Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Giri starts strong

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/14/2021 – Anish Giri is the sole leader of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational preliminaries after finishing day 1 with three wins in a row, including one over Wesley So and one over the world champion. After five rounds, Levon Aronian and Carlsen are sharing second place, a half point behind the Dutchman. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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Giri wins three in a row

Anish Giri has so far played in all the events of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The 26-year-old star did not make it into the knockout stage at the Airthings Masters and was knocked out in quarterfinals both at the Skilling Open and the Opera Euro Rapid Tournament. Now, at the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, he left a strong impression on day 1 of the preliminaries, as he beat Alan Pichot, Carlsen and Wesley So in rounds 3-5 to go into the second day of action as the sole leader on 4/5 points.

Carlsen and Levon Aronian also scored three wins on Saturday, although they also lost one of their five games to finish the day on 3½/5 — they are currently sharing second place half a point behind the leader.

The tough lineup, with a mix of elite players and ambitious rising stars, has left two 2700+ rated players with a difficult road ahead. Russians Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Karjakin finished the day on -2 and will need to step up their game if they intend to reach the quarterfinals.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2021

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Round 1: Aronian’s missed opportunity

Four players kicked off the tournament with a win — Daniil Dubov beat Nils Grandelius with the white pieces, while Carlsen, Nepomniachtchi and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov all scored full points with black.

Mamedyarov was in trouble against Aronian, but the Armenian could not make the most of his attacking chances:


17.Rxg7+ Kh8 18.Rf5 Bf6


Here Aronian played the natural 19.Rxf7, when the best move in the position was 19.Qb3 — Black cannot go for 19...Bxg7 due to 20.hxg7+ Kxg7 21.Qxf7+ Kh8 22. Rh5 winning. After the text, Black not only survived the attack but went on to create a deadly onslaught against the opposite king on the other flank. 

Endgame specialist Karsten Müller took a closer look at one of the draws in round 1. In a knight ending, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, playing white, was a pawn down but had the upper hand thanks to his passer on the h-file against Alireza Firouzja. The Frenchman failed to find the most accurate continuation on move 53 and the game ended in a draw.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Round 2: 1.c3

The second round started with a surprise, as Carlsen strangely played 1.c3 against Vachier-Lagrave. Commentator David Howell thought this was either a way to surprise MVL, or a polite way to let the Frenchman play freely, since he would not need to hide his preparation for the Candidates. The world champion later confessed that it was a mouse-slip. 

Carlsen ended up winning that game, scoring his second full point in a row. Jorden van Foreest, Hikaru Nakamura, Aronian and So also won in round 2, all of them with black.

In the final position of his second game of the day, the world champion was a pawn down against MVL, but Black was completely stuck. Vachier-Lagrave decided to call it a day after White’s 34th move:


White is ready place his bishop on b4, with decisive effect. Black resigned.

Another interesting draw in an endgame was seen in round 2. Mamedyarov was caught in a stalemate trap after getting a clearly superior position against Daniil Dubov. Karsten Müller shows us how the Russian saved a half point.


Round 3: Five decisive games

Giri, Aronian, Dubov, Grandelius and Vachier-Lagrave won in round 3. Once the round was over, Carlsen was sharing the lead with Dubov on 2½/3.

Van Foreest had a good position against Grandelius, but a single imprecision turned the tables in a sharp setup:


A quiet move like 28.Ka1 or 28.Rhe1 would have kept White’s advantage, as he is a pawn up and Black needs some tempi to create something on the queenside. Van Foreest opted for the forcing 28.Nc4 instead, and Black took over after 28...Nxe4 29.Qc6 Nxf2. The Dutchman went all-in against Black’s king, but to no avail. Grandelius scored his first win of the event.


Round 4: Giri beats Carlsen

After beating Pichot in the previous round, Giri scored a convincing win over the world champion in round 4 and was sharing the lead with Mamedyarov going into the last game of the day — Mamedyarov defeated Van Foreest with white. Firouzja and David Anton also won in round 4.

Giri got the better of Carlsen in positional fashion. The world champion found himself caught up in a mating net:


Black resigned.

As usual, Giri had something witty to say on Twitter. Referring to the fact that this is the second edition of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, and that he also beat the world champion in the first edition, he wrote:

Emil Sutovsky reflected:


Round 5: So blunders

Seven out of eight games finished decisively in the last round of the day — only Nakamura and Karjakin signed a 14-move draw. Giri, Aronian, Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave, Firouzja, Van Foreest and Teimour Radjabov all scored full points.

The leader inflicted So’s second loss of the day. The American uncharacteristically blundered in a rather simple position — for his standards:


28.c4 d4 29.Rxd4 and So resigned after 29...Rxe3 — 30.Rxd8 does not work due to 30...Re1+, while 30.fxe3 runs into 30...Qxe3+ and the d4-rook falls in the next move.


Standings after Round 5



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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