Fischer Random Chess Day 2: Nakamura Blunders Queen
At the end of the second day, Magnus Carlsen took the lead in the unofficial Fischer random (chess960) world championship match versus Hikaru Nakamura. The American grandmaster was defending a theoretically drawn endgame but with little time on the clock and no increment, a mistake was easy to make.
The second day of Fischer Random chess meant a second, completely new starting position for the players. This time it was Nakamura who could start as White.
Carlsen received the support from dozens of spectators and also the mayor of Bærum, who said she was proud to be able to (financially) support an event in the area where Norway's world champion grew up.
Bærum mayor Lisbeth Hammer Krog happily had a young chess fan do the honors for her. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Both players were excited when they got to see the position; it seemed somewhat "stranger" than the one of yesterday and there was also some built-in harmony: rooks on the sides like in regular chess, then bishops next to them, then the royal duo, and the knights on the two middle squares.
Carlsen and Nakamura watching the screen where the Position of the Day is appearing. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Both games were very interesting, and both saw the typical scenario of a complicated opening phase that led to a middlegame akin to what we get to see in the standard version of our game. GM Jonathan Tisdall, who writes for the official website, noted:
The likely verdict is that a very high level, Fischer Random does steer back to the game very much as it is known and loved, but that opening theory as we know it is completely obliterated. In other words, this match is providing strong evidence that Bobby Fischer’s hopeful brainchild may indeed do precisely what he intended it to – breathe life into chess, while killing the curse of opening exhaustion.
In the first game, the queens were traded early on, but the resulting position was still full of life. Nakamura lost his opening advantage when he waited too long to castle (in this case moving Kf1 to g1, and Rh1 to f1!). Carlsen got strong initiative, and probably only realized how close he got to winning (move 25) when he checked the game with the computer.
Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov
Nakamura and Carlsen interviewed for NRK afterward. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The hour in between the two games was spent differently, though. This time, the players had the chance to give the position a more serious look—although both have stated that they're not preparing very deeply, because of the sheer number of possible variations.
Game four saw Carlsen leaving his knights in their stable, whereas Nakamura developed them quickly. "I don't think I was doing that great after the opening actually," said Carlsen.
After both had castled, Nakamura's slight disadvantage was his pawn structure, but soon he had to worry about his king as well. In a tactical skirmish, he managed to reach a queen endgame that should have been drawn. An unfortunate king move decided otherwise.
Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov
A quick back-and-forth after the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Carlsen didn't expect his opponent to blunder, but he did note the difference between a tablebase draw and an actual over the board game. "When I took on e6 I could have gone for something else but practically speaking it should win. With these doubled g-pawns, I can always push my pawns and he has to look out for queen trades. Practically speaking, it's not a draw. I don't think he, or I, or anybody draws that one out of three times."
The Norwegian also noted that, if there had been increment for every move, it would have been "a whole different ballgame."
The Nakamura-Carlsen Fischer random match will see two more days of two long games, and on the final day, the two will play eight faster games. The (impressive) prize fund is just under $200,000.
You can follow the match on the official website, Twitch.tv/chess or Chess.com/TV each day starting from 4:50 p.m. CET (10:50 a.m. Eastern, 7:50 a.m. Pacific) with commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf.
Nakamura-Carlsen 960 Fischer Random Match, Day 2 | Part 1.
Nakamura-Carlsen 960 Fischer Random Match, Day 2 | Part 2.
Some very young fans attended the match on Saturday. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Chier arbiter Hans Olav Lahlum getting ready. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Nakamura looking at a very fresh position... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
...where calculation is required from the very start. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Henrik Carlsen interviewed for NRK, and a local audience. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Other kids preferred the kind of chess they knew. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Chess.com commentators Yasser Seirawan & Anna Rudolf enjoying the match. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Norway Chess organizer Kjell Madland making the first move, with match organizer Jøran Aulin-Jansson standing by. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Carlsen chose an interesting new pose during game four. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Nakamura handled his loss pretty well and chatted much with his opponent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The camera operator of the NRK production... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
...who had Norwegian R&B artist Mira Craig in the studio on Saturday... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
...as well as chess reporter and prolific Twitter personality Tarjei Svensen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Correction: an earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the camera operator was in the "control room," which however is elsewhere located.