MCT Finals: Exciting chess, Nakamura in the lead – Chessbase News

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by Carlos Alberto Colodro

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Back in July 2016, Hikaru Nakamura defeated Magnus Carlsen in a classical game for the first time in his career. Not only had the American never defeated Carlsen, but he also had a terrible score against the Norwegian. As stated in the ChessBase report from that game in Bilbao, Carlsen played too aggressively and an unimpressed Nakamura countered. Four years later, it is still Nakamuras great defensive skills which allowed him to get ahead on the scoreboard against the world champion. Nakamura explained:

I feel thats one thing Ive done really well in this match when Ive gotten a bad position, Ive found a way to make a lot of good moves. [...] I think thats the main difference that has been going on in this match, that Ive been defending and just always finding the best moves. Frankly, Ive had a lot of experience with many, many, many bad positions against Magnus, so its kind of fitting in a way.

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The other big factor has been time management, with Carlsen often spending a long time reflecting on critical or sometimes not that critical positions, while Nakamura uses what he dubbed as a semi-Nepo approach. The American said:

Nepo, when it comes to rapid games especially, he doesnt always play the best moves, but he plays moves wherehe gets ahead on the clock. [...] I know with all of us, myself included, its very uncomfortable.

The approach has been working out for Naka, who is a set victory away from defeating the world champion in what has so far been a thrilling matchup. An eventual triumph would only add to Nakamuras success in the last semester, as he recently got over 500k followers on Twitch, a testament to his incredible work ethic and good rapport with the fans.

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The first set of the final to reach Armageddon was also the first one in which all four rapid games finished drawn. Nakamura started the day playing white and was in deep trouble after missing Blacksunexpected pawn push on move 40:

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Commentators Leko and Seirawan were both as surprised as Nakamura when Carlsen played the strong 40...g5+ White cannot capture with 41.Kxg5 due to 41...Qh6+ 42.Kf5 g6+, while after41.hxg5 Qe4+ the king is forced to escape to g3 instead of getting counterplay by going to g5, which is now occupied (that is why 40...g5+ was strong).

As mentioned above, Nakamura continued to defend as accurately as possible under the circumstances, posing problems to his opponent at every turn until saving a half point on move 54.

The remaining three draws were quite balanced.

In the first blitz tiebreaker,Carlsen showed he wanted to get away from long theoretical battles by playing the Alekhine Defence. Nakamura faltered out of the opening, but desperately tried to drum upcounterplay against the black king. On move 28, he missed a chance to equalize the position:

Instead of 28.Rd3, White could have gone for the forcing 28.Bxg6 fxg6 29.Qxg6 Qf7 30.Qg5, and in case of 30...exd5, White can bringtheknight to the attack with 31.Nd4 (the move Nakamura missed) and getenough firepower to force a draw by creating threats against Blacks king. Once this opportunity passed by, Nakamura nevergot chances to stop his opponent from winning the game.

All that Carlsen needed was a draw. Nakamura, as in his younger days, played the Kings Indian Defence and managed to get an imbalanced position in a must-win situation. Carlsen was not very accurate during the middlegame and allowed his opponent to get a strong pawn centre and the initiative. The world champions crucial mistake came on move 50:

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The King's Indian is an extreme counterattacking weapon for Black, so White's best way is to conduct an effective central strategy and to keep the king in safety. Maybe the only and best way to fulfill this strategy is the variation with the fianchetto of the white bishop to g3. It is the most unpleasant variation for King's Indian Defence players, easy to handle and it prevents Black from performing his typical attacking plans.

50.f4 allows the forcing 50...Rg1+ 51.Kd2 Be3+ 52.Kxe3 Rxc1 53.fxe5 Re1+ 54.Kf3 Rxe5 and Black has a winning rook endgame two pawns up. Nakamura converted and took the set to Armageddon.

In the sudden-death decider, Nakamura quickly got the upper hand, at least insofar he showed he knew exactly how to face Carlsens opening choice and took away all of Whites one-minute advantage on the clock. The world champion never got any winning chances and ended up losing the game in 53 moves.

Originally posted here:

MCT Finals: Exciting chess, Nakamura in the lead - Chessbase News

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