Contrary to expectations, Hikaru Nakamura punished a struggling Magnus Carlsen 2.5-1.5 to take the first set of their title-clash in the $300,000 Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals on Friday.

On the first day of the best-of-seven-set finale, Nakamura displayed tremendous guts to engage the World champion in a series of complex battles. After a well-fought draw in the opening game with black pieces, Nakamura won the second, let Carlsen off the hook in the third and then dashed his rival’s slim hope of staying in the set with a steady draw.

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Reflecting on the day’s play, Nakamura said, “I think Magnus was trying to play the way he’s played throughout the last two events. He’s tried to play very sharp and aggressive with both colours, and I think the positions are slightly more suited to me. In terms of the…

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