AI Cup: Carlsen beats Nakamura

by André Schulz
9/26/2023 – Shortly after the Speed Chess tournament, Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura faced each other again, this time in rapid chess. Carlsen demonstrated his fantastic endgame skills in the very first game and went on to win the match. The other quarterfinal winners were Ian Nepomniachtchi, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

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Online rivalry

After the online tournament, there comes another online tournament. The Speed Chess Championship just ended, with Magnus Carlsen winning the final against Hikaru Nakamura, and already the two top speed players are sitting opposite each other again — not in real life, but virtually on the screens.

The sixth tournament of the Champions Chess Tour has started, the AI Cup, and one of the quarterfinal pairings in Division I was Magnus Carlsen against Hikaru Nakamura. The tournament is again trendily played as a double knockout tournament. Whoever loses a match has a second chance in the lower bracket. If you lose a match there, too, you are out for good.

Sometimes Nakamura manages to defeat his greatest rival, but Carlsen wins more often than not. In the quarterfinals of the AI Cup, the US grandmaster stood no chance.

The matches are designed for a maximum of four games. In the event of a draw, a game of bidding Armageddon follows, with 15 minutes for the player who bids the higher amount of time. Whoever bids less time may choose the colour and plays with less time on their clock. White has to win, a draw is enough for Black.

But that did not happen in the match between Carlsen and Nakamura. In the first game, Carlsen had the initiative with white and put Nakamura under pressure. Objectively, the game was balanced for a long time, but Nakamura always had to be on his guard. In the endgame, the pressure became too much.

A draw in the second game followed, and Carlsen decided the match in his favour by grabbing a second win with white.

Two of the eight quarterfinalists are actually playing two tournaments at the same time. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ian Nepomniachtchi are physically in Amsterdam playing the Levitov Chess Week event.

Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Anish Giri smoothly 2½-½. With two wins at the beginning, he laid the foundation for success. Mamedyarov had to work a bit harded against Denis Lazavik. After four draws, he won the Armageddon game with White.

In the fourth match, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave prevailed against Alireza Firouzja. After two draws, MVL won games 3 and 4.

Tournament bracket - Division I

Matches were also played in two other divisions. In Division II, Vincent Keymer won against Aram Hakobyan. Hans Niemann, who is still playing the World Junior Championship in Mexico, lost narrowly to Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

All games

Division I

Division II

Replay all the games from Division III at


Division I

Division II

Division III


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.