Amazingly, it’s been almost 3 weeks since World Champion Magnus Carlsen visited the Bay Area. I’ve been meaning to write about meeting and playing some chess with him, but somehow I hadn’t quite found the time until today.
I had seen Magnus before (for example in Mainz 2008), but we had never really met or spoken. The occasion this time was a dinner at Joe Lonsdale Jr’s house in Woodside (attended by about 30 people). When we shook hands, he shocked me immediately when he said that he reads this blog on occasion, although he admitted he used to read it more when I was playing regularly!
He also told me about how he first heard about me, after a game of mine against GM Wang Yue from China in 2002 showed up in New In Chess. It was a Bb5+ Sicilian where he remembered some nice tactical sequences I used, but also that I didn’t manage to win from a much better position. The game can be found on chessgames here and the sequence he described starts with 15.a5!, the point being that if 16…Re8, then 17.Nab5! will lead to the queen being trapped.
After chatting for a bit (and being floored by the fact that the World Champion was telling me about how he heard about me, not the other way around), we played a game of bughouse, but not against each other. We were partnered with players around 1500 or so, and while both of us were winning our games, I dominated my side a couple minutes sooner and so we beat Magnus and his partner. The only drama for me was when they would give up the ghost.
Soon after, I got to play Magnus a blitz game, 5 minutes per side. I got the white pieces and had to make my first real decision as early as move 5:
rn1qkb1r/p1pp1ppp/bp2pn2/8/2PP4/5NP1/PP2PP1P/RNBQKB1R w KQkq - 0 5)
Depending on the opponent, I’ve switched between 3.Nc3 allowing a Nimzo and 3.Nf3. And against the Queen’s Indian, I’ve played a bunch of moves in this position, but it’s been at least 1.5 years since I last looked at anything here. So naturally, instead of any one of the moves I’ve played before (5.Qa4, 5.Qb3, and 5.Qc2), I decided to play 5.b3.