World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen deliberately lost a game in 4 moves but still went on to beat world no. 3 Ding Liren on an extraordinary first day of the Chessable Masters semi-finals. Magnus was making up for Ding losing a drawn position on time after disconnecting in the first game of the day. Meanwhile the dream of a Carlsen-Giri final is alive after Anish Giri beat Ian Nepomniachtchi 3:1 in a match that was more turbulent than the scorelines suggests.
You can replay all the games from Day 1 of the Chessable Masters semifinals using the selector below:
And here’s the day’s live commentary, where Yasser Seirawan and Anna Rudolf were joined by 2018 US Champion Sam Shankland and also IM John Bartholomew:
This match got off to a relatively quiet start, and in normal circumstances Game 1 might have been remembered only for the aesthetically pleasing structure with the massed white forces held in place by a lone pawn on d5:
Ding Liren was always on the defensive, but he dug in and had safely navigated his way to a drawn position when disaster struck after 43.Kb6:
The Chinese star disconnected, and his already low time ran out before he was able to connect again. Magnus had won, but was far from happy, later commenting:
I felt he defended well in Game 1 and it was just such a drawn position. If there was one line where he could make a draw then you could sort of say, well bad luck for him, but basically here every decent move makes a draw.
Here’s the full interview with Magnus Carlsen, which we’ll be quoting much more from soon:
Computers indeed list 43…f5, 43…g5 and 43…g6 as drawing, with Black in all cases able to give up his rook when White queens the a-pawn, since he’ll be able to create an unstoppable passed pawn on the other side of the board.
Almost no-one likes to win like that, but what came next was extraordinary. Game 2 began 1.c4 e6 2.g3 Qg5 (Magnus breaks the rule most beginners know about not bringing out your queen early in the opening) 3.Bg2 Qxd2+ (the most amazing “sacrifice” you’re ever likely to see from a World Chess Champion) 4.Qxd2 Black resigns
The chess world was stunned:
Magnus had found a spectacular way to level the scores in the match so that Ding Liren’s unfortunate disconnection was cancelled out.
The praise was all but universal:
Scottish Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson even admired how Magnus had executed chess suicide:
Magnus Carlsen himself explained why he’d done it:
When Anna Rudolf mentioned how much praise he’d garnered, Magnus responded:
Thank you very much. It was not really about trying to get praise or anything. People probably know me well enough to know that I don’t make sporting decisions based on whether people will like me or not, but I think in this particular case I very much felt that it was the right thing to do. Frankly, it’s not obvious what is the right thing there. I’ve discussed it already. I think once he disconnected in a drawn position then every outcome is going to be some kind of wrong, but I’m of course grateful to get some compliments on my character and not only my play, for once (laughs), but it’s ok! It’s not what I gunned for, but it’s still appreciated.
The final praise was from his frenemy, Anish Giri, who felt such a dramatic move wouldn’t have occurred to most other players, adding, “I think to do such a thing is very cool and it shows a lot of confidence!” Magnus recalled that Giri had won a game against Ding Liren by disconnection in the preliminary stage, and had a final question:
Everything else on the day felt like an anti-climax after that, but the score was only 1:1 and there was still chess to be played. Magnus and Ding got straight back to playing extremely high level chess in Game 3. Again Magnus was pressing with White, but if there was a win it was study-like:
Here Magnus played 34.Be4, but afterwards he pointed out 34.e7! Bxe7 35.Ke5! and if Black saves the bishop with e.g. 35…Bc5 then 36.Rg7+! Kh6 37.Rg6+ Kh7 38.Rg4+ wins the white rook and the game (35...Ra4!, giving up the bishop, poses more problems).
Instead in the game Magnus got the theoretically drawn but very tricky to play Rook + Bishop vs. Rook ending, only for his attempts to win it to end in comedy when he blundered his bishop after just three moves!
The final rapid game featured a surprise as Magnus played the King’s Indian Defence, but he had no intention of going for a swashbuckling attack on the kingside while letting his queenside burn, explaining, “it was more, play the King’s Indian and then attempt to equalise by force!”
That plan went smoothly, so that the match had gone to two 5+3 blitz games. In the first Ding Liren seized the initiative with the black pieces, but you could feel the tension as the advantage swung from side to side after that. The battle continued until move 83, when both sides had run out of ammunition.
The final game didn’t go Magnus’ way in the opening. He later explained:
My approach was basically just in the opening play something and get a playable position, but I didn’t really get a playable position – that was the problem!
He was happy to see 18.Nf5!? Bxf5 19.exf5:
“At least I can sit and wait – it’s passive, but he doesn’t have any clear targets,” said Magnus. What followed was remarkable, as Magnus gradually managed to regroup and trade off his pieces, so that when queens left the board on move 38 White’s advantage had all but gone:
It would only get worse from there, as Ding Liren later blundered and lost in 55 moves. Anish Giri was deeply impressed:
Magnus himself noted:
Trading off your good pieces for my less good pieces is rarely a good idea, but I can understand the feeling when the clock is ticking down and you don’t really know what to do.
So in the end the World Champion’s good deed had gone unpunished. Anish summed up of the 4-move game that it’s “particularly cool that he won after that and has no regrets!”
Anish also has no reason for regret after a win that was impressive if not always smooth against Ian Nepomniachtchi. In the first game Nepo looked to have a big initiative from the opening, but when he lost control he might have been punished if Anish had had more time on the clock.
The Dutch no.1 followed that draw by taking the lead in Game 2 with a bolt from the blue after 20…Rfe8? allowed a knight sacrifice:
The queen is attacked, so something has to be done, but 21…Rxf7 loses the rook on e8, so 21…Kxf7 was played, but after 22.Re6! you can’t take on e6 without losing the black queen after dxe6+. 23…Qd8 was met by 24.Qf4+! and Nepo was busted, with the d-pawn ready to begin a destructive march.
It looked to all the world as though that set would be over in 3 games when Nepo’s kingside assault seemed to be going nowhere:
Black’s advantage was soon overwhelming, but then things got completely out of hand and later on it was Nepo who was given a fleeting chance to level the match:
It turns out that after 27.Kf2!, with the simple threat of Rdg1, White is completely winning. Nepo was down to around 20 seconds, however, and played 27.Rg1, abandoning the h-file and the h7-pawn, and after 27…f6! Black was right back in the game. In fact Giri had some more winning chances before he forced a draw by perpetual check on move 39.
The final game was more of the same, with Anish Giri getting the advantage you expect to get when your opponent plays the Pirc/Modern, but he was kicking himself for allowing Nepo to get in g4. The first move the computer really dislikes, however, is 16.Nb1, which marked a surprising double retreat of knights to their starting squares!
At some stage after that Nepo was objectively much better, but it was ultimately White’s queenside attack that broke through, with the black king hunted down in the middle of the board. Giri’s final move 35.Qxh6+! picks up the h3-bishop:
A spectacular first day’s semi-final action had therefore left both Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri with a foot in the final:
It’s again best of 3 sets, however, so that if Ding Liren or Ian Nepomniachtchi can hit back on Wednesday they’ll force a decider on Thursday.
You don’t want to miss all the action live once again from 15:30 CEST here on chess24, while after the day’s over we’ll also have Banter Blitz with world no. 9 and 2019 World Cup winner Teimour Radjabov:
Remember, everyone can watch, but to challenge him you need to be a premium member. Now’s a great time to Go Premium since if you use the voucher code STUDYCHESS you get 40% off!
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