Carlsen Wins Inaugural Casablanca Chess, Climbs Kasparov's Everest
Carlsen prevails at time-travel chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen Wins Inaugural Casablanca Chess, Climbs Kasparov's Everest

| 3 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen triumphed at Casablanca Chess 2024, clinching first in a dynamic finish vs. GM Hikaru Nakamura

Nakamura himself won second while GM Viswanathan Anand finished third. The 15th world champion's compelling last-round victory vs. GM Bassem Amin is our Game of the Day. 

Standings - Final

Round 4: Nakamura Prevails in Alekhine's Winawer

To start the day, the competitors traveled back to 1935 in the Netherlands into the match between Alexander Alekhine and Max Euwe. Alekhine was known for his ruthless and imaginative attacking style while Euwe's play was characterized by cold-blooded logic. The defending world champion was considered a major favorite, yet Euwe stunned the chess world by overcoming Alekhine to become the fifth world champion. The starting position is from game three of their match. It delves into a less-traveled variation in the dynamic and imbalanced French Winawer. 

Round 4 Starting Position

Finding himself in Alekhine's shoes, Anand readied his forces for operations against Black's uncastled king. Carlsen countered by hunting after White's queenside weaknesses and responding actively to his opponent's tactical ideas. In the end, as both players' pieces stare daggers at the the enemy kings, a fury of tactics lead to a rare perpetual. 

After the game, Anand and Carlsen shared their guesses on the origin of the position. Though it was originally from Alekhine vs. Euwe, it’s also been played four times between Smyslov and Botvinnik―which Carlsen accurately remembered.

Contrastingly, Amin and Nakamura steered the game into an early queen trade. Despite the even ending, Nakamura was able to build up his position and a significant edge on the clock, ultimately generating a mating attack with his remaining pieces. 

Though he lost the match, Alekhine did win this particular game―in his characteristic dynamic style.

Round 5: Carlsen Victorious From Kasparov's Everest

In round five, the players revisited the chronicles of Garry Kasparov vs. Anatoly Karpov, stepping into the rivalry two years later with Kasparov now as the defending champion. The position is from the pivotal final game of the match. Kasparov shared about its significance in his book, How Life Imitates Chess

I can look back at my chess career and pick out more than a few crisis points, but only one Mount Everest. I would like to share the tale to investigate the means I used in winning the most important game of my life... After a tough, prolonged defense I suffered one of the worst hallucinations of my career and blundered to a loss in game 23. Suddenly, Karpov was up by a point and was only a draw away from taking back the crown he had lost to me two years earlier. The very next day after this catastrophe, I had to take the white pieces into a must-win game 24. 

...What strategy should I employ with the white pieces in this must-win final game? There was more to think about than game 23 and game 24, of course. These were also games 119 and 120 between us, an extraordinary number of top-level encounters between the same two players, all played in a span of thirty-nine months. It felt like one long match, with this final game in December, 1987, the climax of what we had started in September 1984. My plan for the final game had to consider not only what I would like best but what my opponent would like least. And what could be more annoying for Karpov than my turning the tables and playing like Karpov?

I can look back at my chess career and pick out more than a few crisis points, but only one Mount Everest.

―Garry Kasparov

Kasparov in 1987. Photo: Somorjai Zsolt, CC.

Round 5 Starting Position

Carlsen's game was a prime example of what GM Daniel Naroditsky describes as his effect on other players: "Magnus has a way of making you feel like you're losing, even when the position is equal."

Magnus has a way of making you feel like you're losing, even when the position is equal.

―Daniel Naroditsky

With a level middlegame vs. Amin, Carlsen began putting pressure on the queenside and soon seamlessly altered the position from equal to winning. Yet, in the final time scramble, Amin overlooked a chance to save the game. 

In this round, Nakamura didn't have to travel back in time as far as the other competitors. He reached this position in one of his own games just two years ago vs. GM Oleksandr Bortnyk in a Titled Tuesday game, which he went on to win. As GM Jan Gustafsson observed “They made sure that none of these positions are from Carlsen or Anand matches, but no one scanned Nakamura’s Titled Tuesday games!

