GM Magnus Carlsen reached the final of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva where he will meet GM Hikaru Nakamura on Friday. GM Ding Liren missed several chances but won one brilliant attacking game.
Carlsen – Ding 3.5-2.5
“I think it was quite similar to the final match I had against Giri in the Chessable Masters in that the first game was good and after that a total mess,” Carlsen said shortly after the match. “I can’t believe that I actually escaped but that’s the way it is sometimes.”
I can’t believe that I actually escaped but that’s the way it is sometimes.
The world champion won a good first game indeed, where he found all the right moves to get great compensation in a sideline of the Anti-Moscow, played by Ding. It seems the Chinese GM forgot that his king’s bishop should go to e7 instead of g7 in this line, as a 2014 correspondence game suggests.
Carlsen was constantly pressing but Ding defended well as he gave back both his extra pawns but then the narrow path to the draw was too hard to find with limited time on the clock.
Ding bounced back wonderfully with what was the most attractive game of the tournament so far, at least from White’s perspective. “I think I sort of messed it up a bit early,” Carlsen said about his play, in what was a King’s Indian against White’s fianchetto setup.
The Norwegian star admitted that his position was “unbelievably dangerous” for him but felt he could still “sort of escape” until the brilliant 24.Bxh6! appeared on the board, which he had missed.
“But in general, of course, he did it brilliantly,” Carlsen said about Ding’s subsequent play.
Also in the next two games, it was Ding who was calling the shots, outplaying Carlsen in the opening twice. It seemed he got very close to a win in the endgame of game three, but Carlsen had correctly judged that Black’s most critical way of playing was also a draw.
Game four went even worse for Carlsen, who considered his position to be “pretty much lost” out of the opening but then he somehow managed to hold. After a draw in the first blitz game, Ding again had him on the ropes in game six, until he blundered terribly with 32.h4.
“It’s a very natural move but one that loses, I guess, from what should be a very good position,” said Carlsen. “I would say that even though White is a lot better, in a blitz game with very little time it is not obvious. I still had serious hopes of holding this but of course, winning it is a bit much.”
As the game ended, Ding sank down and covered his face with his hand while Carlsen shook his head in disbelief.
Carlsen said he mostly felt relieved while praising his opponent: “He put up an unbelievable fight today. I just needed every inch to win this particular match. The main take away is that I just got to be better in the final. There’s a free day coming up and there are plenty of chances to start again from scratch.”
Carlsen and Nakamura will start their final on Friday. It is a best of seven matches for a $140,000 first prize and $80,000 for the runner-up. Ding won $40,000.
Carlsen about facing Naka: “He’s been very strong in the entire tour so it’s no coincidence that he is in the final. I absolutely agree he deserves it based on the way that he’s played.”
The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva runs August 9-20 on chess24. The semifinals phase is a best-of-five series of matches consisting of four-game rapid matches each day. The finals consist of a best-of-seven series, where the player who wins four matches is the winner of the tour. The prize fund is $300,000 with $140,000 for first place. The time control is 15 minutes and a 10-second increment.