Magnus Carlsen beat Wesley So 2.5:0.5 and Daniil Dubov scored a 3:0 clean sweep against Sergey Karjakin as the second day of the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge was over fast. Dubov’s victory was extremely convincing, while Magnus admitted he’d ridden his luck in the second game, saying of the opening, “Peter [Svidler] would have seriously considered resignation at this point!” Wesley needed to win on demand in the third game but decided to take a draw by repetition after just 18 moves.
In terms of games, Day 2 of the quarterfinals couldn’t have ended faster:
Here’s the full day’s live commentary from Peter Svidler, Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent:
For a recap of the day’s action check out Pascal Charbonneau’s Aftershow:
Let’s take the matches one at a time, starting with the all-Russian derby:
Curious things tend to happen in the openings of Daniil Dubov’s games, and this was no exception. In Game 1 he went for a rare line that had been tried a couple of times by Vidit, though it seems the theory known about it by some top grandmasters extends beyond what’s ever been seen in competitive games:
This was no sleepy theory, though, with Dubov later explaining of the position after he gave up his bishop for the pawn on f3:
My friends and I had some discussions about the position and I was the one saying it’s very risky for Black in a practical game. You’re still an exchange down and you’re basically looking for some study-like defences.
Dubov said it should be ok for Black in a classical game where you could take 30 minutes to solve your problems, but in this case, although Sergey was able to win back the exchange by pushing his c-pawn, it was at the cost of swapping down into a lost knight ending where the white kingside pawns were too strong.
After taking the lead in the match many players would have aimed to play as solidly as possible with the black pieces in Game 2, but not Daniil:
When he was challenged about his life choices afterwards he explained that he’s not choosing openings simply for the sake of it:
I’m just trying to show people that there is any number of interesting plans. If I play something it means I believe in it. I know what Stockfish says about the Philidor, believe me, I know how to use Stockfish! If I play that way it probably means there is some different engine, or I have some ideas.
It might also be that it was a good choice for his particular opponent. Sergey Karjakin is a wonderful technical player, but thought to be weaker just after the opening when it’s not yet clear how to proceed strategically. Peter Svidler thought it was clever match strategy:
White may have had an edge for a while, but it was the definition of unclear, and good luck finding the best response to Daniil’s 19…Nf4!
It was in fact 20.Nc5!!. When shown the move Daniil wondered about 20…Bxf5…
…but White is actually winning there with 21.Qxc6! Bc8 22.Nb5! and the threat of Nxa7. “That would be a little bit of an unexpected way to lose the game!” he noted.
Instead we saw 20.Nd2 Bxf5 21.Qxc6 Bc8 and Sergey lost on time, in a bad position, but one where 22.Bxb6! cxb6 23.gxf4 would have kept the game going:
He would later comment:
It was only at the very end of the game that Sergey had spotted something Dubov, the commentators and the arbiters had all missed – that the game had mistakenly been played with neither player having an increment. Sergey had sent a challenge where the players began with 15 minutes and 10 seconds, but were not getting an extra 10 seconds each move. The established procedure in such cases is for the result to stand, as it did here.
That meant Karjakin now needed to win on demand and he followed the traditional plan of fishing in murky waters with a hybrid d6 and g6, before puzzling his opponent by deliberately losing time compared to known positions. It was never exactly convincing, but later on it looked at least visually appealing:
23…Rxe3!? 24.fxe3 and with the black knight later coming to e5 Black could at least prolong the struggle. In fact it became more prolonged than expected, since Sergey suffered a disconnection and, mistakenly thinking that meant he’d lost the game, took a long time to resume. Daniil revealed that he’d been frustrated by the break, and when things began again he was no longer in the mood merely to get the draw he needed to win the mini-match!
When given the chance he went for the flourish 77.g4! hxg4 78.Bxg4! and the watching World Champion felt that while impressive it was a little too much!
The point was that after how Sergey played in the game with 78…Rb7 White had 79.Rxf7! Nxf7 80.Be6! and White was winning. Again, Daniil could probably just have repeated moves for a draw, but instead he made sure to win by weaving a mating net instead.
Carlsen-So turned out to be an even faster match. In Game 1 Wesley So repeated the opening Ding Liren had only survived by the skin of his teeth against Magnus in the 2019 Sinquefield Cup. Wesley varied on move 12, but fell into serious thought on move 17 and blundered two moves later:
19…Nc6! and Black seems to be doing fine, but 19…Rc8? simply lost to 20.gxh6+ Kh8 21.Qxc8+! Bxc8 22.Rxc8+ Kh7:
Carlsen’s best guess was that Wesley was hoping for 23.Kf2?, when 23…Qd2+ 24.Be2 Nc6! and taking on d4 next saves Black. Instead 23.Nf3!, threatening Ng5+, was winning. The white king was easily able to find a safe haven, while Black was getting mated:
Wesley needed to hit back, and he came very close in the next game. He played 4.d3 against Carlsen’s Berlin and Magnus admitted "I think I made a number of questionable decisions in the opening". He correctly highlighted 22…Rde8?, which Magnus played thinking it made sense to keep a rook on the h-file to play h4 later, only to be surprised when Wesley put a pawn on h4 himself:
Black was in trouble, but the position remained extremely complicated, with 32.Nf7 a critical moment:
How can Black deal with all White’s threats? Magnus calculated he could afford to go for an ending with 32…Qc7 33.Qxc7+ Kxc7 34.Nxh8, having determined that his queenside pawns should be fast enough to bring counterplay before the white king can support the e-pawn. So it proved:
43.d4 Kd6 44.Re5 was probably just equal, but 44…a2 gave White a fleeting chance to get a much better position with 45.R5e3!, a move that didn’t convince Magnus at first when he was shown it:
He later agreed it would have been pretty bad! But in the game it was eventually Wesley who had to be careful, and he missed a chance to bail out on move 61, when the Black f-pawn had just begun a triumphal march:
61.Rc5! threatens mate-in-1 with Rd8# and if 61…Kd7 then White gives perpetual check with 62.Ra7+ and so on. Instead after 61.Rd8+ Kc7 62.Rda8 f3! Black was winning and Wesley resigned a couple of moves later.
He now had a mountain to climb, needing to win the next two games just to force Armageddon, and it seems he wasn’t in the mood for mountaineering as he took a draw by repetition on move 18:
“It was obviously a pleasant surprise to me,” said Magnus. He assumed Wesley just decided his best chance would be focus on the upcoming matches on Tuesday and, potentially, Wednesday: "I would say, let the man redeem himself in the next few days!"
So after the first series of quarterfinal matches we have the following scores:
The margin for error has gone and Aronian, Ding Liren, Karjakin and So must all now win their next matches to force a decider on Wednesday. Here’s the full schedule:
On Monday we again have Aronian-Nakamura and Yu Yangyi-Ding Liren and the commentary team of Peter Leko, Tania Sachdev and Jan Gustafsson will be here to cover all the action! Don’t miss all the action right here on chess24 from 16:00 CEST (with the pre-show beginning at 15:30 CEST).
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