MCT Finals: Nakamura strikes again, Carlsen bounces back

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/11/2020 – Hikaru Nakamura defeated Daniil Dubov for a second set in a row, which means he only needs one more win in the coming three days to move on to the final of the Magnus Carlsen Tour closing event. Meanwhile, Carlsen evened the score in his matchup against Ding Liren by scoring a clear 2½:½ victory on Monday. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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.


Talking about the World Championship format

While both matches went to tiebreaks on Sunday, day 2 of the semis saw both confrontations being decided in the four-game rapid phase, with Magnus Carlsen only needing three games to level the score against Ding Liren. A little later, Hikaru Nakamura secured a second straight mini-match victory over Daniil Dubov, getting a 2:0 lead in the overall scoreboard. The American only needs one more win in the three remaining sets to advance to the final.

By now, those of us who have followed the Magnus Carlsen Tour are quite used to the format: each day a mini-match of four rapid games and blitz tiebreakers if needed. More than once in the past, Carlsen himself talked about modifying the World Championship cycle, even at the cost of losing some of the privileges he already had as reigning champion. He mentioned that the world champion should be the strongest player in all time controls, with rapid and blitz a good way to diminish the relevance of home preparation.

In an interview with Tania Sachdev after beating Ding in the second set of his semi, he was asked if he would like to play the World Championship match using the set system (with classical chess included in the mix). The Norwegian responded:

I think it all comes down to what you want to achieve — do you want to have a classical world champion or do you want to find out who the best player in the world is? I’ve always said that, in order to find out the best player in the world, the system that we have now is not very good. I’m sort of fine either way. [...] In [the classical World Championship matches] there’s very little room to prove that you are a better chess player.

This period of online chess, exclusively played with rapid and blitz time controls, might have an influence on how things are done in the future, so we will have to wait and see once the worldwide crisis is over and things return to normal — or not.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour 2020

Click to enlarge

Carlsen 2½ : ½ Ding

Game 2 of this matchup was chosen by commentators Peter Leko and Yasser Seirawan as the masterpiece of the day. As Carlsen put it:

This was really a case of finding a plan, executing the plan and winning the game. You don’t obviously get to see that very often.

The world champion also explained that the computer does not approve of all moves played by the winning side. However, from a human point of view it is the kind of game that illustrates an idea in a clear, aesthetically-pleasing way.

Carlsen temporarily sacrificed a pawn, created threats against White’s king and correctly simplified into a better queenless position when he was given the chance:


29...Qf4 30.Qxf4 exf4 31.d4 [31.Ra2, defending the pawn, was called for] Rxa4 32.d5 Ne5 33.Ne7+ Kh7 34.Nxg6 Kxg6


35.c5 bxc5 36.Rb8 and White resigned — Black’s knight, rook and king are too active.


Nakamura 3 : 1 Dubov

At the outset of the second set, both players failed to squeeze wins from slightly better positions in games 1 and 2 — first Nakamura and then Dubov. Nakamura then won with white out of a Sicilian, patiently creating problems for his opponent while advancing his passed pawn on the b-file:


White is faster on the queenside: 34.b7 d5 35.Na5 Be5 36.g3 Qg6 37.Qc2 Rd6 38.Rdc1 Bf4


39.Qc8+ Rd8 40.Qxd8+ Rxd8 41.Rc8 Qe8 42.Rxd8 Qxd8 43.gxf4 and Black resigned.

Dubov played sharply in the fourth game, but Nakamura was his usual pragmatic self and ended up also winning the last encounter of the day. 



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

sshivaji sshivaji 8/11/2020 08:09
In Ding vs Carlsen, after winning the exchange, in game 2, surely Ding can just play 35. Rb4. Black feels optically better, but does not look too bad for white if he just defends carefully. No need to pitch a pawn with 35. c5 and lose the game in 2 moves. Feels odd, time pressure?!