Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura will fight it out in a Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge semi-final decider after the American squared their tie today.
Nakamura, the world’s top-rated blitz chess player, was calm and controlled as he hit back hard in a must-win match against Norway’s World Champion.
Carlsen, playing in his signature Magnus Carlsen Tour event, had convincingly won yesterday’s encounter 3-0. Speaking on a Twitch stream afterward he showed he was typically confident going into the second. But today was very different.
The first game was a stunner – and it turned out to be extremely important. Carlsen launched a buccaneering attack on Nakamura involving a piece sacrifice.
Carlsen was clearly winning at one point, but a blunder in a very tense position let Nakamura counter and Carlsen lost it. At one point, Carlsen – still confident – even turned down a draw by repetition and played 26…g3 which turned out to be a fatal error.
“It was a pretty wild game, but I found a way to win,” said Nakamura afterward. “It was a little bit lucky to win this game, but I’ll take it.”
Game 2, which Nakamura described as “a complete mess”, was no less dramatic – despite ending in a draw. Carlsen had a strong position but his advantage evaporated after an apparent mouse-slip.
The resulting draw meant Nakamura retained the lead and went into the third game with a chance of ending the match early. Carlsen bided his time with the Black pieces and steered the game to a second draw that left him with all his chips on the final game.
Yet with Carlsen straining for a win, Nakamura remained solid and played out a third draw that won him the match and got him right back into the seminal.
Meanwhile, in the other match, Daniil Dubov was busy blowing away an out-of-sorts Ding Liren. The Russian smashed through China’s number one in the first game to build on his first mini-match win yesterday.
“Dubov just checkmated Ding Liren in 23 moves with Black. What is going on?” said Jan Gustafsson in the commentary box.
Dubov then went 2-0 up against Ding leaving the Chinese needing a minor miracle to reach the final. Ding, who was not his normal solid self, then could not stop Daniil’s steering the third game into a match-ending draw. Dubov goes through to the final with a 2.5-0.5 win against Ding today and 2-0 overall.
Asked who he would like to play in the final, Dubov said: “I would definitely prefer to play Magnus. I just think it would be much more interesting to play him … I just prefer to play the best players. Obviously, Magnus is much stronger than Hikaru.”