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Reports Apr 27, 2022 | 11:44 AMby Colin McGourty

Oslo Esports Cup 5: Pragg leads again as Carlsen crashes

“I generally know how the pieces move, but with some notable exceptions!” said Magnus Carlsen after a rook blunder saw him lose to Jorden van Foreest in Round 5 of the Oslo Esports Cup. That allowed 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa to take a 3-point lead with just two rounds to go after defeating Eric Hansen with a game to spare. The other matches were rollercoaster rides that were decided in blitz, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov beating Giri while Liem Le apologised for ruining Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s 24th birthday!

Praggnanandhaa hit straight back after the loss to Carlsen to regain the lead

You can replay all the games from the Oslo Esports Cup using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Peter Leko and Tania Sachdev, including the Pre-Show with Sagar Shah and Tania.

And here’s Kaja Snare, Jovanka Houska and David Howell from the Oslo studio.

Use the code ESPORTSCUP to get 40% off when you Go Premium during the event! 

Just one match finished in three games in Round 5, while two matches went to a blitz playoff.

Van Foreest 2.5:1.5 Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen went into this match-up against his second Jorden van Foreest as a big favourite. He’d won his last five rapid games in a row and, after defeating his big tournament rival in Praggnanandhaa, looked likely to ease to overall victory. The first sign of a disturbance in the force, however, came on move 23, when Jorden played the tricky 23.Rxc6!?

23…Qxc6?? would lose to 24.Nf6+, and Magnus took just 5 seconds of the 7 minutes on his clock to play 23…0-0?!, when after 24.Nd6 Qxf3 the game fizzled out into a 33-move draw.

Instead, however, 23…Nh4! would have given Black a big advantage.

After the only reply 24.Qf4 even 24…Qxc6 leaves Black an exchange up, but 24…Ng6 is stronger, since after 25.Qf3 Black has the simple trick 25…Nxe5! Jorden could complicate matters with 26.Nf6+, but it seems Black emerges with a couple of extra pawns in a rook endgame.

That miss initially didn’t look like being significant, however, since Game 2 quickly swung in Magnus’ favour. He revisited an early Qh5 punt he’d used to beat Hikaru Nakamura in 2020.

Jorden was taken by surprise and played slowly, later confessing, “I thought I was just getting completely blown off the board there”. Magnus wasn’t thrilled with some of his decisions either, however.

He played ok, but he just gave me a great position out of the opening in the 2nd game. Admittedly he fought well after that, especially after I went b4, which was insane, I should have just castled, so he found this g5 idea, which was nice, at least practically speaking.

13.0-0! would have been better, but objectively after 13.b4!? Jorden’s 13…g5!? was less strong (13…Nxc3! is the computer choice) than a good way of forcing Magnus out of his comfort zone. 

That would apply even more a few moves later, when after 14.0-0 g4 15.Ng5 Bg8 16.Bb2 Bg7 17.Na4 Jorden came up with 17…Nf4!

As Jorden explained:

I was looking for a way to complicate the game because his knight on g5 is stuck a bit. Nf4 got him confused, at least!

Black has ideas of playing Nd4, hitting the e2-bishop, while h6 will trap the g5-knight in some cases, but Magnus seemed to figure everything out as he continued 18.exf4 Bxb2 19.Nc5! Qxd2.

Now 20.Bxa6! was the key move, and, if we believe our silicon friends, White is much better. To general shock, however, Magnus now played 20.Ra2?? instead.

What he’d completely overlooked was that the distant bishop on g8 was covering that square!

Jorden noted he’d also briefly considered 20.Ra2 while waiting for Magnus to make a move.

My first thought was I must have missed something, but then immediately I figured he missed I can take the rook, because it actually took me some time as well to see that I can take the rook. When he was thinking I thought maybe he has Ra2, winning the game, but I was like, oh no, I have this bishop on g8, all the way, and it can take the rook. Just pure shock and surprise, for sure!

Magnus had no rational explanation.

Usually when I lose these matches it’s pretty avoidable. I don’t know how even to explain that. I generally know how the pieces move, but with some notable exceptions!

Magnus tried to play on with 20…Bxa2 21.Qxf5+ Kb8 22.Bxa6, but the idea was played much too late and Magnus resigned a few moves later.

He still had two games left in which to try and mount a comeback, but instead in Game 3 it was Magnus who had to be careful not to lose. Then he was scathing about the way he played the opening in the final rapid game, where Jorden went for 8…e5!?

The 4th game was an opening disaster, to be fair. I played a little bit too quickly, and then I realised after e5 I can just pretty much give up winning the game.

It’s not clear if that was really true, but eventually the players did reach an endgame where the only reason you felt White had chances was that Magnus was controlling the white pieces.

It wasn’t the World Champion’s day, however, and Jorden went on to hold a draw with relative ease. Jorden summed up:

It’s just a complete shock right now! I didn’t expect that I’d beat Magnus in a game, let alone in a match ever, so it’s just complete shock right now.

It was a perfect result for another player in the field — Praggnanandhaa.

