Skilling Open: Coincidences

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/28/2020 – The semifinals of the Skilling Open kicked off on Friday. Magnus Carlsen beat Ian Nepomniachtchi in their first mini-match after collecting three draws and a win. Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura followed a similar pattern, with So getting ahead in the matchup after getting a single win. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Carlsen and So strike first

Much like in the start of his match against Anish Giri, Magnus Carlsen felt he was mostly on the back foot against Ian Nepomniachtchi on Friday. His one win came in the first game of the day, when he came out of the opening with a clear advantage. Curiously, as ‘Nepo’ pointed out later, the two contenders had looked into this line prior to Carlsen’s 2014 World Championship match against Viswanathan Anand. Nepomniachtchi explained:

I remember well we had some discussion about this position, and now it appeared on the board. That was funny!

From that point on, however, the tables turned in favour of the Russian, who was not able to make the most of his chances and ended up losing the first mini-match of the semifinals. Carlsen confessed:

I didn’t really get what I want, so I’ll have to cook up something new. But overall I’m pretty happy to have survived, and I feel like in these matches if you can survive your worst day, you’re probably going to be fine overall.

Wesley So’s win over Hikaru Nakamura in their first mini-match was more one-sided, with ‘Naka’ reflecting on the fact that when he lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on day one of the quarterfinals he felt he had many more chances than the ones he got against So on Friday. The ever polite So said:

I feel like it was simply not Hikaru’s day.

Skilling Open

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Carlsen 2½ : 1½ Nepomniachtchi

The following position had been reached by Nepomniachtchi twice this year, against Giri, while Carlsen played this with black in his World Championship match against Anand:

 

There followed 14.Bh3 Kg8 15.Qc3 and Qb8, which was a grave mistake:

 

Carlsen found the refutation — 16.d6 exd6 17.f4 Re8. White does not capture the knight immediately due to 18.fxe5 Rxe5 when Black has a lot of counterplay. Instead, the world champion continued to improve his position and only captured the piece under optimal conditions. Nepomniachtchi resigned after merely 26 moves.

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

So 2½ : 1½ Nakamura

The Filipino-born grandmaster won the second game of the first mini-match. After following 11 moves of a Ding v Nakamura game from this year, White got a better position with his knight strongly cemented on f5. Some manoeuvring followed, until So found the way to break through:

 

33.h4 gxh4 34.Qg4 Kf8:

 

Black is in deep trouble — 35.Bxf6 gxf6 36.Qxh4 Kg8 (to avoid mate) 37.Re2 Re5 38.Re3 bringing one more piece to the attack:

 

38...Rxf5 — what else? 39.Rh3 Rg5 40.Qh8+ Kf7 41. Rh7+ and Black resigned with his pair of bishops sitting useless on the queenside.

 

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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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