Reports Aug 2, 2020 | 7:59 AMby Colin McGourty

chess24 Legends 11: Carlsen in final | Giri hits back

Magnus Carlsen garnered high praise from Garry Kasparov for combining the best of Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov and himself/Mikhail Botvinnik as the current World Champion reached his 3rd final in 4 events on the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour. Magnus brushed Peter Svidler aside 2.5:0.5 for a 2nd day in a row. In the other clash Ian Nepomniachtchi looked on the verge of the final when he won Game 2 and later the first blitz game, but Anish Giri bounced back both times before winning in Armageddon to take the match to a decider on Sunday.

Both Garry Kasparov and Judit Polgar were right at home in the Sicilian we got in Carlsen-Svidler

With another 2.5:0.5 win, Magnus has already clinched his match 2:0, while Giri-Nepo is now locked at 1:1 before Sunday’s decider (replay the games on our broadcast page).

Garry Kasparov commentates

On Saturday we had not just the greatest female chess player of all time, Judit Polgar, providing commentary, but the 13th World Chess Champion and arguably the overall greatest of all time, Garry Kasparov. You can rewatch the commentary below, which should start when Garry appears – of course you can rewind to watch the whole show:

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

Magnus Carlsen 2.5:0.5 Peter Svidler

Peter Svidler had lost two games with the white pieces in 27 moves on Day 1 of this semi-final, and Game 1 of the second day made it clear things were unlikely to get any better. Peter stuck to his guns by playing aggressively, but his Sicilian only led to trouble. Magnus’ 14.Rhe1 was the first new move, varying from Etienne Bacrot’s 14.Nf5!? against Mads Andersen in a Bundesliga game for Peter’s team Baden-Baden.

It’s possible Peter recalled that game, since after a 6-minute think – already a bad sign – he played the same move as in that game, 14…0-0-0?, but while it was a decent move there, Magnus went on to show that it was essentially losing in this position. He played with brutal precision, until Peter resigned on move 26, with White about to be two pawns up and have three connected passed pawns and the bishop pair as a bonus.

Coming back against Magnus is far from easy, but initially the second game inspired hope for Peter’s fans. “Magnus blunders,” noted Garry Kasparov.

Garry was referring to 11…0-0?

Peter pounced with 12.e5! Bxe5 13.Nxe5 Qxe5 14.Qxb7 and, with the c6-pawn falling as well, White was soon a healthy pawn up. What followed, however, was typical of a game against Carlsen (or a computer). The World Champion continued finding the best moves in the position, and each inaccuracy by White reduced the advantage until it had gone completely… and then disaster struck. 28.Rf2? turned out to be a losing move:

28…Nd1! was a trick Magnus had probably foreseen, since he played it in 2 seconds. It turns out that whatever White does he’s losing material.

The game ended 29…Nxf2 30.Kxf2 Re2+ 31.Kg1 Bf3 32.Rc3 Bd5! and White resigned.

It was hard to imagine any kind of comeback from 2:0 down, and sure enough Magnus safely steered the third game to the draw he needed to reach the final. That meant he’d reached three finals and one semi-final of his own Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, winning all 11 4-game mini-matches he’s played in the chess24 Legends of Chess. He’s also won the FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial and the Clutch Chess organised by the Saint Louis Chess Club since over-the-board chess ground to a halt.

It was an appropriate time for Tania Sachdev to ask Garry whether he thought Magnus was comparable to him in terms of dominating his era. Garry agreed, and pointed out, for instance, that “Bobby Fischer was dominant, but only for three years and then he left”.

Then Garry went on to make what some considered a controversial statement about the competition he and Magnus have faced.

I was dominant for a longer period and Magnus, though he won the world title in 2013 I think he’s clearly dominant for the last decade, a dominant force. Looking at the other players it’s not clear whether his dominance will come to an end anytime soon.

Also it’s interesting. I’m not trying to undermine Magnus’ opponents, with all respect to top players today, but I still can hardly see the same competition I experienced, especially in the 90s. Let’s set aside my matches with Karpov and Karpov’s generation, but then I had to compete with the next generation, it’s Vishy, Vasyl Ivanchuk, Borya Gelfand, and then the younger generation of Kramnik, Judit and Peter Svidler. I was still winning tournaments playing younger players and many of them were great players, just mention Vishy and Kramnik, two other World Champions. I’m still not seeing the same competition against Magnus today, and while I thought for a moment about Ding or maybe Caruana, they don’t show the same kind of class and continuity as Vishy or Kramnik 20 or 25 years ago.

