Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals: Nakamura takes first set off Carlsen

Hikaru Nakamura punished a struggling Magnus Carlsen 2.5-1.5 to take the first set of their title-clash in the $300,000 Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals.

After a well-fought draw in the opening game with black pieces, Nakamura won the second, let Carlsen off the hook in the third and then dashed his rival's slim hope of staying in the set with a steady draw. (File Photo)

Contrary to expectations, Hikaru Nakamura punished a struggling Magnus Carlsen 2.5-1.5 to take the first set of their title-clash in the $300,000 Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals on Friday.

On the first day of the best-of-seven-set finale, Nakamura displayed tremendous guts to engage the World champion in a series of complex battles. After a well-fought draw in the opening game with black pieces, Nakamura won the second, let Carlsen off the hook in the third and then dashed his rival's slim hope of staying in the set with a steady draw.

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Reflecting on the day's play, Nakamura said, “I think Magnus was trying to play the way he’s played throughout the last two events. He’s tried to play very sharp and aggressive with both colours, and I think the positions are slightly more suited to me. In terms of the troubles he had, especially with Black, in both the Najdorf games (first and third) while I think the position was fine for Black, the moves weren’t simple, it wasn’t intuitive and it wasn’t natural, and I think that showed based on Magnus’ time usage, so probably I would say the openings were the biggest issue for Magnus today.

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“The second game was very messy, of course, but I was quite pleased that I got to play this variation against Magnus, because I wanted something very sharp and very messy. When I got that in the second game specifically, and then I was able to just keep finding reasonable moves, that really gave me a lot of confidence.

"I think the result seems smooth, but the way the third game went kind of messed up the whole rhythm. I think I was probably close to winning at a couple of points in that game and when I didn’t win, that was sort of a big swing of the emotions, because I went from clearly winning, to just a little better and maybe possibly losing for a move or two, and then back to a draw. So I think the swings were pretty big in that third game, but for the most part I thought I played well."

The result

Final (Set One): Hikaru Nakamura (USA) bt Magnus Carlsen (Nor) 2.5-1.5.