Magnus Carlsen celebrated his 32nd birthday with a crushing 7:1 victory over Sam Sevian in the MrDodgy Invitational semi-finals. At first that looked set to earn a final against Alexander Grischuk, who stormed to a 3:0 lead, but Daniil Dubov hit back to win five games and clinch a 7:5 victory. The Carlsen-Dubov final starts at 17:00 CET on Thursday December 1st.
It was Magnus Carlsen’s 32nd birthday on Wednesday…
…but he wasn’t alone. He shared the birthday with Simon Williams…
…and, of course, Laurent Fressinet.
For his match against Sam Sevian, Magnus was wearing a jersey of Paris Saint-Germain, sponsored by Qatar Airways. In his post-match interview Magnus explained it was all about Laurent:
Obviously I’m paying tribute with the jersey! Both that’s Fress’s favourite football club, of course, and also the country, Qatar, who’s hosting probably the least corrupt World Cup of all time, so I’m paying tribute to both of them, and obviously this day will from now on be the World Baguette Day, which I’m also very happy about!
Magnus talked about whether it was tough to play on your birthday.
For me it’s been a mixed bag. Two years ago I lost to Wesley in the final of the first Tour event that season. Last year I made a nice Petroff draw with White against Ian, but then again I also won the tiebreak against Karjakin in 2016, so I wouldn’t say for me there’s a curse.
This time the birthday chess went perfectly for Magnus. Sam Sevian had been in impressive form as he beat Vincent Keymer and Jorden van Foreest to reach the semi-finals, but he was unable to put up much resistance in the semi-final.
The first game felt like it might be a sign of things to come as it took just a couple of inaccurate moves by Sam for what looked like an equal endgame to turn into an effortless win for Magnus.
The second game, however, was a wild tactical struggle. It felt like the battleground where Sam might strike, but one slow move and Magnus seized the initiative and scored a crushing win.
Magnus cruised to victory in the 3rd game and felt afterwards that his opponent had cracked early on.
I think already after the second game he kind of gave up a little bit. I think it was complicated and difficult to play, but he was probably playing a bit too slowly, as he was in general, and yeah, when time is low then it’s pretty tough.
It soon became 4:0, with 32…Rxc5!, capturing a bishop, a crunching final move.
After 33.bxc5 Bxc5 the pinned knight on e3 can’t be defended, with the white rook hopelessly misplaced on h4.
7:0 was on the cards, but Sam avoided that fate with a quiet draw in Game 5 before also drawing the next as well. It was only a stay of execution, however, since Magnus had complete control as he won Game 7. PSG had once lost 6:1 to Barcelona.
Magnus then only needed a draw in the final game, but he played the risky Pirc Defence and ended up with a lost position. He hung around long enough, however, that in the end Sam blundered a simple fork.
It really wasn’t the young US star’s day.
That meant Magnus was in the final, and he was already thinking about his possible opponent. Daniil Dubov was mentioned, and Magnus revealed he’d been following Daniil’s quarterfinal closely.
I watched the match yesterday against Rauf, it was legendary! Daniil was so worried about that match and everything sort of went perfectly, that he was kind of dominating, then he was getting tricked in every game, especially this g4, Ng5 in the last game [before Armageddon], that was nice, but I’m happy he won in the end and regardless of who wins the other semi-final it’s going to be exciting!
At first it seemed as though Alexander Grischuk was going to storm to victory, but then Daniil took over.
Daniil revealed he was somewhat tilted before the start after failing to spot a late schedule change, and then he struggled.
Sasha did a very good job in terms of preparation. I don’t know if he was really preparing for this specific match or this is the way he remembers stuff in general, but the first 3-4 games I was just failing to get out of the opening with both colours.
That wasn’t quite the whole story. In the first game, before Alexander won with a brutal king attack, there was a chance for Daniil.
It’s not so easy to spot without a computer that the reason White is clearly better here is 30.Rxc6!! Qxc6 31.Ra6! and you can’t take that rook since 31…Qxa6? 32.Qxd5+ is mate-in-8 — though after e.g. 31…Qc7 32.Qxd5+ the game would go on.
Game 3 was a particular low point for Dubov, however, as his attacking attempts saw him resign in 15 moves with the white pieces.
It was worse for Daniil, since he’d been watching the earlier broadcast, where Jan and MrDodgy had shared their theory — backed up by some haphazard fact-checking — about comebacks.
The bad news is that I watched your stream on the first semi-final and you explained to everybody that 2:0 is anyone’s match, and 3:0 you’re dead.
Remarkably, however, Grischuk wouldn’t win another game, meaning he had plenty of reason to regret not playing on in a promising position in Game 4 and instead taking a draw.
Game 5 would be the turning point, with Daniil saying afterwards that it was his best game and he was happy with how he’d handled the opening and early middlegame. As best games go, however, it had some huge holes, including allowing the brilliant 30…Bxe4!, capturing a pawn.
Everything else was losing, but this is winning, with 31.fxe4 Ng4+! in the game showing why. There was a practical problem, however. As Daniil explained:
In a time scramble, getting a decent position from a completely lost one actually hurts. When you’re dead lost you just play moves, and suddenly you get a chance and you start thinking, and then you’re “okay, I’m probably winning”… most chess players can’t fight this stupid desire to calculate a little.
Low on time Grischuk blundered and it was Daniil who ultimately got to deliver checkmate.
Things then began to go horribly wrong for Alexander, who in the next game managed to lose a rook endgame two pawns up after it became a time scramble. There was then a draw, before Grischuk lost a drawn pawn endgame. He commented:
Yes, of course, I’m very disappointed. Those games I lost were very stupid, because we were entering the time scrambles with my slight, but 2-3 seconds, advantage, and I managed to lose almost every time. The pawn endgame is inexcusable.
Nevertheless, his 3:0 start meant that nothing was yet lost, since Daniil had only managed to level the score at 4:4. That’s often the moment when the player who previously led strikes again, and Alexander had a wide-open goal to aim for after 29.Nd2?, when 29…Qxg2+! 30.Kxg2 Ne1+ would have won the game on the spot. Grischuk sank into thought…
The longer his opponent thought, the more sure Daniil had been that the move wouldn’t be played, and after 29…Qd8? the game ended in a 66-move draw.
A 21-move draw followed, before Daniil finally took the lead in Game 10. 18.e4! was the start of a powerful manoeuvre that ended with 26.e6!
The problem is that after 26…fxe6 27.Qxe6+! you can’t swap off queens, since 27…Qxe6 28.Bxe6+ loses the now undefended d7-knight with check.
Grischuk tried 27…Kh7, but after 28.Qh3+! Kg6 29.Rae1 there was absolutely no defence. The game ended 29…Ne5 30.Qxc8.
Suddenly, after 8 games without a win, Grischuk had to win on demand to force Armageddon, but despite getting some chances his position crumbled when he tried to force the attack. Daniil was ruthless, simply trading down into an unlosable position. Alexander resigned in disgust.
So it’s Daniil Dubov, one of Magnus Carlsen’s seconds for the last two World Championship matches, who takes on the World Champion in the final. You don’t want to miss this, with Jan Gustafsson, MrDodgy and potentially one or two more guests commentating on the match from 17:00 CET. Who will win the prestigious title and a priceless photo of a man on a horse?
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