By Eric Morrow
The prestigious Grand Slam Final is split between two countries. The first half of the Grand Slam Final begins in Sao Paulo, Brazil and runs for a week and then relocates to Bilbao, Spain from October 8th to 13th.
American-Italian Fabiano Caruana won the first half of the tournament in Brazil. But once they were in Spain, the world’s number one rated player Magnus Carlsen came roaring back, defeated Caruana and tied Caruana for 1st place.
This week’s position is from their second game in Spain, which Carlsen won. Caruana had won their first encounter in Brazil. In their second game Carlsen simplified the endgame in this week’s position and won because of his king’s superior placement. With this hint in mind please try to find white’s best move and plan.
White’s king is close to both white and black’s pawns on the “a”, “b”, and “c” files (the queen-side). Black’s king is far away, but close to the pawns on f5 and h6 (the king-side). Thus, Carlsen initiated a plan that led to a mass exchange of pieces and pawns near f5 so as to exploit his king’s proximity to the pawns on the “a”, “b” and “c” files. The first step in that plan was advancing his f5 to f6.
This offers up white’s “f” pawn but cuts off black’s h6 pawn. If black tries to hold onto its h6 pawn by moving its king to g6, for example, white checks black from g1 with its rook. The black king must stay close to white’s f6 pawn, or else this pawn advances to f7 and threatens to promote. Thus, black’s king should retreat to f7 after the rook check from g1. This is followed by another rook check from g7.
From here, white dominates the position. White either keeps its “f” pawn and wins black’s h6 pawn or black is able to simplify into a position simpler to but worse than what Caruana reached in the actual game.
After Carlsen played f6, Caruana accepted Carlsen’s temporary gift of a pawn and captured white’s f6 pawn with the black bishop. Carlsen’s rook then snatched black’s h6 pawn.
From here, black cannot prevent simplification on the king-side. Simplification on the king-side allows white’s king to exploit its superior position on the queen-side because of its proximity to the remaining pawns on the board.
Caruana next retreated his bishop to e7, Carlsen and Caruana traded rooks on d6, and Carlsen improved his king’s position in preparation for the final kill by moving his king to b5 instead of immediately taking black’s b6 pawn with his bishop.
Caruana cannot stop Carlsen’s king and bishop from mopping up black’s two pawns. Caruana fought on, but the world’s number ranked player didn’t trip over himself and soon won.
The lesson this week, as demonstrated by the world’s best, is that real estate on the chess board is all about location, location, location.