Reports Jun 28, 2020 | 7:14 AMby Colin McGourty

Chessable Masters 7: Magnus & Nepo race into semis

Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi needed the absolute minimum 6 games in total to reach the Chessable Masters semifinals on Saturday. Magnus described it as “a pretty good clean day today” as he was rarely in danger on the way to a 2.5:0.5 victory over Fabiano Caruana, while Nepo reached the same score against Vladislav Artemiev after some rollercoaster games went his way. One move by Ian will live long in the memory and in chess tactics training material.

You can replay the day’s commentary from Yasser Seirawan, Peter Svidler and Anna Rudolf below:

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It was a day that saw Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi reach the semifinals with a day to spare, while making the Final 4 also earns them an invitation to next month’s Legends of Chess, the last Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour event before the Grand Final in August.

Let’s take a look at the day’s action (you can replay all the games here).

Magnus Carlsen 2.5:0.5 Fabiano Caruana

As if the tension needed to be ratcheted up any more before this encounter, Magnus and Anish Giri engaged in a twitter war on the morning of the clash that at times made you doubt that the two are really friends!

Would Magnus “choke” and spoil his perfect start to the match on Thursday by letting Fabiano Caruana come back, something that would recall his loss to Hikaru Nakamura after scoring 3:0 on Day 1 of the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge semifinals? The short answer is no!

Magnus started with Black, soon seized the initiative, and commented afterwards:

In the first game obviously I got a comfortable position. I was somewhat better, but I don’t think it was enough to win at any point.

You can watch the full interview with Magnus below:

It was hard to argue with that assessment, though the way Caruana confidently went for a rook ending a pawn down and subsequently held was a positive sign for the world no. 2’s fans. Anish still had the popcorn ready:

There wouldn’t be many more positives for Fabi, as in Game 2 he simplified into a dangerous position and then with 18…f6 allowed 19.Rd4!, removing the option of Nb4 and threatening to double rooks on the d-file and win the knight:

Magnus summed up:

And then obviously in the second game things went south pretty early for him, and I think after Rd4 he’s just pretty much lost… I think Rd4 is just pretty much over. He has to search for some fairly miniscule chances and I think he loses a pawn whatever he does.

19…Ne7 was played by Fabi after over 4 minutes of reflection, and after 20.Rc7 Peter Svidler pointed out that 20…Nc6 is the move you want to play, but it simply loses on the spot to 21.Rg4! In the game we saw 20…Nf5 21.Rg4 h5 22.Rg6 Re8 23.Bxf6 Re6 24.e4 Rxe4 25.Rg5 Rh4+ 26.Kg1 Re8 and things were looking bleak for Black:

Magnus is a perfectionist and seems to be correct that he missed a trick here:

After that there wasn’t that much to be said, apart from I think I could have saved myself a bunch of time at one point. When I went 27.g3 if I just go 27.Bc3 then I think that’s a lot more accurate. I didn’t check it, but I was a little bit upset after I played g3 because then I saw Bc3 and thought that should be plain-sailing from there.

It did no harm whatsoever, since in the continuation in the game Magnus went on to win smoothly with some flourishes in the technical ending encouraging our commentators to wax lyrical about his performance – “Magnus is poetry”, said Yasser, while Peter backed that up: “it’s nice to watch him in full flight!”

After pushing the World Champion all the way in Clutch Chess, Fabiano failed to win a game against him in the Chessable Masters, though the closest he came was perhaps in the final game of the day. His 11.a4! seems to have been a novelty in the 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian, and after 17…Nd7 there might have been a chance to get a significant edge:

18.axb5! and the computer claims a healthy advantage for White however play continues. The players blitzed past this moment with 18.Qxb5 Qc7 19.Rhd1 Ne5 20.f4 instead, with the explanation perhaps that both liked what they saw. Magnus commented:

Obviously the third game was by far the toughest and he did find an interesting concept. When he went for this line with 17.Qxc5, 18.Qxb5 I didn’t believe in that at all for him. I just thought with good development and better pieces I should be doing well, but I completely underestimated the concept with 20.f4 and that actually made me suffer a bit.

Fabi was able to launch a pawn storm on the kingside and should perhaps have continued it after 28…Re8:

Magnus revealed:

[29.h4!] was the thing I was the most worried about. I was probably going to play e5, but I didn’t like it.

Instead after 29.Qd6 Qc4 30.Qb4 Qc8 White’s advantage had gone, and when rooks were exchanged trying to play for a win with White proved suicidal.

He tries to win and with such a disparity in piece activity and king safety trying to win this is almost always going to be equivalent to a loss.