Garry talked about what allows Magnus to assert such dominance.

Magnus is very tough and what is important and what I enjoy watching him doing is that he’s not standing still, he always tries to improve his chess. It’s very important that while he’s so good at the chessboard, looking for practical chances, he does a lot of work. It’s a combination of many great players of the past: he has Karpov’s ability to locate his pieces in perfect positions, Fischer’s rage at the chessboard and also maybe from myself/Botvinnik, the willingness to analyse his games and just to find improvements. He’s a universal type of player, and that probably explains his dominance. He’s not fed up with the game. Even after winning so much, he wants to win more, and that’s commendable.

There may be tougher times ahead, however. Garry added:

Magnus, whether he likes it or not, he’s also struggling with age. 30, 31, it’s great, but he makes more mistakes than he used to before.

Garry expects Magnus not to have too much trouble in the next World Championship match, but said he could see someone younger like Firouzja challenging after that.

For now, however, the immediate question is whether Ian Nepomniachtchi or Anish Giri will play Magnus.

Anish Giri 4:3 Ian Nepomniachtchi

This match got off to a quiet start in the first game, but then Anish Giri, needing a win, went for the novelty 10.Rg1!? in a position where Peter Svidler had played 10.Be2 against Nepo in the preliminary stage. Garry and Judit enjoyed it!

The way the game developed from there was curious. Shortly afterwards Giri offered to repeat moves in a position where he seemed to be clearly better. Nepo, after thinking for what for him was an age, rejected the draw, which at first looked risky but soon began to make a lot of sense. In a tricky position with all the heavy pieces on the board the white king was hunted down.

That meant Nepo was just two draws from the final, but drawing on demand has never been his superpower. He slipped into a difficult position and then found himself lost in the next game.

“If you look at this game, that’s why I think Nepo won’t win the Candidates!” said Garry, who also found time to somewhat damn Giri with faint praise.

Both players looked happy to switch to blitz as they drew the final rapid game in 41 moves, and the excitement would only grow. In the first blitz game Alexander Grischuk pointed out that while Nepo likes to keep the tension, Anish tends to try and simplify positions.

Here 30…e4? 31.Bxf6 Qxf6 32.Qxe4 led only to a difficult heavy piece ending that Grischuk was calling as certain to be won for White regardless of the objective evaluation of the position. Nepo had a perfect home for his king on a2 and could torture Giri for the next 40 moves until he finally claimed victory – “we are all heroes in such positions,” said Alexander, in a nice variation on the usual, “there are no heroes in time trouble”.

Match over? Not at all! In a must-win game Anish unleashed a novelty on move 8 and then provoked Ian into playing 13…e5?, which turned out to be a losing blunder!

14.Nxd4! Nxd4 (14…exd4 15.Nd6+!) 15.Rxd4! f5? (getting out of Dodge with 15…0-0! was the best of some bad options).

16.Nd6+! Again that tactical motif, even if the d6-square is covered! After 16…Qxd6 17.Bxd5! Bxd5 18.Rxd5 White was soon a pawn up with a raging attack as well. Grischuk again noted that Anish went for the simplest approach even at the cost of giving up a big part of his advantage, but the position was just too winning and the match was going to Armageddon.

Ian Nepomniachtchi’s higher finish in the preliminary stage meant he could choose colour and he picked White, so he had 5 minutes to Anish’s 4, but had to win. Nepo surprisingly went for the 5.Re1 line against his opponent’s Berlin, but when Anish went astray it looked as though the Russian no. 1 was going to win the match.

31.Rg6! leaves White a pawn up with an attack on the d6 and g7-pawns. Instead Nepo, famous for his lightning fast calculations, thought it was cleaner to win two pieces for the rook with 31.f3?, but he’d overlooked something big. After 31…Nxg3! 32.Nxg3 Black had 32…Qf4! and when White took the bishop with 33…fxe4 the point was revealed – 33…h5!

There was nothing Nepo could do to stop h4 next, winning the pinned knight and leaving him down an exchange in a must-win situation. The only hope would be to flag his opponent, but Giri has worked hard on his online skills and was never going to let that happen. Nepo soon resigned in disgust!

So a thriller had ended with victory for Anish Giri.

The match is level at 1:1 and we all come back on Sunday for the decider. We won’t have Garry Kasparov this time, but his great predecessor, 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov, is expected to join Judit, Jan and possibly Alexander! Don’t miss their commentary from 15:30 CEST.   

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