Chessable Masters: Fair play

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/1/2020 – Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri kicked off their semifinal matchups with wins of different nature. While Giri got a clean 3:1 victory over Ian Nepomniachtchi, Carlsen played an eventful mini-match against Ding Liren — the Chinese disconnected and lost a drawn position on time in game 1, to which the world champion responded by politely resigning on move 4 in the next encounter! Two draws followed, and Carlsen won the set by scoring 1½ points in hard-fought blitz tiebreakers. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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“I have immense respect for Ding”


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.


One of the shortcomings of playing online is the ever-present possibility of a disconnection. In the much-anticipated semifinal between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren, the Chinese lost the first game after disconnecting on move 43, with a completely drawn position on the board. The general sense of discontent quickly turned into acclaim as, in a fantastic display of sportsmanship, the world champion jettisoned his queen on move 4 in the following encounter — 1.c4 e6 2.g3 Qg5 3.Bg2 Qxd2+ 4.Qxd2.

The world champion explained:

I have immense respect for Ding as a chess player and as a human being, and I thought against him this was the only correct way. And clearly I wanted to win on the board.

It is no secret that Carlsen is a fiercely competitive person, which he acknowledged by saying:

People probably know me well enough to know that I don’t make sporting decisions based on whether people will like me or not, but I think in this particular case I very much felt it was the right thing to do. 

At the end of the day, things worked out well for the Norwegian, who managed to win the first set of the match, scoring a deciding full point with the black pieces in the second blitz tiebreaker game.

In the other semifinal, Anish Giri took down Ian Nepomniachtchi 3:1, obtaining wins in both his games with the white pieces. Talking to the commentators, the Dutchman praised Carlen’s fair-play attitude, noting, “I don’t think it would have occurred to anyone”. He added: 

I think it also shows a lot of confidence, because many players would have shown that they’re upset about winning like that, but many of them would not be that upset, because at the end of the day chess is a very competitive sport and you want your points at any cost, frankly.

So Carlsen and Giri go into Wednesday’s second set knowing that one more mini-match victory will be enough to reach the final.

Chessable Masters 2020

Carlsen 3½ : 2½ Ding

First set Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Blitz 1 Blitz 2
Magnus Carlsen 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1
Ding Liren 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 0

Although Carlsen did get the upper hand in game 1, by the time Ding’s connection faltered, the position was completely drawn and Carlsen got what he felt was an unfair victory. Thus his quick resignation in game 2, which, as he pointed out, was not a perfect solution — but it did level the scoreboard. Game 3 saw the world champion getting a slightly better endgame:

 

Carlsen mentioned in the post-mortem interview that he had missed the good-looking 34.e7 here (34.Be4 was played instead). The idea is that after 34...Bxe7 White has 35.Ke5 — in case of 35...Bc5, for example, White gains a rook with 36.Rg7+ Kh6 37.Rg6+ Kh7 38.Rg4+ Kh6 39.Rxh4 (you can try your own variations on the board!). However, after the text, the best White could get was an ending with rook and bishop against rook, which Ding defended accurately until Carlsen blundered his bishop and the draw was agreed.

Another draw in game 4 took the mini-match to blitz tiebreakers. 

Both players missed chances in the first 5-minute game, while Ding got a better position out of the opening in the second. Carlsen slowly recovered positionally, and was fully back in the fight when Ding made a strange decision on move 36:

 

36.Qe3 allows 36...Bb6 37.Bxb6 Qxb6 38.Qxb6 Nxb6, exchanging White’s strong pieces and giving Black a chance to regroup. Carlsen noted:

It was clear that I was making more progress than he was, and he just wanted to simplify the game. I mean, trading off your good pieces for my less good pieces is rarely a good idea regardless. But I can understand the feeling that you get when the clock is ticking down and you really don’t know what to do.

An endgame ensued shortly after, and Ding erred again on move 48. Carlsen made good use of his advantage and won the game — and the set — in 55 moves.

