Reports Jul 25, 2020 | 8:05 AMby Colin McGourty

chess24 Legends 4: Carlsen grabs the sole lead

Magnus Carlsen showed how to beat the Sveshnikov as he swept Boris Gelfand 3:0 to take the sole lead after Round 4 of the chess24 Legends of Chess prelims. Co-leader at the start of the day Peter Svidler won the first game against Ding Liren, but the Chinese superstar roared back to win 2.5:1.5 and pick up his first points of the event. Ian Nepomniachtchi is up to second place after defeating Vasyl Ivanchuk, Vladimir Kramnik won the 2004 World Championship rematch against Peter Leko and Anish Giri bounced back to beat Vishy Anand in Armageddon.

Carlsen and Gelfand have a lot in common!

You can replay all the games from the chess24 Legends of Chess preliminary stage using the selector below:

There are three points for a win in the rapid games, while if a match goes to Armageddon the points are split 2:1 – that meant that despite losing again Vishy finally picked up his first match point:

The day’s live commentary was again provided by Tania Sachdev, Jan Gustafsson, Rustam Kasimdzhanov 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

Magnus Carlsen 3:0 Boris Gelfand

No-one has ever accused Boris Gelfand of a lack of principles in chess, and in the first game of the day he was willing to take on Magnus Carlsen in the Sveshnikov, the opening that lit up the 2018 World Chess Championship match in London between Magnus and Fabiano Caruana. The twist, however, was that Magnus switched sides from that match to play White. Boris was seemingly well-prepared and played the novelty 13…b6 in a position that had been reached in Game 2 of the World Championship playoff and also in Van Foreest 0-1 Carlsen in Wijk aan Zee afterwards.

Magnus stopped to think for a minute and a half, but what followed merely demonstrated how well he understands these positions for either side. “It seems like all the tactics worked out for me so something must have gone wrong for him quite early on,” said Magnus afterwards, and Pascal Charbonneau has analysed what looks like another Sveshnikov masterclass:

Boris was therefore trailing in the match, but Game 2 was shaping up to be a great battle until it came to an abrupt end. Boris had been forced to give up the exchange, but still had a finely balanced position until move 19:

Magnus had been looking at intriguing lines for White such as 19.d5 exd5 20.f5!? here, while the immediate 19.e5 or 19.f5 are also playable, but instead Boris spent over two minutes before blundering with 19.Qf3?? Magnus didn’t hesitate to play 19…Bxd4 and Boris resigned, since he’s left simply an exchange down with a ruined pawn structure.

Magnus had time to do some shopping between games!

Coming back from a 2:0 deficit against Magnus is close to Mission Impossible and Boris didn’t manage, but he again demonstrated his fighting spirit in the third game by sacrificing his queen rather than accepting a draw by repetition. It led only to the first 0:3 defeat of the event, but the scoreline matters little.

Peter Svidler 1.5:2.5 Ding Liren

Ding Liren started the chess24 Legends of Chess knowing that reaching the semi-finals would guarantee him a place in the Grand Final of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, but after starting with 0/9 his best hope of reaching that Final looked like being Magnus winning the tournament, opening up places for both Ding and Hikaru Nakamura.

That was looking even more the case after co-leader Peter Svidler confidently won an exchange and then the first game of their match. Peter had ridden his luck at times to reach 9/9 but commented afterwards at the start of his Q&A session, “I finally played a game of chess from start to finish”.

Peter felt he was in control, but that feeling didn’t last long. In a tricky position in the second game 24…Ke7? was a fatal misstep (you can’t castle, but after 24…Bb6! it seems White has no killer blow):

25.f5! gxf5 26.Bg5+! Ke8 27.Bxd8! fxe4 28.Bf6! Rg8 29.Rd1! was evidence that there might be less wrong with Ding Liren that it had seemed in the first three days of the event!

29…Bb6 would run into 30.Qd2! and Black can only stop mate on d8 by giving up his queen. Peter instead resigned.

