Reports Jun 26, 2020 | 6:54 AMby Colin McGourty

Chessable Masters 5: Carlsen and Nepo cruise

Magnus Carlsen eased to a 2.5:0.5 victory over Fabiano Caruana on Day 1 of their Chessable Masters quarterfinal, which was all the more remarkable since he made a mouseslip in the 2nd game. “To win after making a mouseslip - that’s not something that happens every day!” he would later say. Ian Nepomniachtchi won by the same scoreline against Vladislav Artemiev, though he was given a helping hand when Artemiev lost on time after disconnecting just when he’d survived what could have been a lethal attack.

You can replay all the games using the selector below:

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

Magnus Carlsen 2.5:0.5 Fabiano Caruana

If Magnus Carlsen is going to reach the Chessable Masters final he first has to beat world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana and then either world no. 3 Ding Liren or blitz no. 1 Hikaru Nakamura in the semi-final. He commented:

I was not super-thrilled about my pairing that resulted in me being in by far the toughest bracket and also getting a pretty tough opponent now.

Watch the full interview with Magnus:

So far, however, it couldn’t be going better, on or off the chessboard. Magnus is back to having to edit his Twitter profile to take account of the fact that he’s incredibly no. 1 of over 7.5 million players of Fantasy Premier League:

Meanwhile on the basketball court against his coach Peter Heine Nielsen:

Peter Svidler brought up the fact that some had noted that Magnus was traveling with the ball:

Then again Harden travels on every single possession, so it was only appropriate! I haven’t played basketball in so, so long that my already limited game was even worse. So to find a clip where I actually made a shot, even though I did something illegal beforehand, is still to be considered a victory, I would say.

In Game 1 of the quarterfinal against Fabiano Caruana the players repeated a line from a game Magnus should have lost in the Clutch Chess final just over a week ago after a tactical oversight, but this time he varied on move 13. It was an innocuous-looking improvement, but by the time 19.b5! appeared on the board the World Champion was flying:

Magnus commented:

To be fair, I think he messed up pretty early, because already when I managed to go a5, b5 basically he cannot prevent a6 later on, and with so many minor pieces on the board, including him not being able to exchange one bishop or even one knight, I think it’s extremely unpleasant for him. In the game obviously he could have defended better, but the position is just a dream to play for White.

23.a6! didn’t take long to appear on the board:

After exchanges on a6 the c6 pawn became chronically weak, and later Magnus exchanged the bishop on e6 for one of his knights to leave another weakness on e6. Both of those pawns ultimately fell as Carlsen started with a win:

The moment it really became clear nothing could go wrong for the World Champion was in Game 2, when we reached this position after 12 moves:

12…Bb4 and then 13…Nxb5 and Black is doing very well, but instead Magnus blitzed out 12…Nxb5?! He admitted he’d been “extremely lucky”, since:

That was a mouseslip! I just clicked on the bishop by mistake and took it, so that was just insane. You’re pretty lucky to make a mouseslip that doesn’t actually ruin much at all, so my first instinct was that I just made a mouseslip, now my position sucks, but I think pretty quickly I got decent counterplay and obviously then at some point he should figure out how to make a draw, but then it becomes more and more difficult and with the time edge and everything it’s not surprising that it collapses at some point. To win after making a mouseslip - that’s not something that happens every day!

51…f5! was the beginning of the end, when since the g8-rook is attacked there’s no time for White to capture en passant. The combined passed pawns on the c and f-files were just too much for Fabiano to handle:

GM Pascal Charbonneau takes an in-depth look at that endgame:

That left Caruana needing to win the next two games on demand to take the match to blitz, and he certainly went for it, with 7…g5!?

13…Qe7? was a blunder, however, allowing the brilliant 14.Nd5!

You might dismiss that move at a glance, since the e1-rook is undefended, but the point is that after 14…exd5 White has 15.Bg5!, attacking the queen and allowing the a1-rook to defend its colleague on e1. After 15…f6 16.exd5 Ne5 Magnus was planning the winning 17.f4!

In the game Fabiano went for 14…Bxd5 15.exd5 e5 and our commentators felt that Bd3-f5 should simply win positionally for White. Magnus opted for 16.b4!? instead, explaining why he’d rejected the other option:

I just didn’t feel like it, to be honest. I really wanted to open up the game immediately, but it was a bit too casual, to be fair.

It was hard to argue with results, as he gained a completely winning position, but although Fabiano salvaged a draw it wasn’t enough to save the first set of the match. Magnus was happy, but conscious of how he’d beaten Hikaru Nakamura 3:0 on the first day of the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge semi-final only to go on to lose the match. He summed up:

I would say it’s pretty good. So just got to keep it up, because last tournament this happened as well and then I kind of messed it up later.

Fabiano Caruana will have a chance to hit back when they next play on Saturday and then, if the US player wins, there would be a decider on Monday:

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2.5:0.5 Vladislav Artemiev

Thursday’s other match was defined by the first game, which had everything. It started with an offbeat opening – 3…g6 against the Ruy Lopez – and eventually saw Ian Nepomniachtchi take full advantage of Black’s pieces being out of play on the queenside to launch a kingside assault. 36.g5!? fxg5 was followed by a knight sacrifice:

37.Nhf5+! gxf5 38.Nxf5+. 38…Kf8 may hold, but after 38…Kg8 Nepo was winning with 39.Qg3 Qxe4 40.Qxg5+ Kf7:

It was a narrow path to a win, however, since White had to find 41.Qg7+ Ke6 42.Qh6+!! Kxf5 43.f3! and Black will have to give up his queen to stop g4+ begin mate next move.

Ian commented later:

First of all I should say that I wasn’t playing brilliantly or something and this result doesn’t reveal the tension of the match, and actually I would be very satisfied with the first game if I found Qh6… and f3.

Nepo had looked at f3 immediately, but not in the sequence in the game, and instead after 41.Rd3 Ra1! there was nothing better than to force a draw by perpetual check. That was when disaster struck for Vladislav Artemiev, however, since, down to around 30 seconds, he completely lost his internet connection and failed to reconnect quickly enough to avoid losing on time:

Black has one move, and it draws, but he lost on time

That was a tough blow, but the 22-year-old Russian came back strongly in the next game and seemed to have chances in a rook ending a pawn up until Nepo found a nice escape with a desperado rook:

47…Re4+! was the start of the black rook’s ultimately successful attempt to sacrifice itself, since neither the black king nor pawn can move and the game will be a draw by stalemate the moment the black rook leaves the board.

Artemiev initially did well in the third game against Nepo’s Alapin Sicilian, but he was already clearly worse by the time he fell for what was far from the most sophisticated trap Ian had ever set up. 25.h3!? encouraged Vladislav to further support the e-pawn with 25…Re8? but after 26.Ba4!, hitting both rooks, only a miracle could save Black:

None was forthcoming and Nepo had also won the set 2.5:0.5. 

It’s best of three sets, with the next sets in these matches – now must-wins for Caruana and Artemiev – on Saturday.

As you can see, on Friday the other two quarterfinals kick off, with Nakamura-Ding Liren and Giri-Grischuk. Don’t miss all the action live here on chess24 from 15:30 CEST!

See also:

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