Carlsen takes lead in tense New In Chess Classic final

US speed demon Hikaru Nakamura must win Sunday’s second set to stand a chance of overcoming the World Champion
Magnus Carlsen

A nerve-jangling start to the $100,000 New In Chess Classic final saw World Champion Magnus Carlsen take an overnight lead over Hikaru Nakamura.

The World Champion broke through in game 3 after two close draws against his big rival.

Then, with Nakamura needing a win in the final fourth game, the momentum appeared to rock in the American’s favour. Was a comeback on?

Not so, as a mistake let Carlsen in and Nakamura resigned immediately. It meant the champ sealed Saturday’s match 3-1. You can replay all the games here on chess24.

A relieved Carlsen said after: “It was one of those days when neither of us was at our best, but we had great fighting spirit.”

Carlsen and Nakamura, who have dominated this event, face each other again tomorrow for the decisive second encounter.

Nakamura, the US speed demon, needs to win that to take it to a tiebreaker.

Anything less and Carlsen will win his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title.

Carlsen closes in

“This is the closest I’ve been,” said Carlsen. “I think I had a couple of 2:2s against Wesley [So] in these finals where I was up one game and then lost the last one on the first day.

“This time it was pretty close to happening again, but I got over the hump and I’ll try just to be solid tomorrow, not score any own goals and then try and take my chances if I can find them.”

Carlsen had put Nakamura under intense pressure in game 1 and the American was relieved to escape with a draw.

Game 3 was where the match turned. Carlsen appeared to sacrifice a bishop – a move he later described as a “blunder” – and then crushed his opponent in an epic 90-move endgame.

Clean sweep for black

Meanwhile, the third-place play-off match between Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was marked by an odd quirk.

Aronian and Mamedyarov finished 2-2 after four decisive games of attacking chess. But very much against the odds, the winner in each game played with the black pieces.

Play begins again at 19:00 CEST when the New In Chess Classic winner will be found.