Reports Aug 4, 2020 | 9:23 PMby Colin McGourty

Magnus Carlsen wins chess24 Legends of Chess

World Champion Magnus Carlsen was barely troubled as he beat Ian Nepomniachtchi 2.5:0.5 to clinch the $45,000 top prize in the chess24 Legends of Chess with a day to spare. Magnus has now won three out of four of the events on his Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, which meant that Hikaru Nakamura and Ding Liren qualified for the Tour Finals as the best performing players not to win a tournament. Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge winner Daniil Dubov joins them when the $300,000 action starts on Sunday, August 9.

Magnus Carlsen had an almost perfect result in the chess24 Legends of Chess, winning all 9 of his mini-matches in the preliminary stages, then beating both Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the minimum two days.

When Tania Sachdev asked Magnus to comment on how completely he’s dominated the tour, the World Champion responded:

The others have to step it up, that’s the main part, right? But I mean I have lost one match, against Nakamura, and in my mind that’s too many, so I’m never completely satisfied!

That one semi-final loss to Hikaru stopped Magnus winning the Lindores tournament, and while it’s true he lost another two mini-matches…

…they were only in the preliminary stage and altered nothing.

Watch Magnus’ full post-tournament interview with Tania below:

For live commentary on the final day Tania was once again joined by Jan Gustafsson, Judit Polgar, Alexander Grischuk and 12th World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov. You can rewatch the show below:

And it's a last chance in some time to get 40% if you go premium:

During the tournament you can get 40% off with the voucher code CHESSLEGENDS when you Go Premium

Let’s take a look at the action on Day 2 of the final:

Game 1: London calling

Magnus Carlsen had taken the lead on Day 1 of the final against Ian Nepomniachtchi, but anyone who saw the post-game interview with the World Champion could see how much he’d suffered in the process. Was it going to be more of the same on Day 2? Not exactly.

The way Magnus started with the London System suggested he wanted a quieter day at the office, though he explained he’d only taken the decision when he sat down to play.

To tell you the truth, I had other, sharper plans, and then I just decided at the board, basically, “stuff it, I’m just going to go for the London!” And it worked out well, so I cannot actually complain.

Ian needed to win the day’s mini-match to force a decider on Wednesday, so it was no surprise when things nevertheless sharpened up. Magnus was happy to join in:

A fierce battle ensued, but the logic of the struggle was broken by 16…f5?

Magnus explained:

I was kind of half-hoping for f5, but I thought it was such a serious blunder that it could never happen. Before this it was obviously a very complicated position with so many different options. It was really, really hard to judge what was going on. I just got a gift there!

The problem was 17.Bc4+!, and if the king tries to hide from the action on h8 or h7 then Bf7! would hit both the rook on e8 and the knight on h5. Instead Ian gave up a pawn with 17…Be6 18.Bxe6+ Rxe6 19.h3 Ngf6 20.fxg5 hxg5 21.Rxf5 but, as Magnus quipped, “it’s a position of one result!”

You might have expected the game to drag on longer, but Magnus went from consolidation to total dominance in the space of just three moves:

“This resignation shows a lot of respect,” said Grischuk, who was sure Ian would have played on against Anish Giri, but objectively Black’s position was hopeless.

Game 2: Nepo’s main weakness

Magnus had found himself in trouble playing the Najdorf the day before, but stuck to his guns in Game 2, and both players could be happy with the outcome of the opening. Black was doing well, but White had the kind of wild position where there was every chance of a decisive outcome. It was a win all round, as spectators, and the 12th World Chess Champion, got to watch it unfold.

The commentators were excited about the prospect of 16…Nf4!? in this position, but it turned out Magnus had correctly assessed everything and his 16…Nxh4 was strong, though the complexity of the position was clear when after 17.0-0-0 he spent a full six minutes on 17…Nxf3!

