Legends of Chess: Carlsen in charge

by André Schulz
7/27/2020 – Magnus Carlsen leads the preliminary stage of the ‘Legends of Chess’ tournament after a smooth victory over Ding Liren. Ian Nepomniachtchi is in second place — the Russian defeated Viswanathan Anand in Armageddon on Sunday. Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler also won in the sudden-death decider, while Anish Giri got the better of Peter Leko 2½:1½. | Photo: Justin Kellar

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Three matches go to Armageddon

The match between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren on Sunday was brought forward four hours as Carlsen wanted to follow live the action of the football Premier League — the world champion was close to winning the Fantasy League. For the Norwegian a victory in the second game was enough to win the round. The remaining games ended in a draw.

Out of the four remaining matchups, three went to Armageddon, with wins for all Russian representatives, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler and Vladimir Kramnik. The other winner of the day was Anish Giri, who defeated Peter Leko.

With three rounds to go, the standings table is practically cut in half, with the bottom five having very little chances to reach the semis. At the top, Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi have pretty much secured their spot in the knockout, while Svidler, Giri and Kramnik will be fighting to get the other two spots.

Legends of Chess 2020

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Carlsen 2½ : 1½ Ding

The game Carlsen won was not-so-well-known line of the Moscow Variation in the Semi Slav, which followed theory until move 18. At that point, Ding failed to find the right move and was immediately in trouble. 


18.Bh5 Nc5 Prevents e6 but gives up the d4 pawn. [In the previous game, Black did not find a good continuation either, but White in turn did not take advantage of his chance: 18...Lg7 19.e6 0–0 20.exd7 Tad8 21.axb5 axb5 0–1 (45) Del Rio de Angelis,S (2506)-Korneev,O (2565) Evora 2007]

19.Qxd4 Qe6 Forced.

20.Bg4 Nb3 21.Qd1 Qc6 22.axb5 Many small fires, everywhere.


22...Qxb5 23.e6 fxe6 24.Bxe6 Ra7 25.Bxd5 Nxa1 26.Qf3 [Bc6, Re1, etcetera, etcetera...] 1–0


Giri 2½ : 1½ Leko

The match between Anish Giri and Peter Leko favoured the Dutchman, who scored wins both times he had the white pieces. In the first of his victories, Giri won a knight endgame which started out evenly but then developed more and more in favour of White.


36.e4 Ne7 [36...Kc5 37.e5 a5=; 36...g6=]

37.Ne5 b5?! [37...Nc6 38.Nc4+ Kc5=]

38.Kd4 [38.Nf7+ Kd7 39.e5]

38...fxe4 39.Kxe4 Nd5 40.Kd4 Nf6 41.Nd3 Nd7?! [41...Nh5 42.g4 Nxf4 43.Nxf4 e5+ 44.Ke4 exf4 45.Kxf4 g6 46.h4 Ke6=]

42.b4 Nb8 43.Nc5 [White is more active now.]

43...h5 44.Ke4 g6 45.g4 hxg4 46.hxg4 Ke7 47.Nd3 Nd7 48.Ne5 [Black is being outmanoeuvred...]


48...Nf6+ [48...Nf8 49.g5 Kd6 50.Kd4 Kc7 51.Kc5+–]

49.Kf3 [49.Kd4!? Nd5 50.Nxg6+ Kf6 51.f5]

49...Nd5 [49...g5!? 50.fxg5 Nd5]

50.Nxg6+ Kf6 51.Ne5 [And White is a pawn up.]

51...Nc3 52.g5+ Kg7 53.Nc6 Kf7 54.Kg4 Nd5 55.Ne5+ Kg7 56.Nc6 Ne3+ 57.Kf3 Nc2 58.Nd8 e5 59.f5! [59.fxe5 Kg6 60.e6 Nd4+ 61.Kf4 also wins.]

59...Nxa3 60.Nc6 [60.f6+ Kg6 61.f7 Kg7 62.g6 Sc2 63.Se6+ was slightly quicker.]

60...Nc4 61.Ke4 Kh7 62.Nxe5 Nd6+ 63.Kf4 Nb7 64.g6+ Kh6 65.Nf7+ Kg7 66.Kg5


In the fourth game Leko was completely outplayed and found himself in this position:


23.Nxg6 Qxe8 24.Rxe8 hxg6 25.Be7 winning the exchange. 5...Bxe7 26.Rxh8 c4 27.Kf1 b5 28.Ke2 a5 29.Re8 Bf6 30.Re6 Kb7 31.Kd2 a4 32.a3 Kc7 33.h4 Kb7 34.Ke3 Kc7 35.f3 b4


36.Rxf6 Humourless. [36.axb4 a3 37.bxa3 Bxc3 38.Rxg6 but it was just a fantasy.] 1–0

The remaining three matches were completely balanced and were only decided in Armageddon.


