Danil Dúbov, 24, knew that he was not the favorite against the American Hikaru Nakamura, 32. But he maintained the illusion, despite his defeat on Monday in the 1st round of the final, and today he gave the winning claw in the sudden death of the 3rd to win the $ 45,000 (40,000 euros) of the first prize in the fast Lindores Abbey tournament, 2nd of the Magnus Carlsen Tour circuit.
“I think justice has been done. I will never understand why Hikaru, during his duel with Magnus [a quien eliminó en semifinales], said that the winner of that duel was the clear favorite for the final. That was true, but he didn’t have to say it. And it is an idea that has not gone out of my mind throughout the final. ” The Russian confessed his most intimate feelings a few minutes later, during a live interview with the commentators of Chess24, the virtual organizing club.
Dúbov’s reasonable odds of winning the tournament, deservedly won by his brilliant game, fell dramatically in a few minutes. For reasons that only he can explain, Dúbov, with White, got into a theoretical battle for which he had no weapons. On move 13 of a well-known variant of the English Opening, Nakamura resorted to a pawn sacrifice in exchange for activity that the Armenian Pashikián had already played on Dúbov in the 2017 Minsk tournament. When an elite player does that, it must be taken for granted that it has been thoroughly prepared in the home laboratory. But not this time, because Dúbov did not gain any advantage, and he forced the tie himself in just 25 moves.
Dúbov did not have a fine day, and it was soon confirmed: on the 10th move of the second game he refused to change the checkers, to offer that change himself six moves later, after making a mistake between both moments. But lo and behold, Nakamura was also not that fearsome machine in taking advantage of advantages, as he had made believe in previous days. The American squandered several opportunities to put the Russian on the ropes and suddenly there was a tremendous turnaround: Dúbov found himself in a strategically winning position, and this time he did not fail.
The young Russian was thus faced with a great opportunity to break the odds: he had White to deliver the final blow. For his part, Nakamura needed to risk black. And a few sets were enough for the third round to become a combat without shields. Dúbov sacrificed a pawn for the initiative, Nakamura returned it, Dúbov did not accept the gift and continued to display pieces.
Hikaru Nakamura, last December, during the Moscow Rapids World Championship María Emeliánova / FIDE
It was soon confirmed that both were past revolutions. Dúbov had a very natural play, at 17, which gave him a comfortable position; Instead, he wrapped his blanket around his head to make it worse. But his rival was not precise either, and the following movements were a return of alternate favors until Dúbov made a too serious mistake, that his opponent could not ignore. Suddenly, Nakamura was more than three minutes ahead in a winning position and was finally relentless. The game does not deserve an award for its quality, but Nakamura does, for being able to win it half an hour after losing the previous one in a very painful way.
The one who was now in a psychologically unavailable position was Dúbov: black pieces and low morale; but he fixed the rennet problem, placing a laboratory recipe sibylline with which he comfortably left the opening. The resulting position after the change of ladies smelled of a tie, which was signed on move 39.
The first prize was to be decided, then, on sudden death or Armageddon (five minutes for white, forced to win, and four for black). And, as usual, Nakamura chose black. Shortly after starting, in the 9th set, something happened that can only be understood because the nerves were fired: the American, a highly experienced player of fast games and poker, did something sacrilegious: open the center with his king without castling. Dúbov hunted the prey and killed it with the speed and precision of a leopard.
After the victory of Magnus Carlsen in the first tournament (Magnus Carlsen Invitational) of the circuit that bears his name (Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour), and that of Nakamura (executioner of the Norwegian in the semifinals) in the second, the following will be the Online Chess Masters (June 20 to July 5). Then will come the Legends of Chess (July 21 to August 5). And it will all end with the Grand Final of the circuit, from 9 to 20 August.
But before all that, from next Saturday until the 14th, the curious Thermostat Chess will be played (also in the fast mode), a new format organized by the Club of San Luis (USA) in which the last games of each duel they score more than the previous ones. And the payroll will be great: Carlsen, Nakamura, Aronián, Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave and Leinier Domínguez.
The main sporting conclusion from the proliferation of fast internet tournaments during the pandemic is that Nakamura is much closer to Carlsen in fast modalities than any other in slow ones. But the big question is whether Dúbov will be able to sign another result as good as this win and 2nd place in the Memorial Steinitz lightning tournament in mid-May. And, since Carlsen does not conceive another position in any type of competition other than the first, his return to the arena this Saturday deserves a close follow-up.
Unfortunately, Dúbov will not play that tournament, which would have been exciting, after his statements today: “If you give me a choice between this first prize or winning Magnus in a duel, I choose the second.”
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