No one scanned Nakamura's Titled Tuesday games!

―Jan Gustafsson

With his only white of the day, Nakamura played ambitiously for victory, launching all of his kingside pawns towards Anand's monarch. Yet, at the critical moment, Nakamura missed a winning opportunity. Given the chance, the 15th world champion countered with precision, sacrificing a pawn to neutralize Nakamura's attacking chances. 

Kasparov did indeed succeed in winning on demand, grinding Karpov down with a blend of strategic and dynamic play to retain his crown. This victory further cemented the legend's place in history. 

Round 6: Anand Relights Xie's Fireworks

In the last round, the players had the opportunity to choose the position themselves. Coincidentally, they chose a position from the exact same match as the day before: GM Xie Jun vs. IM Alisa Galliamova in 1999. The position at hand is from the penultimate game of their women's world championship match―and it's the final victory. 

Round 6 Starting Position

Carlsen, Nakamura, and Anand all chose this from the three options. Nakamura shared his perspective:

I chose this position because, even though I think it's easier for White to play, and I actually think White is a little bit better here, Black has some advantages. Black in the long run has two bishops here on e7 and d7. There's some options to try and attack on the queenside. If White is not super precise, I think Black will be better.

The main routes for White to continue are the zealous 15.g4, which was played by Xie in the original game, and the positional 15.Ne2. We get the rare treat of exploring both possibilities over the board. Carlsen followed the seventh women's world champion’s footsteps while Anand chose 15.Ne2. 

A dynamic fight ensued between Carlsen and Nakamura as they battled for the fate of the tournament. Afterwards, Carlsen shared: "I felt like I had to play quite dynamically from the get-go."

This game secured Carlsen's tournament victory with a full-point lead. 

Carlsen accepts his first-place trophy: A sculpture of a horse created by a local artist. Photo: Maria Emelianova/ 

When Amin advanced his queen too far into enemy position, Anand launched a deadly tactical strike. GM Rafael Leitao annotates Anand's victory as our Game of the Day below.

Anand finishes with a bang. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Xie prevailed in her game too, setting off attacking fireworks of her own.

Though he excelled over-the-board, Carlsen found game recollection to be more challenging on day two: “I’m quite ashamed that I didn’t immediately recognize Kasparov-Karpov. First of all, I was thinking: What kind of idiot puts the knight on d7? ... My mind raced to: This is probably not such good players. How wrong can one be?"

 First of all, I was thinking: What kind of idiot puts the knight on d7? 

―Magnus Carlsen

Nakamura reflected on the event overall in his YouTube recap:

I enjoyed myself immensely. I think this variant actually is my current favorite. Far surpassing Fischer Random at the moment, simply because even though we ended up with fresh positions, it's still classical chess. It's still based on the history of what chess has been for the last 600+ years. And frankly, the games were just really, really creative. 

I think this variant actually is my current favorite. 

―Hikaru Nakamura

While this year's Casablanca Chess celebrated the history of the game, the organizers shared that next year they intend to explore completely novel ground―players will try their hand at AI-generated "never played before" positions.

Nakamura displays his unique Casablanca Chess trophy with his wife, WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
How to watch?
You can watch Casablanca Chess 2024 on You can also enjoy the show on Twitch and catch live broadcasts on YouTube. Games from the event can be viewed on our events page.

The live broadcast was hosted by GMs Daniel Naroditsky and Jan Gustafsson.

Casablanca Chess is an event where four star players play out well-known chess positions in a series of rapid games. The four invited players compete in a double round-robin with a 15+10 time control. Each round is played with a different starting position based on well-known chess games, totaling six different positions. Positions one, two, four, and five are pre-selected by the organizers, while positions three and six are determined by spectators' votes. 

Previous coverage:

NM Vanessa West

Vanessa West is a National Master, a chess teacher, and a writer for In 2017, they won the Chess Journalist of the Year award.

You can follow them on X: Vanessa__West

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