Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Nakamura Wins 1st Set
Nakamura vs. Carlsen in their 2018 Fischer Random match. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Nakamura Wins 1st Set

| 51 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura won the first set in the best-of-seven final of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva. The American grandmaster defeated GM Magnus Carlsen in the second game on Friday, and drew the other three.

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.

Showing superior openings and time management, Nakamura was the better player on the first day of what could well be the biggest chess event of 2020, prize-wise. With $140,000 on the line, the underdog is up 1-0 against the favorite.

Nakamura was up on the clock in all four games. As he briefly joined the show on his own Twitch channel, Naka coined a new term: doing a "semi-Nepo."

"Play good openings and then moving fast; playing decent moves but not outright bad ones," Nakamura explained.

Ian Nepomniachtchi
Nakamura was referring to GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, the fastest top grandmaster in the circuit who sometimes seems to be willing to sacrifice quality for speed. Photo: Peter Doggers/

Carlsen played the Najdorf today as he did in his semifinal match with GM Ding Liren. After some interesting complications, the first game fizzled out to a draw. Then Nakamura drew first blood, with a sharp line in the Queen's Gambit Accepted.

Nakamura: "The second game was very messy, of course, but I was quite pleased that I got to play this variation against Magnus because I wanted something very sharp and very messy and when I got that in the second game specifically and then I was able to just keep finding reasonable moves, that really gave me a lot of confidence."

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.

Hikaru Nakamura
A great first day for Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Striking first, and especially with the black pieces, is huge in such one-day mini-matches. Nakamura took his confidence into game three, another Najdorf, which he dominated almost throughout—despite blundering a pawn. Carlsen was fortunate to survive this one and even seemed close to a win himself briefly, but computer analysis showed that the endgame was a draw.

"The result seems smooth but the way the third game went kind of messed up the whole rhythm. When I didn't win that game it was sort of a big swing of the emotions," Nakamura said. "I was lucky enough that even though I blundered that pawn the endgame is very dangerous."

That meant Carlsen needed to win game four, and he came pretty close in what was his best game. He eventually got two connected passed pawns on the sixth rank, but that was in an opposite-colored bishop endgame. It turned out to be a draw, which Nakamura demonstrated on the board.

Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen is down 1-0. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"A very tricky match, very tricky games," Nakamura summed it up as he looked forward positively: "If I can continue doing what I did today and continue playing at this level, I'm gonna have a chance to win this match."

It doesn't hurt that his Twitch channel is doing well. With commentary by IMs Anna Rudolf and Levy Rozman, there was today a peak viewership of around 35K concurrent viewers. 

Nakamura: "I'm not gonna lie, I feel that's also helping me."

All games | Final, 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 final consists 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 and $80,000 for second. The time control is 15 minutes and a 10-second increment.

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