Gukesh shines in super strong Airthings Masters Play-In

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
2/6/2023 – The six strongest performers of the Airthings Masters Play-In will join Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So in Division I of the tournament’s knockout phase starting Monday. Meanwhile, 16 players will battle it out in Division II, and 32 will play in Division III. In Friday’s Play-In, Dommaraju Gukesh was the clear winner of the 9-round Swiss after impressively collecting 7½ points. The Indian prodigy then went on to get a 2-0 victory over former world champion Vladimir Kramnik.

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Gukesh beats Kramnik in match-play

The Airthings Masters kicked off with a bang, as the 9-round Swiss with a star-studded lineup saw Dommaraju Gukesh emerging as the clear winner with an astounding 7½ score. Per the new regulations, finishing among the top 6 in this section of the Play-In only gives you the right to choose which of the players who were placed 7th to 14th will be your rival in the subsequent match-play section. Fearlessly, Gukesh chose Vladimir Kramnik as his rival.

Here it should be noted that for the retired Kramnik to make it into the top 12 was quite a feat. In fact, the former world champion outscored the likes of Levon Aronian, Leinier Dominguez and Vidit Gujrhathi, younger players who are still active in the elite circuit.

Gukesh continued his magnificent run in the match against Kramnik, as he twice beat the Russian to get a spot in Division I of the knockout, where he will face Hikaru Nakamura in Monday’s quarterfinals. During the Swiss tournament, Gukesh had also defeated Kramnik (it was the Russian’s one defeat throughout the nine rounds), making it a memorable 3-0 against the living legend.

True to his nature, Kramnik went all-in in the second game of the match against Gukesh, but the Indian showed that he is fully capable of keeping his cool despite his young age.


38.b5 was Kramnik’s desperate attempt to create winning chances by opening lines in the centre. However, after 38...Bxb5 39.d5 exd5 40.Bd4, Gukesh blocked the e-pawn with 40...Re6, neutralizing his opponent’s attempts to create havoc on the board.


All roads are blocked now. Kramnik resigned thirteen moves later.

Two other surprising results were seen in the matches to enter Division I, as Rauf Mamedov knocked out Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexey Sarana got the better of Fabiano Caruana. Notwithstanding, we should note that in matches between grandmasters with a 10+2 time control, no result can be regarded as really shocking (unlike in classical chess).

Perhaps the most anticipated matchup in this section was Hikaru Nakamura vs Daniil Dubov. Not surprisingly, Dubov, who finished the Swiss tournament in sixth place, saw his colleagues rejecting the prospect to face Nakamura in a blitz encounter. The Russian nonetheless gave a great fight, as the US grandmaster only won the match in Armageddon.

Besides Gukesh, Mamedov, Sarana and Nakamura, Alireza Firouzja and Arjun Erigaisi also qualified to Division I.

Unlike in the Play-In, which had a 10+2 time control, players will get 15 minutes and 3-second increments in the knockout.

All matches for Division I spots


Division II

The losers of the matches presented above will be joined by the winners of matches between the players who finished 13th to 22nd and those who finished 23rd to 32nd in the Swiss.

Thus, Kramnik, Nepomniachtchi, Caruana, Dubov, Raunak Sadwhani and Dmitry Andreikin (losers in the matches to reach Division I) will be joined by ten players — including the likes of Yu Yangyi and Matthias Bluebaum — in the Division II knockout.

All matches for Division II spots


Division III

Following the same logic of the qualification process for Division II, the losers of the matches presented in the replayer above will be joined by 22 players in the Division III knockout.

We can find at least three remarkable quarterfinal matchups in this Division: Amin Tabatabaei vs Praggnanandhaa, Vincent Keymer vs Maxim Matlakov and, of course, Peter Svidler vs Alexander Grischuk.

All matches for Division III spots



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.