Hikaru Nakamura is the 2018 Grand Chess Tour winner after following 7 draws against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with victory in the final blitz game. We’ll have much more on that in a separate report - but near the start of the final day Magnus Carlsen made another 40-minute cameo appearance for commentary on chess24. He was joined by a large part of his World Championship team – Peter Heine-Nielsen, Laurent Fressinet and Jan Gustafsson – who shared banter while discussing the 2nd rapid games in London. In case you missed it you can rewatch the video below.
Chess24’s Jan Gustafsson worked together with Laurent Fressinet and Peter Heine Nielsen as a second for Magnus before his World Championship matches in New York and London. He's currently in Hamburg producing a video series on the match against Caruana, but on Monday the final day of the Grand Chess Tour proved too great a distraction. When Magnus said he was happy to join in with some commentary, who could say no?
Rewatch the broadcast below:
Here are a few highlights:
Of course Magnus and his team have been thinking a lot about Fabiano recently, and on the final day of the Grand Chess Tour there were more echoes of the match. In the first rapid game Fabiano repeated the QGD with 10…Rd8!? that he’d played in Game 2 of the World Championship, and this time Levon Aronian went for it with 11.Nd2 (Magnus took the safe option with 11.Be2), heading straight for Fabiano’s preparation. Sure enough, the US star wheeled out a dramatic piece sac, though the game ended in a draw. The second game, which is taking place during the commentary above, saw Caruana play the Anti-Berlin. Magnus commented, “I think Fabi’s playing a model game”, and added, “it’s a good thing I didn’t play the Berlin!” [in the match], though Magnus wasn’t impressed with 30.Rxe8+. In the end it wouldn’t matter, as an advantage on the clock converted into a big win for Fabiano.
The following dialogue about Caruana took place during the game:
Jan: He’s been out-preparing everybody in the London Chess Classic.
Peter: You have a playoff for 3rd place – you have to use your prep, right?
Magnus: It’s some money, yeah?
Laurent: As well he must be tired that everyone wants a tiebreak with him – just forcing a draw with White and going to tiebreaks.
Magnus: So I’m just wondering – I saw briefly Levon’s comments yesterday about it makes sense to force a tiebreak since he has more rating. I’m just curious about you guys’ opinion: was he trolling me, was he trolling Fabi, was he trolling pundits, or all of them? I find it hard to say.
Jan: I thought he was just being serious. Trying to mess with Fabi a bit (…) So do you think this will get to Fabi’s head if people actually keep beating him in tiebreaks, like three in a row? Will he be annoyed, or he doesn’t care if it’s not classical?
Magnus: I think losing should bother him. I’m sure it does bother him, to some degree. If he loses again today that would be more or less two weeks of non-stop getting crushed in rapid and blitz and not winning any classical games. That must be pretty sad, but I’m sure he’ll get over it, and he’s not necessarily going to lose today.
In the end Fabiano would finally win a rapid and blitz playoff in London.
The overall winner was Hikaru Nakamura, and there were hints of the eventual outcome during the 2nd rapid game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, when Hikaru found the move 23.Ba6!
Magnus’ first response was, “this is deep stuff”, and he later added, “Ba6 was really nice, it has to be said”. Maxime was on the ropes, but would eventually escape. Magnus commented of the French no. 1:
I think it’s like a drug to him – to get bad positions and to hold them! I think he genuinely likes it. It makes him a bit of a psycho, but I think he takes great pride in it.
Laurent Fressinet revealed during the commentary that Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a pre-arranged holiday and won’t be playing in the World Rapid and Blitz in St. Petersburg, which leaves Nakamura as arguably the Norwegian’s main rival (if he can get a visa in time).
Jan: Magnus, do you want Hikaru to play or would you prefer if he doesn’t play?
Magnus: No, I want him to play, for sure. He’s got the street cred – it’s good for him to be there!
Magnus is on the mic from 6:20 onwards in a recently released Norwegian rap track you can play at Spotify (free registration may be required):
In case your Norwegian is a bit shaky:
Jan couldn’t let such a topic pass without covering it…
Jan: So Magnus, how’s the feedback on your rap career been?
Magnus: Yeah, it’s been pretty good, so far. I think I sound a bit like a 12-year-old, to be honest, but it’s not bad. (…)
Jan: Did you write your own lyrics?
Magnus: No, I’m not that good. I wouldn’t call myself, “an arrogant bad boy”… especially the “bad boy” part I’m not so sure about. “Arrogant” I’m very happy with. I don’t understand why arrogance is considered to be a bad thing at all. Maybe that’s a sign of a narcissist and an arrogant person, but ok, who cares? (smiles)
Jan: Preaching to the choir here.
The appearance ends with Magnus given the chance to comment more on the World Championship match in London…
Jan: Any last words – we’re doing a video series on the match. Anything you want covered in there?
Magnus: There were a lot of draws, I think!
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