Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 6: Carlsen Reinforces His Lead

Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 6: Carlsen Reinforces His Lead

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

In round six of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals, GM Magnus Carlsen reinforced his lead as he beat GM Anish Giri in the blitz tiebreaks, but GM Teimour Radjabov kept the chase alive, having won 3-1 against GM Wesley So.

Besides those matches, GM Levon Aronian blundered a checkmate in one move against GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, GM Vladislav Artemiev faced GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played GM Hikaru Nakamura.

Let's see how the day went!

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


This match began in a rather unexpected way: Aronian was White, he opened with 1.e4, and Duda replied with the French. Players followed 15 or so moves of the sharp Winawer variation, then played a few moves of their own, and then on move 18 Aronian... blundered mate in one. A huge gift for the Polish grandmaster!

The next two games were solid and relatively uneventful, as equality was almost never out of question. The last rapid game of the match saw Aronian in a must-win situation as Black.

The Armenian super grandmaster went for a Benoni-type position, was between much worse and lost, but then managed to bail out and slowly started outplaying White. With a great exchange sacrifice (for more exchange sacrifices from the Armenian star, check out Aronian-Giri from round 4), he got a significantly better endgame and it looked like he was about to win, but Duda held the position to win the match and score full three match points.

A really unfortunate outcome for Aronian, who can blame it all on the blunder in game one.


The Azeri GM didn't have a great tournament start, but towards the middle of the event, he started warming up and winning matches. Round 6 treated him quite well, too: in the first game, he got a slight advantage in the ultra-solid Queen's Gambit Declined versus So, and then went on to slowly squeeze the opponent to score a full point. I highly recommend everyone to learn endgame technique from Radjabov's games!

In round two, Radjabov chose the Berlin as Black and got a very solid position. His American opponent underestimated Black's attack on the h-file and had to give up an exchange, which Radjabov convincingly converted to score another win and nearly seal the match: 2-0!

2021 Meltwater finals radjabov
GM Teimour Radjabov won another important match in the sixth round. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Needing to win with Black, the American grandmaster chose the trendy 5...b5 line in the Vienna variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined and got a rather unpleasant position. However, he then managed to get out of trouble and started outplaying White. Radjabov was defending carefully and got a drawn rook endgame, but then made an absolutely unforced error and lost, letting the opponent stay in the match.

In the last game, So was still in a must-win situation, but this time he had the White pieces. He went for the Italian game, was better, but then did not properly meet Radjabov's aggression on the kingside and quickly saw his position fall apart. As a result, the Azeri GM won the match in the rapid segment to score the full three match points.

This result is fantastic news for Carlsen, who increases his lead in the overall standings.


As we now know, Radjabov did a great service to the World Champion by beating his closest rival in the event. As for the Norwegian himself, he wasn't having an easy match.

In the first game, Giri got a significant edge in the English, but Carlsen managed to defend well and hold the position. In the second round, the Norwegian played the English with White, but Giri again was much better. However, with careful play the world champion secured another draw.

2021 meltwater finals Anish Giri
GM Anish Giri had two promising positions in round six. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In round three, Carlsen chose the Dubov Tarrasch, in which he equalized rather comfortably to draw another game, and finally, in round four, Giri did not have much trouble neutralizing the Moscow variation of the Sicilian.

And, off to the blitz playoffs they went. Giri came up with a very interesting idea in the Rossolimo and had the opponent sacrifice a queen for three pieces. White was winning for a short span of time but failed to find a way to take advantage of his lead in development, only to see Black unravel and use his three pieces to easily win the game. Let's see how that happened:

In the last blitz game, Carlsen only needed a draw with White. He chose the Moscow variation of the Sicilian one more time, was in control of the position, and did not give the opponent chances to win the match. The world champion won the blitz segment and earned two match points.


Psychologically, the Azeri grandmaster made a very interesting choice in this match. As many know, Nakamura is terrific in blitz time controls and has seemingly been looking to quickly draw the rapid games and take the match to the blitz portion of the match.

