Home Page arrow Chess Life Magazine arrow 2014 arrow February arrow Nakamura vs. Carlsen: The Musical
Nakamura vs. Carlsen: The Musical Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
February 6, 2014
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Your rating:  ********* 9/10 from 19,885 users

An inspiring story of hope and triumph in the face of adversity, though with a plotline that sometimes strains credulity.

Director: Macauley Peterson
Writer: Ian Rogers
Stars: Hikaru Nakamura, Magnus Carlsen

Nakamura v Carlsen is a two-hander set in Switzerland, featuring a Rocky-style character, Nakamura, trying to defeat the Nordic Champion Carlsen against whom he has fought and lost many times previously.

By the time these two have belted out their rousing final numbers, you do not have a typical Hollywood ending, but you have gained insight into, and respect for, both protagonists.

Plot key words: chess, World Champion, outplay, blunder, cry

Genre: Musical

Parental guide: Not suitable for young children or music lovers

Full Story:

Nakamura and Carlsen are joint leaders of the highest category chess tournament in history. Both enter the stage together. The opening stanza strongly resembles that from Anand v Carlsen – The World Championship but then this musical goes out on its own.

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Zurich 2014
White: H.Nakamura
Black; M.Carlsen
Opening: Nimzo-Indian
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 d5 5.a3 Be7 6.e4 dxe4 7.fxe4 e5 8.d5 Bc5

We're busy doing nothing – MC

9.Bg5 0-0 10.Nf3 Bg4 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Nbd7 13.0-0-0 Bd4 14.Ne2 c5 15.g4


I'd sell my soul for total control, over you. - HN

I just don't know what to do with myself – MC

16.Kb1 Ra6 17.Ng3 g6? 18.h4 

I have to admit it's getting better, a little better all the time – HN

18...a4 19.Rh2 Qa5 20.Bd2 Qc7 21.g5 Ne8 22.h5 Rb6 23.Bc1 Rb3 24.Qg4! Nb6 25.Be2 Nd6 26.Rdh1 Bxb2!

We're never going to survive unless we get a little crazy – MC

27.Bxb2 Nbxc4 28.Bxc4 Nxc4 29.hxg6 Qb6 30.g7! 

Maybe this time, for the first time, maybe this time I'll win – HN

30...Rd8 31.Qh4! Rxb2+ 32.Ka1 Rxh2 33.Rxh2 Qg6 34.Nf5


Oh, what a knight! – HN

I will survive – MC


Poker Face – MC

35.Qg4 Qb6 36.Qh3 Qg6 37.d6?

(37.Qf1! Nb6 38.Rxh7!!)
It should have been me – HN

37...Nxd6! 38.Nxd6 Rd8! 39.Nc4

(39.Nf5? Rd1+ 40.Ka2 Qe6+!)
I missed it – HN

I should be so lucky – MC 

49...Qxe4 40.Qh5?

You're out of time – HN


Anything you can do, I can do better – MC

41.Rh4 Qf5 42.Qe2 b5 43.Nd2 Qxg5 44.Qxd3 Qxh4 45.Ne4 Kxg7 46.Qf3 Qf4 47.Qg2+ Kf8 48.Kb2

J'etais fort minable – HN

48...h5 49.Nd2 h4

Nothing's gonna stop us now – MC

Cry - HN

50.Kc2 b4 51.axb4 cxb4 52.Qa8+ Kg7 53.Qxa4 h3 54.Qb3 h2 55.Qd5 e4 56.Qh5 e3 57.Nf3 e2 

Just push it – MC

When I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things - HN

58.Kb3 f6 59.Ne1 Qg3+ 60.Ka4 Qg1 61.Qxe2 Qa7+ 0-1

So you win again – HN

We shall overcome one day – HN

Memorable Quote
“26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan

Did You Know?
The tournament where this musical was set contained four other players – Aronian, Anand, Gelfand and Caruana – giving the event an average rating of 2801, the highest in history.

User Reviews (1)
Eight stars
2nd February by Fianchetto

While clearly superior to the overrated Chess – The Musical, this tear-jerker provides only a snapshot of the ups and downs endured by the hero Nakamura in Zurich 2014.

While some may leave the theatre believing Nakamura to be a loser, the day before his epic battle against Carlsen, Nakamura had defeated former World Champion Anand with panache. (I am not sure that he didn't go on to win the tournament - http://www.zurich-cc.com/ provides the action from 7am AEST.)

The musical numbers are wildly inconsistent – why anyone thought including a Dr. Hook song in such a production was a good idea is beyond me.

Nonetheless, the high quality performances by Nakamura and Carlsen in the luxurious setting of Zurich's venerable Savoy Hotel win you over in the end – one can see why they are considered top of their art form.