Carlsen beats Duda in thrilling match, wins Charity Cup

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/27/2022 – After getting a clear victory on Friday and kicking off Saturday’s second set with a win, Magnus Carlsen seemed to be headed to a swift triumph in the final of the Charity Cup. However, Jan-Krzysztof Duda did not just give up, as he incredibly scored back-to-back wins to take the match to tiebreakers. In the blitz encounters, Carlsen regained his composure and won both games to claim his second consecutive title in the Champions Chess Tour.

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Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2022Shortly after defending the World Championship title for a fourth time by beating Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai, Magnus Carlsen mentioned that it is unlikely for him to play another match for the title unless wunderkind Alireza Firouzja becomes the challenger. Since then, the Norwegian clinched an eighth title in Wijk aan Zee and won the first two tournaments of the Champions Chess Tour online series.

Armed with excellent home preparation following his match against Nepo, the world champion has demonstrated his superiority throughout the first quarter of the year. However, a few hiccups in the preliminary stages of the online series’ first two events and a difficult second half of the second set on Saturday leave some hope for potential world-title contenders.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who both ended Carlsen’s 125-game unbeaten streak in 2020 and knocked the Norwegian out of the 2021 World Cup, was not far from mounting a comeback to get a third noteworthy victory over the world champion. In the end, Carlsen prevailed, although he later confessed that it had been “a huge relief” to clinch match victory after the scare.

With the Candidates Tournament set to kick off on June 17, we now wonder whether Carlsen would agree to face Duda in a match for the world title if the Polish star manages to win in Madrid. It was, after all, the victory over Carlsen in Khanty-Mansiysk which granted the 23-year-old from Wieliczka a spot in the Candidates.

See all ChessBase reports on the 2022 Charity Cup

Magnus Carlsen, Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Magnus Carlsen and Jan-Krzysztof Duda at the 2021 FIDE World Cup | Photo: Eric Rosen

Carlsen wins sharp Sicilian

Following a line explored by David Navara and Praggnanandhaa in the preliminaries, the finalists soon found themselves amid a tactical skirmish. Carlsen had better-developed pieces when he decided to sacrifice a knight in the centre.


Duda grabbed the piece with 18.fxe4, and after 18...dxe4 failed to prioritize piece development (with 19.Nc3) as he again went for the material with 19.Qxe4.

Carlsen knew he needed to make immediate use of his initiative — 19...Bd5 20.Qd3 f3


Black was in the driver’s seat, and there followed 21.Be3 fxg2 22.N1d2 Qe6


Carlsen is threatening to infiltrate on the kingside with ...Rf3, ...Qh3 and ...Bh6.

In a classical game, it is likely that Duda would have found the most fighting defensive resource in the position, 23.Bg5, while after 23.Bf2 the world champion continued to play energetically with 23...Rf3 — which, in fact, was a blunder (23...Rxf2 was correct).


Here White could have defended his position after 24.Nxf3. Duda surely saw that Black could reply with 24...Qh3, threatening mate on h1, but the Polish failed to notice that 25.Bg3 Qxg3 26.Nbd2 keeps the balance, as White has finally managed to activate his pieces.


None of this appeared on the board, though, as Duda faltered with 24.Qxf3. Carlsen grabbed the queen and went on to prove that White’s rooks were not as strong as his queen in the ensuing position — the white king was still clearly weaker than its counterpart.


By move 33, it was clear who got the better-coordinated pieces. Duda continued fighting until move 43, but to no avail. By that point, Carlsen alread had four extra pawns.


Duda hits back

It had been a painful loss, but Duda was not dispirited. To the contrary, he came back swinging, scoring back-to-back wins to get ahead on the scoreboard.

Carlsen once again gave up a piece in game 2. Instead of an attack, though, he got three connected passers on the queenside.


The passed pawns certainly look scary, but Duda continued to fight, eventually grabbing one of the pawns and exchanging queens. The Polish grandmaster showed great endgame technique later on, as he ably used his knight to simplify into a winning position.


57...Nxc3 58.Rc1 Nd5 59.Rxc7 Nxc7 and the knight will defend against the queenside passer while the king infiltrates on the other flank of the board.

Duda had evened the score, but still needed to get 1½ points in the next two games to take the match to tiebreaks, since he had lost the first set. The 23-year-old knew he needed to show something special in game 3, and that is exactly what he did, quickly opening up the position by giving up a pawn and outplaying his famed opponent in the complex middlegame.

A draw in game 4 meant the match would be decided in blitz tiebreakers.


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The tiebreaks

Two 5-minute games (with 3-second increments) would decide the winner of the series’ second event of the year. Carlsen had the white pieces first and resorted to the strategy that worked out for him in the first set — to get a small edge and try to outplay his opponent in a positional struggle.

For a while, it seemed like the plan was going to work just fine, but the world champion erred and found himself in an equal position. It was only after Duda’s mistake on move 53 that the balanced was tipped in Carlsen’s favour.


Black here needs to keep this construction, as White will not be able to break through without making major concessions. Duda’s forcing 48...Bxg3, on the other hand, allows 49.Kd2, and 49...Bc7 is not an effective intermediate move, as White gets to respond by giving an intermediate check himself with 50.Rxd5+


50...Ke6 51.Rc5 and both the bishop and the rook are under attack. Duda resigned after 51...g3 52.Kxe1.

A second comeback was not in the cards for the Polish grandmaster, who could not level the score in the second blitz encounter. Carlsen was more tactically alert than his rival after four hours of tense-filled action, as he managed to clinch the Charity Cup title with an impressive 24-move victory!


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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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