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Wednesday, 29 Jul 2020 09:11
Legends of Chess: Carlsen shoots ahead

Magnus Carlsen turned on the afterburners to beat his nearest rival today in a super-fast finish to Round 8 of the $150,000 chess24 Legends of Chess.  

The World Champion made it an incredible eight match wins in a row as his encounter with Ian Nepomniachtchi went down to a nervy tiebreak finish.

On a day when the great female chess player ever, Judit Polgar, joined the commentary, Carlsen had been moving towards a comfortable win.

But the 30-year-old superstar admitted he lost his mind to let Ian off the hook in the last of their rapid games which finished 2-2. 

It took the top of the table clash into an "Armageddon" blitz chess play-off which Carlsen - playing Black - got the draw he needed with just seconds left on his clock. The Norwegian is left three points clear at the top of the tournament table, having dropped just one point so far in the online chess event. 

Carlsen said afterward: "I don't want to talk about it too much, it was pretty bad. Today I was much better to winning in literally every game and then I just lost my mind in the fourth and we got an Armageddon in which I, somehow, managed to escape." 

In the other matches, the battle for semi-final places has seen most of them sewn up before tomorrow's final prelim round.

Peter Svidler scored a vital win over former world champ and fellow Russian Vladimir Kramnik as both vied for a top-four spot. 

The pair were separated by just one point in the table going into Round 8 with Kramnik fourth and Svidler fifth.

But Svidler made the early running with an opening game win, then Kramnik had a golden chance to level the score in game three.

Kramnik, however, couldn't convert and his opponent pulled off what seemed like a miraculous save to draw. Game 4 was also a draw as the match ended 2.5-1.5 to Svidler.

It means that out of the Russian contingent, Nepo is already in and Svidler is in the driving seat to make it through. Kramnik, however, is now likely to miss out.

Meanwhile, Anish Giri in third needed a win over Vasyl Ivanchuk to nail down his top-four place but faltered when the match went to Armageddon.

It was a stunning win for the 51-year-old Ivanchuk, who became the first member of the old guard to win a tiebreak against a qualifier. However, the popular Ukrainian can't progress.

Boris Gelfand beat Peter Leko after their match also went to an Armageddon. Like Ivanchuk, neither legend can make it through.

At the bottom, Ding Liren, who went into the event needing just a semi-final place to qualify for the tour Grand Final, also stands no chance of getting through.

But he put his woeful form behind him today to dispatch another struggler, Indian legend Vishy Anand, by 2.5-0.5.

Today was day eight of the round-robin battle for four places in the Legends of Chess semi-finals.

The event, the fifth leg of the $1 million Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, runs until August 5 and will carry a $150,000 prize fund.

The winner will scoop a top prize of $45,000 and the last of the coveted spots in the tour’s Grand Final in August.