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Reports Jul 23, 2020 | 10:56 PMby Colin McGourty

chess24 Legends 3: Carlsen & Svidler lead

“This game is a legend in itself,” said Rustam Kasimdzhanov after Vladimir Kramnik fought back to win despite being hit by an incredible idea from Vishy Anand at the start of Round 3. Vishy couldn’t recover and lost the match in three games, as did Anish Giri despite having crushing positions in the first two against Ian Nepomniachtchi. Peter Leko also had Magnus Carlsen on the ropes until a mouseslip in Game 4 kept Magnus on a perfect 9/9. Peter Svidler remains co-leader after edging a win over Boris Gelfand, while Vasyl Ivanchuk won two brilliant games to defeat Ding Liren.

Vishy's 36.Nf5!! deserved to see the board showered with gold coins... or at least to win the game! 

The chess24 Legends of Chess just keeps on getting better, with Round 3 featuring brilliancies, blunders and incredible drama. You can replay all the games using the selector below:

Once again, there were no Armageddons, so it was 3 match points or nothing for all the players.

Tania Sachdev, Jan Gustafsson, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alexander Grischuk again commentated live, and you can relive an incredible day’s drama, including post-game interviews with Kramnik, Nepo, Carlsen and Leko, below:

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

Let’s start with the fastest, and strangest, match of the day:

Giri 0.5:2.5 Nepomniachtchi  

Anish Giri had knocked Ian Nepomniachtchi out in the semi-finals of the Chessable Masters and the way the first game went in the chess24 Legends of Chess it seemed we might get a repeat performance. Nepo was soon in trouble:

He later confessed:

I can hardly be proud of my chess, but I played in my favourite style - any piece to any square, completely random!

Here Giri played 24.hxg6 hxg6 and would have been completely winning after 25.Rcg1! Instead 25.Rhd1!? allowed Nepo to give up his queen with 25…Rxc4, and although White was still much better it was already possible to see what could go wrong. Nepo managed to consolidate and felt it became a “free roll” that he couldn’t lose, while his opponent might press too hard for a win. Sure enough, Anish stumbled into a lost position.

The second game was similar, but even more dramatic. Again Anish had a position the computer assessed as around 5 pawns better for him, and again he squandered that advantage, but this time the swing was even more brutal. Nepo was stunned by Giri’s disastrous 24…Qa5?

Suddenly, after 25.Ng5!, there’s no defence for Black. 25…h6 26.Nxe6 wins a piece, while 25…Rfc8 in the game, allowing White to capture on h7, was just a form of suicide.

Needing to win two games in a row to force Armageddon, Giri managed to win a pawn in the 3rd game, but it wasn't enough. An 87-move-draw confirmed victory for Nepo.

One more match ended in three games:

Anand ½-2½ Kramnik

The first game of this repeat of the 2008 World Championship match was a phenomenal start to the day and was full of incident from the moment Vladimir Kramnik played the French Defence. It became “stunningly beautiful” and “history in the making” (Rustam) after Vishy saw that despite his bishop being en-prise he could offer another sacrifice, this time with 36.Nf5!!

36…exf5 37.e6! wins for White, and, while the computer recommends putting the black king on a square that stops a knight fork on d6, Kramnik spent 3 minutes before deciding to walk into that with 36…fxg6!? 37.Nd6+ Kc7 38.Nxe8+ Kd7 39.Nd6 g5! He was relieved to find that last move that meant the game wasn’t immediately over, though another 40.Nf5! followed.

The subsequent battle was truly extraordinary, with the players trading blows while perilously low on time. At one point Vlad was clearly winning, then it was equal, then there was one final cruel twist for Vishy, in an event where he’d suffered similar misfortune in two otherwise well-played matches:

63.Nf4! blocks checks, defends the e6-pawn, means the knight itself is defended and allows the white king to support the pawns – White would be winning. Instead the immediate 63.Kg6? from Vishy ran into 63…Qg2+! and it was all over. Black can simply take the knight on d5, though there are also more sadistic ways to take home the full point. 

Our commentators felt privileged to have seen the game live:

2-time Canadian Champion Pascal Charbonneau takes an in-depth look at an epic game:

“I think it was difficult for Vishy to get back to his senses after the first game,” said Kramnik, and the second game was one-way traffic, with Vlad sure he was winning when he managed to execute his plan of playing 27.d4! The game lasted only five more moves:

Once again it was a mountain to climb, and once again it was no surprise that the match ended in three games, with a quiet draw. A tough loss for Vishy, who finds himself on zero points out of 9, despite demonstrating a good level of play in the majority of games.

