Carlsen and Nepo Start Strong | Legends of Chess Final 4 Round 1
After a rest day, Magnus Carlsen has come back stronger than ever! The World Champion beat Peter Svidler 2.5-0.5 in the first of 3 matches by winning both his Black games! In a show of brilliant risk-reward judgement Carlsen critically opened his king in game 1, but understood that disrupting the psychological balance in his favour would reward aplenty, and he outplayed Svidler to win in 27 moves, displaying subtle understanding of the opponent and the positions. Ian Nepomniachtchi beautifully beat Anish Giri in Games 2 and 3 after being tortured for 131 moves in the first game, playing remarkable chess in positions with disrupted material balances to throw Giri off his tracks. With 2 matches to go, both Giri and Svidler need to win on demand to progress to the Finals. An illustrative report by Tanmay Srinath.
After the rest day, the Legends of Chess event entered its Final 4 phase, where the top 4 players play each other in a best of 3 matches format, each match consisting of 4 games played at a time control of 15 minutes + 5 second increment from move 1. The only addition to the previous format is that on a 2-2 tie the players will first play 2 blitz games with a time control of 5 minutes + 3 second increment from move 1, and only then move to the Armageddon. With Carlsen and Nepo taking the first match quite easily, it remains to be seen if Anish Giri and Peter Svidler come back strong in the next two matches.
Carlsen 2.5-0.5 Svidler:
Magnus Carlsen can be said to have had many phases in his career. Phase 1 started when he got his rating and continued till he reached around 2700, when he gambled material like Tal in his games and played super aggressive chess. Phase 2 started around 2008-9, when Magnus slowly diversified his chess style, and became more of an endgame specialist, almost never losing and winning long games using his physicality and accuracy. Phase 3 started soon after the London Match in 2018, when Carlsen realised that his style just won't give him the results he desires, and switched to a truly all-round game based mostly on the initiative, combining the daring of his youth with mature technique of his World Championship years. If there is one thing common in all these 3 phases, it is his subtle understanding of the psychological nature of chess. Time and time again he is known to play moves that are very uncomfortable for the opponent to phase, and this match against Svidler was no different.
One can either call his decision on move 15 brash underestimation of the opponent, or a brilliant ploy to gain the psychological initiative:
Peter Svidler was stunned by Carlsen's attempt to gain squares for his knights, as evidenced by his reaction to the move 15...g5!?:
It was like a deer staring at the incoming headlights of a speedy truck. Peter blundered in just 2 more moves:
Game 2 saw Svidler create a mess with his sacrifice - a material one that is!:
Rather surprisingly Carlsen chose the wrong square for his king when Svidler erred and gave him a chance:
Under the pressure to win back a point with the White pieces, Svidler decisively erred move 21:
Nepo 2.5-0.5 Giri:
In a match that saw the longest game of the tournament till now, Nepo had surprisingly high energy levels left, as he came back from the brink to draw Game 1, beautifully won Game 2, and did a Nepo in Game 3 - he pressed his opponent on the clock until Anish blundered big time!
Game 1 saw Nepo forgetting his preparation on move 13, leading to grave difficulties:
Giri however failed to take his chance:
An invigorated Nepo won Game 2 in some style after correctly sacrificing his queen to force a two result game:
Anish soon landed himself in hot soup:
Game 3 saw the same Grunfeld line being repeated from the 1st game, but Nepo correctly chose 13...Qc7! and equalised. Giri invested a lot of time, which meant that at the critical moment he could not find the win after a typical Nepo gamble:
Time trouble reared its ugly head, as Giri blundered decisively on move 27: