Nakamura blunders mate-in-1 | Chessable Masters 3

Nakamura blunders mate-in-1 | Chessable Masters 3


Hikaru Nakamura blundered mate-in-1 as he lost 2.5:0.5 to Fabiano Caruana in the final of the Winners Bracket of the Chessable Masters. That’s not the end of the road for Hikaru, however, since he’ll get a second chance against either Magnus Carlsen, who defeated Wesley So in two games, or Levon Aronian, who took down Vladislav Artemiev in Armageddon.

Fabiano Caruana lost his Play-In match to Alexey Sarana and had to play Division II of the Airthings Masters, but since then he’s won all eight of his Champions Chess Tour matches, with the latest success coming against Hikaru Nakamura. That put Fabiano through to the Grand Final.

First up on Wednesday, however, was the Losers bracket, with Magnus Carlsen not accustomed to finding himself a “loser”.

Carlsen 1.5:0.5 So

Magnus was in the company of players also unaccustomed to finding themselves in that spot.

Magnus revealed his pre-match preparation against Wesley So had included mistakenly thinking he had the white pieces in the first game.

I thought I was playing White in the first game, so I was a little bit surprised to be playing Black. Considering that, the position I got from the opening was a pretty pleasant surprise. I think he just mixed something up and he was trying to look for compensation. I didn’t play perfectly after, but it was really hard to mess that position up.

Wesley sacrificed a pawn on move 5 of an offbeat Sicilian, but although the sacrifice was known theory, the fact that Wesley thought a minute and a half after the most common reply suggested he was struggling to recall his lines. Black was better by move 9, and soon Magnus was completely on top, with the a5-pawn doomed.

The remaining tension was whether Magnus might get short on time as he tried to assess the many forced wins, but although he missed one or two chances to sacrifice on h3, he eventually found the powerful move 33…Bf4!

34.Nxf4? would run into 34…Rxa2!, so that 34.Qf2 was forced, and after the exchange of queens Magnus went on to win very smoothly.

That meant Wesley had to win the 2nd game on demand, but his decision on move 11 all but ended his hopes.

11…d5 was the best try for Black, while after 11…bxc4?! 12.Ne4! suddenly Magnus had powerful play that Black can’t ignore, since exchanges on d6 will leave the g7-pawn hanging. After another long think, Wesley opted for 12…dxe5, but though he managed to survive the opening he did it at the cost of any winning chances. The game ended on move 44, after a minimum of drama.

That means Wesley So is out and will now have to battle through the Play-In day to qualify for the next Champions Chess Tour event, while Magnus stays alive and noted something his rivals won’t have wanted to hear.

I feel like I’m gaining some rhythm now, so it won’t be easy to knock me out a second time… or at least as easy as it was the first!

He’s still struggling with the details, however.

Actually, I made so many mistakes! I thought there would be another match today as well. I’m clearly not used to being in the Losers bracket, so I need to improve that.

Magnus needs to win two more matches to get back to the Winners bracket, first against Levon Aronian, then Hikaru Nakamura.

Aronian 1.5:1.5 Artemiev (Levon wins in Armageddon)

“I think I really cannot live without drama,” said Levon Aronian after his victory over Vladislav Artemiev went down to the wire. That was a surprise, since Levon won the first game convincingly with Black and then had a comfortable position with White in the second. He noted:

In the second game my position was so good I could play anything in the opening. Then I just slowly played the worst possible moves and lost the game.

Dropping a pawn was careless, while the finish was unnecessary — once again, it was Artemiev who had shone when his time got low.

Aronian was determined to have the black pieces in Armageddon and bid just 7 minutes 30 seconds. He got his wish and, after surviving a tricky endgame, everything was going right for Levon… except on the clock. With no increment for either player, Vladislav briefly seemed about to win on time, an impression that Levon shared.

I felt he was going to flag me, with a rook, but he didn’t believe it, so it made me happy that I didn’t get flagged.

That made the victory something to celebrate!

Aronian vowed to “fight to the last bullet” against Magnus Carlsen in their upcoming match, with the winner guaranteed a spot in Division I in the next event.