Let’s move on to the leaders:

Leko 1.5:2.5 Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen ended his boat trip before this match-up…

…but found himself at sea in the first three games, commenting, “obviously travelling on the day you’re playing is not ideal either, but it was just a very, very tough match.”

He credited his opponent Peter Leko with playing very well, and admitted he’d been “considerably worse” in the first two games. How things were going was summed up in an exchange between our commentators:

Jan: Is Leko outplaying the World Champion in back-to-back games?

Rustam: Outplaying the World Champion is just 10% of the job!

Sure enough, Magnus showed his famed resilience and managed to hold on for a draw. Leko wasn’t disheartened, however, and got to unleash some home preparation with 20.d6! in Game 3, though he said he couldn’t recall the details:

Magnus found the clever resource 20…Bf6!? (Leko said 20…Qxd6 21.Nxb5! should probably draw) 21.Be3 Ne5!, but Peter again got the upper-hand and Magnus admitted he was just lost until 33.Re1? allowed the trick 33...Nf3+! that instantly transformed the game:

Peter was shocked to discover that not only was he no longer better after the forced 34.Qxf3 Bxd4, but he was actually the one who needed to force a draw before things got out of hand.

For the fourth game Magnus decided he needed to get his opponent thinking early on:

It worked, but although the World Champion finally got a good position out of the opening it was no more than somewhat better until 22…Re6? appeared on the board. That puzzled our commentators, and Magnus, until Peter explained that nerves had got to him and he'd made a mouseslip:

At their level it was a critical mistake, since the structure after 23.f3! Nd6 24.Rxe6 fxe6 25.Qa4 was terrible for Black. The way Magnus converted was still a masterclass, however, as he calmly traded down into a pawn ending that he’d correctly calculated was winning for him, by one tempo:

So Magnus had won all three matches without the need for Armageddon, a feat only one other player could match:

Gelfand 1.5:2.5 Svidler

That player was Peter Svidler, who emerged triumphant from a heavyweight battle between the other two co-leaders. Boris Gelfand was pressing in the first two games, but the way Peter turned the tables in the second game suggested he was in good form. That game was drawn, but the scenario repeated itself in Game 3:

Peter, with Black, seems to be holding on by the skin of his teeth, but after 22.f6?! Neg6 23.fxg7 Kxg7 the attack had run out of steam. Boris played boldly with 24.c5!? bxc5 25.Nd2 but soon got overrun.

That left Boris needing to win on demand with Black in the final game, but it was only White who got winning chances before the match ended in a draw by repetition.

Last, but by no means least…

Ding Liren 1½:2½ Ivanchuk

The question of what’s up with Ding Liren returned in the first game of this match:

It’s not quite as simple as forking the two rooks, but 31.Rxd6! is still the kind of thing you’d expect the tactically brilliant Chinese no. 1 and world no. 3 to spot in a flash. He looks badly out of form, which 51-year-old Vasyl Ivanchuk was in the mood to exploit to the full! This is the position after 31…Bxe4 in Game 2:

Vasyl blitzed out 32.Bh6!, when 32…gxh6 33.Qxf6# is mate, while after 32…Bg6 he could simply win a piece with 33.Bxd3, since the g6-bishop is pinned to the g7-pawn. 33…c4 34.Bxc4 Qb1+ 35.Bf1 and White had consolidated, and although Vasyl missed some quicker wins the outcome of the game was never in doubt.

It seemed that might have been the shock to the system Ding Liren needed, since in Game 3 he finally picked up his first win of the Legends of Chess. It turned out, however, that it had all just been a warm-up for Vasyl’s brilliant conclusion to the match:

23.Bxh7+! Kf7 (23…Nxh7 24.Qe6+! Kf8 25.Ng6#) 24.Nf5! Nxh7 (24…Nc6 25.Qe8+! Qxe8 26.Nxd6# would be a nice finale) 25.Nh6+! and Ding resigned.

Vasyl took a short walk around his room as he savoured those final variations and it’s wonderful to see him back in full flow. Ding Liren still has six rounds to recover, but for now he finds himself level with Vishy on 0/9:

In Round 4 Ding Liren plays co-leader Peter Svidler (who will later be doing a Q&A session – there’s still time to ask him a question), while the latest World Championship rematch is Kramnik-Leko, a repeat of the 2004 match. Elsewhere it’s Nepo-Ivanchuk, Carlsen-Gelfand and Giri-Anand.

Don’t miss the chess24 Legends of Chess from 15:30 CEST each day!

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