Magnus Tour Final 6: Carlsen plays through pain to force decider

It ends now! Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura will play a
7th and deciding set on Thursday after Magnus won on demand to level the scores
at 3:3 in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Final. The World Champion started the day in obvious agony – it turned out he’d
hurt his back just before the games as he went for a swim – but it didn’t stop
him winning a brilliant sacrificial first game. Hikaru came closest to
levelling the score in Game 2 when Magnus blundered, but the US star returned
the favour before Magnus closed out a 3:1 win with victory in the final game.

If you discount the fact he could barely sit on his chair,
this was Magnus Carlsen’s best day at the office yet in the final.

You can replay all the games using the selector below:

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Yasser Seirawan,
Peter Leko and Tania Sachdev:

Game 1: The back pain masterpiece

Magnus Carlsen went into Day 6 of the final in a familiar
position, trailing by a point, but this time the stakes were much higher. If he
failed to win, Hikaru Nakamura would be crowned champion by the end of the day.
That alone would be enough to deal with, but it soon became clear that Magnus
had other issues… something was very wrong!

Was it just the length of the tour…

…or fear of Hikaru?

No! It turned out Magnus had suffered a “sporting” injury
just before the day’s action began.

So what happened is I was generally feeling great today, and
then half an hour before the game I was just going for a quick swim in the
opening… sorry, in the ocean! I just started running and something just… happened.
But there’s a little less pain now than there was before.

Magnus put himself into various contorted poses while he
tried to play through the pain, though he didn’t quite resort to some famous
historical options.

On the board, however, this was arguably Magnus’ most
impressive game of the match so far. Hikaru repeated the Nimzo-Indian he’d used
to beat Magnus the day before, but this time Magnus was ready for it and soon
went for a spectacular double pawn sacrifice.

16.d5!? exd5 17.Re1! Bxc4 18.Ng3. White had the bishop pair
and open files for his rooks, but could he mount an attack to justify the
two-pawn deficit? He got a helping hand with 22…a6?!

23.Nxg7! wasn’t a move Magnus had to find, since he explained it was one of the reasons for 22.Rc5.

22…a6 was very provocative, of course, but obviously one of
the ideas of bringing the rook to c5 is to take on g7, and if I don’t take my
preceding play makes little to no sense.

After 23…Kxg7 24.Qg5+ (24.Bc1! may be even
stronger) 24…Kh8 25.Qh4 there were tricky defences such as 25…Re8, relying on
the undefended rook on e1 and the possibility of a well-timed Bf5, but Hikaru
spent four minutes before playing the losing 25…Rg8.  

26.Rxc6! Rxc6 27.Bxd4 followed and, despite being a full rook up,
Black is in deep trouble, with 27…Kg7? (27…Bf5!) making matters worse.

The final wouldn’t be as amazing as it has been, however, if
there wasn’t another twist, which came after Hikaru played 31…Qb6.

Sometimes it’s better not to look at your opponent’s webcam, with Magnus describing what followed.

I would just mention one moment, which is when he played
Qb6. He started shaking his head after he made this move, and I guess I fell
for the oldest trick in the book, because when he started shaking his head I
just assumed he missed 32.Rd1? and it’s game-over, but of course after 32…Rd6 I
have to start all over. But it turned out fine, so I won’t complain.  

A move like 32.Qf3, or better 32.Be4 first, would have
retained all of White’s advantages, but now Magnus had to win the game again.
In his favour, however, was that it was incredibly difficult for Black to play
and, in mutual time trouble, it was Magnus who prevailed, with 41.Qa7+ inevitably
to be followed by 42.Qc7# if Hikaru hadn’t resigned first.

An amazing game, especially given the circumstances:

Spanish GM Pepe Cuenca takes us through the game in detail:

Game 2: Almost another instant comeback

Hikaru Nakamura commented afterwards, “I didn’t feel like
Magnus outplayed me,” and added, “in the first game I lost control for a move
or two”. That’s an odd way to describe the game, but Hikaru
was right about having a chance to hit back in the second game. Magnus perhaps
unnecessarily played on in a position where he could have forced a draw by move
30 and then, a pawn down in the ending, let his king go walkabout with 51…Kh5?

After 52.Rc2! suddenly the undefended f6-pawn as well as the
c6-pawn meant Magnus was playing with fire. He must have miscalculated
something, as computers saw he was dead lost, but only until move 62.

62.Rxc5! is winning, while 62.Rc3? both loses all the
advantage and looks like a mouse-slip. It wasn’t, however, with Hikaru now
prepared to play 63.g3+, which would be winning if not for 62…Rb6+! 63.Ke7 Rb2!
and suddenly it was just a draw. A vital escape for the World Champion, who had
come close to scoring an own goal.

Game 3: Again?

Sadly Albert Einstein never said, “the definition of
insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different
results,” but you might consider applying it to Magnus’ decision to bring the
3rd game to a rapid conclusion using one of the two Berlin draws we’ve
witnessed on previous days of the final.

Chess players are notoriously stubborn, however, and the
logic behind the decision still makes sense – why not get a game closer to
victory without taking any risks, especially when in this case you’re in
physical pain!

Game 4: Carlsen completes his most important comeback

The final game was another Berlin, and you might say both
players got what they wanted. Magnus, with Black, soon got to play boldly and
seize an advantage, but on the other hand it remained complex, with
chances for Hikaru to take over and claim the win he needed. That assessment
remained the same until 36.Qc3? allowed the killer blow 36…Qg3!

Suddenly it’s over for White. Black is threatening Qe3+ and
Qxd4, while if the knight moves the d3-pawn is a sitting duck, as is the pawn
on f4. Nakamura attempted to whip up some kind of attack with 37.Qxc7 Rd7
38.Qc8+ Kh7 39.Ra1 Rxd4 40.e6 Rxf4
but then threw in the towel, since it’s
Black who’s delivering checkmate.

That meant, incredibly, that the winner has alternated on
all six days of the final, with the player to make the first move always emerging victorious.

If that pattern continues on Thursday then Hikaru will be
the champion, but if Magnus can break the streak he’ll have won the chess tour
named after him. Whatever happens, it’s the final set and we must have a
champion – it’s too late to change the rules!

It’s going to be epic, so don’t dare to miss the live action from 15:30 CEST here on chess24!

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