Reports Jun 25, 2020 | 10:00 AMby Colin McGourty

Chessable Masters 4: A Carlsen-Caruana rematch

Fabiano Caruana will get a chance to take revenge for his Clutch Chess final defeat as he plays Magnus Carlsen in the quarterfinals of the Chessable Masters. Fabi qualified in 4th place from Group B, behind Anish Giri, Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi. The players to miss out were MVL, who went from top to bottom as he lost his last four games, and Teimour Radjabov, who fell just short after playing the most exciting game of the tournament against Caruana.

Unbeaten Anish Giri topped the Group B table

You can replay all the games from the Chessable Masters B Group using the selector below:

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Yasser Seirawan, Peter Svidler and Anna Rudolf:

Let’s take the players in reverse order of where they finished:

6. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 3.5/10, Eliminated

We saw just how brutal the preliminary phase could be the day before, when Daniil Dubov led the A Group with just two rounds to go before getting knocked out. In a way MVL’s fall was even more dramatic, since he started the day top of the B Group, above Giri on tiebreaks, but ended a full point adrift in last place. It was hard to feel it was unlucky, however, since after a Round 6 draw against Giri the French no. 1 was unrecognisable from the player who remains world rapid no. 2 in over-the-board chess:

His sequence of four losses in a row began with losing an innocuous position with White to Teimour Radjabov. Then a wild opening against Fabiano Caruana had calmed down before Maxime went astray in an ending with 37…Rd4?

38.Rc7! a5 was met by 39.Ng3!, the move Maxime must have missed, and there was no defence. There followed 39…Ke8 40.Rxe7+! Kxe7 41.Nf5+ Ke6 42.Nxd4+ exd4 43.f4! and Black resigned, as Fabi is winning the pawn ending.

Maxime suddenly found himself in joint last place and went for an offbeat opening against Ding Liren.

It's hard to rattle Ding Liren, however, and the French no. 1 got crushed. In the last round Ian Nepomniachtchi also proved to be out for blood. Will Maxime continue online to avoid the openings he’s built his chess career around, or will this be the final straw?

5. Teimour Radjabov, 4.5/10, Eliminated

Teimour followed a very different trajectory. He started the day a point behind the field but was unfortunate not to climb into a qualifying spot. He failed to convert an extra pawn against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the first round of the day but then beat MVL, drew against Giri and came incredibly close to beating Caruana in the penultimate round in what was arguably the game of the tournament so far.

Teimour returned to his old love, the King’s Indian Defence, and it was a great time for World Champion Magnus Carlsen to join Yasser Seirawan and Peter Svidler in the commentary booth. The position was soon extraordinary, with all Black's pieces back on the back rank while White was fully developed.

It was heating up when Fabi played 31.Rg1

…while after Radjabov went for 36…f3! the board was on fire. 38.gxf3 saw Teimour take a spectacular decision with 2 seconds on his clock!

38…Ng3!! landed on the board to the delight of our commentators:

Fabi found the only good defence, 39.Ng1!, and after 39…Rxf3 he was better, before 40.Nxf3 Rxf3 41.Ra8+ Bf8 allowed him to relive some chess history:

42.Bh6!? was pointed out by Magnus before it happened, with Peter immediately remarking, “A very tasty move to make in terms of referencing chess history”. 

They were both thinking of the beautiful winning move 53.Bh6! from Game 23 of the 1987 Seville Karpov-Kasparov World Championship match. That put Anatoly Karpov just one draw in Game 24 away from regaining the World Championship title, but Garry famously won on demand, with Peter describing those games combined as, “the stuff of absolute legend”. The moment was captured on video:

In that game Bh6 was the best and only winning move in the position, while this time 42.fxg3! was stronger, and in fact after 42.Bh6 Nxe4 43.Rg1+? Kh7! Teimour was winning, but as Magnus commented, it was simply “mayhem”.

The crunch moment came after 47.Kxh3:

Svidler commented of 47…Qf3+ that “there’s no way this is not mate somehow”, and although Magnus hit back, “famous last words!”, he then went on to spot a beautiful win after 48.Kxh4 Qxf2+ 49.Rg3 Qh2+ 50.Kg4:

50…Kg6!! was the quiet move making a quick mate inevitable. It would have been “so sweet” to finish the game that way, he said, but alas, Teimour played 47…Qf5? and after 48.Rg4 Qf3+ 49.Kxh4 Qxf2+ 50.Kg5 it turned out there was nothing better than to force a draw by perpetual check. A peaceful end to an epic game:

Pascal Charbonneau took a detailed look at the key moments of that game:

Teimour still retained chances of qualifying in the final game – in fact by the end a win over Ding would have been enough – but the Chinese star never put a foot wrong and Radjabov was out. At least he’d had a final day to savour!

