Goldmoney Asian Rapid: Carlsen knocks out So in tiebreaks

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/1/2021 – Two of the four quarterfinal matches at the Goldmoney Asian Rapid tournament were decided on tiebreaks. After winning the first set and the first game of the second set, it seemed like Magnus Carlsen was going to have an easy day at the office, but back-to-back wins by Wesley So meant it would all be decided in blitz. The world champion finally moved on to the semis thanks to a win and a draw in the 5-minute games. Levon Aronian also had a tough time against Arjun Erigaisi, but managed to advance, while Vladislav Artemiev and Ding Liren won their matches in the rapid section of the second set. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Aronian, Ding and Artemiev also in semis

All the rating favourites won their quarterfinal matches at the Goldmoney Asian Rapid tournament — yes, Vladislav Artemiev is higher rated than Anish Giri in rapid. The semifinals will see world champion Magnus Carlsen facing Levon Aronian and Ding Liren playing Artemiev. 

For Carlsen and Aronian, getting a ticket to semis was no easy task. While it was to be expected that Wesley So would pose a big challenge to the world champion, it was refreshing to see a new face making Aronian work extra hard to win the match, as 17-year-old Arjun Erigaisi could have easily beaten the Armenian in a very close confrontation.

Aronian told Kaja Snare:

It was very tough. I didn’t know him well, and he turned out to be a very difficult opponent and very motivated guy. I am happy to have gone through.

While Aronian had a tough time from the get go of the second set — he was on the back foot in the first three games — Carlsen seemed en route to get a clean victory over So. However, the American grandmaster scored back-to-back wins on demand to impressively come back from behind and force tiebreaks.

Carlsen was happy to advance to the semis:

I thought after the first two games today, this may be the one time that I will have a very clean performance. But it wasn’t to be. Overall I am happy to go through. I am not that upset with my losses. It wasn’t good, but happy to have pulled myself together.

Goldmoney Asian Rapid Chess 2021

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Carlsen* 1½ - 2½ So

*Won the tiebreaker 1½-½

Both victories by So in the second set of the match were obtained thanks to his technical abilities in rook endgames. In game 4, Carlsen made the decisive mistake on move 55.


White is stuck defending a miserable position, but rook endgames are notorious for their drawing tendencies. At this point, the right way to wait was with 55.Ra7, while the world champion’s 55.Kg3 allowed Black to unleash his e-pawn after 55...Rg4+ 56.Kh3 e4. So needed fifteen more moves to convert his position into a victory.

GM Karsten Müller took a more in-depth look at the ending. Find his instructive analysis in the replayer below (game 4).


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Aronian* 2 - 2 Arjun

*Won the tiebreaker 1½-½

As mentioned above, Arjun could have won the match in the rapid phase of the second set. The Indian was in the driver’s seat in the first three encounters of the day, so kudos should be given to Aronian for his resourcefulness in defence.

In game 3, Arjun, playing white, was a pawn up in the middlegame.


Converting this position is no easy task, but the 17-year-old Indian could have posed more problems to his opponent had he gone for 35.Rd1 or 35.Rg4, planning to slowly improve his position.

The suggested rook moves would have prevented what happened after 35.Bd1, as Aronian quickly restored material balance with 35...Bxd4. The game would end in a 58-move draw.

After all four rapid games finished drawn — by no means for a lack of fighting spirit — the match was decided in the blitz tiebreakers. Aronian prevailed in game 1 and drew the second 5-minute encounter to knock out his young colleague.


Artemiev 2 - 1 Giri

For a second day in a row, a fourth game was not needed in this matchup. Artemiev had won all three games on Tuesday, and continued with his winning streak in the second set, as he obtained a fourth straight victory after his rival played an imprecision as early as move 11.


11.Qd3 allowed 11...b5 12.Bb3 Nc5 gaining the bishop pair in the next move. Giri tried to complicate matters, but to no avail. Artemiev’s sharp eye for the smallest of tactical resources gave him a 21-move victory, while draws in the following two games granted him a spot in the semifinals of the online event.


Ding 3 - 1 Duda

After drawing all four games in a hard-fought and entertaining first set, Ding and Duda played four decisive encounters on Wednesday. The Polish grandmaster kicked off with a win, but his Chinese colleague won the three remaining confrontations to secure match victory.

In game 3, Ding made good use of his passed pawns in an endgame.


53...Kf7 was Duda’s losing mistake. White quickly activated his king and started pushing his pawns until forcing his opponent to resign.

GM Müller analysed the position and provided instructive annotations (game 3 in the interactive replayer below). 



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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