Carlsen vs. Nakamura: Fischer Random Tactics

Once again we have an exciting duel between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. This time in Fischer Random---Bobby Fischer's invention and proposed solution to the growing number of draws as opening theory was progressively mapped out, even back in his time. This match revives Fischer Random (also known by the name Chess960), which is a chess variant rarely seen in over-the-board play at the highest levels. From 2001 to 2009, there were a series of Fischer Random World Championships between the world's best, including players like Levon Aronian, Peter Svidler, and Hikaru Nakmaura. Nakamura won the most recent championship in 2009, defeating Aronian in a 4 game match. This makes Nakamura the reigning champion in this unofficial world championship match, and Magnus Carlsen is competing as the challenger. Carlsen currently leads by 2 points with 8 games to go. The match is being played at an unusual time control: 45 minutes for 40 moves and 15 minutes to finish---with no increment. As usual, this had lead to some hair-raising time scrambles. Unusually, it led to one shocking loss for Carlsen in a Rook and Bishop vs. Rook endgame---where he had the extra bishop and could've claim a draw at any moment. https://twitter.com/DanielRensch/status/963169626522755072 A unique aspect of the match is that the competitors are wearing wristbands that measure heart rate during the games, allowing viewers to watch their heart rates at each moment of the match. So far, in the heat of competition, Nakamura's heart rate seems to be generally higher than Carlsen's. Let's take a look at a few of the key tactical moments from this riveting match.

Tactic #1

Magnus Carlsen vs. Hikaru Nakamura

White to move.
Level: Warm-Up
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess 960 Unofficial Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.02.11"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "1-0"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/6k1/3Q4/6PK/8/1q4P1/8 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "3"]1. Qg8+ $1 Kf6 (1... Kh6 2. g5#) (1... Qg7 {transposes into a lost king and
pawn endgame:} 2. Qxg7+ Kxg7 3. Kg5) 2. Qh8+ {wins Black's queen.} 1-0[/pgn]

Tactic #2

Hikaru Nakamura vs. Magnus Carlsen

Black to move.
Level: Intermediate
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess960 Unofficial Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.02.12"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "kb2r3/pp6/7B/8/8/3q4/PP1Q3p/2R4K b - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "7"]1... Qe4+ 2. Qg2 Qe1+ 3. Qf1 Qe6 {and White resigned. There is no way to save
his bishop:} 4. Bf4 (4. Bg5 Rg8 5. Qg2 Qe5) (4. Bg7 Rg8 5. Qg2 Qe7) (4. Bd2 Rg8
{and ...Qd5+}) 4... Qe4+ 0-1[/pgn]

Tactic #3

Hikaru Nakamura vs. Magnus Carlsen

Black to move.
Level: Advanced
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess 960 Unofficial Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.02.11"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3qr1kr/p4pp1/1n1p4/1p1PP3/2pP1Pbp/R5b1/PP1B2B1/1Q3NKR b - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "43"]
[SourceDate "2018.02.12"]1... b4 $1 2. Rxa7 ({If} 2. Bxb4 Bxf4 3. Bxd6 Qg5 4. Rhh3 (4. Qc2 h3) 4... Rh6
5. Nh2 Bxh3 6. Rxh3 Nxd5) 2... Qb8 3. Ra6 Qb7 4. Nxg3 ({If} 4. Ra5 c3 5. bxc3
Nc4 6. Ra4 Nxd2 7. Rxb4 (7. Nxd2 Qb5 8. Rxb4 Qe2)) 4... Qxa6 {and Carlsen was
able to convert his material advantage into a victory:} 5. Ne4 c3 6. bxc3 Nc4
7. Bf1 Nxd2 8. Nxd2 Qc8 9. Rh2 bxc3 10. Nc4 Bf3 11. Ne3 dxe5 12. fxe5 Qd8 13.
Qf5 Bxd5 14. Qf4 Be6 15. Bh3 Rh6 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. Ng4 Rg6 18. Rg2 Rf8 19. Qe4
Rf5 20. Nf6+ Rfxf6 {and White resigned. If} 21. exf6 Rxg2+ 22. Kxg2 Qd5 {
forces a queen trade and then Black's c-pawn will promote.} 0-1[/pgn]

Update:

Magnus Carlsen has won the match, clinching victory with 3 games to spare.
"This match showed that it’s [Fischer Random's] not too weird, and it leads to exactly what you want, which is chess without theory and still at a reasonable level. I think in those terms the match was definitely a success, and I think we’ll all strive to get better." -Magnus Carlsen
Final Score:
For more information on the finale, check out Chess.com's report, "Carlsen Wins Fischer Random Chess Championship"

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