Legends of Chess Final: Carlsen Takes Lead
Magnus Carlsen takes the lead in the finals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Legends of Chess Final: Carlsen Takes Lead

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen took the lead against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in the chess24 Legends of Chess on day one of the finals match. Nepomniachtchi will look to even the score on day two, which begins on Tuesday, August 4.

How to watch?
The games of the chess24 Legends of Chess can be found here as part of our live events platform. GM Hikaru Nakamura and IM Levy Rozman are providing daily commentary on Nakamura's Twitch channel at 7:00 a.m. Pacific / 16:00 Central Europe.

legends of chess finals

Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi 4-2

Magnus wasted no time getting on the scoreboard and won the first rapid game of the day. Nepo played the interesting 6.Rg1 line against Carlsen's Najdorf. He followed up with 7.g4 and 8.g5?!, offering the e4-pawn that Magnus declined with 8...Nfd7 and a kingside fianchetto.

Nepo happily continued pushing his kingside pawns. After Magnus castled kingside on move 13, Nepo initiated a series of exchanges with 14.hxg6 and 15.Nxc6. Carlsen replied by giving up his strong dark-squared bishop with 16...Bxc3+ to shatter the Russian's queenside pawns:

Nepo kept the position messy by sacrificing a pawn with 20.c4, which is difficult to meet in time trouble—after 23...Kg7 Magnus had just two minutes versus Nepo's six minutes. A series of exchanges occurred after 24...Nf4, and the position transitioned to a queen-and-pawn endgame where both sides were in time trouble.

Nepo moved his king to a4 (introducing Qb5 checkmating ideas for Carlsen), and after Nepo's 40.Qd8 Carlsen had a huge advantage. After picking up the c6- and a3-pawns, Carlsen brought home the full point. An excellent start to the finals for the world champion.

Legends of Chess final
Carlsen took the early lead in today's match. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Game two saw a Grunfeld from Nepo, who played the same 11...b5 line that he had played multiple times against GM Anish Giri. Carlsen didn't play the critical line with 11.Bxc5 like Giri had done in the semifinals, instead opting for the quieter 11.Be2. 

Carlsen went for 19.Rc6 instead of 19.Rb1 or 19.Qd4, which both looked promising, and the position was level. Nepo landed an octopus knight with 22...Nc3, but after 26.axb4 Nb5 the final series of exchanges occurred, and there were no real chances for either player in the queen-and-pawn endgame—a draw was agreed.

Game three was intense and mind-boggling. Nepo repeated the same 6.Rg1 continuation against the Najdorf that he had played in game one. This time, Magnus accepted the gambit pawn with 8...Nxe4, and a miniature was the result:

Legends of Chess semifinals.

Game four was a quiet affair. Carlsen played a fianchetto Grunfeld, and Nepo played solidly. With the exception of the bishops, all pieces were traded by move 18, and a draw was agreed. This result evened the score at 2-2, moving the match to the blitz games.

legends of chess final
Nepomniachtchi had a great game three and kept the score level after four games. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Game five was the first blitz game and saw Nepo abandon the 6.Rg1 line against Carlsen's Najdorf in favor of 6.h3. Magnus fianchettoed on the kingside again, and Nepo had a pleasant position after the thematic 14.e5:

Nepo misstepped with 21.Nf6+ and Carlsen was in the driver's seat for the rest of the game. The Russian exchanged his queen for a rook and knight and navigated the materially imbalanced endgame well for a long time. Both players played this extremely difficult position with less than a minute left, with each of them dipping below 10 seconds at various points. Magnus was able to break through and earn his second victory of the day.

Game six was a 92-move marathon game. The Russian super-grandmaster had his back against the wall in a must-win situation with the black pieces and played the Modern Defense. Carlsen played normal and natural moves, and the game was relatively balanced. The game eventually reached a queen and minor piece endgame that was seemingly balanced, despite Nepo's bishop pair, until Carlsen's 31.e6 and 32.Bxd5. Carlsen went for 34.Ngxf5, which set the board on fire with little time on the clock for either player:

When the dust settled, Carlsen had a queen and three pawns against Nepo's queen and bishop and pawn. After a long sequence of checks from both sides, Nepo abandoned his final pawn to activate his king (a good practical choice, since a draw is the same as a loss). Carlsen was eventually able to trade queens with 88.Qf5+, and he won the game.

legends of chess final
Nepomniachtchi played well today but was unable to force an armageddon game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

With this result, the world champion took Monday's point by a score of 4-2. These two players will face off again on day two of the final, which begins at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time / 16:00 Central European Time on Tuesday, August 4. The winner of the event will take home the $45,000 first prize.

All games finals, Day 1

The chess24 Legends of Chess runs July 21-August 5. The preliminary phase was a 10-player round-robin with rounds consisting of four-game rapid matches each day. The knockout has three such matches per round. The prize fund is $150,000 with $45,000 for first place, while the winner also qualifies for the Grand Final of the Magnus Carlsen Tour. The time control is 15 minutes and a 10-second increment.

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