Pulsating Play - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


Every serious player looks to play from the heart. For the great Tigran Petrosian, who was plighted by suffering from angina, he always wanted to know just how much heart he was actually putting into his play!

Petrosian, who was world champion from 1963 to 1969, often monitored his own pulse during tense moments in a game. He would casually lower his right wrist below the playing table and take his pulse. If it was too high, he would often or not likely offer a draw – even if he stood better. It seems he didn’t trust himself when his heart was pumping hard.

A new twist on “Iron Tigran’s” quirk is featured in the Nakamura-Carlsen Fischer Random Match at the Henie Onstad Art Center in Høvikodden, outside Oslo, Norway, with both players hooked up to heart monitors. During play, they wear wrist-bands sponsored by Polar Global, who manufacture sports training computers and developed the first wireless heart rate monitor.

It’s a new novelty, but it is interesting to see how the players are reacting on the inside to every move played and in every critical position. Magnus Carlsen has been dubbed the “Dalai Lama of Chess” with his heart rate – apart from a few fluctuations – throughout at a zen-like state of around 70 and rarely straying above 80. But Hikaru Nakamura’s heart pumps away throughout like an over-active piston, averaging about 100, frequently spiking to 110-120, and even reaching 130.

And with Carlsen effortlessly moving into a 9-5 lead, the final game 8 of the longer time-control game took on an added importance to the overall standing of the match: from an early stage, Nakamura looked dead and buried, only saved by Carlsen failing to find the knockout punch that extended the roller-coaster of a game into a very dramatic – and pulsating – time scramble.

However, with no added increment per move, and in deep time-trouble, Carlsen lost on time while having the advantage of R+B v R in a technically drawn ending – and with it, one of the rare moments in elite chess where a player is “flagged”. The unwritten protocol here dictates that Carlsen – the player with the advantage of the extra piece, but alas no time – should be the one to offer the draw in the final 30 seconds, and that offer would sportingly be agreed.

But reality witnessed both players getting caught up in the mad adrenalin rush of one all-mighty time scramble – with Nakamura’s heart frantically pumping at 147, and Carlsen’s up to 129 – and Carlsen was still so wired for the win, that he forgot to stop his clock before his flag fell in order to claim a draw. And by playing on, he forced Nakamura – who did nothing unethical – to win on time.

Match score:
Nakamura 7-9 Carlsen

The final day of play is on Tuesday, with eight blitz games (with a win counting for 1 point). Play starts at 7pm CET; 8am PST; 11am EST. Tune-in to what’s bound to be a dramatic final day by going to the official Fischer Random Match site, where you can join commentators GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf for live coverage.

