In 1960, Johnny Tillotson had a massive Top Ten hit in both the US and UK with ‘Poetry in Motion’. Not long afterwards, Muhammad Ali’s ring-craft saw the pugilist famously described as being ‘poetry in motion.’ And much the same can be said for Magnus Carlsen in his pomp, as the Norwegian turned in a sublime performance to easily beat the US world #2, Fabiano Caruana, in their quarter-final clash of the $150,000 Chessable Masters, the third leg of the world champion’s $1m signature tour hosted on Chess24.
There’s no greater sight in chess than a care-free Magnus Carlsen making it all look simple at the chessboard. Here he was, in full-flight, as all the moves flowed freely and all the complications were quickly simplified. “Magnus is poetry when he’s on his game,” said commentator Yasser Seirawan. “At times, you’re not even sure he’s playing rapid chess. These look like correspondence games.” In the end, after Carlsen’s power-play performance, he only needed six games in total to brush aside his main title rival to ease into the semifinals of the Chessable Masters.
Also cruising into the semifinals was Ian Nepomniachtchi and Anish Giri with relatively comfortable wins respectively over Russians Vladislav Artemiev and Alexander Grischuk. Not so easy though was the remaining quarter-final match-up between Hikaru Nakamura, the reigning five-time US champion and big speed/online maven, and the Chinese world #3, Ding Liren, in what for two sets turned out to be a dramatic tussle that seemed to ebb and flow to either player with every game.
It was the only match to go the distance of three sets after Nakamura’s big comeback on Sunday, but in the end, by winning games two and three, Ding Liren powered his way past the American earlier today, as he easily won the deciding set to now set up a big semi-final clash with World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
Looking forward to his upcoming clash with Ding, ‘guest commentator’ Carlsen said: “It’s going to be tough obviously but I feel good. He has shown in these tournaments, and especially in this match [against Nakamura], that he has some serious positional chops, he can just run you over without giving you counter chances in a lot of games. So he is extremely strong.”
Carlsen 2-0 Caruana
Nepomniachtchi 2-0 Artemiev
Ding Liren 2-1 Nakamura
Grischuk 0-2 Giri
The Semifinals get underway on Tuesday (the live-action starting at 07:00 PST | 10:00 EST | 16:00 CET) with the cross-platform commentary team of GMs Peter Svidler, Yasser Seirawan & WGM Anna Rudolf.
Carlsen vs Ding Liren
Nepomniachtchi vs Giri
GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Fabiano Caruana
Chessable Masters QF, (5)
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.e3 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 A position that can be reached either here, through a QGD, or via the Caro-Kann Defence. 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ Qxd7 Slightly unusual, as the more normal reply, is 7…Nbxd7 8.0-0 c4 9.a4 a6 10.a5 Bd6 11.b3 Rc8 12.bxc4 dxc4 13.Qa4 0-0 14.Ba3 b5 15.axb6 Nxb6 16.Qc2 Nbd5 which soon ended in a draw, in Carlsen-Ding Liren, Saint Louis 2017. 8.0-0 Nc6 9.b3 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Nxd4N A novelty, but all the more puzzling for it, as all it achieves, is to help White complete his development with a nice, easy game. More logical is the natural 10…Be7 11.Bb2 0-0 12.Nd2 Rfc8 (or even 12…Rac8) with a level position. 11.Qxd4 Bd6 12.Bb2 0-0 13.Nc3 And now we see the main problem with Black’s plan – there’s a chronically weak isolated d-pawn to have to defend. Caruana thinks he has a tactical solution to his problems, but Carlsen has an equally better tactical riposte. 13…Rfe8 With the threat of Bd6-e5 – but Carlsen has seen a little deeper into the tactics. 14.Nxd5! Bxh2+ 15.Kxh2 Qxd5 Now if Black could somehow play 15…Nxd5 he’d be safe – but for now, there’s the little matter of 16.Qxg7# to have to contend with! 16.Qxd5 Nxd5 17.Rfd1 I have no idea what Caruana thought his game-plan might be to combat what by now was a clearly relaxed and free-flowing Carlsen, but this sort of position certainly shouldn’t be one to play against the world champion, as he has no problems to have to deal with and can relentlessly grind away all day here without the fear of losing. In a nutshell: a nightmare scenario to have to face against Carlsen. 