A great battle was brewing, but once again it was cut short, this time on move 21:

Magnus was expecting 21.Bxb7, when he would probably reply 21…Rcd8, and he gave an insight into how he assessed the position:

He’s going to have a 3 vs. 0 majority on the queenside, I’m going to have 4 vs. 1 on the kingside. I’m an exchange up, but he’s going to have some well-placed pieces. I’m going to have some well-placed pieces! It was just a position where you can feel that your position is good but there’s no way you can feel comfortable whatsoever.    

Instead of that we got 21.Qg2?, which Magnus called “kind of poor”. 21…Qh4! 22.Rg6?! may have been the point all along, but the time Nepo took to play it made it clear he already knew it didn’t work:

The bishop on g4 is attacked twice and can’t move, but it doesn’t have to. 22.Nhg5!, blocking the rook’s attack on the bishop and shoring up the defence of the f3-knight, left White in deep trouble.

Magnus commented:

That’s probably the main weakness of his game that he sometimes plays excessively for tricks, and I think this was certainly one such case where he needed to take a more normal approach and just take the material back while he could, because playing for tricks just landed him in a lost position.

“Sometimes he plays so good it feels like he's cheating!” said Alexander Grischuk, and just when the game looked like it was about to end, he added, “A flawless game by Magnus in a very complicated position!” The conversion of the advantage dragged on, however, with Anatoly Karpov the one to spot a way Magnus could have wrapped things up sooner:

Nevertheless, the outcome was never in doubt, unless…

There was no way back, however, and Magnus had taken a 2:0 lead.

It would have required a Herculean effort for Ian to get back into the match, and although he followed the standard plan of playing the shaky Modern Defence with Black to get some chances, Magnus was in no mood to let this one slip. Queens were exchanged by move 7 and the only question was soon whether the match and tournament would end in a draw or a win for White. A draw it was, and Magnus’ online winning streak had continued.

It had been a good tournament for Nepo, who took home $30,000.

But it was once again all about Magnus.

The World Champion had won every mini-match he played in the chess24 Legends of Chess, though he said he felt he’d played better in the Chessable Masters. He’s a hard man to please!

The result of course is wonderful, but there are always things to work on and there’s the finals coming up where I’ll be facing I think even tougher competition than I had here, so I also need to do better.

The Finals of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour start on Sunday, with Magnus joined by Daniil Dubov, the only other player to win a Tour event. Carlsen winning two more events just for fun opened up two spots for the next best performing players, who were Hikaru Nakamura and Ding Liren.

We already know the pairings for the semi-finals, which will be played in the same format as the Legends knockout but as best-of-5 not best-of-3, before the final is best-of-7.

The stakes are very high, with $140,000 for the winner and $80,000 for the runner-up, with even the semi-final losers taking home $40,000. Magnus commented:

It’s going to be awesome – lots of days of good chess and probably some ups and downs as well. I’m definitely looking forward to that, and the turnaround is so short that there’s no room to rest.

His opponent is the semis is Chinese no. 1 Ding Liren. What does he expect from that match?

It’s going to be unbelievably tough. He obviously had a terrible event here, but he’s shown such class in the other events of the tour that it’s plain to see that he’s a very strong opponent, so I just hope his internet’s going to be fine in general and that we’re going to have some exciting duels.

When asked how he was going to celebrate Magnus commented, “I’m going to celebrate by thinking of my match against Ding!” We’re just as likely to find him playing some more chess on the internet. Why does he do that?

I’m just an addict! I like chess, that’s the main takeaway.

So that’s all for the chess24 Legends of Chess…

…but we don’t even have to wait as long as Sunday to see Magnus back in action. He’s playing a simul against users who took advantage of our 2-year Premium Membership offer this Thursday 6th August and also answering user questions. How can people put up a fight against him?

Play quickly, play well, hope for the best! Seriously, I’ve gotten lots of great fights from people of all strengths in Banter Blitz before and I think this format is going to even the chances even more, so I’m sure there are going to be some good games.

We’ll be broadcasting that event live here on chess24. We hope you join us!

See also:

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