MCT Finals: Nakamura knocks out Dubov

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/12/2020 – Hikaru Nakamura needed only three sets to knock out Daniil Dubov in their best-of-5 semifinal match. ‘Naka’ will get two rest days before the final, where he will face either Ding Liren or Carlsen, with the latter now the favourite to advance after scoring a second consecutive 2½:½ victory over his Chinese colleague. | Photo: Justin Kellar

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Avoiding mistakes

Hikaru Nakamura was true to the style he has been using these last years — one that prioritizes solidity — to take down Daniil Dubov with a dominating 3:0 victory in the semis of the Magnus Carlsen Tour Finals. The outspoken grandmaster confessed afterwards:

I very strongly felt that in the match we played in the final of the Lindores Abbey event that I sort of beat myself. I thought that there were many positions where I was a little bit better and pressing, and then when the advantage slipped away from me I would keep trying to win and in turn I would turn it into a loss.

Acknowledging the fact that his rival strongly prefers dynamic positions, in which his creative abilities come to the fore, Nakamura explained:

I decided to try to make it as boring as possible, and try to make the positions dry, where it’s very technical and you kind of just have to play normal-looking moves but there’s very little room for creativity.

His approach seems to function well against most players, with a big exception:

For the most part, I’ve felt that, if I don’t lose games, opportunities will come to me. [...] With the exception of one player, that tends to work very well (smiles). The problem is that there’s one player who is capable of not losing even more so than me and being slightly more precise.

Of course, he was referring to Magnus Carlsen, who for a second day in a row needed only three games to beat Ding Liren. The Chinese now needs to win back-to-back sets on Wednesday and Thursday to knock out the world champion.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals

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Nakamura 2½ : 1½ Dubov

A rather uneventful first game was followed by Nakamura failing to make the most of a small advantage, while the one decisive result of the set was seen in game 3 — Dubov was actually a pawn up with a better position in the middlegame:

 

Nakamura explained that by playing 31.b5 here Dubov failed to notice that after 31...Rb3 32.Rc6 Qf7 White cannot protect the b-pawn with 33.Qc4 due to 33...Rb4. Soon after, Black not only recovered the pawn but gained an extra pawn himself, entering a better endgame that nonetheless required technical precision to be converted into a win.

Dubov was duly outplayed and resigned in the following position:

 

The Russian went all-in with black in game 4, but it was his cold-blooded opponent who got attacking chances in the early middlegame. Nakamura was true to his pragmatic approach and forced a draw from a clearly better position to get the pass to the final.

 

Carlsen 2½ : ½ Ding

A 22-move draw in game 1 was followed by two consecutive victories by the world champion. In game 2, Carlsen got an advantage after Ding misplayed the opening in a sharp Sicilian. On move 27, the Norwegian decided not to go for a tactical continuation that could have led to a spectacular win:

 

White had 27.Rxf7 Kxf7 28.Qe6+ Kg7 29.Ne7 Qxc4 30.Qxg6 Kf8 and the killer 31.Nf5, when Black is busted. Carlsen chose 27.Rf3 instead and, when Tania Sachdev asked him if he had considered the rook sacrifice, he explained:

Obviously, that’s what I was looking at, but I just felt that my position was so good that there was no reason to go for it unless I was sure it was winning.

Indeed, White kept his advantage throughout, although the computer shows some defensive resources that Ding did not find while in time trouble. In the end, Carlsen showed his great endgame technique to get a 55-move win.

Carlsen played the Open Sicilian with black in game 3 and, unlike in the previous encounter, went for an attack when given the chance:

 

Ding’s 20.c3 weakened his king decisively — there followed 20...Bxa3 21.f5 b4 22.c4 Nc3+ (the onslaught gains strength) 23.Ka1 Bxc4 24.fxe6 0-0 and White’s counterattack is shut down. Six moves later, Ding resigned.

 

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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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