Hikaru Nakamura shocked World Champion Magnus Carlsen today to book his place in the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge final. The American blitz king finally overpowered his 29-year-old rival in a dramatic Armageddon tiebreak after their regular match ended 2-2.
It sealed an epic comeback after Carlsen thrashed Nakamura 3-0 in the first match of their semifinal before Nakamura recovered to square the tie yesterday. Speaking afterward, Nakamura said: "It hasn't really sunk in yet, but it's great to beat Magnus. At least one time I found a way to win, so I'm pretty happy."
On Carlsen, Nakamura added: "When I saw him on the webcam, he seemed a little bit off… In general, I got the sense that he wasn't completely feeling it so that gave me a lot of confidence as well throughout."
Nakamura now goes through to meet Russian star Daniil Dubov in the final of Carlsen's signature Magnus Carlsen Tour event.
Today's match was always going to be tense but the fireworks didn't start straight away. Game 1 was quiet and finished with a comfortable draw as Nakamura appeared to calmly neutralize Carlsen.
By Game 2 Carlsen's jacket was off and he was pushing for a win. Nakamura, however, again calmly diffused the champion and then, with precise play, turned the screw. The American had gone 1.5-0.5 ahead and was now, in such a tight situation with games running out, the huge favorite. Any suspicions that the match was over were quickly scotched, though, when Carlsen showed incredible resilience to immediately roar back in the third. It was a huge win and the score was all-square again.
"It's nice to see Magnus started to do the right things," said Daniil Dubov, commentating on his potential opponent for the final. "We had a short talk yesterday and I told him to stop this 1.e4 nonsense!"
Predictably, Game 4 was tense - and with neither player willing to risk the match it ended in another draw to take it to an Armageddon tiebreak. Carlsen, with the White pieces, had to win while Nakamura with the Black and a time disadvantage needed a draw. But it was Carlsen who blinked first as he missed a study-like winning maneuver 37.Bf7 (more natural 37.Nb3 was played instead) and then blundered the game, the match, and the semi-final.
It sets up a mouth-watering final starting on Monday between two in-form speed chess specialists. Nakamura and Dubov are going for the $45,000 top prize while the beaten semi-finalists, Carlsen and Ding Liren, both pick up $15,000.
The event, which runs until June 3, is being put on in association with the Lindores Abbey Heritage Society, which maintains the historic site.
Coverage resumes with the final on Monday with commentary in 10 languages at 16.00 CEST.
You can watch it live here
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