With Group A of the Chessable Masters, the third leg of the $1m Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour hosted on Chess24, already decided with Magnus Carlsen, Vladislav Artemiev, Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Grischuk safely into the quarterfinals, all eyes now turned to Group B to see who would be joining them to make up the final eight combatants in the “business end” of the knockout stage – only there was so many twists and turns, it wasn’t till the final moves had been made before we knew just who it would be.
The only certainty amidst all the uncertainty proved to be the very much in-form Dutch No.1 Anish Giri, who turned in a stylish and polished performance with an unbeaten score of 6/10 to go forward – but just who would join him wasn’t so clear, as only half a point separated the remaining five players vying for the coveted knockout spots.
There was also the added drama of Ding Liren losing a vital game against Giri due to his internet disconnection. Despite the setback, the Chinese world #3 courageously battled his way back into contention to join Giri in the quarterfinals. But, as Carlsen joined the commentary team for a guest appearance for the final round, the World Champion’s immediate reaction was that there had “been so many twists and turns.”
In the end, when all the twisting and turning had stopped, Ian Nepomniachtchi had compounded overnight co-leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s miserable day by inflicting yet another defeat on the Frenchman that unexpectedly consigned him to the bottom of the group standings; and with it, Fabiano Caruana just managed to squeeze his way into the final eight. The four going forward being: Giri, Ding Liren, Nepomniachtchi and Caruana.
And with Carlsen topping his group, and Caruana the final qualifier from his group, the brackets now determine we’re set for yet another epic clash between title combatants Carlsen and Caruana, and the chance of quick revenge for the US world #2 after he lost earlier this month to the Norwegian world #1 in the Saint Louis Chess Club’s Clutch Chess International Final.
Group A (final standings):
1-2. M. Carlsen (Norway), V. Artemiev (Russia) 6/10; 3-4. H. Nakamura (USA), A. Grischuk (Russia) 5* (all four now go forward to the quarterfinals); 5. D. Dubov (Russia) 5; 6. P. Harikrishna (India) 3.
Group B (final standings):
1. A. Giri (Netherlands) 6/10; 2-3. Ding Liren (China), I. Nepomniachtchi (Russia) 5½; 4. F. Caruana (USA) 5* (all four now go forward to the quarterfinals); 5. T. Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 4½; 6. M. Vachier-Lagrave (France) 3½.
Play gets underway on Thursday (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.
GM Fabiano Caruana – GM Anish Giri
Chessable Masters | B Group, (5)
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 “Every time the Berlin endgame shows up on the board,” – after 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 – GM Vladimir Kramnik once famously remarked, “everyone starts to cry quietly, [because] such positions are boring.” And because of this, a growing number of players are opting for 4.d3 to try to keep the position more dynamic with the queens on the board. 4…Bc5 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 d6 7.c3 0-0 8.Nbd2 g5 9.Bg3 White can try the speculative punt with 9.Nxg5!? hxg5 10.Bxg5 Kg7 11.Qf3 but after 11…a6 12.Bc4 Be6 with …Rg8 to follow, Black has nothing to fear. 9…Nh5 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.d4 exd4 12.Nxd4 The correct recapture as it threatens the …Nh5 and opens the h-file for an attack. 12…Nxg3 13.hxg3 Qf6 14.Qh5 The most obvious try, but does it achieve anything in the long-run? It seems the engine much prefers the opposite wing with 14.Qa4 to keep a grip of d4. Now 14…Rb8 15.0-0-0 Bxd4 16.Qxd4 Qxd4 17.cxd4 Kg7 18.Rhe1 and White’s central pawns look more effective for the coming endgame than the what Caruana now waltzes into. 14…Bxd4 15.cxd4 Qxd4 16.Qxh6 Qg7! The problem White has is if the queens come off, Black really has an easier endgame to defend. 17.0-0-0 Rb8 18.e5?! It looks as if Caruana has made an error of judgment here, badly misunderstanding the consequences of his move. It was time to admit that the queens had to be traded and play 18.Qxg7+ Kxg7 19.Rh5 Kf6 20.f3 Be6 with an equal position. It seems Caruana thought he was getting more out of the position with his pawn sacrifice, but it all spectacularly backfires on him. 18…dxe5 19.Ne4 f6 20.f3? Perhaps Caruana simply misunderstood that he had to play now 20.Qh5 Bf5 21.Qf3! Bh7 22.Qg4! f5! The only move to stay in the game – but it all now liquidates down to a drawn double R+P endings after 23.Qxg5 fxe4 24.Qxg7+ Kxg7 25.Rd7+ Kg6 26.Rhxh7 Rxf2 27.Rdg7+ Kf6 28.Rf7+ Kg6 29.Rfg7+ etc. 20…Bf5 21.Qxg7+? One mistake begets another – Caruana had to play 21.g4! Bxe4 22.fxe4 Rb4 23.Qh3! and with the queens still on the board and danger lurking down the h-file (and a possible Qb3+ in the offing), Black should never be able to win this position. 21…Kxg7 22.Nc5 Rb5 Giri has the better minor piece and more possibilities for his rooks. 23.Na4 Rb4 Also good and strong was 23…Rd5 – but Giri plays for the dastardly dirty trick and he’s quickly rewarded! 24.b3 g4 25.Rd2?! In Caruana’s defence, it is not so obvious that this move comes with a death wish attached to it. His last chance to stay in the game was with 25.Rh5! Kg6 (If 25…Bg6 26.Rh4 and White seems to be over the worst of it now.) 26.Rdh1 Rf7 27.Rh6+ Kg7 28.R6h5 Bg6 29.R5h4 Rd7 30.f4!? and Black may well still have the advantage, but it is going to be extremely difficult to try to win. 25…Rfb8 26.Nc5?? Caruana’s ‘spidey senses’ certainly aren’t tingling – but Giri’s reaction was almost instantaneous! 26…Rc4+! 0-1 [see diagram] BOOM! And with that stunner, Caruana resigns as he’s losing the knight, the (full!) point being that 27.bxc4 falls right into 27…Rb1#!