Magnus Carlsen admitted to struggling after spoiling good winning chances in the first game of the day against Vishy Anand but got to play a cheapo in the final rapid game to snatch victory. Carlsen’s co-leaders Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand also won again to move to 6/6 in the chess24 Legends of Chess Prelims, with Gelfand beating Vasyl Ivanchuk while Svidler came from behind to defeat Peter Leko. Anish Giri got off the mark with a win over Vladimir Kramnik, while Ding Liren’s struggles continued as he lost in three games to Ian Nepomniachtchi.
You can replay all the games from Day 2 of the chess24 Legends of Chess below:
All the matches ended without the need for Armageddon, so that the match points were split 3:0, with the winner taking all the spoils:
Replay the live commentary from Tania Sachdev, Jan Gustafsson, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alexander Grischuk, including an interview with Peter Svidler and Anish Giri at the end:
“Basically the last 2 decades of world championships… in a tournament,” is how Tania Sachdev summed up the line-up for the chess24 Legends of Chess, and we’re going to see replays of no less than five World Championship matches. This was the first, with the battle between the current and previous World Chess Champions always one to watch.
Magnus nearly got off to a flying start, but he couldn’t squeeze out a win in an endgame where it looked as though his bishop pair would dominate. He later commented on Norwegian TV:
I was more or less winning in the endgame, but after I messed up, it became a difficult day. It was a win I had to struggle to get, contrary to the one against Giri yesterday.
In the next game Magnus unleashed a surprise on move 3:
If it had shock value, Vishy only briefly hesitated before going on to steer the game into a position where only he could be better. A curiosity was that it was only on move 17 that the game diverged from a 17-move draw between Gipslis and Vasiukov in the 1961 USSR Championship. Magnus chose a different move, but though nominally Vishy was pushing for a win he decided to save his energy at the end:
Game 3 also failed to flare into life, and Magnus said he was content to take the match to Armageddon before a sudden chance appeared in the final rapid game:
24…Bxa2+! 25.Kxa2 Qa5+ 26.Kb1 Qxd2 transformed a position in which Vishy had a safe positional advantage into one he was battling to save. A lack of time didn’t help, and once again, despite having played good chess, Vishy found himself left with no points after a mistake at the very end of the final game.
Magnus, like Svidler the day before, had gone astray:
36.Qg1+! and Vishy could hope to survive, but after 36.Re8? Qe1+! 37.Ka2 Rf1! 38.Ka3 c5! the mating trap had been slammed shut.
Vishy is unlucky not to have got off the mark after two narrow losses, but if there’s anyone who knows how to make a comeback it’s the Indian legend. Rustam Kasimdzhanov shared a story of how Vishy's wife Aruna has helped him in his career:
This match between players with a combined age of 103 followed the same pattern – three draws, but this time the older player, Boris Gelfand, won the final game. Vasyl Ivanchuk came close in Game 2, while in Game 4 Boris played an opening line previously tried by his student Daniil Dubov. It worked well, until at some point the game slipped out of the control of both players. Vasyl was under pressure and very low on time, but Rustam had faith in him!
I would never underestime Ivanchuk down to 1 minute in a confusing position - that's when he's at his most dangerous, like John Wick with a pencil!
This time, however, it was Ivanchuk who made the final mistake, playing 36…Bf4 when 36…Qe5! should still hold:
37.Qh6! threatened mate-in-1 and suddenly left Black without a defence. 37…Rd8 is hopeless after 38.Rxd8 Kxd8 39.Qxf6+, but 37…Kd6 ran into 38.Rc8! Rc7 39.Qxf6+ and Ivanchuk resigned with mate next move. Gelfand is still flying!
The other player on a perfect score is Peter Svidler:
Peter apologised after this match for the fact that he had 6 points out of 6 despite being on the ropes against both Vishy Anand and Peter Leko. In fact he felt his invitation to the Legends tournament could have been “rescinded” for games such as the first of the day, when he was in deep trouble before Leko blundered a pawn.
Leko then turned on the style in a Giuoco Piano in the second game to pull off a win that Svidler felt was brilliant from start to finish. Rustam and Jan were talking up Leko’s ability in such positions long before the game was over:
Peter was therefore trailing, but he managed to hit back in Game 3, with his friend Alexander Grischuk summing up the approach in an unforgettable manner:
Leko’s 21…Rfe8? had been an unfortunate case of the wrong rook – this one needed to stay defending the f7-pawn:
22.Bxh7+! Kxh7 23.Qh5+ Kg8 24.fxe5! left both the d6-bishop and the f7-pawn under attack. Black had to give back the piece and Svidler went on to convert his advantage.
Leko was unable to come back after that and fell for a sucker blow when he played 32.Nxc5?:
32…Rd1+ 33.Kh2 Ng4+! was what Svidler said he’d been hoping for but not expecting when he played 29…Qa5. 34.hxg4 of course loses to 34…Qh4# but Svidler had foreseen that 34.Kg3 also runs into 34…Qg5! and White is caught in a mating net. Leko gave one spite check and resigned.
Svidler summed up that he’d played Games 3 and 4, “more or less reasonably”, which Anish Giri translated instantly into, “like a god!”
Giri bounced back from losing to the 16th World Champion Carlsen by beating the 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. It wasn’t easy, with Big Vlad dominating in the first game but unable to avoid a 71-move draw. Giri drew blood in the next game with a well-timed pawn break:
21.b4! axb4 22.Rxa8 Bxa8 23.Qxb4 left material equal, but in the simplified position Anish was able to methodically exploit his extra space, more active pieces and the weakness of the black pawns.
In the final position d6 will fall after Bb5, hitting the knight.
Giri missed chances to end the match with a game to spare, but a draw meant that Kramnik now had to win on demand in the final rapid game. He played a Modern Defence style system with d6 and g6 and was at times much better, but in the end it was Anish who could have played on for a win if he hadn't sealed match victory with a draw.
Everything has been going wrong so far for world no. 3 Ding Liren. He was crushed by Boris Gelfand on the first day of the event and then found himself confronted by a rare and hyper-aggressive line of the Scotch in the first game of the day. His position had fallen apart by move 16 and he found himself getting crushed in 19th century style:
Nepo played a little carelessly towards the end, and even low on time you might have expected Ding to find an escape, but instead the game reached its logical conclusion:
2-time Canadian Champion Pascal Charbonneau has analyzed the game in depth for Premium members.
Ian played the Dutch Defence in Game 2 and was significantly better by move 15, with the whole encounter remarkably one-sided for a game featuring the world nos 3 and 4.
That meant Liren needed to win the next two games on demand just to force Armageddon, but he never came close, with Nepo making a draw from a position of overwhelming strength. The Russian is now just a point behind the leaders, but it’s a surprise to see Ding suddenly suffering. The Chinese no. 1 has had some internet issues over the summer, but has reached the semi-finals of the previous three Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour events. With 7 rounds to go he could easily still get there again, but is something up?
Anish Giri felt that was reading too much into things:
Ding hasn't found his form because he lost to Boris, not the other way around! ... Don't worry for Ding!
The standings are as follows after Round 2:
Our daily World Chess Championship rematch in Thursday’s Round 3 is Anand-Kramnik, a repeat of their 2008 match, while the battle of the generation matches are Leko-Carlsen and Ding-Ivanchuk. Giri-Nepo and Gelfand-Svidler complete the feast of chess, and if you think you can predict what will happen why not enter our FantasyChess contest.
Don’t miss the chess24 Legends of Chess from 15:30 CEST each day!
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