Legends of Chess: Twists and turns

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/26/2020 – Ian Nepomniachtchi caught up with Magnus Carlsen in the standings table of the ‘Legends of Chess’ online event by defeating Peter Svidler 3:1 while Carlsen managed a win in Armageddon over Vasyl Ivanchuk. Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Leko and Anish Giri also won in round 5. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi co-leaders

It cannot be easy to play four or five rapid games a day for nine days straight against top opponents. Moreover, playing one event after another surely takes its toll on those participating as ‘regulars’ in the Magnus Carlsen Tour. Thus, many mistakes are made, the kind of mistakes we would rarely see in classical over-the-board games (or even rapid over-the-board games?).

The entertainment value for the spectators following the games live, however, goes through the roof. Those who prefer classical games can always enjoy going over previous tournaments or, of course, reading a book or watching an instructional DVD. Chess has evolved in such a way that it allows both groups — surely a lot of people belong to both — to enjoy the aspect of the game that is of their preference.

Going back to the current elite tournament, round 5 saw players repeatedly missing mates and blundering from clearly favourable positions. In the end, two mini-matches went to Armageddon, with Carlsen and Peter Leko defeating Vasyl Ivanchuk and Vishy Anand respectively. Meanwhile, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri obtained victories ‘in regulation’.

Legends of Chess 2020

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Carlsen 3 : 2 Ivanchuk

Everybody enjoys facing Ivanchuk, including world champion Magnus Carlsen, who had mentioned that getting a chance to play against the Ukrainian virtuoso was something he was looking forward to in this tournament. And Ivanchuk did not disappoint, coming close to inflict Carlsen’s first defeat in eleven consecutive mini-matches of the current online tour. 

In game 1, Ivanchuk had a clear edge in the middlegame, which he let slip in the major-piece endgame that ensued. Carlsen then gained the upper hand but, when he seemed sure to win, disaster struck:


White is two pawns down but his pieces are much better coordinated while both kings are permanently vulnerable to attacks. Here, going for 74.Qe6 or 74.Qe8 — threatening 75.Rf7 — were enough to make progress in the visibly superior position. However, Carlsen is still human after all and blundered mate with 74.Qb374...Qd7+ and White is doomed 0-1.

After a draw in game 2, Carlsen levelled the scored with a 46-move win in game 3. The fourth rapid encounter was also drawn and Carlsen got the black pieces (and draw odds) in the Armageddon tiebreaker. The decider was another rollercoaster game


White could have kept his large advantage without losing control with 35.Rxe5, but Ivanchuk opted for 35.Qxc5 instead. Already here 35...Nxe4 was good for Black — Carlsen did not find the shot though and went 35...Rb8.  

Ivanchuk was the last one to blunder with 36.Qf2, and in his second chance the world champion did find the killer 36...Nxe4 winning on the spot — White’s back rank is too weak 0-1.


Nepomniachtchi 3 : 1 Svidler

After starting the event with a perfect 9/9 (three wins without tiebreaks), Peter Svidler lost two matches in a row, against Ding Liren and now Nepomniachtchi. Svidler is nevertheless still in fourth place, so he would reach the semifinals if the preliminaries would end now. 

The all-Russian matchup kicked off with two draws and saw Nepomniachtchi winning with white in game 3. Svidler then blundered on move 35 of the fourth encounter:


35.Re1 ran into the forcing line 35...c6 36.Rd3 Nf2 37.Rde3 Nxh3 38.Kg2, and after the exchanges on the e-file — 38...Rxe3 39.Rxe3 Rxe3 40.Qxe3 — Black can defend his extra knight with 40...Qd7 0-1 


Kramnik 2½ : 1½ Ding

If we look at Ding’s overall score based solely on individual results, he is currently on 7 out of 19. For a player who is used to consistently get in the fight for the top places, this poor performance must be highly bothersome. Ding started the day with a win, as Kramnik made a crude blunder in a rook and bishop endgame:


The former world champion thought his opponent had gifted him a pawn and played 52.Rxe3. Naturally, he resigned after 52...Rxe3.

Kramnik won both his games with the black pieces to come back from that first loss and climb to third place in the standings. Ding has only collected 3 points and stands in penultimate place after five rounds. However, he will get a chance to redeem himself on Sunday, when he’s paired up against the seemingly unbeatable Carlsen.


Leko 3 : 2 Anand

Anand lost a second match in a row in Armageddon. Much like in the previous matchups, uncharacteristic blunders by both contenders played a key role in deciding the winner. In game 1, for example:


55...Qd8 was mate-in-9 for Anand — 55...Qd8 56.Kh3 Qxd6 57.Qf2 Rh6+ 58.Qh4 d1=Q, etcetera — while his 55...Qc2 completely missed that it is White who has a forced mate now. Leko did not let the chance slip and went 56.Rf8+ Kg7 57.Qf7. Anand resigned in view of 57...Kh6 58.Rh8+ Kg5 59.Qf5#.

The Indian managed to even the score in game 4, but was slower than his rival in Armageddon.


Giri 2½ : 1½ Gelfand

The youngest and the oldest participants played a highly strategical match. They drew the first three games, but did not need to go to tiebreaks in the end, as Giri won game 4 with black. 

Up to this point, Giri has lost to co-leaders Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi and has scored victories over legends Kramnik, Anand and Gelfand. The Dutchman is currently on fifth place, a single point behind Svidler, and will be facing Leko in round 6.



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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