Chess960: Carlsen grabs a point from Nakamura

by Macauley Peterson
2/11/2018 – Magnus Carlsen is the first to score in the "unofficial Fischer Random Chess World Championship" match. After a draw in game three, Carlsen came back with the white pieces, and pulled a rabbit out of a hat, winning a queen and pawn ending that looked to be headed for a near certain draw. Game 5 starts Sunday at 17:00 CET (11:00 AM EST). | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

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The pulse quickens

The intensity of the match ramped up a notch on day two, as the first game of the day saw a back and forth nail-biter that nevertheless ended drawn. Game four meanwhile looked like an illustration of Hikaru Nakamura's adept defensive skills, and the queen and pawn ending that arose after time control was dead equal. But in rapid chess anything can happen, and as the clock ticked down, and Carlsen kept applying pressure, Nakamura cracked.

Checking the starting position

The players watch as the starting position for games three and four is revealed | Photo: Maria Emelianova /


Position 412 in the Chess960 lexicon

Game 3

Neither side castled in game three, but the most noteable ramification of the particular handling of the starting position was Carlsen's development of his darksquared bishop to a7 (from the b8 starting square), where it stayed for nearly the entire game, exerting annoying pressure and holding Nakamura's king and rook at bay. The eventual extracation of white's h1 rook was an achievement, which ultimately allowed Nakamura to get active and make a draw.


Live commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf

There have been some technical difficulties with the heart monitors, so it's not clear just how closely they should be trusted, but the concept is certainly paying off and gives another data point to follow for insight into the ebb and flow of each game. The most obvious factor (if one assumes they are more or less working properly) is that Nakamura's heart rate has been consistantly and considerably higher than Carlsen's. In game four it was hovering around 130 beats per minute for much of the time, which is actually in the lower end of a range that would be expected during "vigorous exercise" by a thirty year old.

Game 4

1.d4 c5 2.dxc5 Qxc5 3.f3 Qc7 4.Qd2 f5 5.c4 Bxc4 6.Bxf5 Nd6 7.Bc2 Nc6 8.Rc1 Bf7 9.Bb3 O-O


Play out the moves on the live diagram!

10.Bxf7+ Nxf7 11.e4 e6 12.Ne3 a6 13.Bf2 Nfe5 14.Nd3 Nxd3 15.Qxd3 b5 16.Qd2 Qb7 17.O-O


Live commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf


A very definite blow for the Chess960 world champion | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

Daniel King analyses Game 3 and 4

Carlsen leads 5 : 3

The game four win represents a two points swing using the scoring system in place which values the rapid games double the eight blitz games that will be played on Tuesday.

Still two more days of rapid chess to go, however, and games five and six will see the third fresh starting position, chosen at random, shortly before the 17:00 CET (11:00 am) start time.


Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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celeje celeje 2/14/2018 12:48
Yes, the lack of increment was one of the few big flaws in a generally excellently organized match.

Yes, the longer the better! The only practical problem is that I agree with playing with both colors on the same day, so there are some limits to how long they can make the time control. But maybe they could still have squeezed in 60mins/40moves+increment instead of 45mins/40moves without increment?
virginmind virginmind 2/12/2018 09:47
I'll have to admit Chess960 reveals itself as pure excitement (at least for the spectators). And it was somewhat to be expected.

Hats off to Bobby Fischer!
Zuglich Zuglich 2/11/2018 10:47
The more thinking time, the more fascinating Chess960 becomes. What a fight! 2/11/2018 07:52
What is the morbid obsession with Fischer's grave site as a constant background to the players? Why not an uplifting photo of Bobby Fischer when he was in his prime?
genem genem 2/11/2018 07:34
Chess games with no Increment in the time-control seem silly to me, especially for speed chess games like this match. Nobody can know at the start of the game whether the game will compel 29 move-pairs or 98 move-pairs. Thus lucky guesswork is needed to manage your own clock time.

I do not want luck to be involved, just because somebody is confused about the need for an Increment.
genem genem 2/11/2018 07:26
Discard the 'Random' from Fischer Random Chess!

Pick one good non-traditional start setup, and stick with it for a decade.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 2/11/2018 06:55

"if you want to impress me with random chess have an entire tournament where these socalled GMs arepitted against those lower level GNs. I can guarantee you that they will lose games."

Trafalgar is a good lab experiment for this. A lot of players, 25oos, 2600s, 27oos, a lot of rounds. Who ended up on top:
Naka, Aronian, MVL and, yes, a bit of a favourable surprise for Richard Rapport, who nevertheless is a 2725 player.

And even though, yes, these guys did lose or draw against lower rated players, globally, their performance in that event did correspond to their rating - sometimes even higher than their rating.

That being said, there should be more open tournaments with wider ranges of rating, like the Trafalgar one. And yes, it would be a good thing that the 10 highest rated players be challenged more often by other players.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 2/11/2018 06:43
Game 5. Even in a desperate lost position, one or two moves before resignation, Magnus 75 bpm. Calm guy.
leonin leonin 2/11/2018 06:24

Last Wijk aan Zee and some recent open tournaments suggest otherwise.
turok turok 2/11/2018 05:27
if you want to impress me with random chess have an entire tournament where these socalled GMs arepitted against those lower level GNs. I can guarantee you that they will lose games. Just playing against the same socalled GMs that are protected by just playing each other means nothing.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 2/11/2018 05:11
130 bpm. Still much more than for someone just sitting on a chair and relaxing. Chess is demanding.
Does not show when look at those guys sitting there.
leonin leonin 2/11/2018 03:44
"In game four it was hovering around 130 beats per minute for much of the time, which is actually in the lower end of a range that would be expected during "vigorous exercise" by a thirty year old."

Heart rate tells nothing. The popular equation, based on age, was only supposed to give an AVERAGE value in a given age. Some 30-years old can reach, say, 220 bpm while running (less in other sports), others of the same age - only 170. Which, by the way, doesn't tell much about ability for sports.

I, for example, can reach the same HR as 20 years ago (ca. 210 bpm while running, ca. 200 bpm while cycling).

They should give us either percentage of the effective HR range (max HR - min HR, rather not feasible) or a simple graph without any values.
Mawin Mawin 2/11/2018 02:47
Interestingly, this kind of Fischer Random position, with the rooks on the corner squares, can be produced manually. In Placement Chess, Black can decide the initial positions of the kings, while White can decide the initial positions of the queens. The resultant positions are all mirrored and are 20 by number.
virginmind virginmind 2/11/2018 02:17
At 185 hbpm.

Just saying.
fons3 fons3 2/11/2018 02:11
At what point do the organizers feel obliged to interfere if it looks like one of the players is on the verge of a heart attack?

Just asking.