It was an emphatic performance from start to finish by Magnus Carlsen at the weekend, as the world No 1 swept aside the spirited challenge from Vladislav Artemiev by crushing the young Russian by two-sets to love to take the $30,000 first prize and Aimchess US Rapid title, the regular season final leg of the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour from the Play Magnus Group.
Despite a couple of minor scares, Artemiev was just no match for a rampant Carlsen who “bossed” his way to a convincing third tour victory – an important victory for Carlsen, as he ends the season matching Wesley So in tour victories with three apiece, but crucially giving the Norwegian the advantage over the US champion going into the Tour Final later this month in San Francisco.
“It feels great,” commented an upbeat Carlsen as he revelled in victory. “It’s the first time in like ever that I’ve won one of these tournaments and it’s been a fairly smooth ride, so that feels really good… There were some shaky moments here and there, but overall I think this is clearly my best.”
Although both Carlsen and So won three tour titles each, Carlsen tops the overall standings with the most tour points and prize money, and this gives him a starting edge over So going into the Tour Final. The top eight go forward to the final, but there’s still two wildcard spots yet to be decided to make-up the 10-player field for the final.
Tour top eight:
1. Magnus Carlsen, 339-points ($215,370 Earnings); 2. Wesley So, 261 ($184,580); 3. Levon Aronian, 170 ($118,323); 4. Teimour Radjabov, 133 ($103,968); 5. Anish Giri, 123 ($96, 145); 6. Ian Nepomniachtchi, 115 ($94,113); 7. Hikaru Nakamura, 90 ($63,645); 8. Vladislav Artemiev, 87 ($38,500)
And with it, ominously Carlsen seems to have found a rich vein of form ahead of his upcoming World Championship Match and the Norway Chess tournament that starts on Tuesday – a classical double-round event running 7-18 September in the Stavanger region, that features his world championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), plus Richard Rapport (Hungary), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Alireza Firouzja (France) and Aryan Tari (Norway).
GM Vladislav Artemiev – GM Magnus Carlsen
Aimchess US Rapid Final, (1.)
English Opening/Tarrasch Defence
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.Nc3 e6 4.e3 d5 5.d4 a6 6.cxd5 exd5 7.g3 Sometimes in these English/Tarrasch lines, it’s not so wise to go for the automatic fianchetto of the bishop. 7…c4 8.Bg2 Bb4 9.Bd2 0-0 10.Ne5 Nc6 Artemiev has gone awry in the opening, and Carlsen now has taken full advantage. And here the Russian pays the price with his opening difficulties, as he has to waste a lot of time avoiding being steamrolled by Carlsen – a time management problem that comes back to haunt the young Russian at a critical juncture later in the game. 11.0-0 Re8 12.Nxc6 bxc6 13.b3 a5 14.bxc4 Ba6 Carlsen’s bishops are wrecking havoc across Artemiev’s position. 15.Qc2 Bxc4 16.Rfb1 Bxc3 Not easy to give up the bishop-pair here for Carlsen, as 16…Bd6 also looked good. 17.Bxc3 Ne4 18.Be1 h5 19.Qd1 h4! 20.g4 It’s not pretty, but needs must for Artemiev, who is caught between a rock and a hard place. If he allows Carlsen to play …hxg3, then he’s going to pile on the pressure with moves such as …Qg5, …Re6, …Rae8 and …Rh6 and looming carnage down the h-file. So as ugly as it looks, all Artemiev is attempting to do is mitigate Carlsen crashing lines open on the kingside – not that this stops him for long! 20…a4 21.a3 Bb3 With the a-pawn now protected by that powerful light-squared bishop, Carlsen has a free hand to build up his kingside forces. 22.Qe2 Re6 23.Rc1 Qg5 24.f4 Qe7 Carlsen’s probing moves has seen his queen being kicked back for now, but at the long-term cost for Artemiev of creating more weaknesses with his advanced pawns, which Carlsen will be looking to undermine. 25.Bb4 Qc7 26.f5?! It all starts to go pear-shaped for Artemiev after this move, a weakening move too far. Better looked 26.g5!? trying to capitalise on his grip on the dark-squares, and also offer some hope for his light-squared bishop to come into the game via h3. 26…Ree8 27.Qe1 Qd8! A pawn sacrifice that allows Carlsen’s queen to return to the scene of the crime with …Qg5 – but this time with much more malice! 28.Rxc6 h3 And now Carlsen takes full advantage of Artemiev’s time-scramble by throwing a second pawn onto the fire, just to stop the Russian consolidating his kingside with h3. 29.Bxh3 Qg5 30.Qe2 Rac8 31.Rac1? Artemiev cracks due to the relentless pressure. The engines will tell you that White is “fine” here – but then again, computers don’t have nerves, and you are facing Carlsen in a tricky position, and any human short of time will be worried about 31.Rxc8 Rxc8 32.Qf3 Rc2 and the rook infiltrating on c2. But after 33.Bg2 Bc4 34.Qf4 Qxf4 35.exf4 Nc3 while it gets tricky again, White should be able to survive this with 36.Bxc3 Rxc3 37.h3 Rd3 38.Kf2 Rxd4 39.Bf3! Admittedly, these sort of resources are difficult to spot amidst the complications in time-trouble. 39…Rd2+ (The (full) point is that 39…Rxf4?? 40.Ke3 and to stop the rook being lost, Black has to play 40…g5 41.fxg6 Rf6 42.gxf7+ Kxf7 43.h4! and suddenly White’s a pawn up with two dangerous passed pawns storming up the board.) 40.Kg3 Rd3 41.g5 the trouble is that this is just all “awkward” for White with his rook trapped on a1 defending a3 – but the bottom line is that he’s still a pawn up and his position only becomes critical if he contrives to drop his a-pawn. Easier said than done though when it is Carlsen across the board from you! 31…Bc4! [see diagram] The point of Carlsen’s fiendish trap, which Artemiev has walked right into – with the Rc6 cut off and his queen attacked, Artemiev is set to drop material. 32.Rxc8 Just as bad was 32.R1xc4 dxc4 33.Rxc8 Rxc8 34.Bg2 Re8! 35.h3 Qh6! and White can’t do anything with the attack on e3 – for example: 36.Qe1 c3! 37.Kh2 c2 and the c-pawn now is too strong. 32…Bxe2 33.Rxe8+ Kh7 If it wasn’t for the twin weaknesses on g4 and e3, White could well have more than enough to save this – but they are critical weaknesses. 34.Bd2 You got to at least give Artemiev full marks for this last desperate try – but Carlsen doesn’t fall for it. 34…Bxg4! Artemiev was silently praying for 34…Nxd2?? 35.Rcc8! g6 36.fxg6+ Kg7 37.gxf7 Kxf7 38.Rf8+ Ke7 39.Rfe8+ Kd7 40.Red8+ and a perpetual, as 40…Qxd8? 41.g5+! Ke8 42.Rxd8+ Kxd8 43.Be6 Bh5 44.Bxd5 will be more than enough to draw. 35.Bg2 Bf3 0-1 There’s no tricks left, so with mate looming, Artemiev resigns.