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Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Nakamura Extends Lead, Carlsen Strikes Back
Nakamura extended his match lead to 2-0 and needs one more victory to advance to the final. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Nakamura Extends Lead, Carlsen Strikes Back

ColinStapczynski
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27 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura convincingly defeated GM Daniil Dubov and increased his overall match lead to 2-0 in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva. In the other match, GM Magnus Carlsen evened the score vs. GM Ding Liren.

All four of these super-GMs will play again on Tuesday. Nakamura will look to close out his match against Dubov and advance to the finals, while Carlsen and Ding will both aim to take a lead in their match.

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, IM Anna Rudolf, and IM Eric Rosen are providing daily commentary on Nakamura's Twitch channel at 7:00 a.m. Pacific / 15:00 Central Europe.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals

Carlsen – Ding 2.5-0.5

The world champion was a man on a mission today, as he displayed a dominating performance while he dispatched Ding. In game one, Ding played a slightly unusual Tarrasch with 5...cxd4 instead of the more usual 5...exd5. Carlsen sacrificed a pawn and traded queens early. The Norwegian super-GM had the bishop pair, a lead in development, and some initiative for the pawn.

Carlsen planted his dark-squared bishop on the d6-square and then doubled the rooks on the d-file after 19.Rhd1:

Carlsen kept up the pressure and eventually got his pawn back with interest after 29.Rxa5. He was able to transition the position into an endgame where he had a dangerous outside passed pawn. With both players with about a minute left on the clock, Ding faltered with 32...Kg6, and Carlsen was able to convert without much resistance.

Game two was exciting and interesting. Ding played the Italian, opting for the quieter Giuoco Pianissimo with an early d3. After exchanging light-squared bishops, Ding placed most of his pawns on light squares and started expanding on the queenside. Carlsen employed a pawn sac with 15...a5, which Ding accepted. The Chinese super-GM navigated the position well and had a promising position after 20.Nd5.

After 21...Ng5, Carlsen was noticeably down on the clock and on the board, but Ding misstepped with 27.Ne3. The queens were traded, Carlsen took control with a convincing exchange sacrifice, and it was all over.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals
Carlsen evened the match score against Ding easily. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

After winning the first two games, Carlsen had a commanding lead and only needed a draw with White in game three to secure the victory. Ding was in a must-win position with the Black pieces and selected the King's Indian. Carlsen exchanged queens early and had a pleasant position after 12.c5. The world champion destroyed Ding's queenside pawn structure with 13.Bxa6:

Ding targeted and eventually won the c5-pawn, but the pawn structure made it difficult (if not impossible) to make use of his extra doubled a-pawn. The top Chinese GM tried to create some tactical complications with 22...Rb5, but Carlsen played accurately and was just up a healthy pawn at the end of the tactical skirmish.

The game was drawn, and Carlsen took the point with a score of 2.5-0.5. This leveled the overall match score at 1-1. and these two players will continue their match on Tuesday, August 11.

Nakamura – Dubov 3-1 

Nakamura also had a strong day at the office. In game one, the American super-GM played one of the main lines against Dubov's Sveshnikov and established a powerful knight on d5 early. Dubov had the bishop pair as some compensation for Nakamura's monster knight as both players followed theory for an extended period of time. The outside passed pawn and strong knight gave White an optically pleasant position after 19.Qxb3:

After the queens and light-squared bishops were traded, Nakamura eventually won the d6-pawn and entered an endgame where he had three pawns versus two on the kingside. Although he was clearly better throughout the endgame, there was only one moment in this 91-move marathon where Naka had a chance to win (60.Rg5 with the dual threats of Nf5+ and f4-f5 is too strong). The game eventually petered out to a draw. 

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals
Nakamura missed a singular chance in game one but redeemed himself later. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The second game of the day saw Dubov playing the English, which turned into a reversed dragon. After Dubov's 17.Be4, the position was roughly equal, but Nakamura's decision to close the center with 19...e4 gave Dubov a slight edge:

Lots of pieces were exchanged, and by move 30 a heavy-piece endgame was reached where Dubov was targeting the isolated c6-pawn. After Nakamura's 39...Qg4, the constant threat of perpetual checks loomed, and the game was drawn a little over 20 more moves later.

Game three was where the real fireworks started, and the players repeated the same Sveshnikov line that they had played in game one. Nakamura deviated on move 20 by placing his light-squared bishop on e2 instead of c4, although the middlegame position was almost identical to game one:

Dubov erred with 30...Be6, which Nakamura punished with 31.Ne3. After 34.b7, Nakamura's passed pawn was a constant threat, and Dubov resigned on move 43 when stopping the promotion was no longer possible. With this win, Nakamura took a 2-1 lead and needed only a draw in the final rapid game to close the day out.

Game four saw the most unusual opening of the day when Dubov tried the very strange-looking 3.d4?! in the Vienna. An interesting position was reached after the Russian super-GM castled queenside and sacrificed his f-pawn early:

Nakamura also castled queenside on move 15, and a few moves later two sets of minor pieces were traded. After 25...Ne4, Dubov went all-in with a dubious exchange sacrifice, but his octopus knight on e6 wasn't enough. Nakamura won the game, ending the match match with a score of 3-1. The overall match score is now 2-0, and Dubov is facing the possibility of being eliminated from here forward.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals
Dubov must win three days in a row in order to advance to the finals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

All games, Day 2

The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva runs August 9-20 on chess24. The semifinals phase is 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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