New in Chess Classic: No tiebreaks

by André Schulz
4/29/2021 – None of the players who lost the first set of the quarterfinals could make up for it in the second set. Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov quickly secured their tickets to the semifinals. Magnus Carlsen, after a 2-2 against Radjabov in the first set, won the second set and is also through. | Photo: Alina l’Ami

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On to the semifinals

On the second day of play in the quarterfinals of the New in Chess Classic, the three players who had taken the lead on the first day maintained their advantage.

In the match between Wesley So and Levon Aronian, the Armenian, who recently switched to the US Federation, had won the first set clearly 3-1. The first two games of the second set ended drawn, which meant Wesley So needed a win in the third game. But it was Aronian who scored a full point, ending the second set prematurely, as So could at most equalize in this set, but no longer the overall score.

Endgame analysis by GM Karsten Müller


The match between Shahkriyar Mamedyarov and Alireza Firouzja was a clash between two highly tactical players. Some of the games were correspondingly wild. Mamedyarov had his young opponent well under control on the first day, which gave him a 3-1 victory.

The Azerbaijani then triumphed on the second day of play in a very dynamic and tactical game that started as a London System. Once upon a time, it was said that the London System was a ‘pensioner’s opening’, but the new generation has thoroughly dispelled these and other myths from ancient opening theory.

Firouzja,Alireza - Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar [D02]
NIC Classic KO 2021 INT (1.21), 28.04.2021

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 Bf5 4.c4 [The variation with 4.e3 is seen more often.] 4...e6 5.Qb3 [5.Nc3]


5...dxc4!? The supposed pawn gain is, in fact, a pawn sacrifice. Black gets some developmental advantage in return. [Also interesting is 5...Nc6!? 6.Qxb7 Nb4 7.Na3 dxc4 8.Qb5+ c6 9.Qxc4 Be7=. After the much more frequently played 5...Qc8 White has achieved good results.]

6.Qxb7 Be4 7.Qxc7 Qxc7 8.Bxc7 Bb4+ 9.Nbd2 Nbd7 [In another online game played recently, the following line was explored: 9...Ke7 10.a3 c3 11.axb4 cxb2 12.Ra2 Rc8 13.Rxb2 Rxc7= 0–1 (49) Bluebaum,M (2670)-Giri,A (2764) INT 2021]

10.e3 Rc8 11.Bg3 Bd5 12.a3 Ba5 13.Rc1 Ke7


14.Kd1 White wants to free himself from the pin, but the king will be checked later. [The engines recommend 14.Ke2 followed by the complicated sequence 14...Nb6 15.Bh4 Na4 16.e4 c3 17.b4 cxd2 18.Rxc8 Rxc8 19.exd5 Rc2 20.Nxd2 Bc7 21.Kd1 Ra2 22.Nb1=]

14...Nb6 15.Ne5 [15.Bh4 Na4 16.e4 Nxb2+ does not work with the king on d1.]

15...Na4 [15...Bxd2!? 16.Kxd2 Ne4+ 17.Ke1 f6]


16.Rc2? The game is lost after this move. [16.f3!? Nxb2+ 17.Kc2 still seems to be playable to a certain extent.]

16...Nxb2+ 17.Rxb2 c3 18.Rb4 [18.Rb5 c2+ 19.Kc1 Bxd2+ 20.Kxd2 c1Q+]

18...cxd2 19.f3 Rc1+ 20.Kxd2 Ra1 21.Kc2 Bxb4 22.axb4 Rc8+ 23.Kb2 Rcc1 0–1

Firouzja was obviously very impressed, conceding a draw by repetition after only 16 moves in the second game and going down again in the third. For Mamedyarov it is the first time he has reached the semifinals of a Meltwater Tour tournament.

The match between Hikaru Nakamura and Le Quang Liem did not go the full distance either. On the first day, Nakamura had won one game and drawn the remaining three. On the second day, the American grandmaster won the very first game and thus put his opponent in an even greater zugzwang. Le did not manage to score a single win. After two draws, Nakamura had reached the semifinals without expending too much energy.

Endgame analysis by GM Karsten Müller


Nakamura noted that it’s been a while since he last won a quarterfinal — a few months in fact. “The semifinal against Mamedyarov will be interesting. He is tactically very, very good”.

The match between Magnus Carlsen and Teimour Radjabov was the only one that did not have a winner on the first day. All four games ended in a draw.

On the second day of play, however, Magnus Carlsen dominated. After another draw in game one, Carlsen outplayed his opponent in the second game. The world champion then held  draws in the remaining two games and was thus confirmed as a semifinalist. He will face Levon Aronian.

All games - Knockout



André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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