2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational Day 3: Carlsen Moves Into Top Spot
Fittingly, GM Magnus Carlsen is the top seed of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational Day 3: Carlsen Moves Into Top Spot

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Eight players advanced to the knockout stage of the 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational on Monday, headlined by early leaders GMs Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri, who held their top two positions entering the day but switched places. Carlsen enters the quarterfinals as the top seed.

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.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2021 bracket

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi made the biggest move, beginning the day in 11th place and ending it fifth. GM Levon Aronian also separated himself from the pack just enough to qualify as the eighth seed.

The rest of the knockout stage qualifiers are American GMs Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura as well as GMs Alireza Firouzja and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. GMs Sergey Karjakin and Daniil Dubov were eliminated despite entering the day in the top eight and finishing at 50% or better.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational | Preliminary Stage Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Pts
1 Carlsen 2881 2869 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 10.5/15
2 Giri 2731 2851 1 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 10.0/15
3 So 2741 2825 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 9.5/15
4 Nakamura 2829 2795 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 9.0/15
5 Nepomniachtchi 2778 2775 0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 1 8.5/15
6 Firouzja 2703 2779 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 0 1 8.5/15
7 Vachier-Lagrave 2860 2770 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 8.5/15
8 Aronian 2778 2752 ½ 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 8.0/15
9 Karjakin 2709 2755 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 1 1 1 ½ 8.0/15
10 Dubov 2770 2729 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 0 1 ½ 7.5/15
11 Radjabov 2758 2707 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 7.0/15
12 Mamedyarov 2761 2683 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 0 ½ 6.5/15
13 Grandelius 2632 2667 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 1 1 6.0/15
14 Van Foreest 2543 2673 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 0 1 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 6.0/15
15 Anton 2674 2560 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 4.0/15
16 Pichot 2548 2464 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 2.5/15

Carlsen stated on Sunday his intention to win the top seed of the preliminaries and he came through, with an assist from Nepo's win over Giri. Carlsen won one game on Monday, against GM Alan Pichot. He drew his other four on the day, including an amusing finale with Nakamura (more on that below). Most of Carlsen's other draws, especially against Dubov and Aronian, were bigger fights.

Here is Carlsen's win against Pichot, where he makes a counterintuitive but theoretical recapture on e3 and then punishes Pichot's exchange sacrifice in the endgame.

Carlsen, who has yet to win an event during the Champions Chess Tour despite winning each preliminary stage, was asked what he might do differently in the knockouts this time. The first answer that came to mind: "Beat Wesley So!" So defeated Carlsen in the final round of both the Skilling Open and Opera Euro Rapid and they could certainly meet again in this tournament.

Nepomniachtchi, who won three games and easily drew his other two, scored the game of the day by delivering Giri's first and only loss of the preliminary stage in round 12. 

Nepomniachtchi also defeated GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round 11 and Pichot in the 15th and final round, ending up at 8.5/15. Nepo jumped from 11th entering the day to fifth afterward, which will see him matched up against Nakamura in the quarterfinal. After the conclusion of the day's games, Nepomniachtchi stated, "I felt yesterday [on Sunday] I’m getting into some good form. Maybe I was right."

Ian Nepomniachtchi
Ian Nepomniachtchi was the day's big mover. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Unlike the first two days of the tournament, short draws were common Monday. Carlsen remarked that, "15 rounds is a lot, so I understand that some people want to take a break sometimes."   

Nakamura, who was essentially guaranteed to advance to the quarterfinal before the day even began, made five draws, including three in a line of the Berlin as well as the more unusual game with Carlsen. Giri was not the only one who was surprised by the players' usage of the "Bongcloud" opening to achieve a six-move draw.

Nepomniachtchi, coasting on his two wins at the start of the day, drew his games against Karjakin and GM Teimour Radjabov in rounds 13 and 14. These draws made it difficult for Karjakin and Radjabov when they played each other in the final round.

That was because Aronian had pulled into the eighth spot, a half-point above each of Karjakin and Radjabov, by winning his round 14 game against GM David Anton

Aronian drew his final round game and, on account of his victory over Karjakin earlier in the tournament, advanced to the quarterfinal despite Karjakin's win over his friend Radjabov. When told the news, Aronian replied with a mix of surprise and relief, "Did I qualify?"

Levon Aronian
Yes, Levon, you're in! Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The knockout stage of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational is now set to begin Tuesday. The matchups are: Carlsen vs. Aronian, Nakamura vs. Nepomniachtchi, So vs. Firouzja, and Giri vs. Vachier-Lagrave. The drama only grows from here.

All Games Day 3

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.


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