Carlsen & Artemiev top Chessable Masters group A
Virtuoso Magnus books knockout spot as Hikaru survives scare
Magnus Carlsen stormed into the Chessable Masters knockout stage today as his main rival overcame an almighty scare.
The World Champion turned around a disappointing day 1 to march up the leaderboard and finish joint-top of Group A in the $150,000 online chess super-tournament.
Carlsen said: "It was a bit nervy, at least at the very start, but certainly after I made a draw in the third game against Sasha [Alexander Grischuk] I calmed down and after that it was comfortable."
Meanwhile, Hikaru Nakamura - seen as Carlsen's biggest threat - needed a dramatic final round win on demand to make it through.
It averted what would have been a huge shock but meant Daniil Dubov, the young Russian who won the last Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour event, was dumped out instead.
It was harsh on Dubov, who finished level on points with Nakamura and three-time World Blitz Champion Alexander Grischuk but went out on a tiebreaker.
Vladislav Artemiev, the in-form Russian who led after the first day, finished level with Carlsen at the top on 6pts.
The day's play started with an eagerly-awaited marquee match between Carlsen and Nakamura which saw the Norwegian mete out a thumping win.
Nakamura was never in it and, having drawn all his previous matches, sunk below 50 per cent and into the drop-zone.
In the other matches, bottom-of-the-barrel Pentala Harikrishna's loss to in-form Vladislav Artemiev also left the Indian teetering on the edge of elimination.
Harikrishna badly needed a win against Carlsen to stay in the running but, despite counter-attacking hard, was held to a draw which effectively ended his challenge.
Artemiev, who led Group A after the first day, then lost against Dubov and the result left the pair level at the top.
Nakamura, meanwhile, drew again against Grischuk.
Round 8 was cagey as all three games were also drawn. Nakamura escaped a difficult position against Grischuk, who missed a good opportunity to put himself clear in the top 4.
Round 9 set up a fascinating finish. Carlsen put in a virtuoso performance to down Dubov and leapfrog the Russian in a menacing fashion.
It took Carlsen to 5.5pts and secured his place in the knockout alongside Artemiev, who safely drew against Grischuk. For Dubov, however, it meant he now needed a draw in the final round to go through.
Nakamura, meanwhile, was by now clearly out-of-sorts. But yet again he escaped what seemed like a lost position, this time against Harikrishna, to pick up a fortunate draw.
In the final round, Nakamura appeared on the brink but was still in with a shout up against Dubov - despite not having won a single game. Grischuk was also fighting it out for one of the final two places with several scenarios possible.
Nakamura finally found his form to beat Dubov and sneak into the top 4 on the pair's head-to-head score while Grischuk powered past Harikrishna to also edge past his fellow Russian.
Carlsen, Artemiev, Nakamura and Grischuk now go through to the quarter-finals which start on Thursday and will be joined by four more players from Group B.
The event, broadcast live on chess24, is the next stage of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour which carries a total prize pot of $1 million, a record for the online game.
About the tournament
The event, which runs until July 5, is being put on in association with Chessable and the tour's Education Partner, leading Swiss private banking group, Julius Baer.