Magnus Carlsen’s domination of the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour continues, as the defending champion sealed the deal on a second successive overall Tour victory – this time with an event to spare – following a crushing Aimchess Rapid quarterfinal win over fast-rising Indian star Arjun Erigaisi on Tuesday.
With the win, Carlsen scooped a $50,000 prize on top of his overall winning so far of $192,500 and the title of the 2022 Tour Champion ahead of the final Major of the season in November with its bumper $250,000 prize fund.
But Carlsen’s euphoria at winning the 2022 Tour season proved to be short-lived. After storming into the semifinals with his emphatic win over Erigaisi, Carlsen was soundly beaten 3-1 by Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda, with the World Cup-winner scoring 2 wins and 2 draws in a hugely impressive victory.
Duda said afterwards: “I’m very happy, of course. Who wouldn’t want to win? Beating Magnus is probably the most rewarding feeling you can have when playing chess!” Duda now goes forward to meet Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the Aimchess Rapid final.
The best-of-two-match final starts today, Thursday, at 18:00 CEST. Every move will be streamed live and for free on chess24.com/tour with live commentary from the regular Tour team of host Kaja Snare with GM David Howell and IM Jovanka Houska, and on chess24’s Twitch and YouTube channels.
Aimchess Rapid brackets
Quarterfinals: Duda 2½-½ Vidit; Carlsen 3-1 Erigaisi; Abdusattorov 1½-2½ Mamedyarov; Gukesh 1½-2½ Rapport.
Semifinals: Carlsen 1-3 Duda; Rapport 2½-3½ Mamedyarov
GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Arjun Erigaisi
Aimchess Rapid KO, (2)
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.0-0 g6 5.d4 The computer databases may well classify this opening as a “Reti, King’s Indian Attack”, but it is, as we can all clearly see, a Grünfeld Defence reversed. 5…cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Nb3 Nc6 8.Nc3 e6 9.e4 Most of the fianchetto variations against the Grünfeld tend to equalise for Black, so here, with the extra move, Carlsen’s Grünfeld reversed shouldn’t be too difficult. 9…d4 10.e5 In a normal Grünfeld, Black would automatically play …Na5 (Na4) here – but with the extra move, suddenly the possibilities open up for White with different options, another being 10.Nb5 e5 11.f4! Bg4 12.Qe1 and White has the edge with Black’s central pawns being challenged. 10…dxc3 11.exf6 Also possible was 11.Bxc6+ hoping for the immediate recapture, and a liquidation down to a trouble-free game – but Black has the clever zwischenzug with 11…Nd7! (Much better than 11…bxc6 12.Qxd8+ Kxd8 13.Bg5 Ke7 14.bxc3 h6 15.exf6+ Bxf6 16.Bxf6+ Kxf6 17.Rad1 with the plan of Rfe1 and Rd4 looking to put pressure on Black’s weakened queenside pawns and difficulty in completing his development.) 12.Bg2 Bxe5 13.bxc3 0-0 14.Ba3 Re8 15.Qe2 Bxc3 16.Rab1 Nb6 17.Rfd1 Qc7 18.Nc5 Bg7 and Black has an easier set-up than in the game. 11…Bxf6 12.bxc3 0-0 13.Qf3 The battle is all about how Erigaisi is going to complete his development with his light-square bishop effectively closed out of the game for now – and Magnus fully exploits his opponent’s difficulties doing this. 13…Bg7 14.Ba3 Re8 15.Rab1 Qf6 Looking to ease the pressure on his position with the trade of queens – but this just plays into Carlsen’s hands. A better try was 15…Qc7 16.Rfd1 Rd8 and first looking to trade off the rooks, as the semi-open and open b- and d-files sees Carlsen’s rooks bossing the position. 16.Qxf6 Bxf6 17.Rfd1! Carlsen cares not a jot for the pawn, as his pieces are all so active that he will soon regain the pawn – and then some, as he will have removed the weakness of his own doubled-pawns whilst his pieces remain very active. 