Praggnanandhaa 2.5:0.5 Hansen

The 16-year-old Indian prodigy has amazingly wrapped up all his matches in just three games in Oslo, and after the setback of losing 3:0 to Magnus he struck straight back. How was he able to shrug off the loss the day before?

I think losing three games was ok, because I played well in the 1st and 2nd games, so I think it was fine for me. I just thought, it’s ok, because I played well, and let me play my best chess in the remaining tournament.

It also helped that he got off to the perfect start against Eric Hansen, catching his opponent in an opening line that he clearly didn’t know.

Over a hundred games had seen the correct 9…dxc4!, threatening to put the problem g6-bishop on d3, but Eric played 9…Bb4? after 7 minutes’ thought, and simply lost a piece to 10.Nxd7! Qxd7 11.h5 Be4 12.f3. Pragg was absolutely ruthless in the remainder of the game.

Eric had chances in the next game, but missed some details and allowed Pragg to hold, before the final game would turn into a massacre. Pragg noted he started a bit passively but was already threatening with 24.h4! and 27.f4!, while by the time 29.e6! appeared on the board it was clear there was no hope for Black.

That win with a game to spare means Praggnanandhaa has a 3-point lead and everything in his own hands to win the tournament, but he still has to face Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Anish Giri in the remaining two rounds. The good news for Pragg? Both his future opponents suffered bruising losses in Round 5!

Le 2:2 Duda (Liem wins 2:0 in blitz)

The remaining matches in Round 5 were just too wild to summarise easily. Liem Le would open his post-match comments with an apology.

First of all I would like to apologise to Jan for ruining his birthday, but once before I lost on my birthday so I know that it’s very painful and it’s not easy to play on your birthday.

It wasn’t just that Liem Le wasn’t giving any gifts to Jan-Krzysztof Duda on his 24 birthday, but he opened with a brutal win!

The match looked like it might be over very fast, as everything that could go wrong in the opening for Black in Game 2 did go wrong.

At some point, however, Liem’s attack on the queenside stalled and Duda was able to take over on the kingside, and despite Jan-Krzysztof missing countless winning blows in time trouble he did go on to win the game and level the scores.

Game 3 was more of the same, with Liem once again totally winning but allowing Duda a brilliant escape with 48...f5!

After 49.exf6 (otherwise Black will take on g4) 49…Bxf6 the pin of the c3-knight was enough for Jan-Krzysztof to hold. Liem admitted to fearing the worst.

I think I played so badly in the 2nd and 3rd games, and after those two games I thought I deserved to lose, because normally if you don’t convert those chances, I was +4 or +5 in each game and I couldn’t win, and I got only half a point out of these two games, and I thought if somehow I lost this match it would be all on me, my fault, but somehow I didn’t lose, and I managed to play some good games in blitz, so very happy about that.

The 4th rapid game was a quiet draw, and although Duda felt he played much better in the blitz it wasn’t enough. Liem won in a wild time scramble in the 1st (just before the end Duda could have forced a draw by perpetual check)…

…and then dominated for most of the second before ending the contest with a fork.

Duda said it was a difficult day to play and admitted his opponent deserved the win. When asked if he’d do better on his birthday next year he shot back:

No, I’m not going to play!

Mamedyarov 2:2 Giri (Shakh wins 1.5:0.5 in blitz)

For one game it looked as though Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s struggles were going to continue, since Anish Giri won very convincingly with the black pieces after seizing an early advantage. The second game made it clear Shakh wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, with both players dodging bullets in a fantastically complicated fight.

The next game would go Shakh’s way, after what at first glance looked a blunder.

29…Bxb2 might just seem to forget 30.Nxb8!, when after 30…Qxb8 31.Rb4! Anish had nothing better than to resign.

It was a very tricky position, however, with no good squares for the b8-rook, and in fact the only ways for Black to stay alive were to play 29…c3! 30.Nxb8 cxb2, giving up the rook to advance the pawn, or 29…Qd7!, pinning the c6-knight. There as well, you need to spot that 30.Ra7 could be met by the queen sacrifice 30…Qxa7!! 31.Nxa7 c3! Chess is tough!

Giri pushed hard in the next game but couldn’t stop the match going to a blitz playoff, where he again missed some chances in the first game. In the second and final game Giri was for a while completely winning with the black pieces, but once again it was a wild position where you had to play on intuition.

27…Qc2! or 27…Qb5! win for Black, but after 27…Bxe5 the advantage had gone, and Shakh soon took over and went on to win.

Shakh summed up:

The last few days I played not so bad, just I missed so many winning positions, but today I think I was a little bit lucky, because some positions looked very bad, but ok, it was very nice, a very good match, and thanks for Anish for a very good match! Of course when you win, you’re happy. I’m very happy, because after four days I won again.

That left the standings looking as follows with just two rounds to go.

All eyes again will be on Carlsen and Pragg in Round 6, with Magnus seemingly with the easier task against Eric Hansen. It’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda who could give Magnus a huge helping hand if he could take down Pragg, while it’s also in Duda’s own interests. If he wins in rapid chess he’ll be just one point off the lead going into the final round.

For now, Pragg has become the favourite for the first time.

Don't miss all the Oslo Esports Cup action live here on chess24 from 17:00 CEST!

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