Reports Jul 31, 2020 | 10:48 PMby Colin McGourty

chess24 Legends 10: Magnus & Nepo crush

Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi are currently on course to meet in the chess24 Legends of Chess final after scoring 2.5:0.5 wins on Day 1 of the semi-finals. Magnus gambled with a pawn lunge in the first game and won easily when Peter Svidler reacted badly. That game lasted 27 moves, the same number Magnus needed to wrap on victory in Game 3. Meanwhile Anish Giri enraged Nepo by playing on to move 131 in their opening draw and lived to regret it. The Russian no. 1 won the next two games with fast and powerful, if not always precise, play.

Grischuk had some tough things to say to the players

You can replay all the games from the chess24 Legends of Chess Final 4 using the selector below:   

That meant Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi had won the first set, but there’s still a path to the final for Svidler and Giri if they can win on Saturday and then Sunday.

The live commentary was provided by Erwin l’Ami (Judit Polgar will be back Saturday and for all the remaining days), Jan Gustafsson, Tania Sachdev and Alexander Grischuk, and you can replay it below:

During the tournament you can get 40% off with the voucher code CHESSLEGENDS when you Go Premium

Svidler 0.5:2.5 Carlsen

“I’m in a bad mood today so I will criticise,” announced Alexander Grischuk just after his customary, “Hello, ladies and gentlemen.” He didn’t hold back when it came to Peter Svidler’s play in Game 1 of this match:

The dubious opening was an English line with 6.f3!? that Magnus Carlsen had played against Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana in Clutch Chess, and it was going to be that kind of day. Magnus summed up later on, “I think the games were of a sort of dubious quality,” but Peter had a defence to the accusation of playing the wrong type of chess:

It will sound very stupid because I lost two games with White and didn’t feel I was in it very much, but I think the concept might not be all that bad. I think the execution was kind of sorely lacking today, not the idea behind what I was doing. I tried playing quiet positions in the round-robin and I ended up losing -1, but that was only because Magnus just flat-out refused to win winning positions throughout the match. So I think going for messier stuff is not such a stupid idea at all.

You might say Peter was already vindicated by the standout move of the game, 15…g5?!, which at least in computer terms was a mistake:

It was worth it alone for the reaction, however!

Magnus explained his reasoning:

The thing is if I do something like 15…Nc5 I thought he’s going to go 16.g5 and I felt like even though I’m a pawn up and probably I’m doing pretty well, I just didn’t see how to clarify the position, so 15…g5 was an attempt just to clarify. I felt that I’m getting so many squares for my pieces that I cannot be doing too poorly. I checked briefly that the computer thinks otherwise, but I felt that the long diagonal is getting closed, so it’s really a question of whether after 16.fxg5 Qxg5 he can get to my queen, and apparently he can, but it’s not that easy!

Watch the full interview with Magnus and Peter below:

Peter spent 5 minutes here try to make sacrificial ideas such as e5 and taking on h7 work for him, but they wouldn’t, and he was down to under 3 minutes when he admitted 17.Rf5? was “desperation”. After 17…Qe3+ Black was again much better. Instead Peter should have gone for the strong 17.Nf5 or the even stronger 17.h4!, when Black can’t take the pawn without getting into deep trouble after 17…Qxh4 18.Nf5 Qg5 19.Bc1!:

20.e5 and 20.Nh6+ are threatened wherever the queen goes.

Peter was frustrated to have missed that given his decision to play the sharpest of positions:

Since I chose this approach quite consciously it’s annoying that I did miss my one chance that you sometimes get when you do these things.

Instead the game ended on move 27 with Black simply up material:

The second game was a sharp and well-played draw, where Peter launched the typical Sicilian exchange sacrifice Rxc3:

Both players pointed out, however, that if after 17.Nb3 Peter had followed up 17…Rxb3 18.Qxa5 Rxe3 it would have been a very unusual situation where Black still has all four of his minor pieces in action against the white queen. Peter pointed that out, and Magnus joined it:

I actually thought about it during the game myself! I don’t think I’ve ever in any game had four pieces against a queen.

Peter said, “I probably should have just done this for science”, but his 17…Qc7 may objectively have been the better move and eventually led to a 47-move draw.

Peter didn’t want to talk about Game 3 afterwards, and you could see why. An unremarkable position suddenly collapsed when Magnus seized the chance to open the centre. There may have been a narrow path to safety, but Peter didn’t find it, and he resigned when Magnus had consolidated two pawns up.

Giri 0.5:2.5 Nepomniachtchi

Alexander Grischuk’s criticism also extended to the first game in the other match. He noted Nepo had botched some Russian team preparation in the Grünfeld, but then felt that it was the kind of position you had to be able to convert into a win, or at least come close, if you want to be a top player. Anish Giri didn’t manage that, and instead drew the wrath of his opponent for stretching the game out to 131 moves.

Game 2 was a violent affair. Anish was pushing from the start with the black pieces…

…though Nepo said afterwards he felt Black needed to prepare such ideas first. The game took a dramatic twist on move 16 when Anish played 16…Nh5:

That was a trap, but it was one Nepo was delighted to jump into – 17.Qxh5! Bg4. The queen is caught, but it soon became apparent that after 18.Qxg6 fxg6 19.Bxh6! it was only a question of whether White would go on to win or not.

Pascal Charbonneau has analysed the game:

The final game was another Grünfeld, and a lot of fun:

Giri accepted the piece sacrifice with 20.fxe5 Bxe5 21.hxg4 Nxe4 and then thought for an epic 9 minutes and 37 seconds, and while there was certainly plenty to think about the time situation would leave him little chance in what followed. Objectively Nepo’s 24…Nc3+!? 25.Bxc3 bxc3 was a losing plan, but only if White safeguarded his position with 26.Nb5! Nepo couldn’t believe that move afterwards, but he soon realised that the computer must approve.

Instead after 26.Nc2?! White was in trouble, with a brilliant tactician such as Nepo one player you don’t want to have opposite you in such a situation. The end was brutal, with the clock situation curtailing any chances for Anish to put up resistance:

That means Peter Svidler and Anish Giri now face must-win sets on Saturday if they want to keep their semi-final hopes alive. Don’t miss our live commentary, which will feature Judit Polgar and another very special guest, starting at 15:30 CEST! 

See also:

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