17…Red8 It was probably starting to dawn on Caruana that he couldn’t play 17…Rad8 as after 18.Rac1 Nb4 19.Rxd8 Rxd8 20.Rc7 Nxa2 21.Rxb7 a5 22.Rb5! and White is coming close to having a won ending with the a-pawn a target and the …Na2 embarrassingly bereft of squares. 18.Rac1 f6 19.Rd4! The rook lift not only denies the Black knight access to b4, but it also sets up a possible swing over to g4 for a rapid kingside attack. 19…Ne7?! It’s a quite natural reaction in the circumstances, but several commentators believe Caruana’s best try was going for 19…Nb6!? as now 20.Rc7 is well met by 20…Rdc8! 21.Rxb7 Rc2 22.Ba3 Rxf2 23.Bc5 Rxa2 24.Bxb6 axb6 25.Rdd7 while the doubled rooks on the seventh-rank look menacing, it is not clear what White has after 25…Rb2!? certainly, White can hoover up the g- and h-pawns with checks, but when White’s b-pawn surely falls, I can’t see the game ending in anything but a draw. 20.Rc7 Nf5 The move you really want to play is 20…Nc6, but that loses on-the-spot to 21.Rg4! – but Caruana’s idea was that his …Nf5 would hold his kingside defences together. 21.Rg4 ‘Seduced’ by the attack, Carlsen underestimates Caruana’s resources here. With hindsight, he would have seen now that after 21.Rxd8+ Rxd8 22.e4! White is more or less strategically winning now, as there’s no easy answer to the follow-up of e5 if Black tries to defend b7 with …Nd6. 21…h5! Thanks to Carlsen’s rash play, Caruana has a very saveable position as the rook has to go to a bad square – but the American returns the compliment by not taking advantage of the rook out of play. 22.Rg6 Re8? The critical position, and ultimately the losing move. Difficult as the position was to fathom out what was happening, but Caruana simply had to see 22…Rac8! 23.Rxb7 and only now 23…Re8! preventing e3-e4. Now it all gets quite ‘murky’, as 24.Bxf6 (If 24.Rxa7 Ra8! 25.Rc7 Re6 26.a4 Raa6 and the game is far from over with the Rg6 somewhat out of the game for now, and Black threatening …Kh7 picking off the misplaced rook!) 24…Rc6! 25.Rgxg7+ Nxg7 26.Rxg7+ Kf8 27.Bd4 Rc2 28.Kg3 h4+ 29.Kf3 a5 White’s most likely still winning, but it not so clear at all and any win will have to be hard-fought to achieve. 23.Bxf6 Re6 24.e4! [see diagram] Now it is all over, as with the defence of g7 collapsing, Caruana is left having to defend a simply hopeless R+P ending. 24…Rxe4 Caruana is trapped between a ‘rook’ and a hard place. The alternative was 24…Rxf6 25.Rxf6 gxf6 26.exf5 and a hopeless ending. At least the way Caruana goes down, he does get some activity for his rook to give him slim hopes of salvation. 25.Rg5 Rh4+ 26.Kg1 Re8 It’s a desperate life-line for Caruana with the threat of …Re1 mating. After all, there’s always hope Carlsen might overlook it – some hope! 27.g3 [He didn’ miss it, but the clinical kill was 27.Bc3! defending e1 and keeping the pressure on g7. “After that, there wasn’t that much to be said, apart from I think I could have saved myself a bunch of time at one point,” commented Carlsen. “When I went 27.g3 if I just go 27.Bc3 then I think that’s a lot more accurate. I didn’t check it, but I was a little bit upset after I played g3 because then I saw Bc3 and thought that should be plain-sailing from there.” 27…Rg4 28.Rxf5 gxf6 29.Rxb7 h4 30.Rf4 Carlsen holds the ace in his hand of an extra pawn and a powerful rook on the seventh preventing Caruana’s king coming into the game, so this is the simplified ending he was looking for. 30…Rxf4 31.gxf4 Ra8 Caruana can’t allow Carlsen to have an even easier R+P winning endgame by allowing the a-pawn to fall and White’s queenside pawns running up the board. 32.Kg2 And now, Carlsen’s king waltzes up the board to victory, with Kg2-h3xh4-g4-h5-g6 etc. Well, let’s just sit back and watch. 32…a5 33.Kh3 a4 34.Kxh4 axb3 35.axb3 Ra5 36.Kg4 Rd5 37.b4 Kf8 38.b5 Ke8 39.f5 Kf8 No better is 39…Kd8 40.b6 Rd6 41.Rb8+ Kd7 42.Kh5! and there’s no stopping Kg6. 40.b6 Rb5 41.f3 With Caruana at his mercy, Carlsen is in no rush – the immediate 41.Kh5 was winning already. 41…Ke8 42.f4 Kf8 43.Kh5! After ‘toying’ with Caruana like a cat a mouse, Carlsen now comes in for the kill. 43…Rxf5+ 44.Kg6 Rxf4 45.Rc7 1-0 Caruana resigns as there’s no stopping b7, Rc8+ and b8Q.