Magnus Carlsen Invitational: “Blanked” host battles to beat Nepomniachtchi

Magnus Carlsen opened his match against Ian Nepomniachtchi on a disastrous note when he froze before Move 7 for six minutes and 31 seconds.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen won the third game to level the score.   -  Getty Images

Magnus Carlsen overcame a horrific start to beat Ian Nepomniachtchi 3-2 and became the first player to qualify for the semifinals of his signature event, $250,000 Magnus Carlsen Invitational online chess tournament on Tuesday.

In another fifth round match, involving tailenders, Alireza Firouzja pushed Anish Giri to the last spot in the eight-player field by inflicting a 2.5-1.5 defeat, after winning the first and third games.

Carlsen, who surprisingly lost to Giri in the previous round, opened his match against Nepomniachtchi on a disastrous note when he froze before Move 7 for six minutes and 31 seconds. His eventual move cost him a knight. He stretched this opener for 28 moves and resigned when his rook was trapped.

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“That was pretty sick! I just completely blanked,” explained Carlsen after the match. “I knew that this was fine for White, and I’d gone over it before the game against Maxime (Vachier-Lagrave), and then I just completely blanked there. I couldn’t remember what to do! So, I just sat thinking for 5-6 minutes and my mind was just blank – there
was just nothing. That was just total insanity.”

The World champion’s frustration grew more when he let his Russian rival off the hook in the second. Undeterred, Carlsen bounced back to win the third and level the score. In the fourth game, Nepomniachtchi could not land the knockout punch.

Ahead of the match-deciding Armageddon game, Carlsen won the toss and opted to play with white pieces, which meant he invited a must-win situation after starting the game with an extra minute on the clock. As it turned out, Carlsen dominated the decider and won in 79 moves.

Sixth-round results: Magnus Carlsen (NOR) bt Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS) 3-2; Alireza Firouzja (FIDE) bt Anish Giri (NED) 2.5-1.5.
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