Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 3: Carlsen Becomes Sole Leader
Carlsen took sole first place on the third day of the Champions Chess Tour Finals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 3: Carlsen Becomes Sole Leader

| 22 | Chess Event Coverage

Welcome to the third round of the Champions Chess Tour Finals, a 10-player super grandmaster tournament that took place on September 27. 

As those of you who have been following the previous rounds know, so far only GMs Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had managed to stay at a perfect score, having won both matches. This is something that made the third round even more interesting to follow because the two leaders were facing each other!

When it came to other matches of the day, the following GMs were matched up: Jan-Krzysztof Duda versus Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Wesley So against Vladislav Artemiev, Levon Aronian versus Hikaru Nakamura, and finally, Teimour Radjabov versus Anish Giri.

Let's dive in and see what results and games the third round brought us!

How to watch?
The games of the Champions Chess Tour Finals can be found here as part of our live events platform.

Duda - Mamedyarov

Both of these players have already faced Carlsen and lost to him. Duda had a tough first day, having scored 0.5/3, while Mamedyarov was very closing to beating the world champion on the second day. However, the Polish grandmaster came back strong on day two, winning his match against Giri, whereas the Azeri grandmaster lost both matches so far: the aforementioned one to Carlsen and to So in the first match.

That's why it was very interesting to see how this match would go, based on the mood and previous results of the players. It looks like the white pieces mean a lot to both players, as both grandmasters scored wins with White. 

In the first game, Duda had the White pieces. He quickly got a significant advantage, but then misplayed the position, and for a few moves, the Azeri grandmaster was winning. However, as he didn't find the winning sequence, the position quickly deteriorated, a few moves later the Polish player was in control and convincingly converted, taking the lead: 1-0.

2021 GotD GM Dejan Bojkov

However, in the next round, Mamedyarov won a brilliant game with White in the Semi-Tarrasch. He took control early in the opening and never gave the opponent a single chance, having equalized the score. This is absolutely a game you would want to see.

In game three, Mamedyarov drew for the first time after his previous nine games ended in White's victory. The position was very murky, both Mamedyarov and Duda missed a win, but eventually ended up drawing. The fourth game was drawn as well, and the match went to blitz playoffs.

The first blitz game was absolutely hectic: players repeated the theoretical duel in the Grunfeld, Mamedyarov was completely winning, but missed a few tactical shots and even lost. Duda drew the second blitz game and won the match, getting quite close to the leaders.

Carlsen - MVL

These players have a long history of competing with each other, and today, they faced each other in the status of co-leaders.

Magnus started the first game with a somewhat unusual mix of the Grand Prix and Moscow variations of the Sicilian, having combined Nc3 and Bb5+. By move 15, he had a large advantage, and on move 26 MVL resigned. It was an absolutely gorgeous positional game by the world champion, who never let the opponent's pieces out. 

In the next game, MVL had White in a slow and positional Ruy Lopez where his opponent started pressing with Black. It took careful play, but Maxime defended and saved half a point.

2021 champions tour
Magnus started his match against MVL with a win. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

However, in round three, it was MVL's time to shine. Carlsen repeated the same variation as in game one, but having slightly changed the move order, MVL tricked White and quickly won a pawn, which he then went on to convert easily, equalizing the score and getting an edge before the last round, both for psychological reasons and because he had White in the last game.

In the last rapid game, MVL was pressing in the Ruy Lopez, but the Norwegian superstar defended stubbornly and held a draw, taking the match to blitz playoffs. Carlsen won the first blitz game and stayed in control in the second one, having taken a draw by repetition in a winning position to win the third match in a row. He now leads with 3/3 match points.

So - Artemiev

These two super grandmasters are both extremely solid players, who are fantastic at converting small advantages and very rarely lose. In a match between two such players, even a single win likely means the match is over, which is why both acted rather cautiously.

The first two games were drawn. Those weren't quick draws—the players fought for 61 and 42 moves respectively, but the positions always remained roughly equal.

2021 champions tour final
GM Wesley So earned a solid victory today. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round three, however, saw a game of a completely different nature. First, So got pressure with the white pieces in the Caro-Kann, but then made a blunder which Black didn't take advantage of, then the position was equal for a while. However, things escalated for Black who saw his position fall apart, which meant So led 2-1 and now only needed a draw to win the match.

In the last round, the American grandmaster stayed in control the entire time and accepted a draw by repetition in a nearly winning position, winning the match 2.5-1.5.

Aronian - Nakamura

Yesterday, the Armenian star beat Artemiev without needing a tie-break, while Nakamura drew all the rapid games pretty much without playing and then won the blitz playoff. Given the approach of the two players has been rather different, it was interesting to see if today's match would be mostly shifted to rapid or blitz.

In the first rapid game, Aronian captured a rather suspicious pawn with the white pieces in the Guioco Piano, and by move 15, was already nearly lost as White. The American player converted his advantage without any trouble and got ahead.

In round two, the Armenian grandmaster tried to keep things complex by choosing the King's Indian Defense, which eventually transposed into the Maroczy Bind. However, Nakamura kept things under control while not being particularly ambitious, which resulted in a solid draw. In the third game, Aronian was pressing with White in the Italian, but Nakamura defended carefully and again drew, which meant he only needed a draw in the last game to win the match without a need for playoffs.

In the last round, Aronian went for another King's Indian Defense-type position and sacrificed a pawn in Benko style, trying to win at all costs, but Nakamura kept things under control and never allowed for any counterplay, having won another game and match with a score 3-1.

2021 Champion Chess Tour Finals Naka
GM Hikarua Nakamura had a nice day at the office. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Radjabov - Giri

In the first game of the match, Radjabov got a slight advantage with White in a typical position where Black had an isolated queen's pawn. He was skillfully keeping the pressure and eventually went on to win with a display of fantastic endgame technique.

The next two games were rather even and both ended in a draw, which put Giri in a must-win situation in the last round—he did not fail to deliver. Giri grabbed the initiative early on and won a wonderful positional game to draw the rapid match 2-2 and taken the match to playoffs. Let's take a look at this fourth game:

The Azeri player's problems didn't end there, as Giri won the first game of the blitz match and drew the second one to clinch the match.

Carlsen is the sole leader of the event with a few players who won two matches chasing him, namely So, Duda, Giri, and Nakamura. I am certainly looking forward to the next rounds!

All Games Day 3

The $300,000 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals take place September 25-October 4, 2021 on chess24. The format is a 10-player round-robin, with each round having the players play a four-game rapid match. The time control is 15 minutes for the whole game plus a 10-second increment.

Earlier reports:

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