2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Final Tied, Carlsen Shines
Magnus Carlsen won a great first game on Saturday. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Final Tied, Carlsen Shines

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Anish Giri and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi will start their second match in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational's final with a blank sheet after drawing four times on Saturday. GM Magnus Carlsen beat Wesley So 3-1.

How to watch?
The games of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational 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.

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational results

Giri vs. Nepomniachtchi 2-2

On the first day of the final, it was Giri who came closest to match victory. Nepomniachtchi agreed with that statement, saying his opponent had "a massive chance" in the first game.

"I guess yesterday took a little bit more energy from me than from Anish," said Nepomniachtchi. "Today he was sort of more fresh."

From an Alapin Sicilian, Giri castled queenside and was given an opportunity to take on f7 with his knight. After a tense middlegame, he managed to stabilize and seemed to have reached a technically winning position, but he lacked time on the clock to remain super-accurate till the end.

"It was never 100 percent easy. He always had some chances of survival going," said Giri. "It was not an open goal, but I definitely had to score that one."

Giri had a slight edge in game three as well and was very solid in his two black games, showing thorough preparation in the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf—especially game four.

Anish Giri preparation
Anish Giri was extremely well prepared. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nepomniachtchi said he had prepared this particular line about half a year ago for both colors. He knew it's a draw if Black knows all the moves, and Giri was up to the task:

"I am more or less satisfied. I had some concerns about how I will play after yesterday's massacre," said Nepomniachtchi afterward.

Giri, about his match strategy (or rather, lack of): "He's such an ambitious, quick, and reckless player that you get and you end up giving chances with white, with black, even sometimes when you don't expect it, even when you are winning, you can lose or the other way around. It's like a little bit of mayhem against Ian, so I don't have a long-term plan." 

Carlsen vs. So 3-1

For the third time in four tournaments in this series, Carlsen and So are paired against each other. The American player won two finals (the Skilling Open and the Opera Euro Rapid) but had a bad start this time.

Crucial for how the day went was the first game, which Carlsen won with a quick attack. It got him in the mood, so to speak.

"I wasn't particularly motivated before today, but the first game helped immensely," said Carlsen. "After that, I sort of tried to treat it as a serious match."

Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen motivated himself by winning a nice first game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The game started with the remarkable 4.a4!? in the Four Knights, which had been tried by GM Jorden van Foreest but even more by his brother Lucas. Carlsen explained that, besides grabbing some space, White is mostly trying to gain an improved version of the position with colors reversed.

(Interestingly, Carlsen also transposed into a blitz game vs. GM Teimour Radjabov from nine years ago where he had started with 1.a4, which was part of an inside joke back then. He won that game as well.)

Like in Nepomniachtchi-Giri, this game was largely preparation as well. "This 14.Nf6+ is something that was in a file Peter [Heine Nielsen] sent me earlier today," said Carlsen. "Obviously, if it had been an idea I had found over the board, I would be very proud."

Two draws followed, including another Four Knights where Carlsen deviated with a different sideline: 4.h3. He ended the day with a win with the black pieces where again just one mistake from So was enough:

Wesley So chess
Wesley So, now in a must-win situation for the second match. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games Day 8

The Champions Chess Tour's Magnus Carlsen Invitational runs March 13-21 on chess24. The preliminary phase was a 16-player rapid (15|10) round-robin. The top eight players advanced 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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