Aimchess Rapid: Experience prevails, Carlsen secures tour victory

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/19/2022 – Three long-standing elite GMs defeated younger opponents in the quarterfinals of the Aimchess Rapid online tournament, as Magnus Carlsen, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Richard Rapport knocked out Arjun Erigaisi, Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Gukesh Dommaraju, respectively. The one exception to this rule was Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who got the better of Vidit Gujrathi. By reaching the event’s semifinals, Carlsen secured overall tour victory with one tournament to spare!

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Carlsen wins 2022 Champions Chess Tour

The chess world was revolutionized during the pandemic. Due to the travel restrictions, online tournaments gained relevance even among the best players in the world. One of the biggest online initiatives was taken up by the Play Magnus Group with their Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, which kicked off on 18 April 2020. Two and a half years later, the tour’s third edition is coming to a close, and a familiar name has already secured a third title in a row.

Magnus Carlsen won the inaugural edition, which bore his name, after claiming wins in 4 out of the 5 tournaments that were organized. In the second edition, the series was renamed as the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, and Carlsen again prevailed after grabbing first places in 4 out of the 10 events.

Now, in a series consisting of 9 tournaments (6 regulars and 3 majors), the world champion remarkably secured first place with a tournament to spare, after winning 4 out of the 7 events that have already been played and reaching the semifinals of the tour’s eighth competition.

Carlsen won the tour — and thus an extra $50,000 — after beating Arjun Erigaisi by a 2½-½ score in the quarterfinals of the Aimchess Rapid. The match score by no means tells the whole story, though, as Arjun was inches away from getting ahead on the scoreboard in the first game. The frustration provoked by failing to convert a clearly winning position apparently unsettled the Indian prodigy, who went on to lose two games in a row.

In the semifinals, Carlsen will face Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Duda stands in clear second place in the overall tour rankings, and reached the semis after defeating Vidit Gujrathi, also by a 2½-½ score. The other matchup on Wendesday will see Shakhriyar Mamedyarov facing Richard Rapport. Shakh knocked out world rapid champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov, while Rapport got the better of Gukesh Dommaraju.

Aimchess Rapid 2022

Carlsen 2½ - ½ Arjun

The first game of this match all but determined the final result, as Arjun completely outplayed his famed opponent but failed to convert his clear advantage into a win — at multiple times.

 

White is not only a pawn up, but his rook and knight are much more active than Black’s rook and bishop. Here, 36.c3 was a nice find by Arjun, as Black cannot grab the pawn with 36...Bxc3 due to 37.Nc5+ Ka3 38.Rb3+, grabbing the bishop.

The game continued 36...Ba3 37.c5 Bc1 38.Rb1 Ka3 as Arjun continued to find the most trying attacking continuations.

 

White can choose between capturing the bishop on c1 or the pawn on e5, and Arjun chose the latter, keeping as much control over the position as possible while preventing Black’s a-pawn from marching down the board. This is not a mistake per se, but keeping the bishop alive ended up giving Carlsen more chances to muddy the waters in the long run.

Notwithstanding this decision, Arjun managed to enter an ending with rook, knight and two extra pawns (on the f and h-file) against Carlsen’s rook and bishop. The endgame was clearly winning, and the world champion was visibly upset with his position. However, Carlsen continued playing, looking to get his bishop to the long, dark-squared diagonal.

Arjun’s final mistake came on move 76. The Indian, frustrated by the chances he had missed, continued playing in a rook and knight against rook ending until move 136, when a draw by repetition was finally reached.

 
 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Duda 2½ - ½ Vidit

Much like in the aforementioned match, Duda’s win was not as clear as the final score shows. The Polish grandmaster, in fact, later noted:

I think it was unexpected that I won the match in three games. 

Duda has proven to be a tough rival for Carlsen, whom he will face in the semifinals. The man from Wieliczka defeated the world champion at the FTX Crypto Cup in August. Before that, he ended Carlsen’s unbeaten streak of 125 classical games in October 2020, and knocked the Norwegian out of the 2021 World Cup in Sochi.

 
 

Mamedyarov 2½ - 1½ Abdusattorov

In a close match, Mamedyarov’s win in the first game proved to be enough to knock out his young opponent. Three fighting draws followed, giving Shakh a ticket to the semifinals.

The Azerbaijani, playing black, converted the following rook endgame into a win.

 

White needed to play actively here, either with 50.Re5 or even 50.Re3, to keep the balance in the position. Instead, Abdusattorov’s 50.Rb2 allowed Black to decisively activate his king via 50...e5 51.fxe5 Kxe5. Mamedyarov converted his advantage into a 69-move win.

 
 

Rapport 2½ - 1½ Gukesh

This was the only match that saw both players scoring at least one victory. Gukesh was the first one to strike, but back-to-back wins in games 3 and 4 allowed Rapport to move on to the next stage of the knockout. 

Rapport, who now represents Romania, converted an endgame with rook and bishop against rook in the fourth game to secure match victory. The technical ending had been drawn until move 155 (!), when Gukesh finally cracked and allowed Rapport to demonstrate the winning technique in the oft-seen setup.

Known for giving forthright declarations, Rapport later confessed:

I’m playing miserable chess, so I was really looking forward to Gukesh putting me out of my misery tonight.

 
 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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