However, Mamedyarov had something to say about that. In round one, with an aggressive Blumenfeld gambit, he quickly got a huge amount of pressure for the sacrificed pawn and was completely winning. Admittedly, the American streamer showed great defensive skills and went on to save the game.

In round two, the position was equal the entire time, but when it looked like players were about to agree to a draw, on move 70 Nakamura somewhat misplayed it, having ignored the dangers of abandoning the kingside, and the White bishop quickly proved superior to the black knight, which enabled the Azeri GM to get ahead: 1.5-0.5.

2021 Meltwater finals Mamedyarov
GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had an early lead against Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In the third game, Mamedyarov got a solid position in the Queen's Gambit Declined, but then underestimated the dangers of the White center. Once Nakamura started advancing his pawns to get an advantage, he never let go and scored a convincing win to equalize the score.

In the last rapid game, equality was never disturbed, and after drawing, players moved on to the blitz portion of the match.

In the first blitz game, Mamedyarov, who was White, repeated the same variation as in the last rapid encounter. Black was completely fine until some point, but the Azeri player managed to tie the entire queenside down with a positional pawn sacrifice. Things quickly started going downhill for Nakamura, and soon enough he resigned.

Nakamura was not done yet, and produced the game of the day with his back to the wall:

2021 GM Dejan Bojkov gotd

In Armageddon, Nakamura chose the White pieces, which gave him five minutes versus four, but put him in a must-win situation (again!). Mamedyarov handled the position well and got a winning endgame with an extra pawn and no counterplay for the opponent. However, he then allowed absolutely unnecessary activity on the kingside, lost all his pawns, and couldn't stop the White h-pawn from queening, which enabled Nakamura to come back from dead and win the game—scoring two match points.


The Russian player had very terrific wins in the recent rounds, and this time he started with the White pieces. In game one, he chose the Trompovsky Attack and was rather close to victory, but MVL saved the game with solid defense. In the next round, Artemiev went for his trusty Caro-Kann and outplayed the French grandmaster in a brilliant style. A fantastic positional game!

The third game was rather uneventful and saw the players split the point, but in the last round, in a must-win situation, Vachier-Lagrave managed to strike back in the Caro-Kann, equalize the score, and take the match to blitz playoffs.

2021 Meltwater finals artemiev
GM Vladislav Artemiev scored another impressive victory today. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In the first blitz game, Artemiev unexpectedly went for the Alekhine Defense. The Frenchman did not have strong arguments, which enabled Black to easily equalize and then get a large advantage, which he however did not convert.

In the next encounter, Vachier-Lagrave went for the Dutch defense, advanced his a-pawn somewhat too ambitiously, and was dead-lost by move 12 or so. Up to some point, Artemiev was converting his advantage very convincingly, but then allowed Black to get a drawn rook endgame. However, MVL did not use his chance to save half a point, quickly went wrong and lost, which enabled the Russian GM to scoop up two match points and continue his winning ways. 

All Games Round 6


# Fed Player Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Points Bonus Total
1 Magnus Carlsen 2855 3 3 0 2 2 2 12 16.5 28.5
2 Wesley So 2778 0 1 3 0 2 3 9 12.5 21.5
3 Teimour Radjabov 2763 3 3 1 1 1 3 12 6 18
4 Levon Aronian 2782 0 0 3 1 3 0 7 8 15
5 Hikaru Nakamura 2736 0 2 2 3 1 2 10 4 14
6 Vladislav Artemiev 2699 3 0 2 0 2 3 10 3.5 13.5
7 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2763 1 3 2 1 3 0 10 2.5 12.5
8 Anish Giri 2777 1 1 2 0 2 0 6 5.5 11.5
9 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2756 0 0 3 0 0 3 2 8 0 8
10 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2762 1 0 1 0 3 1 6 0.5 6.5

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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