2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational QF: Match Wins For Carlsen, So
Magnus Carlsen won his first match with Levon Aronian smoothly. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational QF: Match Wins For Carlsen, So

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Wesley So won their matches on day one of the 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational's quarterfinals. GM Levon Aronian and GM Alireza Firouzja need to win on demand on Wednesday to force a playoff. 

With lots of decisive games in the other matches, GM Hikaru Nakamura vs. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and GM Anish Giri vs. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave both ended with 2-2 ties.

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.

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational results

Carlsen vs. Aronian 2.5-0.5

Carlsen only needed three games to win his match and could have won the third game as well. He didn't, because a draw and a win meant the exact same thing.

"It didn't make any sense to torture him there," said Carlsen.

While the world champion played well, Aronian had an off-day. After a loss in the first game, he tried a risky line in game two. "What he did in the opening of the second game as White was ambitious but it didn't really work at all," said Carlsen. "It's always nice to play games where you follow a plan and then everything goes as it sort of should."

Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen: "I don't expect it to be quite as comfortable as this tomorrow, but obviously it's a great start." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

So vs. Firouzja 2.5-0.5

His first day in the preliminaries was a bit rough, but tour leader So is fully back on track. He won his match against Firouzja with the same score as Carlsen: two wins, followed by a match-clinching draw.

So was better throughout the first game and deservedly won it, although there was a phase where Firouzja had a draw according to the tablebase. Black's way to save himself was incredibly subtle:

Alireza Firouzja
Alireza Firouzja is facing the tough task to beat So on demand. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Giri vs. Vachier-Lagrave 2-2

The most interesting game of the day was the first in the match between Giri and MVL. The Frenchman has been playing the Classical Sicilian (2...d6 and 5...Nc6) lately—saving his Najdorf for the Candidates, as GM Dejan Bojkov sensibly argues—and with the Rauzer being the main line, this always leads to middlegames with opposite castling. In this one, Giri was initially on top but ended up losing:

Almost effortlessly, Giri leveled the score as MVL didn't follow up accurately after an interesting pawn sacrifice in the opening.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Vachier-Lagrave is avoiding the Najdorf. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura vs. Nepomniachtchi 2-2

The two Ns ended their day with a tie but it was the Russian grandmaster who felt he had the better chances.

"I feel like I should have won it," said Nepomniachtchi. "I had my chances in game two, game three, and game four. I won only one of them; this is really annoying so I should work on my realization, on my technique, a little bit."

It should be noted that he was totally outplayed in the first game but then Nepomniachtchi scored a remarkably quick win in the Berlin Endgame thanks to a sweet tactic:

Nepomniachtchi was close to winning the match 2.5-1.5 but he spoiled a technically winning endgame, first on technique and then by missing a winning idea that was still possible in the position where he agreed to a draw. Chess is difficult!

Hikaru Nakamura
A narrow escape for Hikaru Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games Day 4

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.

Previous reports:

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.

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