Reports Jul 2, 2020 | 6:57 AMby Colin McGourty

Chessable Masters 11: Magnus in the final

Magnus Carlsen is in the final of the Chessable Masters after beating Ding Liren twice with the black pieces on the way to a 2.5:0.5 victory. It means the World Champion has now beaten the world numbers 2 and 3 in consecutive matches, with the identity of his final opponent yet to be decided. A single loss by Anish Giri – his only setback in the 29 games he’s played in the event – was enough to ensure Ian Nepomniachtchi took the match to a decider on Wednesday.

Magnus Carlsen is through to the final, but will be play Giri or Nepo?

You can replay the live commentary from Day 2 of the Chessable Masters semi-finals, with Peter Svidler, Simon Williams and Anna Rudolf, below:

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The wins for Magnus and Ian meant that so far we only know the name of one of the finalists (replay all the games here):

Let’s take the matches one at a time.

Magnus Carlsen 2.5:0.5 Ding Liren

When Peter Svidler suggested to the World Champion that he'd played well, Magnus laughed as he responded:

Yeah, I guess except from the opening of the first game! I suspect after that it was pretty good.

You can watch the full interview below:

In the first game Magnus once again tried the King’s Indian Defence, as he’d done the day before, but he admitted he “messed up quite a bit” and only felt he’d turned the corner when he found a way to sacrifice a pawn:

After 26…a5! 27.Ra1 Na6! 28.bxa5 bxa5 29.Rxa5 Nc5 30.Rea1 Rxa5 31.Rxa5 Qd8 32.Ra3 the position was transformed:

For the sacrificed pawn Black had acquired the wonderful square on c5 for his knight. In what followed Magnus managed to consolidate further, recalling the way he’d outplayed his opponent in a close to losing position at the end of the previous day.

Still, Ding Liren had an extra pawn, and he chose to play on when it seemed he could have taken a draw by repetition. Two could play at that game, and one move later it was Magnus doing the same, when it was a case of fortune favouring the Norwegian but punishing the Chinese star. The critical position arose after 65.Rc8:

Ding Liren spent 41 seconds on 66.Qb3?, only to have to resign on the spot after 66…Rc1+!, winning the white queen with a tactic that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever spent some time solving tactical puzzles online or from books.

Here’s that moment captured by our commentators, with an introduction by GM Pascal Charbonneau:

It was a crude blunder, but at this level blunders are seldom entirely unforced. Magnus described it as “such an unpleasant position” and that opinion was backed up by Peter Svidler when he learnt that the only clear drawing move in the position above had been 66.Nd1!. Peter felt that was, “a very good indication that it’s a position you lose in a practical game.” “I absolutely agree,” said Magnus.

Game 2 ended in a draw by repetition on 33 moves, with Magnus explaining why he didn’t push with 16.e4!? after 15…c5:

At some point I just couldn’t be bothered! I just thought I had a draw and I thought a draw brings me half a point closer to a conclusion, so I just thought I’m going to do this and then play a little more solidly in the next black game.

Ding, with his last chance to get the win he needed with the white pieces, had no interest in solidity, and he gave up a couple of queenside pawns to be able to push his own pawns in the centre. It looked impressive, but the World Champion had seen through it:

27…Nxd7! 28.Nxd7 Bc4! 29.Qd1 Qe7! and Ding Liren resigned, since Black wins back the piece and the queenside pawns are unstoppable.

That meant Magnus had beaten world no. 2 Caruana and world no. 3 Ding Liren in consecutive matches as he cruised through what was clearly the tougher half of the knockout bracket.

It feels like only Magnus’ Twitter arch-enemy Anish Giri can stop him now, with Magnus commenting of the prospects of Anish reaching the final:

Yeah, it looks a little less likely now than it did yesterday, but I still hold out a lot of hope for that. I would obviously be happy to play Ian as well, but of course it would be special to face Anish in the final.

Even Nepo agrees!

I hope it would be me (in the final), but in case that Anish qualifies we’ll have some nice Twitter battle, so at some point the sad end wouldn’t be such a bitter thing for me. I will switch on my Twitter app and start collecting wisdom…

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2.5:1.5 Anish Giri

The winner of Nepo-Giri will only be decided in a final set on Thursday, after Ian managed to mount a comeback. How had he done it? Well, he said it helped that he’d replayed the previous day’s games and within 5 minutes concluded, “yesterday was complete garbage from both sides!” The Russian no. 1 felt he didn’t need to fear Giri, but he did have to suffer in the first game of the day as he misplayed the opening and ultimately scraped a draw in a 2 vs. 3-pawn rook endgame.

Game 2, however, looks like a rare case of Giri going astray in the opening. 8…Nxd4?! got Nepo thinking for over 5 minutes, but it was seemingly more of a blunder (8…cxd4 has been played by Levon Aronian, among others) than a new idea. 13…b5?! was then asking for trouble:

Nepo pointed out afterwards he could simply have played 14.Nxb5! here and if 14…Rxb5 he has 15.Qe2! hitting the e7-bishop and b5-rook. 14.Qe2 immediately wasn’t bad either, and Nepo eventually picked up a pawn and then later a full piece. Anish played on – partly, no doubt, because he had three connected passed pawns, but he may also have forgotten how it feels to lose! He was the only unbeaten player in the Chessable Masters, having gone 26 games without a loss.

Game 3 was a chance for Anish to hit back, but although the watching Magnus felt Nepo had “bungled it” the one clear chance for White was a fleeting moment that Magnus and our commentators, as well as the players, missed:

49.g5! here wins, with 49...fxg5 met by 50.Rxg5+ Rxg5 51.hxg5 and White has a winning pawn ending. 49…Rg4 now runs into 50.Re7+, while after 49…Kxe4 50.g6! it seems White should also emerge victorious. Anish almost instantly played 49.Kf2 and the moment was gone.

That meant Anish needed to win on demand with the black pieces to take the match to blitz games, but he had the lifebelt of knowing that even if he lost he would be able to return on Thursday to play a deciding match. Magnus felt that changes your psychological approach to such a “must-win game”, but Anish vowed not to let his friend down:

How do you play for a win with the black pieces? Well, Anish decided now wasn’t the time to unleash his French Defence on the world and met 1.e4 with 1…e5 2.Nf3 d6, the venerable Philidor Defence that Daniil Dubov has recently used to beat Magnus, among others:

It never looked like working out, however, and the players agreed a draw when the required 40 moves had been played. The final position was one only Nepo could have won:

So a single loss in 29 had sunk Anish, who concluded:

Magnus Carlsen will be able to rest and prepare for Friday’s final, while Nepo and Giri will be back at the usual time of 16:00 CEST on Thursday to decide their match. The stakes are very high, since a semi-final loser earns $15,000 while there’s $27,000 for finishing runner-up and $45,000 for the winner of the final. Anish and Ian are also both chasing a place in August’s Grand Final, with the winner automatically qualifying for that 4-player $300,000 event. Magnus and Daniil Dubov have already booked their places.

So tune in from 15:30 CEST for the semi-final decider, when Yasser will be back alongside Peter and Anna! After the day’s Chessable Masters action is over we’ll also have a Banter Blitz session with India’s Harikrishna, at about 20:00 CEST:

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!

See also:

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