Caruana 2.5:0.5 Nakamura

Nakamura has work to do on Thursday after losing to his US rival Fabiano Caruana.

The first game set the tone for the match, with what began as a steady advantage for Fabiano Caruana getting completely out of control. Fabi felt he was “on the verge of losing”, but closing the kingside with 35…g3?, which Hikaru called “a terrible move”, saw the evaluation swing in White’s favour.

In what followed anything could have happened, but it turned out the white king was perfectly safe on g4.

A relieved Fabi commented:

In the time scramble I somehow came out ahead. I wasn’t 100% sure my king running to g4 is not getting mated, but I didn’t see anything else to do, so I guess I just went with my gut.

There was more of the same in Game 2, where Caruana had the advantage for most of the game, but then managed to blunder a piece with 46…Nd6?… and still remain afloat!

In fact he was the one who missed some clear wins in the endgame before the game ended in a draw.

Game 3 wasn’t yet a must-win game for Hikaru, but he played as if it was when on move 33 he turned down the chance to repeat moves with a draw.

“It was only his ambition, probably over-ambition, that led to a difficult position for him,” said Fabiano, but it was also only in the last couple of moves that everything fell apart for Hikaru.

48.g4! by Fabiano demonstrated that he’d spotted the threat of Rb1+ and checkmate next move.

Hikaru not only missed a threat, but set it up, with the unfortunate 48…h5? 49.gxh5 taking away the g6-square from the black king. Then Hikaru played 49…Be5?? and suddenly 50.Rf8# was checkmate!

If the video wasn’t sufficient confirmation, Hikaru revealed in his recap that he just hadn’t seen the move coming.

By this point I was just not there. I played h5, Be5, I did not even see Rf8, and it suddenly came out of the blue and it was just such a shock for me to see this. It was just completely absurd.

Caruana had done a quick double-take.

I immediately saw it, and it took me half a second to register that Hikaru had blundered mate-in-1, because normally he doesn’t blunder at all. Today I had my fair share of luck, to put it mildly.

Fabi added:

He helpmated himself, which was kind of ridiculous, kind of unexpected. Obviously very lucky for me, but it was probably the funniest way, at least from my point of view, that it could have ended.

That means Fabiano Caruana has a day off before Friday’s Grand Final, but Hikaru Nakamura can still get there if he wins a match against the winner of Carlsen-Aronian.

That wasn’t the only extraordinary chess on Wednesday, however, with Division II competing for drama… at least in one match!

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored a convincing win over Vladimir Kramnik’s Sicilian in Game 1 of their match, with technical difficulties having led the 14th World Chess Champion to play from his mobile phone.

That handicap didn’t stop him getting good chances to hit back in the second game, before a mouse-slip, or rather mistap, saw him hang his queen.

An unfortunate moment for Vladimir, but Maxime decided to give back the point immediately by starting the next game 1.f3 and letting himself get checkmated in five moves!

That was an echo of Magnus Carlsen’s Gligoric Fair Play Prize winning 4-move loss to Ding Liren after the Chinese star had lost on time the previous game.

The drama wasn’t over, however, since in the final game, which Vladimir Kramnik had to win, he started 1.c3 Nf6 2.c4 to give back the first move as a thank you for his opponent’s kind gesture. What followed, however, was less enjoyable, since in a position where Maxime should comfortably have been able to hold the draw he needed to win the match, he disconnected and lost on time.

That meant Armageddon, but neither player was in favour of that, with Maxime revealing he’d been plagued by disconnections.

Kramnik could have claimed a win, but instead he decided to “resign” the match, with Maxime going into more detail about what had taken place.

Maxime will now play Nodirbek Abdusattorov in the Winners final, while Kramnik will take on Yu Yangyi in the Losers bracket, that also features Giri-Lazavik, after Anish Giri beat Praggnanandhaa in Armageddon.

Thursday is the penultimate day of the Chessable Masters, and all the Losers bracket (and Division III Winners bracket) action will be wrapped up.

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