Anish Giri wins Magnus Carlsen Invitational

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/22/2021 – Anish Giri defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi in tiebreaks to win the second edition of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational. In the second set of the match, Nepomniachtchi had kept the score tied by winning the fourth game on demand. Magnus Carlsen beat Wesley So in the match for third place.

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The last event before the Candidates

Anish GiriNext month, the second half of the Candidates Tournament will be played in Yekaterinburg. With seven rounds left to play, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are sharing the lead, a full point ahead of four players currently on fifty percent. Anish Giri, the winner of the second edition of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, is one of these four chasers.

Giri defeated Nepomniachtchi in blitz tiebreakers after the players drew both sets of the final. In Sunday’s second set, Giri took the lead by winning the second game of the day, but Nepo bounced back on demand in game 4. In the first 5-minute game, the Russian had a considerable advantage but a single blunder gave his opponent a crucial win. After playing Sicilians in every single game of the match, Nepomniachtchi opted for 1.b3 the second time he found himself in a must-win situation. The Russian could not bounce back twice in a day and also lost game 2 of the playoff.

This is Giri’s second consecutive remarkable result, as he tied for first place at the strong Tata Steel Tournament in January and was the most stable player throughout at the third event of the Champions Chess Tour series.

Talking to Sagar Shah, Amruta Mokal and Vidit after winning the tournament, Giri noted that, since the Candidates are coming, it is likely that people will “read much into [these results]”. The Dutchman rightly pointed out that Nepomniachtchi is probably the favourite to win the event in Yekaterinburg, since he is both playing well and is sharing the lead in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen had little trouble securing third place by beating Wesley So in a surprisingly lopsided confrontation. So, nevertheless, is still leading the overall standings of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, with Carlsen climbing to second place thanks to his performance in the third tournament of the series.

[Photo: Maria Emelianova / FIDE]

Full interview with the tournament winner

Giri* 2 : 2 Nepomniachtchi

*Won the tiebreaker 2 : 0

Excellent preparation gave Giri a smooth win with white in game 2 of the second set. The engines consider Nepo’s 16th move to have been the turning point in the game:


Black’s 18...Nc6 gave way to the strong 19.g6, massively weakening Black’s structure. The engines give 18...Ng6 as the correct way to defend for Black, but for a human, the move seems to simply lose a tempo after 19.f5. Giri himself later pointed out that it is really difficult to sort out why that knight manoeuvre is better, especially in a rapid game. The Dutchman described this win as mostly having to do with his good opening preparation.

White had a safe king and a strong initiative throughout:


36.Nf7 Qh2 37.Qxc5+ Kb8 38.Qxd4 Rf8 39.Bf4 Bg3 40.Bxg3 Qxg3 41.Qb4 and Black resigned.

Going into the last rapid game of the day, Giri only needed a draw with the white pieces to win the tournament, but decided to play a rather sharp opening nonetheless. Vidit later asked his friend why he had done that, and Giri explained that, against some players, it is easier to play for a win than to play for a draw. This time around, however, the approach backfired, as Nepo won the game and took the match to tiebreaks.

Playing black for a second game in a row, the Russian grandmaster had a big edge in the first encounter of the playoff, but a single blunder gave away the game:


25...Rh7 fails to 26.Qd7+:


Black is busted. After 26...Nge7 27.Bxe7, capturing with the bishop or with the knight are both bad alternatives — 27...Bxe7 28.Rxc8; 27...Nxe7 28.Rf4+. Nepomniachtchi opted for 27...Qxe7 allowing 28.Qxc8. Resignation came four moves later.

There was no second win on demand for the Russian, who also lost the second 5-minute game of the day.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Carlsen 2 : 1 So

The world champion kicked off the day with a black win over So, which meant two more draws — which he got — were enough to secure third place in the tournament. Carlsen was on point when he described his match against the American star:

Third is better than fourth. It’s good to get one over Wesley, that’s for sure. Clearly he was not a hundred percent motivated, and not in his best shape. It’s a lot better than to have lost the last match.

The Norwegian now trails So by merely 5 points in the overall tour standings table:

Meltwater Champions Chess Tour

Expert analysis by GM Karsten Müller



Final standings

Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2021


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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