Carlsen Wins November's "Titled Tuesday"
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 1:19PM
Dennis Monokroussos in Magnus Carlsen, blitz chess, junk openings

Last week, just prior to the Champions Showdown in St. Louis, Magnus Carlsen won the November edition of the "Titled Tuesday" competition on It's a 10 round tournament played with a 3'+2" time control, and it's a very strong event. (Other participants included Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Dmitry Andreikin and tons of other GMs.) Carlsen won with an undefeated 9-1 score, but he had a huge scare in round 9, nearly losing to a French national master named Kevin Bordi. Bordi had a great tournament, and even mere masters can upset super-GMs every once in a while, especially in blitz. As it happened, Carlsen escaped with a draw, by the skin of his teeth, after being thoroughly lost for a very long time.

But what makes the game especially notable, blogworthy, is that Mr. Bordi achieved all of this with the worst opening in chess: the Grob, aka the Spike. (That's 1.g4?/??*, for those unfamiliar with the nomenclature.) Carlsen chose about the only setup against it that can sort of justify it, and while he wasn't worse even then the position was difficult for Black to play in a blitz game. Carlsen finally went (what should have been) fatally wrong with 25...Qe8 (Black is fine after 25...Nf5), and had Bordi played 33.Be6+ before playing Bxd4 he would have been a heavy favorite to convert his advantage. After 33.Bxd4 it was messy, with both players (but still mostly Bordi) having winning chances before the game finished in a perpetual.

Here's the game, without comments but with notation giving the time used each move. May the game produce a "spike" of interest in the Grob, for the benefit of those of us wishing an easy day with Black.


* For those who think I'm exaggerating with that punctuation, you're right - but only a little. Run it on a major engine (I just checked with the big three) and you'll see that Black is immediately clearly better. White has a minus score, and Black has more than one excellent setup against the opening. And the main reason the score isn't worse is the context: it's sometimes played by higher-rated opponents against lower-rated opposition as a contemptuous psychological ploy (or at best to avoid theory/wasting prep), and it's sometimes played by addicts who know it so well that their enormous experiential advantage compensates somewhat for the line's objective demerits. And yet Black still has a healthy plus score.

Article originally appeared on The Chess Mind (
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