Chessable Masters: Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi in semis

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/28/2020 – Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi won their quarterfinal matchups with the equivalent of a 6-1 6-1 victory in tennis, needing only three games in each set to knock out Fabiano Caruana and Vladislav Artemiev. On Saturday, Carlsen showed precise play to beat Caruana in game 2 and saw his opponent crash and burn in the third encounter. Meanwhile, Nepomniachtchi was tactically superior in the positions that arose from Artemiev’s offbeat opening choices. | Photo: Justin Kellar

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“A pretty good, clean day”


World Champion Magnus Carlsen and eleven more of the world's best chess players are competing in the Chessable Masters by chess24, the third event in the $1 million Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, taking place from June 20 to July 5.


The first two semifinalists of the Chessable Masters reached the penultimate stage of the knockout by obtaining convincing wins over Fabiano Caruana and Vladislav Artemiev. In fact, both Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi won their matchups after playing the lowest amount of games possible — six in total.

Scoring back-to-back 2½:1½ victories means they will get to the semis rested and confident. Starting Tuesday, Carlsen will face the winner of Ding Liren vs Hikaru Nakamura, while Nepomniachtchi will play the winner of Anish Giri vs Alexander Grischuk.

Talking to the commentators after his quick win on Saturday, Carlsen concluded:

I gotta say it was a pretty good, clean day.

This is the third event of the Magnus Carlsen Tour, which uses a rapid time control of 15 minutes for the game and 10-second increments from move one. When asked about his preference of formats, Carlsen responded:

I’ve sort of always found rapid chess the most difficult, because it’s such a tricky hybrid between classical and blitz chess. [...] To balance them is very, very hard. But I think it’s also a very entertaining form of play.

Indeed, it felt like the world champion was having fun during his match against Caruana, who certainly did not show his best form in the quarterfinals — Carlsen was unyielding in making the most of his colleague’s uninspired performance.  

 

Chessable Masters 2020

Carlsen 2½:½ Caruana

Mini-match #2 Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Magnus Carlsen ½ 1 1
Fabiano Caruana ½ 0 0

After Caruana did not hesitate to enter a rook endgame a pawn down in game 1 with white (the game finished drawn), Carlsen obtained a major advantage in the second encounter as early as move 19:

 

Although White does not have a huge material edge or a clear mating attack, Carlsen later noted that he already felt he would win the game from this position. White is better developed and has a strong bishop on the long diagonal to boot. The game continued 19...Ne7 20.Rc7 Nf5 21.Rg4 h5 22.Rg6:

 

White transferred his rook to the strong g6-square, exerting huge pressure on the g7-pawn. Black’s f6-pawn was lost in the next move, and Carlsen swiftly converted his advantage into a full point. 

Pressed to win, Caruana was over-ambitious in game 3, when he got a good position out of the opening for the first time in the match. By move 34, Carlsen had already managed to equalize though:  

 

In another situation, Caruana would have probably gone 34.h3 here, giving Black a chance to draw by infiltrating with his queen and getting a draw by perpetual check. The American played 34.Ke2 instead, keeping the game alive. Carlsen took advantage of his opponent’s recklessness and went on to score a deciding 50-move win. 

 

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Nepomniachtchi 2½:½ Artemiev

Mini-match #2 Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ 1 1
Vladislav Artemiev ½ 0 0

The exact same results as in Carlsen vs Caruana were seen in the all-Russian matchup, with Nepomniachtchi getting two wins to clinch the match after the first game finished drawn.

Artemiev needed to win the second set to stay alive and, instead of playing it cool, he decided to play offbeat openings against his famed opponent. The experiment was not a success as, although he got good positions in the early middlegames, Nepomniachtchi outplayed him when things got complex.

Nepo’s 20th move in game 3 was the biggest highlight of the day:

 

White’s 20.Ng3 was a blunder, but Black has only one move that gives him a massive advantage. Seeing Nepomnaichtchi play the correct 20...Bb1 definitely impressed commentator Peter Svidler, while Carlsen, who was being interviewed at the moment, commented: 

If you would pick one player in the field to actually find this move, it would be Ian.

Artemiev cannot capture the bishop due to 21...Qd3+, so was forced to go for the awkward 20...Kg1 21...Nf1 sequence. Nepomniachtchi had a massive advantage though, and only needed six more moves to convert it into his second win of the day.

 

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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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