Grand Final: It’s Carlsen v Nakamura


Chessable Blog
Table of Contents

Carlsen Ding Semi-finalThe last match of the Grand Final, the finale of the inaugural Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, will see the World Champion take on the mighty Hikaru Nakamura.

This will be bring everything full circle back to the first of the new online events. Carlsen defeated Nakamura in the final of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational event back in May.

Nakamura already sealed his place in this final with a 3-0 shutout of Daniil Dubov in their semi-final match.

A Very Close Set

Carlsen, having overcome the problem of losing his first set to Ding Liren, took control of his own semi-final with wins in two consecutive sets. His form was magnificent; winning both sets 2.5-0.5 sent out a very strong message.

Expectations of another completely commanding performance in the fourth set were unfounded. In fact Ding came extremely close to forcing the match into a fifth set.

The first game seemed to be the same old story. Carlsen gained an edge from a complicated position, took it into the endgame and watched it grow quickly into a winning advantage. Textbook Carlsen.

Game two brought the drama. In a full-blooded King’s Indian Defense Ding sacrificed his way to success and we saw one the rarest of all chess sights: Carlsen’s king in checkmate.

Ding’s Confidence Returns

Ding’s confidence was clearly up, as he outplayed Carlsen in game three – despite having the black pieces. Yet Carlsen still held the ending, despite being a pawn down.

Carlsen fell under heavy positional pressure in the fourth game but once again held on for a vital draw.

2-2 from the Rapidplay games brought the players into Blitz chess territory. Would an Armageddon game be required? It looked a distinct possibility after the first Blitz game ended in a draw.

The second Blitz game proved to be the most dramatic of the whole set.

Blitz Drama

Cutting a long story short, there was no need for an Armageddon game after all. Ding achieved another excellent position and looked to be safely on the road to victory. However, as is usually the case with Blitz chess, one substandard move saw the advantage swing wildly in the opposite direction.

Carlsen pounced on the inaccuracy and didn’t look back. Having come so close to losing the match he ended with a  triumphant flourish and gained revenge for game two with a king hunt of this own.

Here are three key moments from the game.

Ding Liren – Magnus Carlsen

Ding stand much better here, with two minor pieces for a rook and a strong passed d-pawn. Carlsen’s passed pawn is very nicely blockaded.

Ding played the unfortunate move 32 h4? which looks decent at first glance. However, Carlsen found the very strong reply 32 …Qa8! The problems suddenly become apparent. 33 …Ra1 is coming and there are very nasty checkmating threats against the white king.

32 Ba3! was a much better move. The  32 …Qa8 loses its impact due to 33 Bb2! keeping there back row secure.

Fast forward slightly and it is easy to see that the position has slipped badly from White’s  point of view. Black’s passed pawn is not longer under lock and key, his pieces are in danger of losing any sort of coordination and the white squares around his king are very weak indeed.

Carlsen played 36 …Qc8, hitting (and winning) the bishop. If 37 Bd4 then 37 …c2 wins on the spot. Amazingly, Black has a better move here. 36 …Qe8! puts White’s back rank under unbearable pressure. 37 Qd1 runs into 37 …Qe4!

Carlsen’s Mating Attack

The finale sees Carlsen exploit the weak white squares for the last time.

Ding, understandably concerned by the attack of the major pieces, tried to escape the side of the board with 45 Kg4? only to run into 45 …f5+ As 46 Kh4 and 46 Kh3 both allow 46 …Rh1 checkmate, Ding resigned (0-1).

45 Qc8+ was a better try, protecting f5, but we should not doubt Carlsen’s ability to convert the position from that point.

So there we have it. For the Grand Final: it’s Carlsen v Nakamura

The final, which starts tomorrow, will be fascinating. Seven sets are scheduled and, as always, the best place to follow all of the action is over at chess24.

Carlsen starts as favourite, of course. Yet if Nakamura can get his foot in the door with victories in a couple of the early sets then anything can happen.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for details of a very special Chessable course that is strongly related to this series of events.

Make sure you return to this blog tomorrow!

Was this helpful? Share it with a friend :)

4.9 with 3.65K user reviews

Check them on individual course pages