Magnus Carlsen is now all but owning, both literarily and figuratively, his own signature $1m online tour, with there being no stopping the Norwegian’s red-hot run as he effortlessly and rather ruthlessly crushed eight-time Russian champion Peter Svidler – the only legend to make the cut into the Final 4 – in their Legends of Chess semifinal match-up, to become the first player to reach the final.
The match proved to be a somewhat one-sided affair, with the world No 1 comfortably winning the first two sets, 2.5-0.5 (with a game to spare in each), to notch up his eleventh straight match victory of the Legends of Chess, the fourth and final leg of the pandemic lockdown tour. And with it, Carlsen is also now looking to continue his impressive 16-match tour winning streak through to Monday’s final.
“I am super pleased with the outcome, but I have a lot to work on in my play,” commented Carlsen on 2SJAKK (the Norwegian TV station following the tour live), though still critical on certain elements of his play, by further adding: “I am especially dissatisfied with making a mistake I shouldn’t be doing in the second game.”
But Carlsen will have to wait a bit longer to see if he will face either Ian Nepomniachtchi or Anish Giri in the final after the Dutchman rallied to stage a dramatic and thrilling comeback with two late wins against the Russian No 1 to level the score at one set apiece, and both now having to return for Sunday’s third and final deciding set.
It’s not just the legends playing in the Legends of Chess, they are also making special guest appearances during the live broadcast!
Saturday saw the legend of legends himself, Garry Kasparov join old foe Judit Polgar in the commentary booth on semifinal day two – the full 5-hour broadcast and a 6-minute highlight video can be found at the Chess24 YouTube channel.
GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Peter Svidler
Legends of Chess | SF, (2.1)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 In a must-win-scenario, Svidler rightly reaches for the Bobby Fischer-favourite of the Sicilian Najdorf. 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 The English Attack is a relative newcomer to tournament praxis, only becoming a potent force during the early 1990s following a string of impressive results from the English (then) top-trio of Nigel Short, Michael Adams and Dr John Nunn. 6…e6 More in the spirit of the Najdorf is the double-edged option of 6…Ng4!? or even the more tradition 6…e5 treatment – but Svidler’s reply is also a common one, as Black instead opts to simply transpose into the solid Sicilian Scheveningen, safe in the knowledge that the most critical line, the Keres Attack, is no longer possible. 7.Be2 Qc7 8.Qd2 b5 9.a3 Bb7 10.f3 This is one of the hallmarks of the English Attack – what White wants to do is secure e4, castle queenside and then possibly launch an aggressive attack with g4 and h4. 10…Nbd7 11.0-0-0 d5 Generally speaking, when Black can safely get in …d5 in the Sicilian, then he’s normally doing ok – but here, it looks a little premature, but Svidler has to throw the dice now to seek complications to try and strike back in the match, so this is a bit of a calculated risk. 12.exd5 Bxd5 13.Bf4 Qb6 14.Rhe1 Not bad per se, but not the most critical, as 14.Nf5! seems to create a lot of problems for Black to resolve. 14…0-0-0? Far too slow and just so wrong on so many levels in the Sicilian! Svidler had to ignore his king safety for now, and strike quickly with 14…b4!? 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.a4 N7f6 where he has good chances to quickly consolidate his king safety with ..Rd8, ..Be7 and …0-0, and then go for the all-out counter-attack on the queenside. But what he played, just gifts Carlsen the upper-hand. 15.Be3! Carlsen wastes no time in regrouping his pieces to better and more attacking squares. 15…Qb7 16.a4 b4 Svidler is caught between a rock and a hard place, as just as bad was 16…bxa4 17.Nxa4 and you get the sense that defending the a-pawn could well be the least of Black’s problems here, as all those White pieces are primed and ready to strike on the queenside. 17.Nxd5 Nxd5 18.Nb3 Qc6 I think by now Svidler had become so punch-drunk on the pummeling he was receiving from Carlsen, that he’s not making sensible moves. Sure, Svidler is in a bad way, but he simply had to just get on with it by playing 18…Be7 to complete his development and to connect his rooks, and take the struggle from there. 19.Qd4! The multiple threats of Qa7, Na5 and Bxa6+ will be hard to meet. 19…Bd6 20.Na5 Qc5 Svidler hopes that the queen trade might offer some relief and possibly chances to hold the ending – but Carlsen has other ideas. 21.Bxa6+ Kc7 22.Nb7! [see diagram] Carlsen shows no mercy – he’s going straight for the jugular! 22…Qxd4 Forced, and with it, Svidler’s position simply collapses under the strain of too many loose pawns and White’s very active pieces. 23.Rxd4 Ra8 24.Nxd6 Kxd6 Now Carlsen also has the added advantage of the bishop-pair vs the knights. 25.Bb5 N7f6 26.Bd2 1-0 Svidler throws the towel in, as the second b-pawn also falls to leave White with three connected passed pawns – and he can’t even play 26…b3, as White will pile in with 27.c4 Kc5 28.Rd3 Nc7 29.Re5+ Kb6 30.Be3+ Kb7 31.Rc5! and the Black king looks doomed to be snared in a mating attack.