Tense but pleasant

In an interview with Kaja Snare after beating Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the first set of the Charity Cup final, Magnus Carlsen explained how he enjoyed the tournament as “chess was very interesting”.

For a second straight online event, the world champion improved his game in the knockout stage after a slow start in the preliminaries. Moreover, he only needs a draw in Saturday’s second set to claim a second straight Champions Chess Tour triumph.

Talking about his strategy for the second mini-match, the world champion explained:

I think it’s hard to easily create four draws, so I think I’ll continue in the same vein – I’ll give it a try and we’ll see what happens. As you could see in the third game, I wasn’t particularly aiming for a draw, although that would have been a good result for the game.

After gaining a slight advantage in game one but not converting it into victory, Carlsen won game 2 with the black pieces.

Duda’s c-pawn looks threatening, but before reaching this position he had to make some concessions, allowing black to activate his pieces and equalize. Here, in fact, Carlsen could have grabbed the pawn with 24…Bxc6, because after 25.Na5 Kd6 White cannot increase the pressure on c6 with 26.Bxf3 because of 26…Bxf3

White cannot capture the queen because of 27…Rd1#

However, none of this appeared on the board, as Carlsen decided to enter a strategic battle instead, playing 24…Ba8 in the first schematic position. The black square bishop is as passive as the white knight on a5, which creates a dynamic balance.

In the ensuing skirmish, however, it was the world champion who was quickest to activate his remaining pieces. After wreaking havoc in White’s court, Carlsen finally grabbed the pawn ten shots later.

Fittingly, Duda quit after 34…Bxc6as he had been strategically dominated by the strongest player in the world.

Carlsen won another positional game to end the set after just three games. Perhaps these results will inspire Duda to force tactical complications out of the opener of the second set. Of course, using such a strategy can backfire on the world champion – but Duda has proven more than once in the past that he is fully capable of outplaying the most feared player on the tour.

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