GM Magnus Carlsen defeated GM Hikaru Nakamura 3-1 in the New In Chess Classic on day one of the finals. GM Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov scored 2-2 in their match for third place. 

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Carlsen-Nakamura 3-1

In the first game, Carlsen tried a novelty on the 16th move where he chose to recapture with the king instead of the queen.  After some shuffling of pieces, he got a nagging edge. Timely trade of rooks would have ensured a decisive advantage (29.Rd4), but he let it slip with 29.g3:  

In the second game, Nakamura had an interesting possibility to sacrifice a rook and enter wild complications with 18.dxe5 Ba5 19.exf6!? but it requires some homework. After 18.b4, Carlsen was able to connect the rooks quickly, and the game petered out to a draw. 

In the third game, Nakamura got into a slightly inferior position, but a piece blunder by Carlsen suddenly gave him serious winning chances. At one moment, covering the e5-square was vital, but Nakamura’s quick decision to go with 38…fxg5 cost him heavily. The pawn capture gave a lot of counterplay to the world champion, and he eventually won in the queen endgame:

In game four, Nakamura held a stable advantage until the 27th move. His idea of transferring the bishop to f2 and extending with e3-e4 proved to be too slow as Carlsen immediately exploited the weakness with …Nd5!

Both 28.Bc3 and 28.Nf4 would have promised a long-term advantage to Nakamura. Carlsen expressed that he was starting to feel concerned about his position after Nakamura had played Ne2.

“He gave me one chance to get back in the game when he went for f3. After that, I took my chances decently. I was thrilled to exchange two light pieces for a rook, not necessarily because I thought I was doing great objectively. I just thought my position would be so much easier to play now,” said Carlsen.

Later, the passive position of White’s pieces and the weak back rank led to White’s downfall:

Nakamura will look to even the score on day 2 of the finals and force a playoff. We will be seeing some exciting games on Sunday. 

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Carlsen: “In general, neither of us were at our best, but we had great fighting spirit.” Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Aronian-Mamedyarov 2-2

Aronian (left) and Mamedyarov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

All four games were enterprising and ended decisively. Interestingly, the players scored their wins with the black pieces. In the first game, Aronian boldly captured the a4-pawn and was on the brink of danger. Mamedyarov chose a wrong check and then lost his chances:

Mamedyarov made a comeback in the second game with a sweet combination that could land up in a puzzle book: 

In the third game, Mamedyarov overlooked Aronian’s less obvious pawn break and lost:

In their fourth game, Aronian chose 6.a4, a rare line against the King’s Indian setup that is championed by Oleg Romanishin. Aronian was doing better for most of the game, but Mamedyarov created some practical difficulties with his galloping knights and was successful in launching an attack against the king:

All Games Finals Day 1

The New in Chess Classic runs April 24-May 2 on chess24. The preliminary phase is a 16-player rapid (15|10) round-robin. The top eight players advanced to a six-day knockout that consisted of two days of four-game rapid matches, which advanced to blitz (5|3) and armageddon (White had five minutes, Black four with no increment) tiebreaks only if a knockout match was tied after the second day. The prize fund is $100,000 with $30,000 for first place.


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