Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Ding Outplays Carlsen, Nakamura Beats Dubov
GM Ding Liren won his match against the world champion. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Ding Outplays Carlsen, Nakamura Beats Dubov

32 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Ding Liren defeated GM Magnus Carlsen on the first day of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva. GM Hikaru Nakamura had a comeback victory against GM Daniil Dubov, after losing the first game.

How to watch?
The games of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals can be found here as part of our live events platform. IM Levy Rozman and IM Anna Rudolf are providing daily commentary on Nakamura's Twitch channel at 7:00 a.m. Pacific / 15:00 Central Europe.

Ding – Carlsen 3.5-3.5

Ding showed that he meant business during his first game against the world champion. Carlsen played the Sicilian Defense and went with the Scheveningen structure. The game was very balanced until Carlsen played 17...Ke7 and followed up with 18...Rac8. Ding took his chance to win a pawn, creating two dangerous connected and passed pawns on the queenside. Not only that, but Ding's play was solid and left no room for counterplay. The Chinese grandmaster played an exquisite endgame and guaranteed his first point of the match.

The Norwegian world champion showed all his strategical prowess in the second game of the match. Starting the game with one of his preferred weapons of choice, the London System, Carlsen sacrificed a pawn to place his dark-squared bishop on a3, making it impossible for Black to castle kingside.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.
Carlsen was never ahead in the match. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen's strategy became very clear once he castled kingside. Ding had to castle queenside, andThe Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva runs August 9-20 on chess24. was able to start a tempo-winning pawn storm. Ding tried counter-attacking in the center, but this allowed the world champion to play the devastating 22.Qh7. After that move, Ding did not have much left to do. Two moves later, he resigned.

Games three and four were draws. In game three, Ding had excellent winning chances but blundered after playing 38.Ne5+ instead of the crushing 38.Bxf4. Game four was marked by both player's willingness to decide the match in the blitz segment.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.
Ding was having an exceptional afternoon. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In their first blitz game of the day, both players decided to go with the same Caro-Kann line they chose for game three. Ding deviated with 17.Nb3 instead of his previous 17.Qb3. A very balanced game followed, but something unexpected happened after Ding played 46.Re4—the world champion apparently did not accurately assess his time situation and he flagged.

Carlsen drew the match score level after winning the sixth game of the day. This exciting game saw Carlsen sacrifice his bishop for four pawns. He was able to create three connected passed pawns that proved to be too big of an advantage for Ding to stop him, pushing the match forward to the armageddon game.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.
The Chinese grandmaster scored his first point of the finals against the world champion. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen picked White for the last game of the match, which meant that he had to win the game. He selected the London once again, but he slipped with the unfortunate 29.Qf4. Ding took his opportunity to win a pawn and simplify the game, entering a winning position.

Taking advantage of the fact that he only had to draw the game with the black pieces, the Chinese grandmaster tied the game with a perpetual check and secured the match point.

Dubov – Nakamura 2.5-3.5

Dubov started off on the right foot in his first game against Nakamura, who played the Nimzo-Indian defense. Naka went wrong after playing 10...Nxd5 instead of taking the pawn with the queen. From there on, Dubov dominated the game and won in only 17 moves, taking the lead of the match.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.

Nakamura was seemingly having some trouble dealing with his match situation during game two. The game started with a classical Sicilian, and Dubov went for a Scheveningan structure with Black. A sharp game developed until Nakamura played the dubious 20.Bc4 instead of the better Nxf6+, at which point Dubov got a slightly better position.

Nakamura was able to damage Dubov's pawn protection on the kingside but went wrong after 25.b3. After a few moves, the Russian grandmaster had a much better position but had to deal with his time trouble. He missed the somewhat unnatural-looking 32.Ra8 that would allow him to defend his position and create a mating threat on the h-file. He played 32.Ke7, a move that allowed Nakamura to get back on his feet and create a game-ending attack. Dubov resigned before getting mated, leveling the match at 1-1.

Game three saw a much more focused Nakamura, who decided to go with the Nimzo-Indian once more. Dubov sacrificed a pawn on c3 to play for the initiative, and things were pretty balanced until move 18. Nakamura successfully maneuvered his knights to give them access to the center of the board, and Dubov responded with the aggressive but inaccurate 19.Qh5. Naka took advantage of his pawn majority on the queenside and started a pawn storm that culminated in a dangerous position for White.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.
Dubov started ahead on the match. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Dubov went all-in with 23.Bf6, but Nakamura kept his cool and managed to keep his attack going. Black's pawn majority on the queenside proved to be a decisive advantage, allowing Nakamura to win a comfortable game and take the lead in the match.

Dubov had a challenging fourth game ahead of him playing Black in a must-win situation. He chose the sharp Sicilian Dragon, while Nakamura tried to stay solid with a fianchettoed bishop to take advantage of his match lead. Dubov played an exquisite game and managed to take Nakamura's kingside pawns off the board. The Russian went on to win the game and tie the match, forcing a blitz segment.

The fifth game of the day between the two super grandmasters started with a Catalan. The whole game was very balanced and ended in a draw by repetition after both players were each left with six pawns and a bishop.

In their sixth and final game of the day, we saw another Sicilian on the board. Nakamura went for the English attack formation, and both players made very precise moves throughout most of the game.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.
Nakamura faced a fierce competitor in his first match of the finals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The game was balanced until Dubov slipped and played 35.b4, allowing Nakamura to take a free pawn. White managed to capture all of Black's queenside pawns and ended up with three connected passed pawns. This advantage was more than enough for Nakamura to win the game and today's match, taking the lead in the finals along with Ding.

Round 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rating Standings
1 Ding Liren 2836 1
2 Hikaru Nakamura 2829 1
3 Magnus Carlsen 2881 0
4 Daniil Dubov 2770 0

All games, Day 1

The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva runs August 9-20 on chess24. The semifinals phase was a best-of-five series of matches consisting of four-game rapid matches each day. The finals consist of a best-of-seven series, where the player who wins four matches is the winner of the tour. The prize fund is $300,000 with $140,000 for first place. The time control is 15 minutes and a 10-second increment.

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