Favourite Hikaru Nakamura opened an intimidating 2-0 lead before completing a 2.5-1.5 victory over flamboyant Daniil Dubov in the first mini-match of the $150,000 Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge final on Monday.
Nakamura, upbeat after stunning the reigning World rapid champion Magnus Carlsen in the semifinals, displayed his class by denying the 2018 World rapid champion any exciting positions in the first two games and won in 46 and 57 moves, respectively.
“I did what Daniil does against everybody. I played the man more than I played the position,” said Nakamura of his choice to “make the game as flat as possible.”
In the third game of their best-of-four contest, Dubov got his act together with white pieces, by catching Nakamura in the opening, and emerged stronger in 44 moves. In the fourth, Nakamura overcame a brief mid-game crisis and drew in 45 moves to clinch the first mini-match.
“I think the match, like most of the other matches, hinged on the first game. I made it a little bit more messy than I would have liked but obviously it all worked out,” said Nakamura.
Dubov now faces a must-win situation in the second mini-match to force the decider.
Final result: (first mini-match): Hikaru Nakamura (USA) bt Daniil Dubov (Rus) 2.5-1.5.
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