Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Nakamura Scores Again
Hikaru Nakamura leads again. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Nakamura Scores Again

| 41 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura took the lead again in the final of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva as he beat GM Magnus Carlsen in their third mini-match on Sunday. For the second day in a row, it was decided in a blitz tiebreak. 

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.

"Yesterday I should have won the match and today I should have lost the match so all is right in the world," was how Nakamura started his post-match interview. Another way of looking at it is that on Saturday he was the one blundering while on Sunday it was Carlsen. A long tournament is coming to an end, and fatigue seems to be playing a role.

That was also the case for Nakamura, who said he had slept badly and was just not focused enough in the first game on Sunday. He faced a fresher Carlsen who played a great game, leaving Nakamura, who missed Black's ...Qh3 twice, no chance.

Magnus Carlsen
An excellent win by Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

For the second game, Carlsen switched to 1.e4 and Nakamura also played the Berlin, so the colors were reversed. As if he wanted to pull a joke, Carlsen went for a draw straight out of the opening, just like his opponent had done twice, the other day. The game ended very quickly, with both players showing broad smiles on camera.

"I kind of suspected that it might happen when Magnus played 1.e4," said Nakamura. "The margins are very small and so when you get one less game generally speaking you feel like you're better off. I think Magnus, just like I did yesterday, felt that his preparation was very good with black and I surely hadn't shown anything against the Berlin. It made a lot of sense to take one game off the table."

While he had outplayed his opponent as Black in the first game, the third was a rare example of Carlsen, in another Berlin, making an early positional concession that cost him later in the game. Nakamura went as far as calling 13...b4, on which Carlsen spent seven and a half minutes, a "horrible move." That was perhaps overstating it a bit, but when the queens were traded Black's structure was indeed quite bad and even the opposite-colored bishop ending that came on the board was completely lost.

The draw in game four might not have seemed too significant, but in fact, Nakamura called it the game he was most proud of as he managed to hold a difficult endgame where he lost so many of such games to Carlsen in the past.

Naka: "The fact that I was able to keep my nerve and keep finding good moves and draw that game, it was one of the best if not the best defensive performances I've had against Magnus." 

And so, like on Saturday, two 5+3 games followed.

Hikaru Nakamura
Nakamura: "I felt the first two days I played as well as I'm ever gonna play, honestly. I've already exceeded my expectations." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The first blitz game was yet another Berlin and, shockingly, Carlsen blundered a pawn as early as move 11. Funnily enough, it actually had been tried in a correspondence game but from looking at Carlsen's reaction on the webcam it was obvious that it was not his intention to play like this.

Carlsen's follow-up was probably also not the best, and then Nakamura got a strong attack on top of his extra pawn and quickly won. He explained the blunder as follows:

"I think everybody has played a lot of chess at this point and 11...Ne6 is a very natural move. I actually looked at it very briefly in between games because I also, on the fly and without a lot of time, thought 'what if Black goes 11...Ne6, can you actually take the pawn?' We just played a lot of chess and everybody has made opening blunders."

That meant that Carlsen was now basically playing an armageddon game to reach the armageddon game: he had to win with the white pieces. And it sure looked like he was going to, as he got out of the opening being slightly better and then found a nice knight maneuver that netted him a pawn.

After this excellent first phase, Carlsen hesitated and allowed Nakamura to trade some pieces and create counterplay. With about 20 seconds on the clock for both in a rook and knight versus rook and knight ending, a thrilling few minutes followed in which the American player successfully defended being a pawn down to secure match victory while Carlsen missed a study-like win.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals day 1.

In this third match, Nakamura again was doing well in the openings and on the clock. He said he has been inspired by GM Fabiano Caruana in trying to play unbalanced positions, adding:

"As we all know, Magnus is by far the best player... ever, I would say, in sort of dry very technical positions, when he has a slight advantage, so you try to aim for positions that are more to your strength than to his strength. I don't know if I necessarily achieved that but I've been able to play pretty good chess for the most part. I'm just very happy with the quality of my play overall."

Nakamura also noted the effect of the roles of favorite and underdog: "He seems uneasy. There's obviously much more pressure on Magnus; as I've pointed out many times, everyone expects me to lose. So there's no real pressure for me, I just play good chess and see what happens."

On hearing that his Twitch channel crossed 500K followers during the day, Nakamura commented: "I never thought it was possible, that chess would become this big on Twitch. It does mean a lot. The support has given me a lot of inspiration and motivation."

All games | Final, Day 3

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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