The World Champion was clinical to the end:

35…a5! 36.Qb5 and only then 36…Qh4! ensured Qb8+, Qxa7 wouldn’t create a passed a-pawn for White, and it was soon all about the black queen and knight coordinating to hunt down the white king… and then promote that a-pawn whose survival Magnus had ensured!

It was an utterly convincing way to reach the semifinals, where Magnus will face either Ding Liren or Hikaru Nakamura.

The World Champion was asked what he thinks about rapid chess, and responded:

I’ve sort of always found rapid chess the most difficult, because it’s such a tricky hybrid between classical and blitz chess. There’s almost always going to be two phases of the game, one classical phase and one blitz phase, and to balance them is very, very hard, but I think it’s also a very entertaining form of play and even though I find it difficult I still enjoy it both as a spectator but also as a player.

Magnus was also thinking ahead to the final when asked about the Twitter rivalry between himself and Anish Giri.

The other match was won by just as convincing a scoreline, and featured the move of the day, but it was anything but smooth!

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2.5:0.5 Vladislav Artemiev

22-year-old Russian Vladislav Artemiev is from what used to be the Magnus Carlsen school of chess openings – happy just to get a playable position, and often getting one by playing offbeat openings. His Trompowsky, 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5, in Game 1 was actually the most mainstream opening he tried, and White did get a good position, though it was a tense battle with Ian Nepomniachtchi soon ahead on the clock before it fizzled out into a draw.

The clock would be a more significant factor in the second game, when Artemiev met the Ruy Lopez with the Jaenisch (or Schliemann Gambit):

That’s an excellent opening for club players to surprise their opponents – especially if you’ve studied GM Roeland Pruijsser’s 4.5-hour video series here on chess24 – but considered a dangerous choice at the very top level.

It worked out for Vladislav, however, since after a dozen moves he was significantly better, with an edge that was verging on winning by move 25:

Now was the time for 25…d5!, with the unprotected knight on c3 dissuading White from capturing on b7, but instead after 25…Rc8!? 26.Bd2 Bd8 27.Nd1 d5 28.Qxb7! the position was double-edged with White having a healthy edge on the clock.

33…Nh5? was a step towards the brink, while 35…d3? was a step off the cliff…

36.Nxd3 should be sufficient for White, since the king escapes after a check on g1, but Nepo’s 36.Be3! was a killer. 36…Qxe3 37.Qc8# is mate, and although with 36…Qc3 Black threatened a mate of his own it was safely defended by 37.g3. Nothing works anymore, and Vladislav fell on his sword with 37…Bxe3 only to resign after 38.Qa8+, when it’s mate next move:

Pascal Charbonneau looks at that moment in more detail:

Vladislav, like Fabi, really needed to win Game 3 with the white pieces, and he opened 1.b3. When Ian Nepomniachtchi rejected a queen trade, White was briefly much better:

20.g4!? looks shaky, but the computer claims White can consolidate with a healthy advantage. Instead Vlad played the seemingly solid 20.Ng3?, and the rest was history as Nepo took just 29 seconds to play the beautiful and devastating 20…Bb1!!

It’s a move that’s much easier to explain when you see it than to see in the first place, with Magnus commenting, “That is nice, but I think if you would pick one player in the field to find the move it would be Ian”. 21.Rxb1 now loses to 21…Qd3+, which not only picks up the rook but gives a quick checkmate. The threat is of course Re1#, and the attempt to block that with 21.Be2 loses to 21…Qd1+! 22.Bxd1 Re1#

Artemiev struggled on with 21.Kg1, but was soon overwhelmed by Nepo’s attacking forces. The world no. 4 had therefore managed to do what he failed to do in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational and reach the Final 4, with Magnus himself commenting:

Obviously Artemiev is strong, but I always believed that Ian could do well there and I’m happy for him. He’s struggled quite a bit in these online events and now whoever he faces in the semis he will not be an underdog, so he as a very good chance.

Ian faces the winner of Anish Giri (celebrating his 26th birthday!) vs. Alexander Grischuk, with Grischuk needing to win on Sunday to take the match to a decider on Monday. Hikaru Nakamura is in the same boat against Ding Liren, with that match determining who plays Magnus Carlsen in the other semifinal.

Don’t miss all the action live here on chess24 from 15:30 CEST! And after it's over, at around 20:00 CEST, Magnus will also be in action in Banter Blitz:

Then on Monday at 14:00 CEST it's Women's no. 1 Hou Yifan! To be able to challenge Go Premium, if you're not already - the code STUDYCHESS gives a 40% discount.

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