Legends of Chess: Carlsen, Svidler and Gelfand start strong

by André Schulz
7/22/2020 – Magnus Carlsen picked up where he left off in the last tournament of his own series, as he convincingly defeated Anish Giri in the first round of the ‘Legends of Chess’ tournament. The biggest surprise of the day came from Boris Gelfand, who obtained a clean victory over world number three Ding Liren. Besides Carlsen and Gelfand, Peter Svidler was the one other player to win without needing tiebreaks. | Photo: Ritvo Photography

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Gelfand beats Ding

The fourth online tournament of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour is called ‘chess24 Legends of Chess’, as six iconic players from previous generations have been invited to join the four semifinalists of the previous tournament: Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanthan Anand — i.e. the 14th and 15th world champions —, Boris Gelfand, Peter Leko, — former challengers to the world crown —, Vassily Ivanchuk and Peter Svidler. Leko, at 40, is the youngest of this bunch, while Boris Gelfand is the oldest at 52.

These six ‘old-timers’ are joined by Ding Liren, Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen. The reigning world champion may not be as old as the invited legends, but he is certainly a veteran. During quick-play tournaments streamed online, he likes to complain about his ‘old’ age — he will be 30 in November — as he can feel how young, ambitious players go after him. But he also likes to be hunted, because Carlsen is still clearly the best with his 15 years of tournament experience. He always wants to win — and most of the time he does.

Each mini-match again consists of four rapid games (15 minutes plus 10-second increments) and an Armageddon decider in case of a tie.

Legends of Chess 2020

Click to enlarge

Carlsen 3 : 1 Giri

To start off, Carlsen met his Twitter pal Anish Giri, whom he likes to take down whenever he gets a chance, although Giri frequently manages to land a punch. After a draw in the first game, Carlsen managed to successfully execute a blunt strategy in game 2.

[Note that you can move the pieces and try your own variations on the diagrams!]


The world champion went for it at once with 7.g4. A few moves later Giri was already on the defensive.


Here Giri could not resist the temptation of going for 15...Nxg5 [Better was the cool 15...Nc6] and was in big trouble after 16.hxg5 Qxg5+ 17.Kb1 Nd7 18.cxd5.

18...Nb6 19.dxe6 Bxe6 20.Bxa8 Rxa8 [After gaining the exchange, the world champion switched to autopilot and overlooked a few quicker ways to win]

21.Qd2 Qg6 22.Qd6 f4+ 23.Ka1 Rf8


Here Carlsen overlooked 24.Rh8+ Kxh8 25.Qxf8+ Kh7 26.Rh1+ Qh6 27.Qxg7#

24.Qe5 g3 25.fxg3 [25.Rh5] 25...Nc4 26.Qh5 Qxh5 27.Rxh5 Ne3 28.Rg1 Bf5 29.b3 fxg3 30.Rxg3 Bg4 31.Rxc5 Rf1+ 32.Kb2 Nd1+ 33.Ka3 Nxc3 34.Rxg4 1-0

The third game also ended in a draw. So Giri needed to win game 4 with black in order to level the score, a close-to-impossible task against an in-form Carlsen. Giri tried to complicate matters, but was overpowered by Carlsen’s energetic play.


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Nepomniachtchi* 2 : 2 Kramnik

*won in Armageddon

The all-Russian clash of the day saw Ian Nepomniachtchi facing Vladimir Kramnik — while ‘Nepo’ still lives in Russia, the 14th world champion currently lives in Switzerland. Kramnik has withdrawn from classical chess, but he has not forgotten how to move the pieces! This match also started with a draw. Then Kramnik scored from the black side of a sharp Queen's Gambit Accepted variation:


18.b3 f5 19.Qb2 fxe4 20.Bxe5 c3 21.Bxc3 Bd6 22.h3 [Correct was 22.Qc2 Bxh2+ 23.Kh1 Bd6 24.Qxe4] 22...b4 23.Bd2 Bh2+ 24.Kh1


24...Be5 gaining the exchange 25.Qc2 Bxa1 26.Rxa1 Qe5 27.Rf1 c5 28.Bc1 Qd6 29.Qc4 Bd7 30.Rd1 Qc6 31.Kg1 Rad8 32.Bb2 Bc8 33.Ra1 Rd2 34.Bc1 Rd5 35.Ra2 Qd6 36.Rc2 Bxa6 0–1

Nepomniachtchi equalized in the third game, while the fourth ended in a draw. So it all came down to Armageddon, and the 15-years-younger Nepomniachtchi won with black when a draw would have been enough.


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Leko* 2 : 2 Ivanchuk

*won in Armageddon

The match between Vasyl Ivanchuk and Peter Leko was also decided in Armageddon. Each legend scored a win and the remaining two rapid games ended in a draw. Leko was up a point after three games, and Ivanchuk decided to play the King’s Gambit in a must-win situation!


Ivanchuk sacrificed an exchange with 18.Rxh6, bringing a lot of instability to the black king’s position. The Ukranian genius did not win immediately but got a strong initiative, which he converted into a full point that equalized the overall score.

Much like Nepomniachtchi, Leko won the Armageddon with the black pieces. Both players received 2 points for their victories, while Kramnik and Ivanchuk added 1 point to their tallies after losing in tiebreaks (winning without Armageddon grants 3 points in this tournament).


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Svidler 2½ : 1½ Anand

The match between Peter Svidler and Vishy Anand was decided in a highly dramatic fourth game, after the first three encounters had finished drawn.


Black is better, but here came 30...Ba6? [Good was 30...Qb8!? 31.Rd7 Ra6 with an advantage for Black] 31.Qc6 Nb5 32.Rd7 Qe8 33.Qxd5. Now Nxe4 is a decisive threat. There is only one way to stop it.


33...Nc3 34.Rxc3 bxc3 35.Nxe4 Now Black should win. The correct way to go was 35.Rxf7 with the bizarre continuation: 35...Qxf7 36.Be6 Kh8 37.Bxf7 (analysis board).


37...Rc8! 38.Nc4 Bxc4 39.Qb7 c2 40.Qb2+ (40.Qxc8 c1Q+ 41.Kg2 Qf1#) 40...Bg7 41.Qxc2 Be6 42.Qxa4 Bxf7=

Anand, however, returned the gift immediately.

35...Be7? [35...c2 36.Rc7 Bg7 37.Rxc2 Rd8 Black wins a piece] 36.Rxe7 1-0


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Gelfand 3 : 1 Ding

The surprise of the day was given by the oldest player in the field, Boris Gelfand, who won his match against Ding Liren 3:1. The fourth game lasted only 16 moves — most likely Ding will not want to hear about this incident again.


13...Bxf5 14.exf5 Nxf5 15.Rfe1+ Ne3 16.Nf1 d4 0–1


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


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