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Magnus Carlsen produced a true world champion’s performance this week as the Norwegian, 28, crushed two major rivals with impressive attacks and won the elite Shamkir tournament with a round to spare.

Carlsen likes Azerbaijan, and this was his fourth victory in four Shamkirs. It follows on from his triumph at Tata Steel Wijk in the Netherlands in January, and he will go for a hat-trick of major tournaments at the Grenke Classic in Karlsruhe, Germany, starting 20 April.

A few months ago Carlsen almost lost his No1 ranking, but now he is approaching his peak level of five years ago.

Technically, the standout feature has been the world champion’s use of a sharp counter-attack with an early e7-e5 in the Sicilian Defence. It is the same line he used against Fabiano Caruana in their world title match, and Carlsen has analysed it to a remarkable depth, assessing it more profoundly than the judgments by computers.

The key to his decisive win against Russia’s Sergey Karjakin was a prepared pawn sacrifice at move 21(!) which led to a later winning attack. Carlsen’s opening is likely to become a talisman for him, as was the Najdorf Sicilian for Garry Kasparov or the Berlin Wall for Vlad Kramnik, and thus a model for tournament players to use in their own games.


Nigel Short v Ramesh Avinash, Bangkok Open 2019. Can you find the top seeded former world title challenger’s brilliancy as White (to move)?

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