A breathless first round full of intense drama opened the richest online chess tournament ever today.
The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals benefiting Kiva is the World Champion's signature event which features the four best-performing stars from four qualifying super-tournaments.
And Magnus Carlsen, Daniil Dubov, Hikaru Nakamura and Ding Liren were all in explosive form straight away as the battle for the $140,000 top prize lit up on day 1.
While both semi-final stage matches were close, yet again it was Carlsen who stole the limelight - this time for the wrong reasons - as the Norwegian's 19-match winning streak came to an end.
Carlsen, the winner of three of the four qualifying tournaments, had to overcome a shock opening game loss and a freak technical glitch to take China's number 1 Ding Liren to a tense blitz play-off.
The problem happened during game 3 when Carlsen didn't receive a move from the chess24 server and timed out through no fault of his own. After the confusion was cleared up, the game resumed and Ding missed a winning chance to leave the match on a knife-edge.
Game 4 was a swift draw that took the match to a two-game blitz play-off which, again, couldn't separate the two and finished 1-1.
The match then hung on an "Armageddon" tiebreaker which Ding played flawlessly. Carlsen shook his head in disbelief as the game ended in a draw and a match-loss for the champion.
Ding was overjoyed afterward, saying Carlsen was the "big favourite" in the Armageddon.
Dubov, the only other tour event winner, meanwhile got off to a scintillating start when he crushed Nakamura in 17 moves. But ultimately the young Russian missed a chance to beat the blitz king.
Dubov continued his blistering start in the second but made enough of a mistake to let Nakamura back in and the American took full advantage to force a resignation.
Nakamura, who commands an army of fans online, then gave Dubov no chance in the third to go 2-1 up, needing just a draw to win.
Yet the see-saw match had yet another twist as Dubov hit back hard to level the set score at 2-2 and take the match into a two-game blitz play-off.
The first was drawn but Nakamura overpowered Dubov in the second to take the tie.
Nakamura said: "I got the win and so I'm pretty happy today."
Day 2 of the Tour Finals starts at 16:00 CEST tomorrow with Carlsen-Ding and Nakamura-Dubov playing their second set.
Broadcaster chess24 has pledged 50 percent of new Premium memberships bought during its Tour Final to Kiva’s Global COVID-19 Response fund that aims to raise at least $50 million for entrepreneurs and small businesses impacted by COVID‑19.
During the event, chess24 and Kiva will highlight stories where chess has changed people’s lives under the official tournament social media hashtag #ImpactChess.
Viewers are encouraged to engage with the Tour Final and support small businesses impacted by COVID-19 by signing up for a premium subscription here.
More details on the Finals
The Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour was devised by Norway’s World Champion and chess24 after traditional over the board chess was halted suddenly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tour Final kicks off on August 9 and runs until August 20. It is the culmination of four elite-level super-tournaments that began in March as a way of getting chess started again while other sports worldwide were prohibited.
The first four stages of the first Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour were:
Four players have qualified for the final crescendo of chess after being the best performers during the preceding tour events. The winner of the Tour Final, which has a total prize pot of $300,000, will scoop a top prize of $140,000 and the title of Champion of the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour.
Tournament rules and schedule
The Tour Final will be a 12-day event running from August 9 to August 20. Time control is a rapid 15m + 10s from move 1 played in the chess24 Playzone.
The semi-finals of the Tour Final tournament will be a best of 5 four-game mini-matches. The final will be a best of 7 mini-matches. As usual, play will start at 16:00 CEST.
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