Day 2 Recap
Magnus Carlsen has no intention of slowing his pace in this tournament and repeated his dominant performance today. The World Champion now sits on top of the standings with 10/12, a two point lead over the rest of the field. Although his results both days have been remarkable, he was critical of his chess in day one and felt as though there was more to his game today. His closest rival is the reigning Grand Chess Tour Champion Hikaru Nakamura. Tomorrow will be the last day of the rapid.
The day kicked off with a bloody round with four decisive games. Magnus Carlsen emerged as the sole leader by defeating his 2016 world crown challenger, Sergey Karjakin. The World Champion’s knight pair unleashed an attack on Karjakin’s king . His co-leader, 19-year old Wei Yi, was not able to keep pace. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s bishop pair was too powerful in the Petroff endgame, as his king marched up the board, collecting the Chinese player’s pawns. Hikaru Nakamura leapfrogged Wei Yi by managing the middlegame complications against Veselin Topalov better than his opponent and winning a clean game. Bassem Amin is still trying to find his footing, as he suffered his fourth loss in a row. A careless mistake on move 25 changed the structure in the center in an unfavorable way for the African Champion. Ian Nepomniachtchi was unforgiving and finished his opponent off with tact in 32 moves. Two of the most solid players of the event, Wesley So and Ding Liren, drew their game without any adventures in 37 moves.
After keeping the tension in a complicated Najdorf for a long time, Vachier-Lagrave self destructed when he decided to go pawn hunting. Carlsen was unforgiving of his opponent’s greediness, taking advantage of his opponent’s stranded rook. The World Champion scored his second victory in a row, moving to 9/10. The hero of the round was Bassem Amin, who played a spoiler, coming back from a lost position to defeat none other than Hikaru Nakamura; this turn of events left Nakamura at 6/10, thus allowing Carlsen to extend his lead to three points. Wei Yi joined the second place tie by drawing Wesley So with the white pieces. Ding Liren moved up in the ranks, tying Nakamura and Wei Yi for second place, after Ian Nepomniachtchi blundered in a position where he could have forced a draw. The game between Topalov and Karjakin was quite uneventful and ended with a threefold repetition in 30 moves.
Nakamura bounced back from his previous round loss with a quick win over Ding Liren. According to Nakamura, the culprit was the Chinese superstar’s poor time management. Ding blitzed out a tactical sequence, missing a key move, and had to resign a few moves later. In the postgame interview, the US Champion explained his loss to Amin as a byproduct of Carlsen winning all his games and thus putting pressure on others to keep pace. He did feel that the gift he received from Ding balanced out his topsy turvy game from the previous round. The rest of the games ended in a draw, including the one between Carlsen and Topalov, thus not changing anything in the standings.
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Day 2 Report Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour
Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes and Spectrum Studios
Credits available on Flickr.