Ding Liren won the only game of Day 6 of the Chessable Masters, beating Hikaru Nakamura with the black pieces to claim victory in the first set of their quarterfinal. “My boy Anish Giri snatching a draw from the jaws of victory”, tweeted Magnus Carlsen after Giri missed a win against Alexander Grischuk, but the Dutch no. 1 had the last laugh as 7 draws, the final one in Armageddon, proved enough to win the set. Nakamura and Grischuk must now win on both Sunday and Monday to reach the semifinals.
You can replay the day’s live commentary from Yasser Seirawan, Peter Svidler and Anna Rudolf below:
Hikaru Nakamura will now have to do what he did against Magnus Carlsen in the semi-finals of the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge and come back from losing the first set, after a tough first day of the quarterfinals for the US star. It could have been so different, since in the first game of the day Hikaru seized the initiative with the perfectly-timed pawn break 39…e4!
Computers claim White is completely fine if he just ignores that, plays a move like 40.Bc5 and then meets 40…exf3+ with the calm 41.Kg3. Down to 30 seconds, however, Ding Liren went for 40.fxe4? Bxg4 41.Rf4 Bxh5 and was already in serious trouble. Hikaru looked set to open with a win, but on move 47 it was his turn to play too straightforwardly:
If Black keeps the rook with 47…Rd3 or 47…Rd2 he should still have a winning advantage, but after 47…Rxf1+ 48.Kxf1 Qxe4 49.Qe5 Qxe5 50.Bxe5 Be8 it suddenly looks as though the opposite-coloured bishop ending is only a draw. Ding Liren emphasised the point by simply giving up another pawn with 58.b5!? later, and was able to shuffle his bishop back and forth for most of the next 40 moves!
GM Pascal Charbonneau picked that as his endgame of the day:
It was a blow for Hikaru, and worse was to follow. Ding Liren got a stable advantage on the black side of an Anti-Berlin and had the time to execute a king manoeuvre Magnus Carlsen predicted the moment it began:
There was still no clear way to break through after that, until 76.Ba1? was the slip Ding Liren needed:
76…Rf8! and remarkably it’s already hard to find a defence for White. 77.c3? put up no resistance at all, as it was hit by 77…Rf1! 78.Bb2 Bd1! 79.d4 h4+! 80.Kh2 g4! and a dazed Nakamura had little choice but to resign in the face of the g3+ and Rh1 mate threat.
Pascal Charbonneau looks at that mating pattern:
Needing to hit back, Hikaru played the Dutch Defence in Game 3, but in the end it was Ding Liren who missed a clear chance to wrap up the set with a game to spare. There was no harm done for the Chinese star, since he was also better for most of the 4th game as well, including in the final position where Hikaru took a draw in a situation where only his opponent could win:
That sets up the second clash between Nakamura and Ding Liren on Sunday perfectly.
After a tense draw in Game 1 the defining game of this match was Game 2, when Anish Giri suddenly took control of the ending and looked destined to win. In hindsight, however, it was far from as easy as the +3 computer evaluations suggested.
After exchanges on move 46 we had 7 pieces left on the board and can consult the all-knowing 7-piece tablebase, a database of all possible continuations showing instantly if a position is a draw or mate after perfect play, and in how many moves. It was initially mate-in-35 for White, with both sides playing perfectly until 49…g4:
Here 50.Bh1 is mate-in-32, 50.Be4 is mate-in-34, and everything else draws! Giri played 50.Bg2 and that, essentially, was that! After 50…Nh5! 51.Ke4 Ng3+ 52.Kf4 Ne2+ 53.Kxg4 White was two connected passed pawns up, but the black knight and king were comfortably able to deal with them.
A bitter loss, made more bitter by the World Champion Magnus Carlsen seizing the moment to do some kibitzing!
Other players might have stayed off social media during the match. Anish is more resilient than most, but he wasn’t thrilled, saying later:
I found it not really very nice what Magnus said. It could have been a bad day for me for all we know and it’s not very nice, but it was a good day, so it’s fine!
From there on not too much needs to be said about the following two rapid games, while Anish felt he was in most danger in the first 5+3 blitz game. He was caught off-guard by Grischuk’s rare 7.e4 in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted:
I was making a whole list of sidelines in the QGA, because my wife is doing a course on this, so I was helping her there a little bit, but I think I forgot about 7.e4, which is very good for her course, but it’s a bit stupid that it’s pointed out to me in such an important game!
Giri’s initial reaction was fine, but he pointed out he could have been in trouble after 16…Ke6?
17.Na4! is very unpleasant for Black to meet, with 17…b6!? running into 18.Bd2! That may have been a serious chance for Grischuk to take the lead, but after 17.Be3 Bxc3 the moment had passed and we got a quiet draw. Little happened in the second blitz game, and we were headed for Armageddon.
As the winner of a preliminary group Anish was able to choose the colour for Armageddon, and one observer had no doubt what that choice would be!
As the player with Black, Anish had 4 minutes to Grischuk’s 5, but only needed a draw to win the match. That proved a good choice, as by move 21 Anish was already better not only on the board but on the clock. The no-increment Armageddon format encourages flagging (playing fast to try and get your opponent to lose on time), so that the players fought on even when they got down to bare rooks, before eventually it ended on move 100 with bare kings:
Anish had shown in the MrDodgy Invitational that he’d mastered the art of flagging, and afterwards he revealed it’s only Hikaru Nakamura he fears there:
The only one who can flag you is Hikaru, because he does these pre-moves that you are not expecting. He never gives you a check, because he knows you expect a check, so he puts the rook where the king is already going, and I saw him flagging people in rook vs. rook. He does it very, very masterfully, and he always tries to create this thing where you win the rook because the king is diagonally attacking the rook…
But against someone so new to the flagging game like Alexander I managed this time. It’s also not very pleasant for him as well because he knows that it’s not how he wants to win, and I guess that takes away milliseconds from him, these doubts in his mind. I do think that if he was capable of flagging me that would be alright - it’s part of an Armageddon game!
Instead, however, Anish had managed to win the set despite all 7 games ending in draws!
Yasser began the post-game interview, “Dare I say congratulations on your 7 draws?” to which Giri replied:
Well, I’m not accepting your congratulations! I want congratulations on the match victory…
Watch the full interview:
That means that Grischuk, like Nakamura, must win on Sunday to force a decider on Monday. Before that, however, we have Day 2 of the other semi-finals, where it’s Fabiano Caruana and Vladislav Artemiev who must beat Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi or they’ll be out of the tournament!
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