4. Fabiano Caruana, 5/10, plays Magnus Carlsen in the QF

As we’ve just seen, it wasn’t exactly a smooth qualification by the US star, but he deserved to reach the quarterfinals for his ambitious play. He scored 50% with 3 wins and 3 losses, and should have scored another win in the first game of the day when he squandered a winning advantage against Ding Liren.

6 decisive games was the most of any player

His play was perhaps at times too ambitious:

Nepo had just sacrificed a piece on g5, but after the natural 12…Kg7 it seems Black is doing well. Instead Fabi went for the amazing idea 12…Kh7?! 13.Bxc6 Rg8! Quite a zwischenzug, and after 14.Bxf6? Qxf6 15.Bd5 and e.g. 15…Qh4! Black has a winning attack. After 14.f4!, however, it was White who was winning, with Nepo ultimately going on to convert.  

The world no. 2 now gets a chance to play another match against World Champion Magnus Carlsen, with their latest encounter in Clutch Chess ending with a dramatic win in the final game for Magnus when Fabi only needed a draw. Can he get his revenge?

3. Ian Nepomniachtchi, 5.5/10, plays Vladislav Artemiev in the QF

Nepo’s win over Caruana seemed to leave him very comfortable with three rounds to go, but Round 8 almost derailed his day. Ian went for a piece sacrifice that was dubious even though he picked up three pawns for a knight, and then later walked into 26.Bxd6! by Ding Liren (Ian couldn't take on d6 without allowing Qxf7+ and a quick mate).

To make matters worse, he then mouse-slipped with 29…Qd4 when he’d intended 29…Qxe4, but the position was lost either way, and the arbiters were understandably stunned when Ian asked to be able to take back the move. That was out of the question, and the Russian star seemed suddenly on some kind of tilt. The day might have ended differently if Anish Giri had twisted the knife in the next game:

Black was winning after e.g. 29…Qe3+, but knowing all he needed was a draw to qualify - and having seen what happened to Dubov the day before - Anish took a draw by repetition.

Ian showed no mercy in the last round against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and qualified in 3rd place, setting up an intriguing quarterfinal clash with his Russian colleague Vladislav Artemiev.

2. Ding Liren, 5.5/10, plays Hikaru Nakamura in the QFs

The Chinese no. 1 had a tough start to the day. He scraped a draw against Fabiano Caruana, his 6th draw in a row, but then lost on time to Anish Giri after a disconnection in a position where it looked like the worst was over. Another player might have collapsed, but the world no. 3 bounced straight back with powerful wins over Nepomniachtchi and then MVL to qualify in 2nd place.

His reward is a heavyweight quarterfinal against Hikaru Nakamura. Both players have been in top form on the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, with Hikaru reaching both finals while Ding reached both semifinals. They both lost to the same players, Magnus and Daniil Dubov.

1. Anish Giri, 6/10, plays Alexander Grischuk in the QFs

Some, hard as it is to imagine, had downplayed Giri’s success in the Mr Dodgy Invitational, but the Dutch no. 1 continued straight where he’d left off, qualifying in first place after going through 10 rounds as the only player to remain unbeaten in the Chessable Masters. There was some luck in Ding Liren losing on time, but if Anish hadn’t needed only a draw he might well have beaten Nepomniachtchi.

Giri now plays Alexander Grischuk in the quarterfinals, and if he’s going to play Magnus Carlsen it can only be in the final. Both players are looking forward to it already!

The quarterfinals start on Thursday (then Saturday and Monday) with Carlsen-Caruana and Artemiev-Nepomniachtchi, while on Friday (then Sunday and Monday) we have Nakamura-Ding Liren and Giri-Grischuk.

The system for the knockout is the familiar one from the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge of three “sets” of 4 rapid games, played over 3 days. If a set ends 2:2 there will first be two 5+3 blitz games, and only if that also ends drawn will we get an Armageddon game, where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4 but a draw counts as a win for Black. You’ll be able to follow all the action from 15:30 CEST on Thursday:

Before that, however, Wednesday is the one official rest day of the tournament (there could be other free days if the later rounds finish after two days). That doesn’t mean no chess, however, since two of the players will be in action. At 14:00 CEST there’s Ding Liren, who will be speaking Chinese, and then at 20:00 CEST there’s Daniil Dubov (English). Here’s the full plan:

All chess24 premium members can challenge the players to a game, and if you’re not yet premium it’s a great chance to take the plunge with the voucher code STUDYCHESS offering 40% off.   

Also before Thursday, be sure to fill out the FantasyChess quarterfinal contest for a chance to win some great prizes. More details here

See also:

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