Daniil Dubov is out of the Chessable Masters despite beating Magnus Carlsen, winning three games in total and leading the A Group with just two rounds to go. He lost those last games, to Magnus and then Hikaru Nakamura, and despite tying on 50% with Hikaru and Alexander Grischuk was the player to miss out on a place in the knockout. Magnus Carlsen and Vladislav Artemiev went through to the quarterfinals from the top positions.
You can replay all the games from the Chessable Masters A Group using the selector below:
And here’s the day’s live commentary from Peter Svidler, Yasser Seirawan and Anna Rudolf:
The second half of the qualification from the A Group was extraordinary, with the events early on in the day completely overshadowed by a stunning final round. Let’s take it chronologically:
Chess is no longer the only sport in town, and the resumption of the English Premier League has gone well for Magnus Carlsen, who moved up to an incredible 4th place out of 7.5 million players:
Does it mean more to him than the Chessable Masters?
I’m a chess professional, so obviously winning the chess stuff comes first. I focus on chess now, but we’ll see. I’m obviously going to be fighting on two fronts.
He described the final day of qualification as “a bit nervy”, but the first round couldn’t have gone better as he inflicted a first defeat in 17 Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour qualification games on his great online rival Hikaru Nakamura. Carlsen’s surprise of playing the 6.a3!? sideline against Hikaru’s predictable Queen’s Gambit Declined worked perfectly, with 16.Ndc6! already a winning move:
The d6-bishop can’t be defended, and it was already a case of choosing your poison. Hikaru opted for a position where he was an exchange down but also under huge pressure, and the game ended crushingly in 28 moves:
As the players had started on just 50% it meant their fortunes had dramatically diverged. Hikaru was in serious danger of getting eliminated on -1, while Magnus could breathe a little easier. The one player who really was close to home and dry was Vladislav Artemiev, who took a full-point lead over the field by beating bottom-placed Harikrishna:
Vladislav’s 21…Nxc3! had the nice point 22.bxc3? Bxc3! and he’d be threatening both Bxa1 and mate on e1. After 22.Nxb7! Hari still had some chances of survival, but it just hadn’t been his tournament.
The tournament was going like a dream for Artemiev, though he did suffer one scare! An arbiter spotted just in time that his laptop battery was down to 4%. That danger was averted, but suddenly he fell victim to another force of nature – Daniil Dubov. His Russian colleague used e4! to clear the 3rd rank so his rook would be able to swing over to the kingside and offered a piece sacrifice with 14.h4!
Yasser Seirawan compared Dubov’s play to that of Paul Morphy, who was incidentally “celebrating” his 183rd birthday, and although Vlad at some point came close to equalising he was ultimately blown away. Pascal Charbonneau takes us through the whole game:
That 3rd win in five games for Daniil left him as co-leader with Artemiev, and when all games were drawn in Round 8 it seemed as though the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge winner was cruising through to the knockout stage.
This was when the wheels began to come off for Daniil, with Alexander Grischuk later turning interviewer to ask Magnus:
Grischuk: Did he try deliberately to knock you out, or he just was completely sure he will qualify, because he went to a huge fight against you?
Carlsen: I have no idea, because in this game in general I was not that unhappy with a draw. Really you have to ask him, because judging by his play he really wanted a fight, but I feel like it was a bit… I guess he wants to fight all the time, but in this case it was pretty irresponsible, I would say, because when you look at the final round two white wins are pretty likely, and then he’s just out, so maybe he relaxed too early there.
You can replay the final interviews with Grischuk and Carlsen below:
Dubov’s decision to expand on the queenside with 13.b4!? backfired badly, with 19.Ba3? later a losing mistake in an uncomfortable position:
The pinning and winning began: 19…Rfd8! 20.Rb3 Qxc4! 21.Qe1 Qd5 22.Bb4
From here on things went like a dream, starting with 22…Qxb3! 23.axb3 Bxb4 and ending with 25...h6!
As you can see, our French friends at chess24 spotted a resemblance to the 1923 Saemisch vs. Nimzowitsch game known as the Immortal Zugzwang Game. The structure and final move are very similar, though Magnus noted, “I enjoyed 24…a5! more”.
Pascal Charbonneau explains what went wrong for Dubov:
That slip wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest for Daniil if Hikaru Nakamura had sunk to defeat against Harikrishna, which is almost what happened. Hikaru must have felt it was a case of now or never, but he overpressed and was in very serious trouble:
36.Qe3!, threatening Qe8, is close to winning, with 36…Rb6! 37.Rf8 leaving the black king in real danger. Instead with 36.Qc1!? Rb6 37.Bxc7? Hari allowed Black to escape, and in fact he had to be careful to force a draw.
