Magnus Carlsen is the Charity Chess Cup 2022 champion after winning a thrilling final against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. This makes it perfect 3 out of 3 titles this year for Carlsen, after he won earlier Tata Steel Chess and Airthings Masters. More about Charity Cup: Charity Cup 2022 participants and preview / Charity Cup 2022 live / Charity Cup 2022 video) Round reports: Hans Niemann and Liem Quang Le lead after Day 1 / Le Quang Liem is sole leader after Day 2 / Carlsen closer to the top in Day 3 / Le Quang Liem wins the Prelims Day 4 / Carlsen – Ding in the semifinal / Carlsen – Duda is the final
A stunning end to the Charity Cup final saw Magnus Carlsen survive a major scare from Jan-Krzysztof Duda to clinch a second Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title of the season. The Norwegian started where he left off after the first day of the final by dominating Poland’s top player in game 1. It all appeared too easy for the champ who seemed to be breezing to victory in record time. Yet Duda, somehow, sparked an inspired comeback to win two in a row and take the match to tiebreaks. It was an astonishing turnaround that put the pressure right back up on Carlsen.
Duda, the exciting young Pole with a big future ahead of him, was seen as a serious threat going into the final and one of the few players who could lay a glove on the champ.
The 23-year-old had scored famous victories over Carlsen to end the champ’s record 125-game unbeaten streak and knock him out of the World Cup last year – an event Duda went on to win.
And in this event, a unique elite-level fundraiser for UNICEF, Duda showed yet again that his chaotic, dangerous style can hurt Carlsen.
Game 1: Carlsen on a roll
Game 1, however, started with Carlsen heaping pressure on the challenger and it took just 17 moves for the writing to be on the wall.
With 17… Ne4 the champ offered an ingenious knight sacrifice, Duda took the bait and captured with a pawn. But when Carlsen retook with his pawn, Duda’s position collapsed.
The Pole played 19. Qxe4 which simply allowed a vicious attack. Carlsen responded with 19… Bd5 attacking the white queen and bringing his bishop into the centre of the board. Duda was paralysed and defeat was inevitable.
At this point, the challenger had lost three in a row to Carlsen and now found himself needing to win the second game of the day just to stay in the final. Duda was at rock bottom.
Game 2: Duda hits back
Poland’s World Cup winner had one last throw of the dice with the white pieces and had to make it count. He tried to spark game 2 into life with 20. Bxe5 to create threats and mess up the position.
It didn’t work initially. By now Carlsen was in safety-first mode looking for the draw that would win him the title. Yet a few moves later Carlsen lost a bishop and the game really did heat up.
For the first time in the final, the champ appeared lose control in a wild position.
Carlsen made the fatal mistake of pushing a pawn too far with 48. a6, overlooking a one-move checkmate threat with 48… Qa7 that Duda played which picked him up the a-pawn and forced a queen trade.
Duda was now a knight for two-pawns ahead. His luck had turned. Carlsen’s pawns quickly dropped and Carlsen resigned in a hopeless position.
Game 3: Duda on fire
Despite the win, Duda still had to win another game to take the match to tiebreaks. But now he was no longer afraid and immediately tried to take Carlsen off piste.
In the opening, the underdog pulled out the rare 3. g3 – a move that Carlsen played and lost with in a 2019 game against Levon Aronian.
Duda and Carlsen castled on opposite sides and when white played 10. b4 to launch an attack it was clear the game would catch fire. The champ didn’t flinch and responded with the brave 10… Qxb4 putting his queen out in the open.
The board appeared to be full of tactics with Duda on the attack and both black’s king and queen in danger. Duda found the tricky 18. Ng5 and the engine favoured him.
Carlsen played 22… a5 and then Duda found the crushing 23. Bxc6. Carlsen resigned on move 25 and Duda – incredibly – was in the lead.
Game 4: Duda gets the draw
The Pole had the momentum doing into the final game of the set and only needed a draw to take it to tiebreaks.
Duda successfully neutralised the champ and then took control. There was nothing better left for Carlsen but to force a draw.
Duda had got himself back on level terms and the first blitz tiebreaker of the Charity Cup was on the cards.
The tension continued in the first of the blitz tiebreaks as the game appeared to be heading towards a draw before a moment of magic from Carlsen that tricked his opponent into playing 46… Bxg3 that led to Duda losing a rook. Carlsen set a trap, Duda fell for it and the champ was now one-up.
Game 2 started with Duda offering a speculative knight sacrifice early out of the opening with the complex 14. Ng5 that led to an unbalanced position, but again Carlsen didn’t flinch.
After the desperate lunge of 19. Qg6 Duda was left too open and was forced to resign. The tournament was over.
Carlsen said: “Huge relief now. This was right out of the playbook of what feels like every tournament last year after the first few ones where it seems like I’m cruising and then there’s one bad moment and it all falls apart. But yeah, I managed to survive.”
The event was supported by NEAR Foundation and was being held as a fundraiser for UNICEF. So far, more than $100,000 has been raised.
The next tournament in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour is a Major, which starts on April 20.