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MCCT Finals 4: Artemiev takes down Carlsen

Vladislav Artemiev said he “wanted to play more aggressively than usual because it’s very hard to beat Magnus in technical positions” and it worked to perfection as he inflicted the first defeat of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals on Magnus Carlsen.

Wesley So had the chance to get within striking range of 1st place, but his all-US battle against Hikaru Nakamura skipped the rapid games completely before Hikaru won in blitz. Elsewhere Teimour Radjabov, Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov all won in rapid chess, with some fantastic games. 

Here’s the day’s live commentary from David Howell, Jovanka Houska and Kaja Snare. 

And from Peter Leko and Danny King. 

Round 4 saw just four draws combined in four of the matches, all of which finished in rapid chess, with the points split three to the winner and zero to the loser. The exception was Nakamura-So, with four draws in rapid chess before it was decided in a blitz playoff. 

Artemiev 3:1 Carlsen

Vladislav Artemiev has been a revelation since he joined the Tour in June, reaching two finals and one semi-final in his three events to qualify for the Finals at the last moment. In the last regular event, the Aimchess US Rapid, Magnus defeated him in the final with some ease, with Vladislav’s one win the result of a mouse-slip, but the 23-year-old Russian had taken some lessons away from that encounter. 

I think that I wanted to play more aggressively than usual because it’s very hard to beat Magnus in technical positions, so my choice was an alternative way. I played more interesting, for example in both White games I chose e4 for the first move, it’s a very rare move for me, and I think that it was a very good way, finally I can say it. I think that my plan was good, but I didn’t want only to win, I just wanted to play interesting chess and give a real fight, and maybe win one game as a minimum. 

The first game featured an offbeat Caro-Kann where Magnus gave up a pawn. 

The answer proved to be yes, but no more than that, so that the game ended in a 27-move draw by repetition that both players could be relatively happy with.

The real drama started in Game 2, when Magnus continued his recent fashion of playing b3 and fianchettoing his bishop on b2 early on against the Sicilian. 

This time it didn’t prove a great success and Magnus was probably relieved when mass exchanges saw most of the danger eliminated from the position. It felt as though the game would have fizzled out into a draw, if it wasn’t for Vladislav’s clock situation. While Magnus had four minutes, Artemiev played 28…Be6 with one second left on his clock.

Peter Leko had just been telling us how in such situations he would get nervous because of his opponent’s clock, but that Magnus was stronger than that. Now, however, Magnus made the classic mistake of playing too fast in his opponent’s time trouble with the losing 29.Nc7? (29.Bxe6 should just end in a draw). After 29…Bxb3! 30.Nxa6 bxa6 Black’s two minor pieces completely dominate the rook.

After 31.Rc8+ Kh7 32.a5?! Bc4 Magnus spent a minute perhaps less thinking about the position than lamenting what he’d just done. 

There was no way back, which meant Magnus had two games in which to mount a comeback.

For Game 3, Magnus switched to the Sicilian, but his aggressive d5-break looked mistimed and soon ran into an exchange sac that left the black position in ruins.

It required computer-like precision to defend, but Magnus once again showed that he was human, until right at the end Vladislav looked to be on the verge of clinching victory both in the game and the match.

Here Vladislav has repeated the position for a draw with 30.Bh6?, but 30.Rf3! and then e.g. 30…Qe7 31.Bh6! Rf7 32.Qg6 would have kept immense pressure on the black position. The computer says it’s simply winning, but the fact that there’s no clear knockout blow made Vladislav’s decision understandable given he was, as always, heavily down on the clock.

If Vladislav hadn’t won the match he would have deeply regretted that moment, and early on in Game 4 it seemed as though Magnus was right on course to hit back on demand.

The computer gives almost a full-piece advantage to White after 17.h5!, with White able to meet 17…g5 by sacrificing a piece for that pawn, but here Magnus suddenly began retreating pieces, starting with 17.Re1, in a positional regrouping that handed the initiative to Artemiev.
The belated and blitzed out attacking move 32.f4? was the final straw, running into 32…Nxc4!, which took advantage of the undefended bishop on g3.

Magnus tried to press on as if nothing had happened with 33.fxg5!?, but objectively the position was hopeless, and although Vladislav let the win slip he only needed a draw to clinch the match. There was nothing Magnus could do… except try one little online chess trick at the end.

Countless bullet games have been won by a move such as 51.Qxc5+, when if Black automatically moves his king he suddenly finds he’s lost the queen on c1 and can resign. Vladislav is an online chess monster, however, and simply played 51…Qxc5. Both players saw the funny side. 

Vladislav had earned his day in the sun.

Of course I would like to say that I’m very happy, because not every day you can beat such a strong player like Magnus Carlsen. I think that he’s one of the best players in chess history, maybe, and of course I’m glad that I make it, and it’s a really great tournament, I’m enjoying every day, and it’s very good for training.

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