Hollywood star watches on as tense final is left on a knife-edge

The final of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational was touched by Hollywood stardust today as it got off to a tense start.

Anish Giri and Ian Nepomniachtchi were left level-pegging overnight as the two form horses of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event shared the first set.

But in between rounds the tournament was visited by Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. The Jerry Maguire star played the Play Magnus app for charity and lost in 16 moves to Magnus Carlsen aged 10.

Meanwhile back in the main event, everything now hangs on tomorrow’s second set – and if that also ends all-square then the final will go to tiebreaks.

Today saw four consecutive draws between the two who were both rock-solid and played near error-free chess.

And despite no decisive results, there was no shortage of action.

Game 1 was dramatic as Giri went three pawns up in the endgame, but Nepomniachtchi pulled off a stunning escape right at the death.

“What a save by Ian Nepomniachtchi!” said GM Peter Leko.

Game 2 saw a rare stalemate on the board and then in the third and fourth both players pushed but both were also immovable.

He’s such an ambitious and quick and reckless player that you get, and you end up giving, chances with White, Black, even sometimes when you don’t expect it. Even when you are winning you can lose, or the other way around – it’s a little bit of mayhem against him. So I don’t really have a long-term plan, draw with Black, win with White, I don’t think that’s the case. I think you can win or lose with either colour, and I’ve played him a lot of times. It’s always a complete coin toss.

In the third-place play-off match, World Champion Magnus Carlsen was back to his blistering best as he demolished Wesley So in the first game.

The stunning game included a rare opening idea and was named “Murder on a Chessboard” on Norwegian TV. The game can be seen here.

With the pressure now off, Carlsen smiled when he delivered the final blow. “It was okay,” he said afterward.

Carlsen added: “I wasn’t particularly motivated before today, but the 1st game helped immensely!”

The Norwegian, who was dramatically dumped out of the event yesterday by Nepo, went on to win 3-1 and pick up the valuable points for the Tour leaderboard for finishing third overall.

Both matches start again for the final set at 17:00 CET tomorrow.

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