Magnus Carlsen (TOI Photo)
CHENNAI: Magnus Carlsen survived a fierce fightback from Hikaru Nakamura to clinch his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title on Sunday. The World Champion broke his duck in the $1.5 million Tour events at the fifth attempt with a 3-1 final set victory that sealed the New In Chess Classic.
“I’m really, really relieved,” Carlsen said. “I’m just so happy to have won one of these tournaments, it feels really good.” Carlsen takes the $30,000 top prize, 50 Tour points to leapfrog Wesley So into first place, and the Norwegian gets bragging rights against his old rival. Nakamura, who fought valiantly, cashes in $15,000 for his second prize.
The American, one set behind after the first day, had got off to the perfect start by dominating game 1 almost from start to finish. Nakamura dominated the second too as Carlsen looked like he might just crack. But ahead in the set, Nakamura allowed Carlsen a draw by repetition. The champ escaped and Nakamura missed an opportunity to turn the screw. It proved crucial.
If Nakamura was left regretting that decision, he would have regretted being too aggressive in game 3 even more. Carlsen’s killer instinct kicked in as soon as he spotted a weakness and made Nakamura pay the consequences. Nakamura’s lead vanished and he found himself going into game 4 in a must-win situation with the black pieces.
Needing just a draw, the game went Carlsen’s way from the start. Nakamura eventually conceded the inevitable and accepted a draw. Carlsen had won the New In Chess Classic and pumped his arms in relief.
Meanwhile, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, playing in his first Tour event, won the battle for third place beating Levon Aronian 2.5-0.5. The Meltwater Champions Chess Tour will be back on May 23 with the sixth leg. There are four tournaments to go before the big final in San Francisco.