The pressure ramped up in the $300,000 Champions Chess Tour Finals today as Magnus Carlsen had a point chipped off his lead.
Norway’s World Champion needed a blitz play-off to beat the tricky Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who was dangerous right to the death.
Carlsen got pegged back twice in the match and had to settle for two rather than three points. He is, however, one round closer to victory.
“I feel very good,” said Carlsen after his win. “
All eyes were also on the leader’s nearest rival, Wesley So, who picked up the maximum in his match against Vladislav Artemiev to keep the pressure up.
The American is now 5 points behind Carlsen with six rounds to play – but the pair are still yet to face each other.
So said afterwards that Carlsen had a “huge lead” but the tournament still had a long way to go.
Carlsen had started perfectly with a quickfire win in Game One. Following a draw in Game Two, the third was then a game to forget for the champ.
Carlsen struggled out of the opening and never recovered. Finding himself in an impossible position, the 30-year-old was eventually forced to resign. MVL had levelled.
The fourth then ended in a draw as the match headed into tiebreaks. Carlsen crashed through in the first to break MVL’s resistance, before a draw in the second handed him the win.
America’s blitz king Hikaru Nakamura had a strong return to form as he posted a 3-1 win over Levon Aronian. The loss effectively ends Aronian’s faint hopes of catching Carlsen and So.
Meanwhile, Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov and Jan-Krzystztof Duda, two of the tournament’s most exciting players, traded blows in an explosive match which went to tiebreaks. Duda took the first blitz game and then a draw secured the two-point win.
Anish Giri also launched a comeback to level his match 2-2 against the super-solid Teimour Radjabov before turning the screw to win in the tiebreaks.