Nepomniachtchi 3 : 2 Anand

The former world’s strongest player in quick-time controls Viswanthan Anand is still haunted by bad luck in the ‘Legends of Chess’ event. Since the beginning of the tournament, either something goes wrong for him at the crucial moment or he overlooks a small detail that results in a defeat. 

That’s how it was on Sunday. In the match against, Ian Nepomniachtchi he levelled the score in the rapid games, but lost the tiebreaker. He lost game 2:

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Bc5 4.Nc3 d6 5.f4 Nc6 6.Nf3 Ng4 [6...Bg4 7.Na4; 6...a6]

7.Ng5 Bf2+ Romantic! [7...0–0 8.f5]

8.Kf1 exf4 9.Bxf7+ Kf8


10.Ne6+ [10.Be6!?]

10...Bxe6 11.Bxe6 Ne3+ 12.Bxe3 Bxe3 13.Qh5 Ne5 [13...Qf6 14.Bc4 Ne7 is okay for black.]

14.Nd5 c6 15.Nxe3 Qf6 [15...fxe3 16.Ke2 Ke7 17.Bb3 threatens to annoy with Rf1.]

16.Ke2 Qxe6 17.Rhf1 Qf6 18.Rxf4 Qxf4 19.Rf1 Qxf1+ 20.Kxf1 Re8 Anand’s choice was no better. White is more active with the queen and his extra pawn.


21.Kg1 Nf7 22.Qg4 g6 23.Nc4 Re7 24.Qf4 Re6 25.Na5 Kg7 26.Nxb7 Rb8 27.Nc5 Sometimes nothing seems to work.

27...Re7 28.Nb3 Ne5 29.h3 c5 30.Qd2 Rf8 31.d4 cxd4 32.Qxd4 Rf6 33.Nd2 g5 34.Nf1 The knight is going to d5. Anand had seen enough. 1–0

Anand won game 4 to take the match to tiebreaks, but in the Armageddon he lost a piece in a roughly equal position with Black.


40...Qf4? 41.Nf5


Kramnik 3 : 2 Gelfand

In the battle of legends between Boris Gelfand and Vladimir Kramnik, Gelfand started with a win:


29.Bf6 Subject: Attacking on the g-file.

29...Rf8 [29...Qxf6 30.Qxh5]

30.Rg5 Rxf6 [30...Rxg5 31.hxg5 was totally awful for Kramnik.]

31.Rxf5 Rhxf5 32.c5 Ba5 33.Rc2 c6 34.Qxc6 Rxf4 35.Qa8+ Rf8 36.Qxa7 Bd8 37.c6 Bf6 38.c7 Bxd4 39.Qa6 Bxf2 40.Qxe6+ Kh7 41.c8Q 1–0

Kramnik equalized in game 3 and won a pawn endgame in the Armageddon:


36.Kb3 Kb6 37.Kc4 Ka5 38.Kxd4 Kb4 39.Ke4 a5 40.d4 a4 41.d5 Ka3 42.d6 Kxa2 43.d7 a3 44.d8Q Kb2 45.Qd4+ Kb1 46.Qd3+ Kb2 47.Qd2+ Kb1 48.Qd1+ Kb2 49.Qe2+ Kb1 50.Kxf4 1–0


Svidler 3 : 2 Ivanchuk

In another duel of legends, Peter Svidler faced Vassily Ivanchuk. Ivanchuk took the lead first, but Svidler equalized. After two draws, the matchup went to Armageddon.

In a wild game, this position appeared on the board:



[Correct was 47.Bd3 g1Q 48.Qh7+ Kf8 49.a7 Qg2

a) 50.Be4 Qxb2+ 51.Kxb2 Nc4+ 52.Ka2 Qf2+ 53.Nd2 (or 53.Bc2 Qxa7+ 54.Kb1 Na3+ 55.Kb2 Nb5 and White is mated53...Qxa7+ 54.Kb3 Nxd2+ and wins.

b) 50.Qe4 Qxe4 51.Bxe4 Kg7 52.a8Q Qe2 Nd1 drohend. 53.Nc1 Qd2 54.Nb3 with a draw, which is enough for Black to win the match.

47...Nxc4? [47...g1Q! 48.Qxf7+ Kh6 49.Qxf6+ Qg6 50.Qf8+ Kh5 51.Qh8+ Kg4 52.Qd4+ Kh3 53.Qd7+ Kh2 54.Qc7+ Kg1 The king has found a hiding place and the two black queens can give mate.]

48.Qxg2+ Kh6 49.a7 Nb6 50.Qc6 Qe6 51.a8Q? [51.Qxe6 fxe6 52.c4 wins.]

51...Nxa8 52.Qxa8 Be7 53.Qh1+ Kg7 54.Qg2+ Kf8 55.Qa8+ Kg7 56.Qb7 [And Black lost on time (probably) in a balanced position.] 1–0



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


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