MCT Finals: Carlsen bounces back again

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/18/2020 – Magnus Carlsen levelled the score of his tour’s final on Monday after getting a 2½:1½ victory over Hikaru Nakamura in the fourth set. The world champion won game three and drew the rest to even the overall score without needing tiebreaks. The match has now turned into a best-of-3 contest, with both players having obtained the exact same amount of points so far in the final. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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No semblance of rhythm

Despite being very critical of his play during this tournament, Magnus Carlsen showed his strongest performance of the final so far in set 4, managing to defeat Hikaru Nakamura 2½:1½ without allowing the American to get many chances to put up a fight.

The day started with Carlsen getting a winning position that he could not convert into a full point in game 1. A quiet draw followed, and then came the one decisive game of the set. The world champion comfortably held the draw he needed in game 4 to secure victory. Carlsen said afterwards:

First of all, I haven’t found any semblance of rhythm whatsoever, so in general I’m very unhappy with the way I’ve played. Today was a lot better in the sense that he didn’t get any counterchances, so today was an improvement.

The match has now turned into a best-of-3 contest, with both players having obtained the exact same amount of points so far in the final.

Magnus Carlsen Tour Finals 2020

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Carlsen 2½ : 1½ Nakamura

When Tania Sachdev asked Carlsen why he has been having issues with the clock in the tournament, the world champion gave a simple response:

It’s because he’s playing well, I think. I feel that in all of these tournaments, I’ve in general been burning a lot of time, but specially here he’s posing me a lot of problems, and there have been several games here where I’m thinking I’m gonna win and I’m just getting faced by new problems.

That is exactly what happened in the first game of Monday. Nakamura faltered on move 22, and soon found himself with a vulnerable king on the queenside. Then, on move 32, Carlsen missed a chance to place his bishop on the long diagonal with decisive effect:

 

The game continued 32.hxg5 fxg5 33.Re7, when White is still better. However, Carlsen could have gone for an immediate 32.Kh2 gxh4 33.Bg2 — threatening mate on b7 — and after 33...hxg3+ 34.fxg3 Qd7 White has the good-looking 35.Rd3, the move Carlsen confessed he had missed.

Nakamura continued to show his remarkable defensive skills until getting a 53-move draw.

The commentators were worried that not having converted the position into a win might have a disastrous effect on Carlsen, but after Nakamura failed to “hit [him] when [he’s] down” (Carlsen) in game 2, the world champion again got the upper hand in the third encounter:

 

26...Qxf2 was a grave mistake by Nakamura — there followed 27.Kh2 Rad8 28.Rf1 Rxf5 (White always needs to look out for mates along the h-file now) 29.Rxf2 Rdxd5

 

Time to go for the throat: 30.Rxf7+ Ke8 31.Qxd5 Rxd5 32.Bg6 Kd8 33.Re1 c6 34.Rxb7 Bc7 35.Re8+ Kd7 36.Rh8

 

Black resigned.

The world champion played a strong 12th move — one he later conefssed was not in his preparation — to get a good position with black in game 4. The point was split after 40 moves in an encounter in which only Carlsen could have pushed for a win.

 

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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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