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Magnus Carlsen has had a fine 2019, with eight major tournament victories, but Norway’s world champion was beaten on Wednesday evening in a dramatic semi-final of the $370,000 Grand Tour at London Olympia.

France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who won a two-game tie-break after their match drew at 4-4, will now meet China’s Ding Liren in a three-day final starting on Friday that is free and live to watch on the internet.

Carlsen admitted that he felt “sluggish and not good enough in the critical moments”. The decision came in the first tie-break game when Carlsen had a winning position but made tactical blunders that swung the advantage to Vachier-Lagrave. The Frenchman attacked, won two pawns, converted them in a knight endgame, then kept a small edge in the second tie-break game and simplified it to a drawn rook ending.

Carlsen was unbeaten in tie-breaks for his entire career until this year, when he has lost two — the first to Ding at the Sinquefield Cup.

Vachier-Lagrave, for long western Europe’s No 2 player, will aim to score an important double next week when he plays in the Fide Grand Prix final event in Jerusalem. A strong result there will qualify him for the eight-man 2020 candidates, which decides the next challenger for Carlsen’s global crown.

2344

The diagram is correctly printed in this week’s puzzle. What is the smallest number of moves in which White can checkmate?

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