Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 1: impressive Carlsen opening
The 2021 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals, hosted by chess24, started on Saturday. The format is a round robin with 10 super-GM participants, namely Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Teimour Radjabov, Vladislav Artemiev, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Jan-Krzysztof Duda .
This is a mixed-time tournament: each day, players compete in a quick four-game match. However, if a match is tied, the winner is determined in an elimination blitz; then, if necessary, in an armageddon game.
Let’s see what happened on the first day.
Match 1: Carlsen-Duda
World champion Carlsen faced last year’s World Cup winner Duda.
As many chess fans know, Duda is the player who knocked out Carlsen in the World Cup semi-finals by winning a magnificent game with the black pieces. Overall, Duda has had a formidable record against the world champion lately. Of course, with Carlsen as competitive as he was, a very intense game was expected.
In the first match of the match, the Norwegian superstar won an absolutely stunning figure in just 18 moves, as GM Dejan Bojkov analyzed in detail.
Full analysis to come.
In the next round, the best Polish player led the first part of the match extremely well. In a Benoni / KID pawn structure, he dominated Carlsen and had a winning position on move 20. However, on move 29, he made a bad decision, which immediately destroyed his strong position and allowed Carlsen to win. an other part.
At this point, of course, the game was pretty much over: Duda had to win twice in a row to get to the tie-breaks.
In the third game, Magnus, who needed to shoot with the white pieces, chose the peaceful Moscow variant of the Sicilian defense, played a very solid game, got a small advantage and forced a repeat on the 19th move.
Of course, since this is a four game match, a score of 2.5 / 4 is enough to win, so with a score of 2.5-0.5 the match ended immediately. . A great performance from Carlsen, who played a brilliant game in the first round, then saved a very bad position in the next game.
Match 2: So-Mamedyarov
So he’s had an amazing year in online chess, winning a number of tough tournaments. It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that he is currently the big favorite in online tournaments after Carlsen. On the first day of this event, he faced Mamedyarov.
In the first round, So had the white pieces, and the Azeri super-grandmaster chose the ultra-complex and ambitious Four Knights Sicilian. White had a slight advantage but then made a mistake, and Black started to press. However, with careful defense, the American star managed to neutralize his opponent’s initiative and draw.
For the next game, so had the black pieces. After 1.d4, he chose one of his benchmark drawish variants, the Semi-Tarrasch line with 5 … nxd4. If you would like to see more games in this row, you can find a report on the Pro Chess League semi-finals, where the Vidit-So game saw the same variation.
White had a slight advantage, which So carefully neutralized. The game was going to a coin toss; however, Mamedyarov lost the thread, and after a few bad decisions in a row, ended up losing right away. Suddenly, So took the advantage: 1.5-0.5.
In the third round, the American player again had the white pieces. Leading the game, he didn’t have to take too many risks. Instead of repeating the pick in the first game, he forced Mamedyarov into the Sveshnikov variant of the Sicilian defense. White played some very solid chess, at one point it was much better, but Black defended: another draw and a 2-1 score in the game so far.
As a result, the Azeri Grandmaster absolutely needed to win the last game, so he chose an ultra-aggressive variant with the early thrust of his g-pawn. But So defended very carefully, kept the game in check at all times and won, even though he only needed a draw for the final victory. This is how the day ended with a 3-1 victory for So, now one of the leaders of the event.
Match 3: Aronian-MVL
In this match, the first round started with the best Armenian player taking the lead after winning a very informative match as a White in the defense of Grunfeld. He had the initiative and then converted his material advantage. You can learn a lot by analyzing this game.
The next two rounds ended in draws and MVL now had to win the last one to secure the tiebreakers. The position was very even and drawn until stroke 41, when Aronian made a decisive error, allowing MVL to score the full point.
Unlike the previous two games discussed above, this one needed a playoff to determine the winner. MVL won the first blitz match, but Aronian managed to come back in the second, and the match was taken to Armageddon. Aronian had the white pieces and had to win; However, MVL won the match and the match with an aggregate score of 4-3.
Match 4: Rajdabov-Artemiev
Both Artemiev and Rajdabov are known for their very solid styles. This game was probably going to be the one where a win pretty much determines the winner, and that’s exactly what happened.
The first four quick matches were drawn and the match was taken to the blitz playoffs.
In the first blitz match, the typical symmetrical g3-Grunfeld stance was equal for a long time. At one point Rajdabov had the advantage, but then escaped. In just a few strokes, the Russian player developed a decisive attack and scored his first victory. Let’s see how it happened.
Needing only a draw in the second blitz match, Artemiev managed to achieve it in another very even and drawn battle and won the match and rejoined the lead. Patience wins!
Match 5: Giri-Nakamura
In the first game of the match, Nakamura overpowered Giri with the black pieces in a slightly better final which occurred in the 4.d3 Anti-Berlin and scored a full point.
The second game was a draw. In the third, a bit of drama happened: in a position that was somewhere between a tie and a slight advantage for White, Nakamura, by doing a bad click or pre-shifting or for some other reason, hooked up. one piece to one tactic in one shot. He then tried to play a few shots, but of course Giri easily converted his extra piece, tying the score. The fourth match was also drawn, and the match was taken to the blitz playoffs.
The famous American streamer has been considered one of the biggest favorites of any blitz event. However, this time Giri turned out to be stronger. After shooting the first blitz match, he got a very advantageous position in the second round. Maybe it’s fair to call him technically a winner, even though Black still had a lot of potential to resist. But at that point, Nakamura took a pawn and blundered a fork, losing in one fell swoop. his turn, the game and the match. It was definitely a dramatic game, as Nakamura typically makes fewer blunders in a year than he did in those six games. Either way, Giri is now another tournament co-leader.
The $ 300,000 Champions Chess Tour final will take place from September 25 to October 4, 2021 on chess24. The format is a 10-player round robin; on each turn, players play a game of four quick match. The time control is 15 minutes for the entire game plus a 10 second increment.