Chess24 Legends of Chess semifinals, highlights: Carlsen, Nepomniachtchi register wins

Catch the updates of the Chess24 Legends of Chess semifinals, the penultimate event of the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour

File Photo: Magnus Carlsen will take on Peter Svidler in the semifinals.   -  FILE PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES

Catch Friday's action:

Semifinal line-up: Carlsen vs Svidler; Nepomniachtchi vs Giri.
 


 

WHAT HAPPENED ON WEDNESDAY?



Viswanathan Anand signed off his dismal campaign in the chess24 Legends of Chess with a 2-3 loss to fellow veteran Vassily Ivanchuk in the ninth and final round on Wednesday.

All five games, including the tie-breaker Armageddon game, ended as draws. Since Anand played Armageddon with white pieces, with a minute more on the clock, the winning point went to Ivanchuk. Overall, this was Anand’s fourth loss in Armageddon in as many appearances.

Eight defeats in nine rounds pushed Anand to the ninth position in the league standings, ahead of Hungary’s Peter Leko. China’s Ding Liren defeated Leko to occupy the eighth spot.

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen posted his ninth successive win after dominating Vladimir Kramnik 3-1 and topped the league table. Kramnik needed to beat Carlsen to claim a semifinal spot, provided Anish Giri defeated Peter Svidler.

Giri did win 2.5-1.5 but a desperate Kramnik lost the third and fourth rapid games to slip to the sixth spot, one behind Ivanchuk. Kramnik’s defeat cleared the way for Svidler to the semifinals.

In the best-of-three set semifinals, beginning on Friday, Carlsen faces Svidler while Nepomniachtchi plays Anish Giri.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, assured of the second spot, surprisingly allowed Boris Gelfand to come back from 0-1 to win 3-2, after claiming victory in the Armageddon game. In fact, Nepomniachtchi should have won the third game had he not allowed Gelfand to claim a draw following a three-fold repetition of the position.

The winner of the event will qualify for the USD 300,000 Grand Final scheduled from August 9 to 20.

Ninth-round results:

Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr) bt Viswanathan Anand 3-2; Magnus Carlsen (Nor) bt Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) 3-1; Boris Gelfand (Isr) bt Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) 3-2; Anish Giri (Ned) bt Peter Svidler (Rus) 2.5-1.5; Ding Liren (Chn) bt Peter Leko (Hun) 2.5-1.5.

Standings (after round-robin league): 1. Carlsen (25), 2. Nepomniachtchi (20), 3. Giri (18), 4. Svidler (14), 5. Ivanchuk (13), 6. Kramnik (12), 7. Gelfand (11), 8. Liren (9), 9. Anand (7), 10. Leko (6).


TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

Without being among the favourites, six seasoned practitioners bring in a fresh flavour to the penultimate event of the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour.

Such being the scenario on the eve of the $150,000 Chess24 Legends of Chess event, the point of interest will be whether at least one of the ‘legends’ deny the four younger players monopolising the semifinal spots.

If Magnus Carlsen (aged 29), Anish Giri (26), Ding Liren (27) and Ian Nepomniachtchi (30) advance following a nine-round preliminary phase, it will be a repeat line-up of the Chessable Master held earlier this month.

Even if one, among Viswanathan Anand (50), Vladimir Kramnik (45), Boris Gelfand (52), Vassily Ivanchuk (51), Peter Svidler (44) and Peter Leko (40) makes it to the semifinals, it will be big news.

This being an online event, the younger players obviously have a distinct comfort-level, having learnt the game by moving more pieces on-screen with the help of a mouse, than physically placing the pieces on the desired squares.

With several players from the pre-computer era around, expect more cases of ‘mouse-slip’ over the next 10 days than the number recorded in the last three events of the Tour.

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On the brighter side, none of the veteran is under any pressure of expectations. Therefore, one can expect them to play more freely and cause a few upsets. However, the four-game format in every encounter tilts the scales in favour of the younger lot.

After many years, Anand will not be the oldest participant in a round-robin event. Moreover, the 2017 World rapid champion has always been a force to reckon with in the shorter time-format. No wonder then, he has a good chance to gatecrash into the semifinals.

In fact, in the Nations Cup in May, Anand stunned Nepomniachtchi in just 17 moves to let the chess world know that he could still recreate some of his old magic.

It is also good for Anand that he starts his campaign against Peter Svidler, against whom he holds a favourable head-to-head record in classical time-format.

Svidler has been commentating in all tournaments so far on the Tour.

That should give him some edge since he has analysed threadbare most those games with several new ideas.

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Kramnik could find it a touch difficult to get past the league phase.

Following his retirement in January 2019, Kramnik has spent most of his time in coaching and being involved in fund-raising activities in Russia in these times of pandemic.

The trio of Gelfand, Ivanchuk and Leko are well equipped to win a few games but going beyond the league appears difficult.

Among the three, Ivanchuk can inject lots of excitement with his style of play. Original and innovative ideas were the hallmarks of his play during his prime. The 2016 World rapid champion has it in him to grab the attention with some truly brilliant play.

On the first day, much of the focus will be on the most-anticipated Carlsen-Giri clash. Besides their form, the other factor that gets them all the attention from the chess world is their much-followed battle of wits on social media. In what promises to reproduce the thrills seen in the final of Chessable Masters earlier this month, a fast-improving Giri will be looking to avenge the loss.

The format

A 10-player round-robin league. Each match will witness the best-of-four rapid games. Each player gets 15 minutes of starting time on the clock and 10 second for every move. If tied 2-2, the tie will be decided by a Armageddon game, where White has five minutes to Black’s four, but a draw means Black wins the match. Three points awarded to a victory without Armageddon.  If the match goes to Armageddon, the winner gets two points and the loser one.

Following the league, the top four will advance to the semi-finals and the final that follows the best-of-three set format. Each set comprises a four-game rapid match. The only difference to the preliminary stage clashes is that if a match is locked at 2-2, there will also be two blitz games (five minutes each for both players plus three-second increment per move) before the Armageddon, if needed.

Schedule: Round 1 to 9 (from July 21 to 29); Semifinals: July 31 to August 2; Final: August 3 to 5.

Prize-money break-up


Winner: $45,000; Runner-up: $30,000; Losing semifinalists: $17,500 each; 5th place: $10,000; 6th place: $8,000; 7th place: $7,000; 8th place: $6,000; 9th place: $5,000; 10th place: $4,000.