While The Simpsons may well have earned the right to have their very own novelty chess set, in this Sunday’s season 28 episode, 'The Cad and the Hat', Springfield gets set for an even bigger 64-square twist with the reveal being that (unlikely as this might seem for some) Homer could well be something of a chess savant - and to boost his game, he enlists the online help of a certain world champion, namely Magnus Carlsen!
Matt Groening’s long-running, cult animation series has become famous for its many guest star cameos on the show from the likes of Mick Jagger and Lady Gaga to Leonard Nimoy and Dr. Stephen Hawking - and now Magnus is set to join that elite list as he readies himself for his cameo appearance, albeit it all online and via Homer’s laptop!
“It’s an honor. They have iconic figures who do guest roles in The Simpsons series. The series is a kind of cultural ‘institution’ in the world,” says Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein. And with the whole of Springfield also getting in on the chess fever that’s set to hit the fictional town, our game is set to receive one of its biggest-ever pop culture hits - so don’t dare miss Magnus Carlsen on The Simpsons on Fox TV this Sunday, 19 February!
And Magnus also made his debut this week in the new PRO Chess League with his first appearance for the Norway Gnomes, in their big battle with the Montreal Chessbrahs. Although the world champion was undefeated, scoring 3/4 (drawing with GM Fabiano Caruana and IM Aman Hambleton), his team lost by the narrowest margin, 8.5-7.5 - but Magnus is back in action tonight looking for revenge, as the Gnomes play against Eastern Division leaders Delhi Dynamite.
GM Magnus Carlsen - GM Eric Hansen
PRO Chess League, (5)
Ruy Lopez, Martinez Variation
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.d3 The solid 'Martinez Variation' has been seen numerous times at the highest level of play, having been regularly employed by the likes of Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Fabiano Caruana, Alexander Grischuk, Sergey Karjakin, Peter Svidler and many other super-grandmasters who regularly play the Ruy Lopez as white. Indeed, it suits Carlsen specifically, as he's famous for his slow and grinding style from equal-ish or even slightly inferior opening variations. 6...d6 7.c3 0-0 8.Re1 b5 9.Bc2 Re8 10.Nbd2 Bf8 11.Nf1 Nb8 12.d4 Nbd7 13.Ng3 Bb7 Although we had a slow start with 6.d3, we have a standard mainline Lopez-like position now. 14.b3 g6 15.a4 Bg7 16.Bd3 d5 17.Bg5 dxe4 18.Bxe4 Bxe4 19.Nxe4 exd4 20.Nxd4 c5 21.Nc6 Qc7 22.Qd6! The exchange of queens gives White an advantage with those menacing knights. 22...Qxd6 23.Nxd6 While the knights on c6 and d6 make for a pleasing aesthetic picture, they are a handful to deal with, as Hansen will always have to be wary of knight forks. 23...Rxe1+ It's a truism in chess that, when you are under pressure against a higher-rated opponent, you should always seek to exchange off as many pieces and pawns to relieve the pressures - and this is just what Hansen attempts to do here. 24.Rxe1 bxa4 25.bxa4 Bf8 26.Ne7+ Kg7 Black can't play 26...Bxe7 as after 27.Rxe7 Rf8 28.c4 Kg7 29.f3 Nb8 30.Rc7 and White will simply pick off the weak pawn on c5 for an easy win. 27.a5 Rb8 28.h3 Regardless of whether you are the world champion or a newcommer to chess, it is always advisable to take the time to create a little 'luft' for your king to avoid any back-rank disasters. 28...Rb3 Hansen has done well not to bend to the pressures of the world champion! Here, he's given himself good chances to create counterplay by showing that Magnus' queenside pawns are equally vulnerable as his queenside pawns. 29.c4 Rd3 30.Bf4 Rd4 If you have a good plan, stick to it! And here, Hansen starts to drift a little, as he should have kept his rook more fluid by continuing his targeting of the pawns with 30...Ra3! 31.Nc6 Rc3 and although Magnus has the better minor pieces, that Black rook oscillating between c3 and a3 forces White to continually defend the pawns. 31.Bg3 h5 32.Kf1 Rd3 Hansen squanders a good saving shot here, as he had 32...Ne4! 33.Rxe4 (Not 33.Nxe4?! Bxe7 34.Nd2 Bf6 35.Ke2 h4 and suddenly, Black has the better play of the board now.) 33...Rxe4 34.Nxe4 Bxe7 and a symmetrical ending which will be a draw. 33.Bf4 Rd4 34.g3 Rd3? The Canadian GM begins to loose his way in the inevitable time scramble, and missed his best shot with 34...h4! But when you are facing the world champion, you are always having to defend and think twice as hard - and this becomes a big advantage for Magnus in the shortened time-control for the PRO Chess League. 35.Ndc8! Magnus now takes control again, as the knight threatens to come to b6. 35...Bxe7 What else is there? If 35...Rd4 36.Nb6! leaves White with an almost winning position here. 36.Rxe7 A rook on the seventh is always a good thing. 36...Kf8 If 36...Ng8 37.Re3! Rd1+ (Not 37...Rxe3 38.Bxe3 Ngf6 39.Ke2 and White has good winning chances in the ensuing minor piece endgame.) 38.Ke2 Ra1 39.Bc7 and Black has a very difficult endgame defence here. 37.Bh6+ Kg8 38.Be3 Ra3 39.Nd6 Rxa5 Hansen may well have temporarily won a pawn, but it comes at a cost. He could have tried to hold out a little better with 39...Rd3, as it forces the knight to return with 40.Nc8 Rb3 stopping Nb6, but after 41.Ke1 White will shuffle his king over to c2 to bolster the queenside pawns, and it will just be a matter of time before White wins this ending. 40.Kg2 Ra2 41.Rxf7 The rook on the seventh dominates the two knights - and now there's the added bonus of White finding a mating net here with his pieces. 41...g5 42.Re7 g4 43.h4 a5 44.Bh6 1-0 Hansen resigns here, as Magnus has a forced mate coming with Rg7+.