Magnus Carlsen, the world’s most ruthless chess player, has been widely praised after he showed incredible sportsmanship to resign on move four of his semi-final match-up.
The World Champion provided a moment of magic in the $150,000 online Chessable Masters as he intentionally gifted rival Ding Liren a point in their high-stakes semi-final clash.
It came after the Chinese number one suffered an unfortunate disconnection at a vital moment during today’s play.
But while moments of mercy are rare in elite-level chess, that didn’t stop Carlsen wanting to make amends.
Ding, playing behind his country’s notorious internet firewall, has been plagued by connection problems throughout the online super-tournament.
In the pair’s opening game today, Ding found himself down to his final few seconds on the clock when disaster struck.
Despite fighting back to a seemingly drawn position, Ding had to forfeit the game as there was no chance he could reconnect in time.
In the next game, Carlsen then deliberately lost his queen and resigned on move 4 to give the point back and level the score at 1-1.
Carlsen said afterward: “I have immense respect for Ding as a chess player and as a human being and I thought against him this was the only correct way and clearly I wanted to win on the board.”
He added: “I might have kicked myself if I’d lost one of the last two games but I think in general it was the right thing to do.”
The Norwegian was widely praised on Twitter by fans and players alike for his action.
Fellow tournament competitors Teimour Radjabov and Pentala Harikrishna responded by saying “great gesture!” and “respect!”.
In the commentary box, International Master John Bartholomew said: “That’s very consistent with Magnus’s character. He likes to win fairly.”
Carlsen and Ding drew the next two games of the four-game set leaving the match on a knife-edge going into a blitz chess play-off.
After the first game was drawn, Carlsen went on to win today’s first set in the best-of-three semi-final clash.
In the other semi, Dutch number 1 Anish Giri took a first-day semi-final lead against Russia’s number 1 Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Fresh from sparring with Carlsen on Twitter, Giri took the second game and then the final game to steer the set towards a 3-1 win.
Nepomniachtchi needs to win tomorrow’s set to stay in the semi and take it to a decider on Thursday, or Giri goes through to the final.