chess24 Mar 12, 2020 | 12:03 AMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen in 1/4-finals, tips Caruana for Candidates

Magnus Carlsen admitted he was “soundly outplayed” and “crushed” in Game 1 of his Banter Blitz Cup Round 4 match against Ivan Cheparinov, but from there on he powered to wins in the next 7 games in a row as he cruised to an 8.5:1.5 victory. In the quarterfinals he’ll play the winner of Grandelius-Abasov. After the games Magnus noted “it’s an open question whether it’s going to happen” of the Candidates but tipped Fabiano Caruana to force a rematch if he makes it to Yekaterinburg and the event goes ahead.

During the first game Magnus Carlsen noted he’d knocked Bulgarian star Ivan Cheparinov out of the World Cup... twice! The first time was in Round 3 in 2005 (15-year-old Magnus then lost to Evgeny Bareev in the next round), while in 2007 he beat Cheparinov in the quarterfinals before losing to the eventual winner Gata Kamsky in the semifinals. Magnus also noted his opponent used to be a formidable online blitz player, but by the end of the game it looked as though nothing much had changed. The World Champion blundered into a truly ugly position, came close to escaping, but then fell in beautiful fashion:


26.Qa5+! and Magnus resigned, with mate-in-6 on the board.   

“Evidently I've got to take it a bit more seriously," concluded Magnus, which he did by winning the next 7 games in a row!


You can replay all the games in the whole Banter Blitz Cup using the selector below (click a result to open that game with computer analysis):

Magnus bounced straight back with a “nice complicated game” and then got a helping hand in the 3rd game:

A day earlier 21-year-old Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda had found a truly beautiful idea during his 8.5:4.5 victory over French GM Jules Moussard:


23…Nf4+!! 24.gxf4 Ne2! and the threat of mate-in-1 means that despite being a piece down Duda is winning. He finished off in style, and the watching Magnus was impressed, but not by everything!

A day later he showed how to celebrate after winning a dramatic game:

A 4th win took Magnus to exactly a 3400 blitz rating (he currently tops the list), while in Game 6 it looked as though Ivan might finally hit back. Magnus confessed that he’d totally missed 19.g4! and was simply busted:


The queen is headed to h3 with mate to follow, and after 57 seconds of thought (it’s 3 minutes, no increment per game) all Magnus could come up with was a way to prolong the game: 19…Re8 20.Qh3 gxf5 21.gxf5!? Qxd6 22.Bf1 Kf8, when suddenly 23.Qh7?! was a lifeline!


“Woah, I like this one!” said Magnus as he spotted and quickly played the temporary queen sacrifice 23…Qh6!!, which he called “a little trick to force the queens off”.

Carlsen correctly commented that 24.Nf3! was the best try for White, keeping a rook on h7, while after 24.Rxh6?! Rxh6 25.Qxh6 Bxh6 a shell-shocked Cheparinov resigned (you can see the match from Ivan’s perspective here).

The biggest challenges Magnus faced in the remainder of the match were, 1) regret that he didn’t go for a slower, more aesthetic mate…


It’s hard to criticise the mate-in-1 23.Nf7#, but Magnus immediately wished he’d played the smothered mate-in-2 23.Qh7+! Nxh7 24.Nf7# instead!

And 2), that he so completely relaxed in the penultimate game that he mouse-slipped a pawn one square too far and conceded a draw in a totally winning position:

It didn’t change much, as Magnus wrapped up the match in the next game. Afterwards he was ready to answer some questions from the head of chess24 in Spanish and Banter Blitz Cup organiser, IM David Martínez (El Divis!). This was taking place shortly after the World Health Organisation had finally declared a pandemic, and Fabiano Caruana had revealed a hiccup in his own travel plans:

Magnus began by talking about his win over Cheparinov:

Magnus Carlsen: First game he soundly outplayed me and crushed me and after that I think it was pretty one-sided. He could definitely have got something more from the games, but he was in time trouble, so it wasn’t easy.

David Martínez: Really impressive performance. Congratulations!

Thank you.

I loved your Qh6 with Black – that defence.

Yeah, it was pretty fun, right?

With White your games were very good, I think. Maybe with Black your openings were not so good…

I think in general he was spending too much time, so I guess my openings weren’t that great, but it’s not really about the openings when you play blitz anyway.

Who is your favourite for the Candidates?

So far it’s an open question whether it’s going to happen, but I think for a long time my favourite there has been Caruana, and as long as he makes it to Moscow [Yekaterinburg] and the tournament happens I’m sticking with that. I think if you divide the Candidates into tiers then Fabiano is 1a and then Ding is 1b and then everybody else is lower probably. Alekseenko and Wang Hao, they’re probably the lowest tier, and the rest obviously have a chance, but for each of them individually it would take the tournament of their life to make it.

What do you think about Maxime playing at the last moment?

I think he’s just happy to be there, so I think he’s going to have a lot of positive emotion. Probably his prep is not going to be as good as the others, but it might be counterbalanced by the fact that he’s so happy to be there.

Maxime’s path to Russia with his second Etienne Bacrot went through Marseille

It can be very important Maxime has two Whites in the first two rounds versus Caruana and Ding Liren?

Yeah, for sure. I think in general it’s favourable to Ding that Maxime plays instead of Radjabov. Although Radjabov is solid I think Fabiano is better than Ding at beating the slightly lower-rated players and I think in order for Ding to win he probably has to beat Fabiano in their individual encounters. I’m happy for Maxime that he’s there. I think he’s going to be a great addition to the tournament.

We have a promotion on chess24 (Go Premium for 1+ years with the code GIRIDRAW) where the users will get one month for every Giri draw. What do you think about that – will they get 14 months?

He’s going to make a bunch of draws, obviously. We’ll see. I think somewhere in between 8 to 14 (laughs).

Maybe between 12 and 14?

I don’t think 12 is very likely. 10 I would say is pretty likely, but it has to be said that although he made 14 draws the last time he played, he played pretty enterprisingly, pretty well. I think there are a lot of lower-hanging fruit there if you want to criticise his career, like lack of tournament wins, for instance! (smiles)  

Magnus is now through to the quarterfinals, where he’ll play the winner of the match between Swedish no. 1 Nils Grandelius and Azerbaijan’s Nijat Abasov. That takes place on Thursday (UPDATE: unfortunately this match had to be postponed as Nijat is feeling unwell), as does another Round 4 match between Indian GM S.L. Narayanan, who beat Jon Ludvig Hammer in the previous round, and Germany’s Alexander Donchenko. You can again follow all four players’ streams live:

See also:


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