Vishwanathan Anand congratulates Magnus Carlsen with after their game in the Global Chess League on Wednesday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Magnus Carlsen lifted SG Alpine Warriors to the top of Global Chess League with a morale-boosting victory over Ganges Grandmasters while beating Viswanathan Anand in probably the match of the tournament. A huge turnout at Le Meridien got what they came for as Carlsen, playing with black, overturned the tables in a memorable endgame.

Ganges Grandmasters took the lead but, thanks to the unstoppable Warriors prodigy Praggnanandhaa R, the team managed to strike back in a critical moment. In what turned out to be the endgame for the history books, which saw two queens promoted by White and a knight promoted by Black, Carlsen managed to win 10-8 as Warriors displaced the Grandmasters on the leaderboard as both sides look headed to the final as well.

In the other game, Balan Alaskan Knights also scored a timely 8-5 win over upGrad Mumba Masters to inch up a spot from their fifth place at the start of the day.

Sharp position

Following the French defence, a sharp position developed on the board. In positional readjusting, both were pushing, creating traps for each other. With seconds on the clock, Carlsen had to calculate the complicated path to victory which saw White promoting his pawn to a queen twice. In the end, Anand thought he found a way to a stalemate but instead of promoting a queen, Carlsen took out a knight — an unusual choice by all standards — but just what was needed for victory.

“I did not know the score but, judging from what I’d seen before, I thought I had to win,” Carlsen said. “It’s looking pretty good now. It’s pretty massive, we’ve got to keep it going. We have played with five blacks in a row, won four of them. But now the mentality changes; a draw will not be enough.”

A disappointed Anand acknowledged the genius of Carlsen. “I spoiled the endgame in the end. He’s really good at this,” said the former five-time world champion from India.

Praggnanandhaa outstanding

For a long time in the match, neither side had the upper hand. The first to make a breakthrough was Ganges’ Richard Rapport. In the Italian game, Gukesh D allowed Rapport to take more space and orchestrate an attack on the black king from which there was no escape. With another game ending in a draw — between Arjun Erigaisi and Leinier Dominguez — the Ganges Grandmasters took the lead.

The next game to finish was between Hou Yifan — the world’s top-rated woman player — who defeated the eight-time American women’s champion, Irina Krush. In a tense position, Krush made a blunder allowing White to easily mate her king.

A glimmer of hope for Warriors came from Praggnanandhaa — so far the most successful player in the tournament with six wins and a draw — who proved his value again, defeating Andrey Esipenko as Black.

As Elisabeth Paehtz ended in a drawn position with Bella Khotenashvili, everything depended on the outcome of the game between Carlsen and Anand. “This is a game for the history books. The titans of chess fighting it out until the end”, said Grandmaster Peter Svidler.

Knights, who won the first round against the Masters 14:5, started with the advantage of playing with white. Icon player Ian Nepomniachtchi went for the Sicilian Rossolimo against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Both the Indian women’s Grandmasters, Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli, also came under opening pressure straightaway.

Strong show

The Knights’ started the day in fifth position but in the individual race for the most valuable players, they had two players, Tan Zhongyi and Nodirbek Abdusattorov, in good form and in the top six, just behind the Masters’ Harika Dronavalli in fourth.

By the time the dust settled on the opening moves, Humpy was in a disadvantageous position against Zhongyi although the latter had used up more time for her attack. On board one, the icon players settled for a draw, just as Teimour Radjabov and Vidit Gujrathi on the third table.

Meanwhile, a patient Humpy made calculated moves to fight back and Zhongyi also misplayed at a crucial juncture as Humpy bailed out. Dronavalli also held off the initial onslaught from Nino Batsiashvili to split the point.

All hopes rested on board six, where Knights prodigy Raunak Sadhwani pressed his advantage with white Javokhir Sindarov with the time clock also in the favour of the young 17-year-old from Nagpur. The endgame saw some nervous shaking of feet before Sadhwani enforced a win and expressed his delight by throwing his hands in the air.

In the last game to finish, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, in white, was in a tight tug of war with Alexander Grischuk for most of their clash. Abdusattorov then managed to hold fort, thus paving way for an important 8-5 win for the Knights.


Match 19

Balan Alaskan Knights 8-5 upGrad Mumba Masters

Queen of the match — Koneru Humpy

King of the match — Raunak Sadhwani

Match 20

Ganges Grandmasters 8-10 SG Alpine Warriors

Queen of the match — Hou Yifan

King of the match — Magnus Carlsen