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Giri 3 : 1 Nepomniachtchi

First set Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4
Anish Giri ½ 1 ½ 1
Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ 0 ½ 0

Giri repeated the formula he had used to defeat Alexander Grischuk in the second set of their quarterfinal match, winning games 2 and 4 and drawing the rest — except this time around he won both his games with white. The Dutchman did not fear entering sharp positions against a strong tactician and came out on top from complex battles that could have gone either way. Perhaps the most straightforward win for him came in game 2:

 

‘Nepo’ faltered with 20...Rfe8, permitting a tactically-aware Giri to continue with 21.Nxf7, getting a winning attack — after 21...Kxf7 White has the nice-looking 22.Re6, when Black cannot capture the rook due to 23.dxe6+ grabbing the queen. There followed 22...Qd8 23.Qf4+ Kg8 24.Rxe7 Rxe7:

 

White’s light-squared bishop is too strong — 25.d6+ Re6 26.d7 g6 27.Rd6 and Black resigned.

Sharp struggles were the rule of the day in this matchup, so we can expect an exciting second set on Wednesday!

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

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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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lajosarpad lajosarpad 7/2/2020 12:28
@Denix I think game 2 of the 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky was even shorter. Yeah Fischer was not yet World Champion. But, in the case of the 2006 match between Kramnik and Topalov, Kramnik was reigning classical world champion.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 7/2/2020 12:26
@PhishMaster

I was referring to unplayed games in general, as Frits Fritschy already pointed out. Since my thought process about prearranged draws and sold games was not referring to anyone in particular, it is by no means libel. I assume you have just misunderstood my point, but, ironically, your answer to my comment was a libel against me. Life is strange, isn't it? You can fix this by affirming that you misunderstood me. As about my initial point, I was describing the reason some games are unplayed in every discipline of chess and I have added to that the new dimensions of unplayed games in online blitz tournament. In this case it was Ding Liren's interrupted connection first and then Carlsen's early resign in frustration of Din Liren's unearned defeat, but I described other possible causes for games not being played out in the future. It was a nice gesture from Carlsen, but still, this meant that 33% of the match was not played out. As about psychological help, I feel fine, thank you very much!

@Frits Fritschy I think Carlsen was frustrated about the effect of Ding Liren's unfortunate loss on their match in general and viewed it as a problem, so he came up with a solution. He levelled the match in order to have the means to earn the win instead of being lucky to win. And he earned the win afterwards. Otherwise, I completely agree with you, at these days the alternative to online tournaments was not to have tournaments. But I very much hope that our beloved game will not lose most of the aspects I like in it and will offer us strong classical tournaments in the future as well. The online Olympiad FIDE has just announced seems to point into another direction. I hope I'm wrong.
Denix Denix 7/1/2020 02:04
Could this be the quickest loss of a World Champion? Hou Yifan's loss in Gibraltar in February 2017 was 5 moves! #QuickLossChallenge
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 7/1/2020 02:01
phishmaster,
As far as I can see, lajosarpad writes about 'unplayed games' in general. Prearranged draws (or draws out of mutual understanding, see Radjabov-Mamedyarov) do exist even on top level. Sold games do happen at lower levels. I don't see any connection with the tournament at hand or with any specific player, so where is the libel? 'due to frustration' sounds overly negative, but for a bit gloomy look at life you don't need psychological help.
Online play was the only way to keep top chess going during the big C, but I also very much hope we will get back to normal as soon as possible.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 7/1/2020 12:58
@lajosarpad libel much?

"prearranged draws, sold games" You need psychological help.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 7/1/2020 11:36
These online tournaments adds new dimensions of unplayed games. So far, we had prearranged draws, sold games, grandmaster draws due to tournament strategy, players not showing up in time and so on. Now we have lost Internet connection, software updates & bugs, hardware breakdown, power outages, issues originating from the fact that the players are not at an actual, well organized tournament venues and even resigning at fourth move due to frustration of those. The Carlsen-Ding match will go into statistics as a match with 50% decision rate, yet, from the 3 decided games, 2 were decided by matters independent from chess or abilities to play the game, that's 66%.
samitra samitra 7/1/2020 04:28
Magnus is a world champion who does not sit inside his ivory towers waxing his gloves waiting for potential opponents to show up. Whether it is Ding or Firouza or a Giri he would settle it over the board. Respect.
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