17…Bxc3 18.Nc5 Bf6 19.Nxb7 The obvious choice, regaining the pawn – but also possible was looking to maintain the pressure with 19.Na6!? Bd8 (It is easy to go very wrong, very quickly here with 19…Rd8? 20.Nc7 Rb8 21.Rxd8+ Bxd8 22.Bd6! Bxc7 23.Bxc7 Ra8 24.f4 and Black is left in a mess of how he’s going to get his pieces out.) 20.Nc5 but after 20…Be7! a timely resource for Black, forcing White now into 21.Nxb7 Bxb7 22.Rxb7 Bxa3 23.Bxc6 Red8! and total equality. And likely the reason Carlsen rejected this line. 19…Bxb7 20.Rxb7 Nd4 It’s really difficult facing Carlsen in such positions, as there’s no one better in the game at keeping long-term pressure on an opponent. And with that said, Erigaisi might well have made a better fist of hanging on with 20…Rac8 but after 21.c4 Na5 22.Rxa7 Nxc4 23.Bb4 the elephant in the room is going to be the long-term threat from White’s a-pawn running up the board. Erigassi tries to finesse this possibility, but he ends up getting into a pickle. 21.c4 Rac8 22.Bf1 Even better than 22.c5 that also looked good. 22…Red8 23.Kg2 Avoiding the …Nf3+ trick. Admittedly, Black’s pieces do look better coordinated now, but questions still remain about the safety of the a-pawn. 23…a5 24.c5 Rb8 25.Rb6 Kg7? It all starts to go south for Erigaisi from this point – he had to try 25…Nc2 26.Rxd8+ Rxd8 27.c6! Bd4 28.Rb3 Rc8 29.Bb5 Ba7 and try his luck defending this position. I dare say though that Carlsen would soon find a way to squeeze out the win. 26.Ba6! Suddenly the c-pawn is threatening to run right up the board. 26…e5 27.Rdb1 Carlsen rightly works out that with rooks being exchanged, he will easily win the ending as there will be no stopping the c-pawn. 27…Nc6 28.R1b5! [see diagram] Carlsen is in his element in these sort of positions, as 9 times out of 10 he will invariably find the key move that intensifies the pressure on his opponent’s position. And here, with one very accurate move, Erigasi’s position has now reached critical mass. 28…Rxb6 No better was the alternative 28…Rd3 29.Rxa5! Nxa5 30.Bxd3 Rc8 31.Ba6 Rc7 32.Bb5 and White will soon be pushing the c-pawn up the board that will win material. 29.cxb6 Erigaisi has solved the problem of the c-pawn…by now having a problem with the b-pawn! But at least here he can try to control the cover of the queening square with his bishop. 29…e4 30.Bc5 Rd2 31.b7 Even quicker was 31.a4! Bd4 (31…Be5) 32.Bxd4+ Rxd4 33.Rc5! Rd6 34.b7 Nb8 35.Bc4 Rc6 (Worse was 35…Rb6 36.Bd5! picking up the e-pawn and then the knight with Rc5-c8-a8 etc.) 36.Rxc6 Nxc6 37.Bd5 Nb8 38.Bxe4 easily winning. 31…Nb8 32.Rxa5! Deadly as ever, Carlsen finds the most efficient way to win – by giving up his seemingly powerful b-pawn in order to liquidate down to an even easier endgame win. 32…Rd7 33.Bc4 The only minor flaw in an otherwise flawless win from Carlsen. The killing blow was retreating further with 33.Be2! Rxb7 34.Rb5! Rxb5 (If 34…Rc7 35.Bd6 and Black can resign, as 35…Rc2 36.Rxb8 Rxe2 37.Bf8+ Kg8 38.Bh6+ quickly mates.) 35.Bxb5 Be5 36.a4 and the a-pawn simply runs unhindered up the board. 33…Rxb7 34.Bd5 This time 34.Rb5 backfires to 34…Rc7 35.Rxb8 Rxc5 36.Bb3 Be5 37.Rb7 Rc7! and Black will hold the draw. 34…Rd7 35.Bxe4 Bd4 36.Bb4 Ra7 With Erigaisi’s knight effectively out of the game, trading rooks is his only move now – not that it helps him save the game. 37.Rxa7 Bxa7 38.a4 Kf6 39.Bd5 Na6 40.Bd6 Bb6 If 40…Nc5 41.a5 Ne6 42.f4 and White will soon be upping the pressure with Kf3, g4 and h4 effectively squeezing Black out of the game. So in a last-ditch attempt to somehow miraculously save the game, Erigaisi stops the pawn immediately coming to a5 – but not for long. 41.Bc4 Nc7 42.Bb4 Bd4 43.a5 h5 44.a6 With the Black king marooned on the wrong side of the board, stopping the a-pawn running up the board is impossible for Erigaisi. 44…Ne8 45.f4 Nc7 46.Bd6 Na8 47.Bd5 Nb6 48.a7 1-0