Reports Jul 26, 2020 | 12:27 AMby Colin McGourty

chess24 Legends 5: Ivanchuk draws blood, but Carlsen & Nepo lead

Vasyl Ivanchuk became the first player to take a match point off Magnus Carlsen as the mercurial Ukrainian won a spectacular first game before going on to lose in Armageddon. That allowed Ian Nepomniachtchi to catch Magnus by beating Peter Svidler, while Vladimir Kramnik remains in 4th place after beating Ding Liren despite blundering a rook not once but twice. Anish Giri edged past Boris Gelfand while Peter Leko came back from a first game blunder to outpace Vishy Anand in Armageddon.

Replay all the action from a wild 5th round of the chess24 Legends of Chess tournament using the selector below:

There were 3 points for winning in rapid games while the points were split 2:1 after Armageddon:

You can replay the live commentary on the round from Tania Sachdev, Jan Gustafsson and Rustam Kasimdzhanov below:

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

Magnus Carlsen 3:2 Vasyl Ivanchuk

This was the match everyone was waiting for in Round 5 and it absolutely lived up to the hype. In the first game Vasyl had the black pieces but won a pawn by move 17 and gained a psychological edge when Magnus backed down:

25.Nxf7! isn’t winning but it’s certainly playable here, while after almost 4 minutes Magnus went for 25.Kg1 and 26.Nf3 a move later instead. Soon Vasyl had extinguished any White activity and simply set about converting his extra pawn. The Ukrainian has fantastic technique, as he’d for instance demonstrated to Magnus by beating him in the 2013 Candidates Tournament, and by as far as move 64 he’d done nothing wrong:

64…Rxg3! here might have provoked resignation (65.Kxg3 Qf3+), but 64…e3?! was a misstep, and after 65.Kg2 Rc3?! 66.Rxe3 Qg7 67.Rf3 Black’s advantage had vanished. It looked set to be a familiar story with Magnus going on to punish his opponent, but instead of executing the winning 73.Rf8! he repeated moves and then blundered horribly with 74.Qb3??

As Rustam pointed out when the shock had worn off, in a way this is a sophisticated move, attacking the c2-rook and threatening Rf7. The only problem? After 74…Qd7+! White can only delay mate for a few moves by giving up pieces and pawns! Vasyl paused for dramatic effect then executed the killer blow:

It was far from the first time Ivanchuk had struck a blow against Magnus. We’ve already mentioned the 2013 Candidates Tournament, while other examples include Vasyl beating Magnus 2:0 two years in a row in the Amber tournaments in Monaco, beating him in both rapid and blitz in the Doha World Championships in 2016 and of course the blitz win, with a bounce, in Berlin in 2015:

So Vasyl wasn’t likely to be overawed by taking the lead against Magnus, and he successfully defended a tricky position in Game 2. In Game 3 Vasyl provocatively played the same defence with Black and this time Magnus didn’t repeat his mistake. Still, Vasyl managed to consolidate and could at one point have seized the initiative:

The computer suggests 37…Qxa3!, hitting the c1-rook and the c5-pawn, so that after e.g. 38.Qh3 Rce8 White has to go on the defensive. 37…Qd2!? was perhaps an attempt to play more solidly, with the queen both hitting white pieces and ready to come to the defence of the kingside, but soon Magnus was able to take over. He got a pawn to h6 and took control of the 7th rank, so that exchanging queens only helped him. He’d levelled the scores.

It was far from convincing, however, and Magnus had no objections to a draw in the final rapid game, taking the match to Armageddon. Once again Vasyl played well, but he got perilously low on time and then allowed the killer 36…Nxe4! at the very end. The weak back rank is fatal for White, though so was the clock.

All in all it was a match that demonstrates that Ivanchuk has still very much got it, but though Magnus dropped a match point he’s nevertheless won all five of his matches so far.

Game 1 of Round 5 was a blunderfest, but remarkably all the players who blundered went on to win their matches. That included Vladimir Kramnik:

Vladimir Kramnik 2.5:1.5 Ding Liren

His blunder looks absurd on the face of it, simply capturing a protected pawn on e3 and losing his rook, but the 0.00 on his clock suggests it was just a panicky reflex when he saw he was about to lose on time:

Vladimir looked well-placed to level the scores in the next game, but in a position where no-one would yet resign Ding Liren’s connection failed and he lost on time.

Game 3 could be summed up by, as Grischuk mentioned the day before, “Kramnik doing Kramnik things”. First he played Bobby Fischer’s favourite 6.Bc4 against the Najdorf and looked set to win a model game until, deep in the ending, he blundered a rook for a second time in three rounds:

Most players would treat that as a sign from the heavens to shut up shop and try and safely end the game with a draw, but Vlad reduced our commentary team to hysterics when he shut off his own king with 57.Ka1!?

