Chess Tour Finals: Ding Liren stuns Magnus Carlsen, Nakamura downs Dubov

Ding Liren pulled a stunning upset to beat the in-form Magnus Carlsen after Hikaru Nakamura bounced back to tame Daniil Dubov on a thrilling opening day of the semifinals of the $300,000 Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals.

China’s Ding Liren produced a late masterclass to defeat Carlsen.   -  RAJEEV BHATT

Ding Liren pulled off a stunning upset of an-form Magnus Carlsen while Hikaru Nakamura bounced back to tame Daniil Dubov in a thrilling opening day of the semifinals of the $300,000 Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals on Sunday.

The first set of the best-of-five contest saw Ding and Carlsen locked at 3.5-3.5 after the drawn Armageddon game. Since Carlsen played the drawn game with white, the set was awarded to Ding.

The day provided loads of decisive games, besides drama surrounding the third rapid game and the first blitz encounter involving Carlsen and Ding.

Ding’s well-crafted win in the first game stood nullified after Carlsen clinched the second. The third game saw Carlsen declared “lost on time” after Ding’s 26th move, but it was soon clarified that Ding’s move had not registered on Carlsen’s computer. The game resumed after the glitch was set right, and Ding went on to gain a winning position. With both players seemingly running out to time, Carlsen gambled with a rook sacrifice, which Ding accepted. The world champion promptly drew with the game with perpetual checks to leave Ding exasperated.


The next game was a quick draw since Carlsen wanted to take the contest into a pair of blitz games where he fancied his chances of beating Ding.

However, with Ding keeping up unexpected pressure on Carlsen, the Norwegian suffered a rare loss on time. Since there is an increment of three seconds in blitz games as compared to 10 seconds in rapid, Carlsen perhaps overlooked the time factor and lost.

But Carlsen gallantly bounced right back to win the second blitz game to force the Armageddon game. He chose to play with white and was armed with five minutes to Ding’s four. Here, Ding produced a flawless display to hold Carlsen and claim the first set.

In the other semifinal, Nakamura rallied from 0-1 down to overpower Dubov 3.5-2.5 after the Russian brilliantly won the fourth and final rapid game to make it 2-2. The first blitz game was drawn before Nakamura clinched the second and with it the first set.

Dubov won the first game in just 17 moves, spread over 17 minutes, after Nakamura faltered on the 10th move. In the second, Nakamura hit back soon after Dubov tossed away a winning position.

In the third, Nakamura scripted a masterly victory, but Dubov drew level by winning with black pieces to force the blitz games. Here, Nakamura was never threatened and won the second game to take the set.

The results:

Semifinals (Set One): Ding Liren (Chn) bt Magnus Carlsen (Score tied at 3.5-3.5 but Ding declared the winner after the drawn Armageddon game); Hikaru Nakamura (USA) bt Daniil Dubov (Rus) 3.5-2.5.

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