Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Nakamura in sole second place

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/26/2020 – Hikaru Nakamura and Ding Liren obtained key victories in round four of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational. Nakamura took down Ian Nepomniachtchi 2½:1½, while Ding had black and drew Anish Giri in the Armageddon decider of their match-up. Nakamura is now in sole second place a point behind Carlsen and is very likely to reach the semi-finals. Round-up show by GM Yannick Pelletier. | Photo: Official site

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Ding wins in Armageddon

The fight to reach the final-four knockout of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational has almost completely been narrowed down to six players. Carlsen and Nakamura are favourites to qualify, while Ding and Fabiano Caruana are leading the race to get the remaining two spots, with Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave needing a couple of good results to overcome them in the standings table.

On Saturday, Nakamura, much like Carlsen the day prior, dominated his match-up against Nepomniachtchi from start to finish, but anyway won by the smallest of margins. After losing against Carlsen in Armageddon on opening day, the five-time US champion has won all his three remaining match-ups without needing tiebreaks.

The other confrontation of the day saw Giri getting his first win at the Invitational. That was not enough to get match victory though, as the four-game rapid section finished 2:2 and Ding managed to comfortably draw with black in the Armageddon to get his third victory of the event. The Chinese grandmaster is sharing third place with Caruana, but has three difficult rivals in what remains of the round-robin section — Nepomniachtchi, Nakamura and Carlsen are his next opponents.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2020

Nakamura 2½:1½ Nepomniachtchi

In a post-match interview, Nakamura noted he was winning at some point in almost every game, stating:

I think the match overall was very smooth. I think probably I should have scored more points than I did.

The American only scored one win though, taking down Nepomniachtchi's French Winawer in game one:


White had been putting pressure on his opponent for a while by this point, and 'Nepo' failed to find a way to prevent — or simply missed — 25.Rxd5, when Black's position started to fall apart quite quickly. Eight moves later, the Russian accepted defeat.

In game two, 'Naka' was close to getting a major advantage on the scoreboard, entering a superior knight ending with black. He missed his last chance to win on move 53:


Nakamura later explained that 53...Ng2 wins here, as in many lines transferring the knight to h4 blocks the entries for the white king and eventually gives Black a chance to infiltrate with his own monarch. Instead, after 53...Kg4 54.Nf1 Nd5+ 55.Ke4 White has managed to put forth an unbreakable setup. The draw was agreed on move 68.

The American missed a nice manoeuvre that would have increased his advantage once again in game three:


The commentators were screaming for 20.Nf5, but Nakamura went for the safer 20.Rb8, keeping an edge while avoiding entering overly complicated lines against a player as tricky and quick as Nepomniachtchi. Draws in this and the next game secured match victory for the Japanese-born American grandmaster.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Ding 2:2 Giri

Commentators and guests alike have mentioned more than once that Ding seems to lose some steam towards the end of his matches, as rounds begin at 10 p.m. in China. Nevertheless, the unassuming star has won his last two encounters in Armageddon, finishing the rounds at around 1 a.m. 

His match against Giri kicked off with a well-played draw. Then, playing black, the Chinese used threats of back rank mate to neutralize White's initiative and get a win:


White is about to promote his d7-pawn, but Ding had calculated that after 29...Qd2 30.Re8+ Kg7 Black gets a key tempo as his opponent needs to create luft for his king to prevent mate, giving him enough time to organize his forces — 31.h3 Qd1+ 32.Kh2 Qd6+ 33.g3 Rxd7, and White resigned as he is simply a piece down. 

Giri bounced back with a nice win in the next game, his first one at the Invitational. However, he was all but lost in the last rapid game of the day, until Ding failed to find a combination that would have given him match victory:


An immediate 34...Rd1+ 35.Bxd1 Qxd1+ 36.Kh2 Qd5 would have forced Black to exchange queens and enter a losing endgame. Ding went for the also good 34...Nc5, although in this line there was no way as clear-cut as the one mentioned above to convert his edge. A few moves later Giri managed to create enough threats to force the Chinese to give a perpetual check in order to avoid defeat.

The 2:2 score meant an Armageddon game would decide the winner. Ding won the "digital coin toss" and chose black. Giri entered a rarely seen line out of the opening and, after playing an inaccurate move, found himself in an inferior position as early as move 11. Ding kept his cool and traded down into an equal rook endgame, securing match victory with a 58-move draw.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Round-up show

GM Yannick Pelletier analysed the action of the day

All games


The Magnus Carlsen Invitational is brought to you by Learn more about the tournament at


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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register