all your moves, but you I like your approach to the game.

    • Henrik

      I guess it takes several hours to comment a game like that!!

      • Mistreaver

        Thank you Henrik for your kind words.
        It was not exactily a couple of hours, but it took some time to write the post and analyze the game.

  2. OhioChessFan

    One other theme is Carlsen not being overly tied to the two Bishops that seems such a hard and fast rule. He hasn’t minded at all giving Karjakin the Bishop pair.

    • Mistreaver

      Yes indeed, that is even more true after game five, which I hope to review over the weekend.
      In game four his bishops proved to be a tangible asset though.

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