FTX Crypto Cup: Carlsen rallies to knock out Nakamura

Carlsen lost the opening game of the second match to trail for the third time in the contest but bounced back with black pieces to draw level.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen advanced to the semifinals of the FTX Crypto Cup on Thursday.   -  Getty Images

Magnus Carlsen proved far superior to Hikaru Nakamura in the two blitz games to advance to the semifinals of the FTX Crypto Cup on Thursday.

Carlsen lost the opening game of the second match to trail for the third time in the contest but bounced back with black pieces to draw level. The next two games ended in draws with Nakamura enjoying better exchanges.

In the two blitz tie-break games, Carlsen gave nothing away.

Reflecting on the loss in the opening game with white pieces, Carlsen said, “It was unpleasant, obviously, but I did have this experience against him another day, or on many other days, it felt like when he’s got the first win he has a tendency to maybe tighten up a little bit and be a bit nervous, so I was hoping that was going to happen today
as well.”

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In the second game, Nakamura fell to a queenside provocation from Carlsen and sacrificed a knight for two pawns. Carlsen’s pieces, including the queen, were virtually out of play and he started a pawn-march against Nakamura’s castled king. Nakamura took the offer to trade another knight for Carlsen’s rook before the World champion regained lost ground and went on to level the score.

At this point, the two champions had been involved in six straight decisive battles, with the last two providing wins for black.

After two drawn games, Carlsen drew first blood in the blitz games. Hikaru blundered on the 12th move and again on the 22nd to lose a knight. In the second game, Nakamura’s white queen retreated on the 16th move to give Carlsen a clear advantage. Thereafter, Carlsen tightened the noose without much trouble to win in 37 moves.

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Carlsen now faces Teimour Radjabov who knocked out Anish Giri.

Radjabov, winner of the first match, proved equal to Giri in all four rapid games in the second match and waited for the winner of the Carlsen-Nakamura tie.

From the top-half of the draw, Ian Nepomniachtchi took out league topper Fabiano Caruana in the blitz tie-breaker 1.5-0.5 after four draws in the rapid encounters.

Nepomniachtchi now faces an in-form Wesley So, who took an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the second match over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The victory in the first match paved the way for So to inch closer to a third
title on the tour this season.

The results:

Quarterfinals: Match Two (rapid): Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) drew with Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2-2 (blitz): Nepomniachtchi wins 1.5-0.5; Wesley So (USA) beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra) 2-1; Magnus Carlsen (Nor)
drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2-2; (blitz): Carlsen wins 2-0; Teimour Radjabov (Aze) draws with Anish Giri 2-2; Radjabov advances by virtue of winning the first match).

Semifinal line-up: Nepomniachtchi-So; Carlsen-Radjabov.

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