Only leaders Carlsen and Artemiev were safe going into the final round, and they duly drew their game. Everyone else was staring into the abyss, but even last-placed Harikrishna could qualify for the knockout if he beat Grischuk while Dubov beat Nakamura. That always looked unlikely, but everything was unlikely about the situation the players found themselves in - Grischuk and Nakamura both went into the final round on -1 after 8 draws and a loss.
Nothing went right for Dubov, who played a Sicilian Dragon against Nakamura and found himself in dire straits after 17 moves:
17…Nxf6 would have retained some chances, but the bold 17…Qxf6? just wasn’t working. Play continued 18.Qxg4 Qd4+ 19.Rf2 f5 20.Qf3 fxe4 21.Qf7+ Kh8 22.Qxd7 and only a blunder by Hikaru would let Dubov escape. Instead the game was ended with a brilliancy, as 27.Qe5+! distracted the d4-bishop so that White could take on e2.
That meant Alexander Grischuk was now in a must-win situation. He summed things up afterwards:
I think today I played kind of cluelessly, but without blunders, and it turned out to be enough to qualify, but with a huge fight, of course. I was following the Nakamura-Dubov game while playing, I asked the permission of the arbiter, because if they drew then a draw would be enough for me, and if Nakamura wins I have to win. Anyway, I quickly got a big advantage. Then actually when Nakamura won it became easier, because now I don’t have to think about avoiding blunders, I have to somehow break through.
Harikrishna had played the Benoni, but it could have gone better. As Grischuk put it:
He played something he had no clue about, clearly, and straight out of the opening he had a pretty much lost position.
Grischuk was wary, however, since the one game he’d lost had been to Harikrishna in Round 5. His description of that clash was entertaining:
When he started this desperado attack with giving away everything I was sure it doesn’t work, but I was also quite sure I will lose. I know I’m winning, and I know I will lose, so it’s a very unpleasant feeling!
There was to be no repeat this time, as 28…b6? allowed Grischuk to play 29.Re1! Nd7 and finally 30.Rxe6!, when the threat of mate on f8 means it’s game over:
That meant Grischuk, Nakamura and Dubov were all level on 50%. It was clear that Hikaru’s win over Dubov meant he would finish ahead of the player he lost to in the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge final, but what about Dubov and Grischuk. At first sight it might seem that as they drew their individual games Dubov should qualify on the 2nd tiebreaker of number of wins, since he had 3 to Grischuk’s 1. However, the head-to-head tiebreaker was based on the mini-league of all three players, and there Nakamura was on +1, Grischuk on 50% and Dubov on -1.
That left the final standings as follows:
“I’m really sad for Daniil that he had to go out this way”, said Magnus, but there were consolations. One is that since Dubov has already won an event on the tour he’s already booked a place in the Grand Final in August against Magnus and two more players. The other consolation, or you could call it karma, is that in the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge it was Grischuk who missed out after tying with Dubov and Aronian on 50%.
In the final interview Magnus was asked how playing online chess differs:
Right now I’m very happy to play online. It’s nice to be at home, and that’s what I’m used to. In terms of performance, I think still I play a little bit better over the board, but I think the gap is closing and the more practice we get of playing online it’s going to be closing more or more, and at some point I don’t think there will be much of a difference.
Yasser mentioned Leinier Dominguez’s point that he found it easier to travel to a different city and hotel to be able to focus completely on chess. Grischuk responded:
Basically I think there are two perspectives on this. So one is playing from home, or living in a hotel. Another is playing with real pieces or with a mouse on a laptop. Those are two completely different things.
I would say for me it’s slightly more pleasant and easier to play with a mouse, but of course it’s much more difficult when you’re playing from home, for the reasons that Leinier described. Fantastic would be to go somewhere, to a tournament, to the hotel, and from there play online.
That turned out to be a perfect prompt for Magnus!
That’s what I’m doing, so it’s definitely recommended! Right now I’m in Denmark at a beach house, so we’re sort of treating it as I’m playing a tournament abroad, but I’m playing from home.
The quarterfinals start on Thursday after a rest day on Wednesday, but first on Tuesday we’ll learn the last four qualifiers for the quarterfinals as the B Group concludes. It’s also very tightly balanced:
Don’t miss all the action live here on chess24 from 15:30 CEST on Tuesday!
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