Airthings Masters Day 3: Nepo remains in the lead; Carlsen takes second
Managing director Ian Nepomniachtchi leads by a huge seven-point margin, while managing directors Magnus Carlsen, Vladislav Artemiev and Vincent Keymer are the main contenders for the qualifying places.
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Master Airthings | Ranking of the 3rd day
|11||Le, Quang Liem||2709||15/36|
|14||Niemann, Hans Moke||2642||11/36|
I would like to start with a disclaimer. For some reason, I didn’t feel in the mood to write my usual detailed analysis today, and instead took the position of a spectator, simply enjoying the games. This report will show some fragments from today’s games that caught my eye.
The first lap was a bit uneven. I’ll start with a special case of mutual errors in the game between GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda and GM Levon Aronian.
Nepomniachtchi could easily have added another victory to his tally by beating Keymer in a technical finale.
I praised GM Le Quang Liem’s consistent play through the first two days, but he couldn’t maintain his late game composure at the start of day three. It didn’t help that his opponent was called Magnus Carlsen.
The next round brought another shocking upset. GM Eric Hansen beat the world champion with Black. Granted, Magnus blundered badly, but credit where credit is due, Eric played his opener, the classic Ruy Lopez, and never backed down.
In other important developments, I would mention the steady progress of General Manager Anish Giri. After a lackluster performance on Day One, Anish gradually picked up speed, when his third straight victory (the last over GM Ding Liren) catapulted him to a split second place. Ding, on the other hand, begins to show the ill effects of playing chess in the middle of the night. Life is hard for the Chinese number 1.
The last game to end was an Artemiev victory over Aronian, which saw the Russian grab the final qualifying spot with five laps to go.
Round 11 began with a grandmaster draw between Ding and Carlsen. All things considered, we should be lenient with the players, as none of them are in a fun tournament right now. Sometimes a short breath is enough to correct the course of the ship. A big battle between Hansen and general manager Nodirbek Abdusattorov almost turned in favor of the Canadian, but Eric took too long and got into the wrong tactic.
On the handlebars of this victory, the young fast world champion found himself right in the middle. His chances got even better with a miraculous escape from bad position against Ding Liren in Round 12.
In the meantime, Artemiev continued his late push by winning a fine match against Keymer – match of the day that is.
Vlad nearly made it a perfect 4/4, but he couldn’t convert his extra pawn against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in Round 12. A well-rested Carlsen caught him beating Duda with surprising ease. Didn’t Bobby Fischer say the Dragon was easy: open the h file, the bag and the companion?
Carlsen and Artemiev are joined in a tie for second place by Keymer, who never seems to go away and bounces back from losses. He did it again by beating GM Hans Niemann to conclude day three.
Let’s take a look at the leaderboard and estimate the players’ chances of making the top eight.
Obviously, Nepo has already passed. His huge total of 27 points (9.5/12 and two points clear of the field under the old scoring system) will take care of that. Truth be told, with a little more care, Ian could have picked up two more wins today if he hadn’t lost a big late game advantage to Keymer and Le. Still, his speed continues to impress. Nepo literally goes through every game, spending just over five minutes of his time. Whether his confidence holds up heading into the playoffs is another story altogether.
Carlsen’s high-profile struggles shouldn’t make much of a difference once the playoffs begin. I feel like Magnus doesn’t really care what position he’ll be in. According to the media, the first enemy he must defeat is the Covid-19. I’m not really in a position to elaborate on medical matters, but I’m confident a 31-year-old in fine form will pull through.
I think Artemiev has already proven his class. His only two losses have come to Carlsen and Ding, and there aren’t many players left who can top him. I guess Vlad is going to be in the playoffs.
The rest is a big mess. I would like to see Keymer, Abdusattorov and, in particular, Hansen do it. However, experience counts in this business, and I think Giri and Aronian will be there. Not safe for Ding, however, the time zone situation is brutal. Le Quang Liem and PR are not left behind, but they are going to need a big boost. Either way, only three laps tomorrow separate us from all the answers.
All Games Day 3
The Champions Chess Tour 2022 Airthings Masters takes place February 19-27 on chess24. The preliminary phase is a rapid round robin (15+10) with 16 players. The top eight players qualify for a knockout which consists of one four-game rapid match during the quarter-finals and semi-finals and two four-match rapid matches during the final. The game switches to blitz (5 + 3) and armageddon (white has five minutes, black has four with no increment) only decides if a knockout match ends in a tie. The total prize money for the event is $150,000, with $750 for each win and $250 for each draw in the preliminaries.