Airthings Masters: A dramatic day 3

by Johannes Fischer
12/28/2020 – The third and last day of the preliminary tournament of the Airthings Masters saw a lot of of exciting games and a close fight for the top eight places which secured the qualification for the knock-out stage. In the end and after a close tiebreak Carlsen, So, Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi, Radjabov, Aronian, Dubov and Vachier-Lagrave qualified. | Photo:

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Airthings Masters, Day 3

The first two days of the Airthings Masters saw a lot of draws and a cautious approach by most players but the third day of the preliminary tournament was dramatic because the players at the bottom of the table needed to take risks to finish among the first eight.

Round 9



Daniil Dubov had good chances to qualify with safe play but he kept true to his usual risky style - which backfired in round 9 against Ian Nepomniachtchi.


Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had both been struggling in the first two days of the preliminary but in their direct encounter in round 9 Giri scored an important victory.


After this win Giri could hope again to qualify while "MVL" needed to start winning to catch up again.

The first to qualify was Hikaru Nakamura - he defeated David Anton in round 9 and with 5½/9 took the sole lead in the tournament.

Standings after round 9


Round 10

Results round 10


Magnus Carlsen started the preliminary with eight draws and one win but in round 10 he scored his second win – against Nakamura who blundered in a drawn endgame.


Here Nakamura played 50...Bd5? (50...g4 should lead to a draw) but after 51.Rd7 Ke6 52.Rd8 c4 53.a6 c3 54.Rxd5 he had to resign. After 54...Kxd5 55.a7 c2 56.a8Q+ White queens with check. 1–0

Meanwhile, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played desperately for a win against Teimour Radjabov but in the end – and after a fascinating game – he was lucky to draw.


Standings after round 10


Round 11

Results round 11


The last and final round of the preliminary was particularly dramatic. Dubov once again took a lot of risk with Black against Wesley So but this again backfired when So countered with a beautiful combination:


In this position So played 31.Re8! Black now tried 31...Ba7 (after 31...fxg5 White wins with 32.Qa8) but after 32.Qd7 h6 33.Qc8 Rxe8 34.Qxe8+ Kh7 35.Bxf6 he had to resign. 1–0

With this win So finished the tournament with 6½/11 and shared first with Carlsen and Nakamura. However, Carlsen had the best tie-break and won the preliminary. So is second, Nakamura third.

But in the end Dubov was rewarded for his bold play because in the last round everything else went his way: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave managed to win a theoretically drawn rook endgame against Alexander Grischuk, Pentala Harikrishna drew against Radjabov, and Giri lost against Nakamura which led to a four-way tie on the places seven to ten.

In case of a tie, direct results would decide, after that the number of wins. With 2.0/3 Vachier-Lagrave had the best direct results against the other three players with 5.0/11 (Grischuk, Harikrishna, and Dubov) and thus qualified for the knock-out stage. Dubov and Harikrishna both had 1½/3 but while Dubov had won two games Harikrishna did not win a single one, and thus Dubov made it to the knock-out stage.

Final standings after round 11




Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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