World Champion Magnus Carlsen and world no. 3 Ding Liren lead the Lindores Abbey Chess Stars Tournament after drawing twice then winning in the final round of the day. Sergey Karjakin had been the early leader until he lost to Ding Liren in the third round, while Vishy Anand suffered two defeats on a day to forget for the 5-time World Champion. Disappointingly no-one played the Scotch in the distillery, but we got to witness some memorable chess.
You can watch the chess24 broadcast here on the official website (by agreement with the organisers we aren’t showing the moves on chess24 itself for this event): Lindores Abbey Chess Stars Tournament
You can also replay all the games in the PGN viewer below:
The day’s live commentary was provided by GMs Danny King and Gennadi Sosonko and includes interviews with the players after their games as well as a panel interview with all the players at the end:
You can also check out board cams from the two boards if you want to relive some of the action in close-up:
In case you’re wondering what Acqua Vitae is…
The name is also a technicality, since the Lindores Abbey Distillery was set up in 2017 but you can’t call the spirit produced Scotch whisky until it’s been matured for 3 years and 1 day.
But let’s get to the games!
When Magnus was later asked to sum up the day’s play he commented:
The games have been interesting, for sure. It was very, very cold in the playing area, I thought, and because of this I just didn’t really enjoy it.
He certainly tried to heat things up on the chessboard, however, going for some bold decisions against Ding Liren:
12.c5!? Bxf1 13.Kxf1 d6 14.exd6 cxd6 15.h4! gxh4?! 16.Rxh4 Nf6 got the stamp of approval from Scotland’s strongest grandmaster:
It looked like we could expect Magnus to continue where he’d left off in Abidjan, dominating in rapid chess:
Here, however, he later regretted not playing a middlegame with 17.Qe2, since after 17.c4!? dxc5 18.dxc5!? his advantage fizzled out in the endgame, despite Ding Liren making his life more difficult by capturing a pawn with the wrong piece on move 22.
The Chinese no. 1, who is not only in Scotland but the UK for the first time, later noted on his year:
It’s very strange. I’ve made all draws with Magnus but I did very badly against Hikaru! Maybe it’s the different playing styles.
Sergey Karjakin was the hero of the first round after a hard-fought opening battle against Vishy Anand. The Indian no. 1 chose the old 10…Re8 line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined rather than the shock 10…Rd8 Fabiano Caruana played against Magnus in London, and the game followed a Mamedyarov-Anand game from last year’s Wijk aan Zee until Sergey played a new 18th move. The real turning point, however, came on move 22:
Sergey took his first significant think of the game, and it’s possible he mixed things up, since 22.Rxe5! is perfectly playable (22…f6? 23.Bxf6!). Instead he went for 22.Bf6!?, which was a bluff that should have been called, since after capturing the bishop Black seems to be doing fine. In the game after 22…Rac8!? 23.Bxe5 White had both an extra pawn and good piece coordination. That was far from the end of the matter, since as Vishy later summed up:
Obviously I was much worse, and then just after I saved it, I lost it.
Carlsen was already playing catch-up here, and his will to win was obvious when he went for a main-line King’s Indian Defence with Black.
It was soon looking like a position Magnus might try in Banter Blitz:
Taking on h5 is the kind of thing humans, and Karjakin in particular, don’t generally do, and after the “mouse-slip” 18.Bg4!? mass exchanges and a drawish ending soon followed.
The other game was a carefully played encounter where Vishy was at one moment threatening to consolidate with some advantage:
If the rook retreats and White gets in b3 he can dream of getting something more out of the game, but Ding here forcefully replied 29…d5! 30.exd5 Rxe3 31.fxe3 Bxb2, and although the d-pawn raced up the board it was only enough to force a draw.
Sergey Karjakin went into the last round of the day still leading, but as Ding Liren would later mention:
This year I have amazingly good results against Sergey. Last time in Abidjan I beat him 3 times.
He would add another victory that was partly down to opening knowledge. Ding Liren wasn’t caught completely off-guard by Karjakin’s sharp line with 11.c6, since he recalled a game he played in the 2014 Chinese Championship.
Mainly, however, it was about one move:
Sergey pointed out afterwards that he had the very strong 16…Nh5! 17.Be3 f6!, when winning a piece with 18.g4?! fxe5 19.gxh5 Qxh5 gives Black a huge attack. Instead he played a move that he recalled working in similar positions, but it just doesn’t seem to work here: 16…Ng4? 17.h3 Nxf2 18.Kxf2 Bc5+ 19.Be3 Bxe3+ 20.Kxe3
The king has been lured into the centre of the board, but there’s no killer blow, and 9 moves later it was as if White had castled queenside and simply had a healthy extra piece:
In the other clash it was a case of Vishy Anand misfiring, although during his career he’s got in a lot of shooting practice!
Magnus confessed of his opening:
I think I was just worse pretty early on, and then I got some tricks in. It turned very quickly.
Carlsen’s spirits had already been lifted when he played 18.dxc5 and 19.Be1:
I was very happy to get dxc5 and Be1, because I felt that I would have some serious counterplay instead of getting a position where it seemed to me that Black is just better on the queenside. Now there are some tactics.
The computer still likes Black at this point, but not after 19…d4?! that was met by 20.Na4! Magnus summed up, “it’s clear that the trend is in my favour and it’s becoming tricky for White”. It’s so tricky that Vishy may have deliberately gone for 20…Nd7?! here:
21.Bxf7+! Kxf7 22.Qb3+ Kf8 23.Qxb7 is one of the tricks Magnus talked about. 23…dxe3 might have kept the game alive, but after 23…Rxe3?! things fell apart at startling speed for Black, with the game ending on move 31.
That first win for Magnus on Scottish soil left him level with Ding Liren on 2/3 while Karjakin has 1.5 and Anand 0.5. The following standings will update as more games are played:
Before the day was over the players returned for a panel interview session, where they were asked about some different topics. One question was about the level of chess nowadays compared to in the past. Karjakin commented:
15 years ago it was possible to get a big advantage out of the opening and today it’s very, very rare that happens. I think we’re getting better and better. Basically, I think that after Magnus started to play his slightly better positions and win after six hours we all learned and now we’re on another level of playing these very long games.
On the whole the level of technique is better now. I guess if you say 15-20 years ago then basically all the good players had good technique, but before that you could find very, very strong players who had poor technique and poor defensive skills.
Vishy noted that one of the changes is, “the stronger side
tries much harder”. Magnus was asked about where human chess might go in the
Looking at computer games it’s clear that we still have a very long way to go when thinking about long term compensation and such things, because simply we misjudge positions and we draw our conclusions too early. It’s not clear exactly how you can improve these things, but it’s very, very clear to see that we’ve only still scratched the surface of what is possible to do in chess, because we are human and we make mistakes.
The current World Championship system got a vote of approval from Karjakin and Carlsen, with Anand comparing it to the old system he grew up with:
Our systems were good for that era, but you have to keep adapting. There’s so much depth in chess today that you can’t just have one Interzonal. I think actually that system was good for its time, it produced some very good chess and good matches, but I feel that wouldn’t work today.
Sunday is the second and final day of the event, and since all the players play each other once more absolutely nothing is yet decided. For instance, if we have the same two leaders going into the final round Ding Liren-Carlsen is going to be a match-up you won’t want to miss! If players end tied for first place we’ll then get a 3+2 blitz playoff.
Watch all the action here on the official website.
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