After a draw in Game 3 Peter found himself thinking 5 minutes in the position after 14.Qg4, a move played a decade ago by Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Harikrishna and Vasyl Ivanchuk. Alexander Grischuk mused on how remembering opening preparation has changed.

14…Nf6 15.Qg3 Kh8!? was already a dubious novelty and by move 20 Ding had a winning position, with Peter resigning on move 26.

Vladimir Kramnik 2.5:1.5 Peter Leko

This replay of the 2004 World Championship match was arguably a lot more fun than that 14-game match had been! In the first game Vladimir Kramnik admitted he’d run some risks by playing for a win in a worse position, while the second was mayhem. Peter Leko’s sacrifice of a piece to advance his passed pawns was actually sound (despite what Kramnik thought), but good for no more than a draw. When Peter went astray Black was completely winning, but then Kramnik allowed a brilliant win for White when he met 53.Re6! with 53…Bf7?

54.Kd4! was the correct start (54…Bxe6 55.e8=Q), but after 54…Be8 the correct follow-up was 55.Ke5!, then Rf6, then withdrawing that rook on the f-file and only then playing the king to c5 to win the c6-pawn. 55.Kc5 immediately by Leko led only to a draw.

Vladimir gave a very funny description of all the games in his post-match interview to Jan Gustafsson and Tania Sachdev:

In describing Game 3 Kramnik echoed something Magnus Carlsen had said when looking at the game live:

Looks like a faultless game so far to me (laughs). The one thing you can be sure with Vlad is that the most exciting game is almost invariably going to be his!

At some stage Leko was close to winning with Black, but Kramnik successfully managed to muddy the waters until he was completely winning himself:

He explained that he wanted to play 37.Qe5 here, but then was shocked to spot 37…Qxf2+ 38.Kxf2 Ng4+. He didn’t want to get involved in those complications and chose 37.Qd4 instead, admitting that he’d completely overlooked that the c5-rook was en-prise – simply 37.Nxc5! would have been crushing. Instead of that Kramnik soon managed to end up worse and found himself defending Rook vs. Rook + Knight before the game finally ended in a draw in 119 moves!

No harm was done, however, since as in the 2004 World Championship match Kramnik came through with a very convincing win in the final game:

28...Bxh3! 29.gxh3 Qxh3+ was simply winning, since the passed h-pawn became too strong. That victory took Vlad up to fourth place, which would be enough to qualify for the semi-finals, even if that was a prospect he wasn’t exactly looking forward to at his age after 9 tough preliminary rounds!

Anish Giri 3:2 Vishy Anand

In a way this match had something for everyone. Anish managed to bounce back from a painful defeat to Ian Nepomniachtchi, while Vishy at least picked up a point after four tense draws meant the encounter went to Armageddon. Vishy was even objectively winning the Armageddon at some point, but Giri has been honing his internet speed chess skills in the last few months and in fact won comfortably as Vishy was soon hopelessly behind on the clock and lost on time.

Surprisingly, since four matches had been level before the last game, that was the only Armageddon.

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2.5:1.5 Vasyl Ivanchuk

Vasyl Ivanchuk is full of surprises, and the surprise in this match-up was that he comfortably matched the legendary speed of his opponent, playing practical chess and surviving some tricky positions as the first three games were drawn. In the fourth, however, Nepo took over with the black pieces and only a true brilliancy could have saved the day.

Alexander Grischuk pointed out the amazing resource 27.0-0-0!! Bxd4 28.Nc4!, though even then White is still fighting to hold. In the game after 27.Rb1 it was tough for White’s knights to counter the black bishops, and the game ended abruptly when Vasyl overlooked mate-in-2 (or decided to end his suffering).

That means that Nepo has won all four of his matches, just dropping a point compared to Magnus as one of his wins was in Armageddon. Amazingly, all ten players are on a different score!

In Round 5 we cross the halfway mark of the tournament, with Carlsen-Ivanchuk the match that most catches the eye. The other clashes are Nepo-Svidler, Kramnik-Ding Liren, Giri-Gelfand and Anand-Leko.

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

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