Magnanimity is the classic virtue which, more than any other, connects honour, virtue, and community. Nowhere is this seen more than in golf, personified by the example set by Jack Nicklaus throughout his illustrious career. The Golden Bear famously displayed magnanimity on several notable occasions, the standout moment being the iconic 1969 Ryder Cup match that ended with him conceding a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin, to halve the final match and the first tie in the event’s storied history (The United States though retaining the cup).
Sportsmanship, like magnanimity and justice itself, includes an enlarged mentality, and helps to foster the community and traditions of any sport – and Magnus Carlsen exemplified this for the chess world during the opening set of his Chessable Masters – the third leg of the $1m Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour hosted on Chess24 – semifinal clash with Ding Liren, his Chinese world #3 opponent.
The match got off to a relatively innocuous start, with the ensuing R+P ending on the board heading for what looked a sure-fire draw; but then the ‘Great Firewall of China’ – as its often described as – intervened, with a disconnected Ding and Magnus ‘gifted’ a free point, as the rules dictated. But when game 2 started, Carlsen sportingly contrived to lose his queen – with 1.c4 e6 2.g3 Qg5 3.Bg2 Qxd2 4.Qxd2 – and resign by move 4, to once again restore the integrity of the match.
It was a gesture that was applauded by commentators, players and many fans alike. There are not many players out there who would lead by example with such a show of sportsmanship. In fact, on at least two previous tour disconnects, the natural inclination of the recipients who received the unexpected gift of the full point – and both in clearly losing positions – proved to be more mercenary in nature than magnanimous, by just grabbing the full point offered to them.
The Carlsen-Ding contest was hyped to be a close contest, and that’s the way the rest of the match played out, with a run of three tough draws only broken by a Carlsen win in the last game before the match went to the Armageddon tiebreak-decider, to take the first set by a score of 3½-2½. Carlsen said afterwards (see video below): “I have immense respect for Ding as a chess player and as a human being and I thought against him this was the only correct way and clearly I wanted to win on the board.”
He further added: “I might have kicked myself if I’d lost one of the last two games but I think in general it was the right thing to do.”
And after his act of magnanimity, Carlsen went on to score a crushing, 2½-½ victory over Ding in today’s second set, to breeze his way into Friday’s final – but the world champion now needs to wait until Thursday to find out who his opponent will be.
The Dutch #1, Anish Giri, easily beat Ian Nepomniachtchi, 3-1, to take the opening set of their semifinal clash, but the Russian world #4 hit back to win the second set, 2½-1½, and the match will now go to a third and final set.
GM Anish Giri – GM Ian Nepomniachtchi
Chessable Masters Semifinal, (2)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 In the Semi-Tarrasch Defense – once popularised by Boris Spassky in the mid-1960s, en route to winning the world title – Black opts to recapture with the knight on d5 so as not to be landed with the isolated d-pawn. The idea being he wants to complete his development, have a solid position, and look long-term for his queenside pawns to become a danger in the endgame. But alas, as Tarrasch himself wryly observed (and we witness in this game): “Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame.” 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 0-0 11.Bc4 Nd7 12.0-0 b6 13.d5 Nc5 14.Rfe1 exd5 15.exd5 Qd6 Black’s whole strategy is to blockade White’s isolated d5-pawn, surround it and put pressure on it. 16.Qd4 Bb7 17.Rad1 Rae8 18.Ne5 a6 19.a3 Re7 All obvious and natural moves for Nepo, as he looks to double rooks on the e-file and trade down to an ending where he can keep Giri tied down to defending his d-pawn. The trouble is, as Tarrasch noted, the middlegame comes before the endgame, and he walks right into a big tactic! 20.Re3 Rfe8?? A big, bad blunder – but it doesn’t look so obvious why. Nepo first has to prepare this move by throwing in 20…b5! 21.Ba2 (If 21.Bf1 Rd8 and Black has the position he desires with the d5-pawn in lockdown.) and only now 21…Rfe8 as 22.Nxf7 doesn’t work anymore, as 22…Kxf7 23.Re6 Kg8! the little matter being that White can’t play 24.Rxd6 winning the queen, as the bishop can’t trackback to f1 to stop the mate after 24…Re1+! You live and learn. Well, you live anyway. 21.Nxf7! Giri is quick to pick up on the tactical moment. 21…Kxf7 22.Re6!! [see diagram] One star move rapidly follows another, and with it, Nepo is doomed to sleep with the fishes. 22…Qd8 Of course, if 22…Nxe6 23.dxe6+ loses the Black queen. 23.Qf4+ Kg8 24.Rxe7 Rxe7 25.d6+ Re6 Black is dead in the water. If 25…Ne6 26.Qg4! defends the Rd1 and heaps further pressure on Black’s hopelessly pinned pieces. Now after 26…Bc8 27.dxe7 Qxe7 simply 28.Re1 Kf7 29.Qf4+! (Much stronger than 29.Qf5+ ) 29…Qf6 30.Qc7+ Kg6 31.Qxc8 and the extra rook will certainly come in handy for White converting the win. 26.d7! It never rains but it pours for Nepo, as Giri relentlessly continues to pile on the pressure – the threat now is Qd6 and Black can resign. 26…g6 Also crashing to defeat was 26…Bc6 27.Qd6! Bxd7 28.Bxe6+ Nxe6 29.Qxe6+ Bxe6 30.Rxd8+ with an easy win – and, even more spectacularly, 26…Kh8 moving out of the pin gets hit by 27.Qc7!! Qxc7 28.d8Q+ Qxd8 29.Rxd8+ Re8 30.Rxe8#. 27.Rd6 1-0 Nepo has had enough, not wishing to see 27…Bc6 28.Rxc6 Qxd7 29.Qb8+ Kg7 30.Rc7 Re1+ 31.Bf1 appear on the board.