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As Magnus Carlsen cruised into the knockout stage of the Julius Baer Generation Cup, the spectre of another ‘silent resignation’ protest was averted, as any early clash with Hans Niemann was avoided with the finishing order of the prelims dictating that the warring two players could only possibly meet in the final – and even that won’t happen now, as the controversial US teenager was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Liem Quang Le.

With ten wins, Carlsen literally dominated the 16-player prelims – the only ‘loss’ being his self-inflicted protest 1-move resignation to Niemann – and then carried his good form over to the knockout stage, first by easily beating old foe Levon Aronian with three straight wins, then a similar demolition job of 17-year-old German teenager Vincent Keymer to effortlessly reach the final of the seventh leg of the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, where he’ll now meet 19-year-old Arjun Erigaisi of India, who beat Christopher Yoo and Liem Le en route to his first tour final.

It now sets up a dream final reflective of the ethos of the private Swiss investment bank sponsors Julius Baer, with an epic generational clash between the current world champion and one of the many rising Indian teenage stars now vying for an elite-level breakthrough following a podium finish at the recent 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

After beating Liem Le to set up the mouthwatering clash with Carlsen, a jubilant Erigaisi said: “It will be very interesting to play against Magnus two days in a row, and I’ll definitely learn a lot. It will help me with my chess, for sure.”

There’s full coverage of the intriguing two-day final on Saturday and Sunday on chess24.com/tour and on chess24’s Twitch and YouTube channels. There’s commentary from the Oslo Studio tour team of host Kaja Snare and talking chess heads GM David Howell and IM Jovanka Houska.  And for added variety, Chess24 will also have a team of top Grandmaster commentators.

Prelims final standings:
1. M.Carlsen (Norway) 34/45; 2. A. Erigaisi (India) 25; 3. H. Niemann (USA) 24; 4-5. R. Praggnanandhaa (India), V. Keymer (Germany) 23; 6. Liem Le (Vietnam) 22; 7-8. C. Yoo (USA), L Aronian (USA) 21; 9. A. Giri (Netherlands) 21; 10. JK. Duda (Poland) 20; 11. D. Navara (Czech Rep.) 12. R. Wojtaszek (Poland) 17. 13. V. Ivanchuk (Ukraine) 16; 14. I. Saric (Croatia) 14; 15-16. B. Gelfand (Israel), A. Baskaran (India) 10.

GM Levon Aronian – GM Magnus Carlsen
Julius Baer Generation Cup, Quarterfinal (4)
Sicilian Defence, Rossolimo Variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Popularised by Aaron Nimzowitsch, the Rossolimo Variation took off by being almost the exclusive weapon of the one-man Olympiad, GM Nicolas Rossolimo, the US-French-Greek-Russian, who started his Olympiad career playing for France in 1950, then played for the US until 1966, before reverting again to the French tricolour for his final Olympiad in 1972. 3…e5 4.0-0 Bd6 The development with the bishop on d6 behind the d-pawn looks a little strange, but the idea is to drop the bishop back to c7 and later play for a d5 break. 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bg5 a6 7.Bxf6 Qxf6 8.Bc4 0-0 9.Nbd2 Bc7 10.Re1 b5 11.Bb3 Ne7 12.Nf1 Bb7 13.Ne3 g6 14.a4 Bc6 15.axb5 axb5 16.Rxa8 Bxa8 17.Ng4 Qg7 18.Qd2 Kh8 19.Ng5 f6 20.Nxh7!? A radical solution to a difficult position – but then again, what other choice did Aronian have, faced with 20.Nh3 f5 and the game breaking open to the advantage of Black’s bishop-pair? 20…Qxh7 A little worse, though more complex than the alternative 20…Kxh7 21.Re3 g5 22.Rh3+ Kg6 23.Rh6+ Qxh6 24.Nxh6 Kxh6 25.Qe3 Bc6 (25…d6?? 26.Qh3+ Kg7 27.Qd7) 26.Qxc5 Ra8 27.h3 Ng6 and an intriguing battle ahead with chances for both sides. But it seems Carlsen is more happier by looking to ‘mix’ it up. 21.Re3 f5 22.Rh3 fxg4 23.Rxh7+ Kxh7 24.Qg5 Bd6 25.Qxg4 Bc6 26.Bd5! The correct call, and it looks like Aronain has safely navigated his way through what potentially could have been a complex struggle. 26…c4 Obviously capturing on d5 was bad, as it is hit with 26…Bxd5? 27.Qxd7! Rf6 28.exd5 and White has a big advantage. 27.Bxc6 dxc6 28.Kf1 A little timid – but you can understand Aronian’s concern about a hit on f2. The critical move was 28.dxc4! Bc5! 29.Qh3+ Kg7 30.Qe6! Rf6 (Unfortunately, 30…Rxf2?? 31.Qxe5+ wins quickly for White.) 31.Qxe5 Bxf2+ 32.Kh1 Kf7 33.g4 Ba7 34.c5 Re6 35.Qc3 g5 36.Qe3 and White has slightly the better of it but nowhere near to winning, which unfortunately Aronian needs to extends the match to a tiebreak. 28…cxd3 29.cxd3 Kg7 30.h4 The (slim) chance to try to win was with 30.d4! Rf6 31.dxe5 Bxe5 32.b3 but after 32…Ng8 it is hard not to see a player of Carlsen’s calibre securing a fortress-like position here to hold for a draw. 30…Bc5 31.f3 Bd4 32.Qe6 Ng8 [see diagram] The safe choice looked like 32…Rf7 but again, it is clear Carlsen believes he has an impregnable fortress – and a fortress that only forces Aronian to risk compromising his position needing to win. 33.Qxc6 Bxb2 34.Qxb5 Bd4 35.Ke2 Nf6 36.g4 Rf7 37.Qc6 Nh7 38.Qc1 Preferable was the centralising move of 38.Qd5 but then again, after 38…Nf8 39.Qc6 Rf6 40.Qc7+ Rf7 41.Qc6 Rf6 there’s no way for White to make any progress now. 38…Nf8 39.Qc6 Rf6 40.Qb7+ Rf7 41.Qc8 Rf6 42.Qd8 Rf7 43.Qe8 Rf6 44.g5 Carlsen will have been pleased to see this concession, as it only fixes Aronian’s pawns. 44…Rf7 45.Qc8 Kg8 46.Qc6 Rf4 47.h5 A total gamble from Aronian that quickly backfires – but needing to win, what else can he do? For this reason, it felt silly to mark Aronian’s move with a “?!” or the more critical “?” suffix. 47…gxh5 48.Qh6 h4 49.Qh5 Kg7 50.Kf1 Kg8 51.Kg2 Rf7! 52.Kh3? Walking into a loss, but then 52.Qxh4 Ng6 53.Qh6 Nf4+ 54.Kg3 Rg7 55.Kg4 Rg6 is no better for Aronian, as Carlsen has the perfect fortress with an easy draw coming to win the match. 52…Rf4 53.Kg2 Kg7 54.Qh6+ Kg8 55.Kh3?? OK, in a normal tournament game, I have no doubt we would have seen this interesting struggle ending with honours even here with 55.Qh5 Rf7 56.Qxh4 Ng6 57.Qh6 Nf4+ 58.Kg3 Rg7 59.Kg4 and neither side able to make any progress. But given the scenario that a draw sees Aronian losing the match, he opts to go down in flames. 55…Rxf3+ 56.Kxh4 Bf2+ 0-1

 

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