Teimour Radjabov beats Levon Aronian, wins Airthings Masters

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/4/2021 – Teimour Radjabov secured first place in the Airthings Masters after scoring two points in three games against Levon Aronian, as he had already won the first mini-match on Saturday. Meanwhile, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Daniil Dubov in a lively match for third place. | Photo: Shamkir Chess

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Vachier-Lagrave bags third place

After having won the first set of the match, Teimour Radjabov only needed to score two points in Sunday’s mini-match to take home the $60,000 first prize from the Airthings Masters — and he managed to do so in the first three encounters of the day. Levon Aronian, who had shown a superb performance in the previous days of action, came in second place. A visibly tired Radjabov talked about his strategy in the final match:

I’m completely exhausted. I was trying to take Levon to the blitz part of the match, honestly, after checking his games of the preliminaries and then the knockout stage — he was playing almost perfect chess. [...] Some might say that I was playing some kind of dry chess, but my point was to win the tournament, not to please anyone, to be honest.

Once the draw was agreed in the third game of the final, giving Radjabov tournament victory, the Azerbaijani was very moved by his achievement:

Many people I know are seemingly calm, but in fact they are very emotional inside, but I’m just trying not to show the emotions, that’s the point. But at the end I couldn’t, because it was so tense, and I finally saved the game.

With this win, Radjabov qualified to the Grand Final of the tour to be played in September.

Airthings Masters

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Radjabov 2 : 1 Aronian

When asked about his performance after having lost the final, Aronian pointed out that, among other things, he was happy for the fireworks seen in game 1 of Sunday’s mini-match, as the players entered a razor sharp variation in the middlegame:


White played 21.e5 counting on the fact that after 21...dxe3 he had 22.Qg6+, with a dangerous attack. As the engines show, 21...d3 was actually winning for black, but finding this move in a rapid game — and after eight days of gruelling encounters — is extremely difficult.


The game continued 22...Kh8 23.Qxh6+ Nh7 24.Bd3 (threatening mate in one) exf2+ 25.Kf1 fxe1Q+ 26.Rxf1 Bf5:


27.Bxf5 f6 (only move) 28.exf6+ Qf7, as the queen cannot leave the defence of the h7-square:


Just like Radjabov, who had failed to find 21...d3 previously, Aronian could not find the winning idea in this position. White needed to first exchange rooks with 29.Rxe8+ Rxe8 and then play the subtle 30.b3, preventing the black queen from giving a check on c4.


Black would have needed to play 30...Rg8 to prevent 31.Ng5, to which White simply would have started pushing his h-pawn to h5, planning a lethal Bg6 at the end of the variation — Black is completely stuck.

In the game, Aronian went for the spectacular-looking 29.Re6, and after 29...Rxe6 30.Ng5 Rxf6 31.Nxf7+ Rxf7 32.Bxh7 Rxh7, the white queen started to incessantly check the black monarch:


33.Qf6+ was the first of ten checks that prompted the players to agree to a draw.

It was an intricate tactical battle, which perhaps left Aronian thinking about the chances he had missed, as in game 2 he was overly ambitious and allowed his opponent to showcase excellent technical skills to get the full point.

A draw in game 3 gave Radjabov tournament victory.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Vachier-Lagrave 2½ : 1½ Dubov

During the post-mortem interview, Vachier-Lagrave reiterated how tough it had been for him to play this match, as he was not feeling very well throughout. When Kaja Snare asked the Frenchman what is it that makes his games so entertaining for everyone, MVL confessed:

I think there were a lot of unnecessary blunders on my side, which made the games at least entertaining — I’m not sure about interesting, but definitely entertaining (smiles). [...] I really didn’t feel like it was a good day of chess.

In terms of decisive results, the match for third place was definitely eye-catching, with Vachier-Lagrave mounting a comeback in Saturday’s first set after losing the first two games, and adding two more wins in the second mini-match to defeat the man who eliminated Magnus Carlsen in the quarterfinals, the never-boring Daniil Dubov.



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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Sorgoth Sorgoth 1/7/2021 08:45
I am Armenian, but I still say congratulations to Radjabov. What an awesome comeback to chess for him! Also congrats to Aronian, who has found his mojo again and proved why he used to be Carlsen's number 1 challenger!
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 1/4/2021 01:52
A kind of strange that the big chess sites don't seem to notice the 'proverbial' gorilla in the room. Maybe wise, but not exactly good journalism. It must have been extremely tense for both players, given the non-chess circumstances. Maybe we will hear from them later. For the moment, I would say they played great chess and managed 'the other situation' pretty well - Radjabov even praising his opponent.