Aimchess US Rapid: Carlsen to face Duda in quarterfinals

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/31/2021 – Half the players were eliminated from the Aimchess US Rapid after three days of preliminaries. Among them are top GMs Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Notably, we will get to see four interesting matchups in the quarterfinals, with world champion Magnus Carlsen facing Jan-Krzysztof Duda, after Duda recently beat Carlsen in the semifinals of the World Cup. | Pictured: Locations of the participants

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Giri and MVL out of contention

With only 4 out of 16 players rated below 2700 at the Aimchess US Rapid, it was expected for some big names to get eliminated in the preliminary stage. After 15 rounds of the all-play-all tournament, the strongest players who did not make the cut were Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Giri’s 14 draws and a win almost were enough to advance, as he obtained as many points as 8th-placed Leinier Dominguez but was knocked out of contention on the second tiebreak criterion (number of wins). Meanwhile, Vachier-Lagrave’s fifty-percent score on day 3 left him a half point back. The recent winner of the Sinquefield Cup beat Daniel Naroditsky and Eric Hansen, but was defeated by Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Alireza Firouzja.

Playing black against Firouzja, MVL found the right idea, but did not play it in the right order.


15...Rxb2 removes the defender of the h6-bishop. However, after 16.Qxb2 Bxh6 White gets good piece play with 17.Ne5 Bd7 18.Be2. In fact, White gets a clear edge, which Firouzja duly converted into a 32-move win.

In hindsight, it is not difficult to see that, on the diagrammed position, Black needed to start with 15...Bxf3, and after 16.gxf3 Rxb2 17.Qxb2 Bxh6 there is no knight that can jump to e5.


This position is by no means massively advantageous for Black, but a double-edged struggle would have ensued.

Firouzja would go on to beat Dominguez in round 12 and secure a spot in the quarterfinals by drawing his three remaining games, including his last-round draw against Giri, which left the Dutchman out of contention.

The biggest winners on Monday were Dominguez and Vladislav Artemiev. The latter managed to finish the preliminaries undefeated and outscored Magnus Carlsen by a half point to win the single round-robin, while the latter came back from behind to get a spot in the knockout — where he will face Artemiev, in fact.

Artemiev beat Wesley So with black in round 11.


So’s 31.fxg6 was the losing mistake. The Filipino-born grandmaster missed 31...Rd1+ 32.Kh2 Rh1+ Kg3 33.Rg1+, and Black will grab the g6-pawn with the rook — more importantly, the bishop on h6, which is defending the white rook, is under attack after 34.Kh4 Rxg6


White loses a piece after 35.Kh5 Rxh6+ 36.Kxh6 Kxf8. So resigned after 37.Kxh7 Kf7 38.h4 Bf3, with total domination.

The Russian has been showing his strength at rapid controls throughout the tour. His first place in the prelims only confirms his status as a contender to win the last ‘regular’ event of the series. Carlsen finished second, a half point behind Artemiev, and will face World Cup winner Duda in the quarterfinals, who beat him in the semifinals of the massive knockout tournament in Sochi.

Aimchess US Rapid 2021

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Final standings - Preliminaries


All games



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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