The mate Rustam mentions with the black king coming to c2 is easily parried with a3, but it still wasn’t the world’s most impressive winning attempt until there were finally bare kings on the board and a draw at move 102.

The final rapid game featured yet more mayhem until finally 57.Rxh4? f5!, winning a piece, brought clarity to the situation.

The rest was very easy for Kramnik, who’s coming closer to doing what he said he doesn’t want to do and qualify for the semi-finals.

Vishy Anand 2:3 Peter Leko

The other player to blunder but win was Peter Leko, who admitted to relaxing when he was about to beat Vishy Anand in the first game of the day.

Peter said afterwards the evaluation was -1000 everywhere in his favour, and in fact it’s mate-in-9 if he plays 55…Qd8!, threatening Qh4+ and Qxd6+, among other unpleasantness. Instead he made other threats with 55…Qc2??, which unfortunately walked into 56.Rf8+! Kg7 57.Qf7+ and it’s mate-in-2 for Vishy.

Vishy had a great chance to all but seal a first 3-point match victory in the next game if he’d pushed his passed pawns at the right moment, but on the other hand Peter had a big edge earlier in the game. Game 3 was a quiet draw, before Peter won on demand in the final rapid game in bizarre fashion:

At a guess Vishy picked up the bishop to play 22…Bxf5, the only move but no bed of roses (23.Bxh6! will follow), but had second thoughts and tried to put the bishop back on the square it had come for – but instead of putting it on d7 he put it on c8. All reasonable moves for White crush, so Vishy resigned.

That meant Armageddon, where Vishy had the white pieces. We’ve become so accustomed to his phenomenally fast chess over the course of his career that it’s hard to get used to thinking of him as slow at anything, but we’d seen against Anish Giri the day before that he just played too slowly. The same happened again against Leko. At some point Vishy’s position was good, but it wasn’t going to matter as he was doomed to lose on time, with Peter saying he was determined not to lose another match in the last game as he had done against Svidler, Carlsen and Kramnik in the previous three rounds. “Who cares about the position - this is Armageddon!” said Peter while watching Ivanchuk-Carlsen.

The remaining two matches kept a much lower profile, but were crucial to the standings.

Ian Nepomniachtchi 3:1 Peter Svidler

After two draws, the second very fast, Ian Nepomniachtchi took the lead with a Ruy Lopez in which he had 17 minutes, two more than the 15 he started with, after 22 moves. He continued playing fast until Peter Svidler, by that stage 7 minutes down on the clock, began to lose the thread. Nevertheless, 46.Qa6?! was a typically Nepo moment:

Rustam Kasimdzhanov had said earlier that “many people consider Nepo World Championship material”, but that his Achilles’ heel is rushing the conversion of winning positions. This was a good example, since while 46.Qc4 would have been totally winning, the move in the game was simply giving up a crucial pawn. After 46…Qxb4! the key point is that the black queen has a perfect square on e7 (e.g. 47.Qa7 Qe7!).

It seems Peter had already accepted defeat, however, and after 46…Nd6 47.Qc6! he resigned. The next game was therefore must-win for the 8-time Russian Champion, but it was Nepo who got to showcase his fantastic calculating ability:

36…Nf2! wins in all lines, including the one we saw in the game: 37.Rde3 Nxh3+ 38.Kg2 Rxe3 39.Rxe3 Rxe3 40.Qxe3 Qd7! and the black knight survives.

Anish Giri 2.5:1.5 Boris Gelfand

Anish Giri sneaked up to the verge of the Top 4 with a match that started with three draws. He was pressing with the white pieces, but he finally broke through in the fourth rapid game with Black after Boris Gelfand went for a line that simply ended up losing a piece.

The end result of the day’s action is that we now have co-leaders, Magnus and Nepo. They look strong bets to reach the semi-finals, but with 12 points at stake for each player in the remaining four rounds a lot could still happen:

The big point to note about Sunday’s Round 6 is that the Ding Liren-Carlsen match will be played four hours earlier than usual at 12:00 CEST. Magnus wants to be able to watch the final day’s action in the English Premier League, which he enters as no. 4 in the Fantasy League contest out of more than 7 million players. Ding welcomed the change, since the standard starting time is late for him in China.

We’ll have live commentary on that match with Jan and Erwin l’Ami before at the normal time of 15:30 CEST we have the other matches – Anand-Nepo, Leko-Giri, Gelfand-Kramnik and Ivanchuk-Svidler. 

Don’t miss the chess24 Legends of Chess from 12:00 CEST!

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