2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational Day 1: Giri Early Leader
Anish Giri, still at the top. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational Day 1: Giri Early Leader

| 34 | Chess Event Coverage

The Magnus Carlsen Invitational, the fourth leg of the Champions Chess Tour, began on Saturday. GM Anish Giri is leading with 4/5 after beating both GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Wesley So on the first day.

How to watch?
The games of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational preliminaries can be found here as part of our live events platform. IM Levy Rozman and IM Anna Rudolf are providing daily commentary on GM Hikaru Nakamura's Twitch channel starting at 8:00 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central Europe.

Last year, the Magnus Carlsen Invitational was the first of what soon became a series of online super-tournaments during the pandemic. This year, the event is the fourth leg of the 2020-2021 Champions Chess Tour, after the Skilling Open (won by So), the Airthings Masters (won by GM Teimour Radjabov), and the Opera Euro Rapid (won by So again).

The tour has two types of tournaments: six regulars with 16 players, and three majors, originally with 12 players. The organizers decided that a preliminary phase is more interesting with 16 players; therefore, the Magnus Invitational, a major, has four more players than originally planned.

Two players qualified from a four-player, double round-robin held on March 9: GM Alan Pichot (Argentina) and GM Nils Grandelius (Sweden). Tour standings and wild cards delivered 12 players, and the final two got in via a voting system: Spanish GM David Anton and Dutch number-one Giri.

Although Giri's results in the tour's first three tournaments were not good enough for getting seeded directly into the tournament, it would have looked odd if he hadn't played. Just like at the Skilling Open, he has started powerfully and is in the lead after the first day. After three days, the first eight players will move to the knockout phase.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational | Round 5 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Pts SB
1 Giri 2731 2967 1 ½ ½ 1 1 4.0/5
2 Carlsen 2881 2850 0 1 ½ 1 1 3.5/5 7.75
3 Aronian 2778 2857 0 ½ 1 1 1 3.5/5 5.5
4 Mamedyarov 2761 2826 1 0 ½ ½ 1 3.0/5 8.5
5 Radjabov 2758 2784 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 3.0/5 8.5
6 Vachier-Lagrave 2860 2801 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 3.0/5 6.5
7 Nakamura 2829 2782 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.0/5 5.25
8 Dubov 2770 2798 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 3.0/5 5.25
9 Firouzja 2703 2755 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 2.5/5 6.75
10 So 2741 2705 0 ½ 0 1 1 2.5/5 4
11 Van Foreest 2543 2674 0 0 1 1 0 2.0/5
12 Nepomniachtchi 2778 2586 0 ½ 0 1 0 1.5/5 4
13 Anton 2674 2617 0 0 ½ 1 0 1.5/5 4
14 Karjakin 2709 2587 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1.5/5 3.5
15 Grandelius 2632 2594 ½ 0 0 0 1 1.5/5 3.5
16 Pichot 2548 2503 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1.0/5

After two draws, Giri won his last three games. His win against Carlsen was in round four, and it was a fine strategical victory. The Dutchman kept a slight edge in an Accelerated Dragon and ended up catching Carlsen's king in a mating net.

"Any day when you can beat Magnus is a great day in a chess player's career, so I am very happy," said Giri, who tweeted about the fact that he also beat Carlsen in the same tournament a year ago.

If that win wasn't enough for Giri, he then also beat So, the leader of the Champions Chess Tour with two tournament victories. After the players followed their deep preparation in the Giuoco Pianissimo, the position was equal on move 28 when So blundered into a trick:

Anish Giri
Anish Giri, the leader after day one. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen lost only to Giri. The Norwegian GM is trailing by half a point as he won three games against tour debutant GM Jorden van Foreest, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Anton.

Playing Vachier-Lagrave, Carlsen chose the incredibly rare Saragossa Opening (1.c3) but that was actually a mouse slip.

"If you're going to mouse slip it's better to do it on the first move," noted Carlsen. "After all, there aren't many too bad moves you can make."

The history of this rather modest first move is interesting by the way. It was popularized a century ago by Jose Juncosa, a member of the chess club in Zaragoza, Spain, who even organized a theme tournament in 1922 with Siegbert Tarrasch, Paul Leonhardt, and Jacques Mieses where this move was obligatory.

The Carlsen-MVL game quickly turned into a kind of French/Owen's Defense type of position. The endgame was unpleasant for Black but perhaps holdable:

Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen: "I don't think I played particularly well, but the score is good. The most important thing on the first day is not to mess up." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

GM Levon Aronian, who recently announced his plans to relocate to St. Louis and represent the U.S., had a good first day as well. He scored the same as Carlsen: 3.5/5. After a loss to GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Aronian defeated GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin, and Pichot.

"I am happy that after my usual loss in the first round I managed to win three games," said Aronian, who admitted being relieved that his big decision to leave Armenia is behind him.

"I think, generally, chess players are very emotional people, and when you're at crossroads or under something happening, it's difficult to concentrate. I'm happy that it's all in the past and I can concentrate on playing my best."

I think, generally, chess players are very emotional people.
—Levon Aronian

Speaking of openings with a long history: Nepomniachtchi played the King's Gambit against Aronian. Usually, this is asking for trouble at this level, but in this particular game White actually got a nice position out of the opening. Somehow, the Russian GM refrained from taking on d5 when he had several opportunities to do so.

Although his compatriot So needs to move into a higher gear to avoid elimination, GM Hikaru Nakamura started with a solid plus-one score. Besides four draws, he defeated Grandelius, slowly outplaying him as Black in the quiet 5.Re1 Berlin.

One moment from round two cannot be missed. Two pawns down and close to losing the game, GM Daniil Dubov managed to save himself brilliantly. Can you see why White's 66.Be5 is not the best move?

Daniil Dubov chess
A lovely trick by Daniil Dubov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games Day 1

The Champions Chess Tour's Magnus Carlsen Invitational runs March 13-21 on chess24. The preliminary phase is a 16-player rapid (15|10) round-robin. The top eight players advance to a six-day knockout that consists of two days of four-game rapid matches, which advance to blitz (5|3) and armageddon (White has five minutes, Black four with no increment) tiebreaks only if a knockout match is tied after the second day. The prize fund is $220,000 with $60,000 for first place.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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