Hot off the presses, a new game from the ongoing Pearl Spring tournament featuring Topalov, Radjabov, Jakovenko, Carlsen, Leko and Yue. This is Carlsen's first appearance since his work with Kasparov has become public, and it was a good one...
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4!? (Starting a Scotch Game, Kasparov's influence already?) exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Be3 Qf6 6. c3 Nge7 7. Bc4 Ne5 (Mainline Scotch, White tries to prevent ...d5 and Black is trying to force it, thus Ne7) 8. Be2 Qg6
(hits e4 and g2)
9. O-O d6
A very common position in which Black is already threatening ...Bh3. So a typical move from white would be 10. f3, allowing defense of g2 along the second rank. Carlsen, however, goes in for more dynamic play.
10. f4!? Qxe4 Carlsen goes in for an enterprising gambit, an interesting psychological choice given his opponent. Leko is known for his incredible solidity and he was undoubtedly looking forward to a quiet game after 10. f3. As he is unlikely to have prepared for 10. f4!? it must have been an unwelcome surprise, since the best move on the board is to accept the gambit with 10 ... Qxe4. Otherwise White's pawn center would quickly dominate. But now play takes on a different character, with White's pawn deficit being compensated by open lines and a lead in development, a classic imbalance.
11. Bf2 Bxd4 12. cxd4 N5g6 13. g3 O-O 14. Nc3 Qf5 White's light-squared weaknesses do not make a positive impression, yet his next move points out his trump, the weak nature of Black's Queenside.
15. d5 a6 (prevents Nb5) 16. Re1 Kh8 17. Rc1 Bd7 18. Bf3 Rac8 19. Qb3 b5?! This seems overly committal...with b6 Black stays more compact and has better defensive opportunities. Now a6 is also a target.
20. Ne2 Qh3?! Looking for an attack when defense is more appropriate, Black has no claim to an advantage.
21. Nd4 Bg4 22. Bg2 Qh5 23. h4!? Sealing off the kingside in an unconventional way ...Ng8?
This is just a blunder, there was no time for this maneuvering. Now the queenside is a wreck.
24. Rc6 +/- Nf6
White now recovers his pawn with interest as the Black pawns will start to drop. The rest of the game is desperation from Black trying to create threats on the kingside. Note, however, the security of the White king despite the advanced pawns - his bishops are in ideal position to defend and yet attack the queenside, while his centralized knight observes the whole board. Also, open lines on the 3rd and 2nd ranks allow for lateral defense. The rest is offered for completeness.
25. Rxa6 Bd7 26. Nxb5 Rb8 27. a4 Ng4 28. Bf3 Qh6 29. Qc4 Nxh4 (an easily refuted piece sacrifice) 30. Bxg4 Bxg4 31. gxh4 Bf3 32. f5 Qh5 33. Qf4 Bxd5 34. Nxc7 Bb7 35. Rb6 f6 36. Bd4 Qf7 37. Ne6 Rg8 38. Kf2 Rbc8 39. Bc3 Bd5 40. a5 Rc4 41. Nd4 Ba8 42. Qxd6 Qh5 43. Qf4 Rcc8 44. Rbe6 Black resigns, 1-0
An opening disaster for Leko, who appeared to overestimate his chances with the pawn advantage. Tomorrow is Carlsen-Topalov, should be a firecracker.