Opera Euro Rapid SF: Carlsen dominates

by André Schulz
2/12/2021 – Eternal favourite Magnus Carlsen needed luck to survive in the quarterfinals against Danniil Dubov, but on the first day of the semifinals he obtained a clear victory against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Wesley So also took the lead in his match against Teimour Radjabov. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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The online tournaments of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour are played in one go, without any rest days. So there is no time to recover from previous setbacks. The very next day, the tournament continues, no matter how much energy was expended in the previous round.

Everybody ready, almost everybody...

The tough quarterfinal match between Magnus Carlsen and Daniil Dubov must have taken some energy out of the world champion. But on the first day of his semifinal match against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave there was no sign of Carlsen being tired. He continues on his way to the desired tournament victory, as he is yet to win a tournament in “his” Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.

Carlsen’s victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made an excellent impression. In both his games with white, the world champion outplayed the Frenchman with aplomb. In the first game, MVL entered an endgame from his pet Grünfeld Defence. The position was balanced — at least at the beginning. Karsten Müller took a look.


An interesting second game ended in a draw. Here, too, Carlsen was in control, but allowed MVL to escape into a draw.

In the second Grünfeld game, Vachier-Lagrave was outplayed in the queenless middlegame after Carlsen gave up an exchange sacrifice. The Norwegian even missed a mate-in-2, but nevertheless managed to score the win in an endgame with rooks and opposite-coloured bishops. Perhaps he was enjoying the game too much to end it prematurely with a mate. 

Winning against the Grünfeld

The Grünfeld is a highly dynamic opening in which Black's position often seems to hang together by a single thread; and yet, this apparently precarious equilibrium appears to be enough to make it entirely viable — up to the highest level.

Karsten Müller’s endgame analysis:


So the world champion now goes into the second day of the semifinals only needing a draw to advance.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

So beats Radjabov 

In the other semifinal the winners of the first two tournaments of the Champions Chess Tour are facing each other, Teimour Radjabov and Wesley So. The American star is in excellent form and continued his winning streak against Radjabov. He won the first game of Thursday’s first set with the help of his opponent.


39.Rxf7+ Kxf7 40.Qg6+ Kf8 41.Qxf6+ Can White achieve more than perpetual check here?

41...Ke8 42.Qh8+ Kf7 [In case of 42...Ke7 Black is mated: 43.Qg7+ Ke8 44.Qg8+ Ke7 45.f6+ Kxf6 46.Rf1+ Ke7 47.Qf7#]


43.Qh5+ Kf8 The “natural” move, but also a mistake. [Correct was 43...Kg8 which would have been likely followed by 44.Rg1+ Rg7 45.Rxg7+ Kxg7 46.Qg5+ Kf7 47.Qxd8 Qxc3 48.Qd7+ Kg8 49.Qxc6 Qf3+ 50.Kh2 and 50...Qg4 is the best continuation.]

44.Rg1 Rf7 45.f6 Rxf6 46.Qh7 1–0

Radjabov, however, immediately equalized in the second game. Karsten Müller analysed the endgame:


In the third game Wesley So took the lead again. Radjabov could not bounce back. 


25...Bxh3!? A rather speculative sacrifice. 26.gxh3 Qxh3 27.Nf1 fxe5 [27...Qg4+ 28.Ng3 h4? 29.Qe2]

28.dxe5 Bg7 29.Qd4 Qe6 30.Rxa5 Bxe5 31.Qh4 Rf8 Even if nothing concrete is threatened, White’s room for manoeuvre is limited due to his king’s lack of safety.

32.Ra7 Bd6 33.b4 Rf3 34.Ra8+ Kf7 35.Bh6 Qe2 [35...Rh3? 36.Rf8#]

36.Rf8+ Ke6 37.Rxf3 Qxf3 38.Be3 Kd7 39.a5 Kc8 40.Bc5 Bf4 41.Qxe7 Qg4+


42.Ng3 Bxg3 Looking for a perpetual check. [After 42...h4 White arrives first, e.g.: 43.Qe8+ Kc7 (43...Kb7 44.a6+ Kxa6 45.Qxc6#) 44.Qf7+ Kc8 45.a6 hxg3 46.Qb7+ Kd8 47.Bb6+ Ke8 48.Qxc6+ Kf7 49.Qxd5+ Kg7 50.a7 gxf2+ 51.Kxf2 and wins.]

43.fxg3 Qxg3+ 44.Kf1 Qd3+ 45.Kf2 Qd2+ 46.Kf3 Qd1+ 47.Kf4 Qg4+


48.Ke5 Qe4+ 49.Kf6 Qxe7+ 50.Kxe7 h4 51.Kd6 h3 52.Bg1 d4 53.Kxc6 d3 54.a6 Kb8 55.b5 d2 56.a7+ Ka8 57.b6 [57.b6 d1Q 58.b7#] 1–0



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


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