Here’s a rarity – yes, folks, you heard it here first – a blunder by Magnus Carlsen. It was played in the Grand Tour Chess Finals in London this afternoon (Sunday) in the 3rd/4th play-off between Carlsen and Lev Aronian. Admittedly, it was a rapidplay game but Carlsen had five minutes left on his clock when this position arose after he (Black) had played 33…Nc4.
At this point Stockfish had the game as equal (-0.45). White then decided to exchange his rook for Black’s knight and Stockfish immediately gave Black as winning (-4.82). The game continued like this:
34. Rxc4 Qxc4
35. Qa8+ Kf7
36. Qf8+ Kg6
Is this the blunder, you are thinking? But no, it was played by Aronian. So, what’s the blunder? Did Carlsen not take it? Yes, he did – this is how the game continued:
38. Qe8+ Kh6
At this point we reach the following position:
This is like one of Danny King’s ‘How Good is Your Chess?’ questions. What would you play in this position? Incredibly, Stockfish gives three very contrasting scores depending on your choice. The best move for Black is 39…..Kh5 (-14.46) whereas after 39….Kg5 (0.00) White can force a draw with 40. Be7+ Kh5 41. Qf7+ Kh6 42. Qe6+. If Carlsen was wary of this, it doesn’t explain why he didn’t play 39…Kh5 because instead of either of these he chose to play 39….g6?? Hands up if you would have done the same?! But after 40. Bf8+ Kh5 41. Qe7 Black resigned. And so, in one move Black has gone from a winning position of -14.46 to facing mate in 12! After the game the commentators said that Aronian was walking around grinning like the Cheshire Cat. He knew he had swindled Carlsen and he must have played 37. Rc1 as a last throw of the dice (he had less than two and a half minutes left at this point) in the hope that Carlsen would make the fatal move.
The advantage of being an average woodpusher is that that as a result of personal experience, you know a blunder when you see one. And this, my friends, whether you are a world champion or not, was a blunder.