Photo: A dramatic end to a dramatic game | © Maria Emelianova/chess.com

GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Hikaru Nakamura
Fischer Random Rapid (45min +15min), (8)
1.d4 f5 2.f4 g5!? The match result at 9-5 dictated that Nakamura had to go all out for chaos and a wild game to have any chance to get back in the match – and here, true to form, he adopts a very aggressive Benko Gambit-like sacrifice to try to open the game up – but it almost spectacularly backfired. 3.fxg5 h6 4.Ndc3 d5 5.g4! Magnus finds the right counter-gambit that, almost immediately, has Nakamura on the ropes and struggling to avoid flatlining. 5…fxg4 6.e4 dxe4 7.Nd2 hxg5 8.0-0-0 Nd7 9.Ndxe4 Nf7 10.d5 a6 11.Bd4 Rh6 12.Be2 It’s amazing – we’re 12 moves into the game, and already Magnus has successfully made the transition of his pieces to a “regular” set-up, while Nakamura still has major problems switching away from “random” mode. 12…Nfe5 13.Nxg5 Rg6 14.Ne6 Bxe6 15.dxe6 Rxe6 16.Bxe5 If anything, Magnus is a practical player, so he goes for what he believes is the safe-bet to win – but such was his lead in development here, he could well have had much better with the queen sacrifice with 16.Bg4!? Nd3+ 17.Rxd3 Rxe1+ 18.Rxe1 and even with 18…0-0-0 available for Black, the long-term pin on the Nd7, coupled with Black’s pieces being cramped on his own back-rank – in stark comparison to the swarming White pieces – looks more than enough to force home the win. If so, then this was definitely a missed moment for Magnus – but the way he played was definitely his style of play. 16…Rxe5 17.Qg3 Bh6+ 18.Kb1 Re3 19.Qxg4 0-0-0 20.Nd5 Re5 21.Bxa6!! Splat! And with Carlsen’s spectacular bishop sacrifice, that should really have been that – but kudos to Nakamura for not folding and finding the only way to hang on, as bad as his position looks. 21…c6!? The point of the sacrifice is that if 21…bxa6 22.Qc4 Rxd5 23.Rxd5! (much stronger than 23.Qxa6+ Kb8 24.Rxd5 Nb6 and Black is surviving) and now if 23…Nb6 24.Rxd8+ Kxd8 25.Rd1+ Kc8 (It’s also hopeless after 25…Nd7 26.Qxa6!) 26.Qe6+! picks up the loose bishop on h6. 22.Nb6+ Kc7 23.Nxd7 Rxd7 24.Rxd7+? Carlsen just thought he was taking the practical route to victory here, believing he was going into a forced endgame two pawns up – but he missed the saving resource of 26…Ra5! A pity, because the clinical win here was just 24.Qg3! and Black can’t extricate himself from the pin on the rook. And with it, a second golden chance to win what could well have been the shortest game of the match. 24…Qxd7 25.Qxd7+ Kxd7 26.Bxb7 Ra5! Nakamura may well be two pawns down, but Carlsen’s bishop is now somewhat bereft of squares. 27.Re1 Bg5! Black can’t be too hasty going for the bishop – which isn’t going anywhere anyway – so the idea behind 27.Re1 is that if 27…Ra7 28.Bxc6+! Kxc6 29.Re6+ picks up the loose bishop on h6 and an easily won rook and pawn ending. 28.Rg1 Bf6 29.Rg8 Rb5 30.Bc8+ Kc7 Carlsen has saved his bishop and remains two pawns up – but it comes at the heavy price of his pieces being disconnected and awkwardly placed, and now Nakamura’s pieces very active – and so active, he forces the win of the h-pawn. 31.b3 Re5 There’s no way to defend h3 and thwart the mating threats with …Bc3 and …Re1. 32.Kc1 Re2 33.h3 e6 34.Ba6 Re3 35.Kd2 The h-pawn is lost, but now at least Carlsen’s king has escaped from all the mating threats – and with Black’s c6 and e6 pawns being split and on the same color as the White bishop, Nakamura still has a lot of work to do to save the game – but at least he now has realistic chances to save the game! But there was subplot now in play: Magnus had used so much time on his clock that he was in serious time trouble, and rushing to reach move 40 and an extra 15 minutes on his clock – but with no further increments, trying to convert the win after the time-control eats up all of his remaining time. 35…Rxh3 36.Bd3 Rh2+ 37.Ke3 Bc3 38.a4 Kd6 39.Rg6 Rh3+ 40.Ke4 Rh4+ 41.Kf3 Rh3+ 42.Kg2 Rh7 43.Rg4 Rg7 44.Bg6 c5! Nakamura needs to exchange off at least one set of queenside pawns – and if he does that, then he can think about sacrificing his bishop to stop the two queenside pawns, leaving what should be a technically drawn ending of R+B v R. 45.Kf3 Ba5 46.Ke2 c4 47.Rd4+ Ke7 48.Be4 cxb3 49.cxb3 Rg3 50.Bf3 Rg1 51.b4 Bc7 52.Rc4 Bd6 53.Be4 Rg3 54.Kd2 Rb3 55.b5 Be5 56.Bc2 Rb2 57.Rc6 Kd7 58.Ra6 Bd6 59.Kc3 Be5+ 60.Kd3 Bf4 61.a5 Bc7! Clever! Nakamura has successfully forced a position where he can sacrifice his bishop for those two dangerous passed pawns. 62.Ra7 Kd6 63.Ra6+ Kd7 64.b6 Bxb6 65.axb6 Kc6! 66.Ba4+ Kb7 67.Ra7+ Kxb6 68.Re7 Kc5 69.Rxe6 This should just be a technically drawn ending; the quick rule-of-thumb technique for Nakamura to successfully defend is to cut the White king off from easily reaching the same wing of the board as his Black king. Nakamura, with an extra 10 minutes or so over Carlsen, defends accurately – but Carlsen is so wired to win, he forgets that he can just stop the clock with 1 second left and claim a draw! 69…Rb4 70.Bc2 Rd4+ 71.Ke3 Rd8 72.Be4 Rd6 73.Re5+ Kb6 74.Bd5 Kc5 75.Ke4 Rd8 76.Bf7+ Kc6 77.Rh5 Rd1 78.Bb3 Rd2 79.Bd5+ Kc5 80.Bf7+ Kc6 81.Bb3 Kd6 82.Ke3 Rb2 83.Bc4 Rg2 84.Bd3 Rg1 85.Kd4 Rd1 86.Rh6+ Ke7 87.Ra6 Kd7 88.Ke4 Ke7 89.Bc4 Rd6 Nakamura is doing nothing wrong here by playing on with Carlsen having less than 30 seconds on his clock. In fact, he’s doing the “sportsman-like” thing by voluntarily offering up his rook to be exchanged and a forced draw – but Magnus ignores this, and still plays on trying to win – it must be in the double strand helix of his DNA! 90.Ra7+ Rd7 As I said previously, Nakamura is doing nothing unethical here – he’s offered the exchange of rooks several times now, and an easy draw for Carlsen to bail out with. 91.Ra5 Rd1 92.Ke5 Re1+ 93.Kd4 Rd1+ 94.Bd3 Kd6 95.Ra6+ Ke7 96.Ke4 Rd2 97.Ke3 Rd1 98.Ke4 Rd2 99.Bc4 Rd6 Now the third offer of a mutual draw by Nakamura – and by now, with Carlsen down to about 12 seconds on his clock, I’m simply amazed he didn’t take the draw as he’s nowhere near a winning position. 100.Ra5 Rd1 101.Ke5 Re1+ 102.Kd5 Rd1+ 103.Kc5 Kf6 104.Ra6+ Kf5 105.Re6 Rc1 106.Re2 Rd1 107.Bb3 Rd8 108.Bc2+ Kf4 109.Re4+ Kf3 110.Rc4 Rf8 111.Kb4 Ke2 112.Kc3 Ke3 113.Re4+ Kf3 114.Rd4 Rc8+ 115.Rc4 Re8 116.Rb4 Re3+ 117.Kb2 Re2 118.Rb3+ Kf2 119.Rc3 If Carlsen stopped the clock now with even 1 second left, he could have claimed a draw with the 50 move rule.  But he fails to do so, and when his flag does fall after Nakamura’s next move, the result cannot be reversed. 119…Re7 0-1 Carlsen’s flag fell.


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