MCT Finals: Carlsen’s win sets up showdown

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/20/2020 – On Wednesday, for the first time in the final, a player managed to win a set with a two-point advantage. Magnus Carlsen showed a dominant performance to level the score of the match despite having played with a back pain after getting injured while swimming before the games. It all comes down to the seventh and final set, when the whole Magnus Carlsen Tour will come to an end. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Total control

When Peter Leko congratulated Magnus Carlsen for his win in set 6, he said, “It was a fantastic day, very nice games, total control”. The world champion won games 1 and 4 to get a clear win and take the match to the deciding, seventh set. And all that despite having got injured just before the games. A visibly wretched Carlsen explained:

I was generally feeling great today, and then before the game I was going for a quick swim in the ocean instead of running, and something just happened. But there’s a little less pain now than there was before.

It has been a demanding series of tournaments for the world champion, who reached the final in three out of the four previous events of the tour. As has often been mentioned by commentators and competitors alike, playing four rapid games per day is in some ways more taxing than playing a single classical game, as it takes extra effort to recover emotionally from losses and potential big swings in individual games.

Referring to the seventh set, Carlsen said:

It’s obviously gonna be tough. I feel like every day has been difficult so far, and I don’t expect this to be any different.

It all comes down to Thursday’s mini-match. Given how things have gone so far in the final, the eventual winner will be considered a deserving champion no matter what.

Magnus Carlsen Tour Finals 2020

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Carlsen 3 : 1 Nakamura

Playing white in game 1, Carlsen gained the initiative out of the opening and went for the attack with a strong knight sacrifice on move 23:

 

With the rook on c5 ready to be transferred to the kingside, White played 23.Nxg7 — after 23...Kxg7 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Qh4 Nakamura faltered with 25...Rg8, allowing 26.Rxc6 Rxc6 27.Bxd4 and the queen and bishops are perfectly placed for a lethal attack.

Black could have put up more resistance with 25...Re8, as 26.Rxc6 Rxc6 27.Bxd4 can be responded by 27...Bf5 and Black survives after 28.Rxe8+ Qxe8 29.Bxf6+ Kg8 due to the threats of back rank mate:

 

It was a very difficult resource to find in a rapid game, of course. In the game, Carlsen continued increasing his advantage, but it was not plain sailing until the end, as he faltered on move 32 and needed to “start all over”. The world champion nevertheless got the win nine moves later.

The set would have taken a different path had Nakamura made the most of his chances in a favourable rook endgame in game 2. Carlsen defended resiliently, though, and got the half point with black. 

As has become the norm in the match, the player who was ahead on the scoreboard — in this case, Carlsen — went for a draw by threefold repetition in his next game with white. In the fourth encounter of the day, Nakamura created a messy position in a must-win situation, but ended up faltering while avoiding a forcing line that led to a perpetual:

 

Black had a clearly superior position after 36.Qc3 Qg3 37.Qxc7 Rd7. Instead, White could have gone for 36.Bxf7+ Kxf7 37.Qb3+ Kf8 38.Rxc7 when Black has nothing better than a perpetual check with the queen going back and forth from e1 to h4.

After the text, Carlsen needed three more moves to force Black’s resignation.

 

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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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