Magnus Carlsen convincingly wins Airthings Masters

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
2/26/2022 – Magnus Carlsen won the first event of the 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour as he beat Ian Nepomniachtchi in the finals of the Airthings Masters. After drawing the first set on Friday, the world champion won the second 4-game mini-match by a 2½-½ score. Nepo did not go down easy, though it was Carlsen who performed at a higher level at the critical points in games 2 and 3.

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Meltwater Champions Chess TourThe perennial favourite grabbed the title in the first event of this year’s Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. Magnus Carlsen was not only the highest-rated player in the field — by quite a margin — but also came from winning the first two editions of the online series organized by his own Play Magnus Group.

Carlsen’s performance in the second set of the final was very convincing, much like what he had shown in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the knockout. However, things had not gone that smoothly for him at the start of the tournament. The Norwegian, who would later announce that he recently contracted Covid-19, lost two out of four games on the first day of action, and often mentioned he was feeling dissatisfied with his play during the prelims.

Known for being a slow starter, the world champion had little trouble getting past Le Quang Liem and Vladislav Artemiev to reach the finals. His opponent in the 2-set deciding match was none other than Ian Nepomniachtchi, his latest challenger to the world crown in classical chess. Nepo came from winning the prelims and also showing strong performances in the first two stages of the knockout.

On Thursday, Russia invaded Ukraine, which naturally affected all involved, especially the Russian players. Nepo was visibly disquieted, of course, but nonetheless put up a great fight on the first set of the finals, which ended in a draw. On the second set, though, it was Carlsen who showed stronger nerves to find the winning path during critical moments.

After scoring a 2½-½ victory in Saturday’s mini-match, the world champion noted:

I felt I was playing better as the tournament went along.

The second event of the tour, also a ‘regular’ tournament, will kick off on March 19.


See all ChessBase reports on the 2022 Airthings Masters


Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi

Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi during game 2 of the 2021 World Championship match in Dubai | Photo: Eric Rosen / FIDE

Carlsen had the black pieces in the first game of the second set. The eventual winner of the event managed to put pressure on his opponent, but could not convert his edge into a win. In game 2, Nepo miscalculated his 24th move.

 

Black went for complications with 24...Rad8, allowing White to grab the knight with 25.gxf4. There followed 25...Qxf4 26.Qe2 Rde8 27.Qd3 h5

 

Nepo did get active play in compensation for the sacrificed material (the bishop on b7 is pointing at the kingside), but as Carlsen showed in the next few moves, White can stabilize the position while dealing with Black’s threats.

This is how things looked after further simplifications.

 

Black has two pawns for the piece, but after 36.c4 it is hard to imagine him creating meaningful play on the queenside. Carlsen activated his knight, and got ahead on the scoreboard when his opponent resigned on move 50.

Nepo needed a win in one of the following two games, and he decided to create complications immediately, when he had the white pieces. The Russian star got an edge in the double-edged position arising from a Sicilian Taimanov, but a strategic error on move 22 turned the tables in Carlsen’s favour. The world champion ended up winning that game as well, and thus secured tournament victory.

 

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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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