2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Carlsen, Giri, Nepomniachtchi, So In Semifinals
Wesley So will be facing Anish Giri in the semifinals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Carlsen, Giri, Nepomniachtchi, So In Semifinals

| 48 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen, GM Anish Giri, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, and GM Wesley So reached the semifinals of the 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational. None of their opponents GM Levon Aronian, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, GM Hikaru Nakamura, or GM Alireza Firouzja even managed to force a playoff. 

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 2-1

Carlsen again needed just three games to knock out Aronian, but that was because he needed just two game points. Score-wise, it looked like a smooth match again, but Carlsen was critical of himself: "Today, in general, I felt that I played a lot worse than I did the other days. Fortunately, I got the job done."

Aronian tried his chances twice in the Berlin Endgame but lost the first. In game three, though, things went much better, and he was completely winning at one point.

"I guess I was outplayed at some point and I certainly was lost, but somehow I managed to get out of it," said Carlsen, adding: "These must-win games are very tense for both sides, and frankly I don't particularly enjoy being on either side of them!"

"These must-win games are very tense for both sides, and frankly I don't particularly enjoy being on either side of them!"
—Magnus Carlsen

Levon Aronian chess
Levon Aronian had his chances on day two of the quarterfinals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

So vs. Firouzja 2.5-0.5

So can be happy about his play. After a hard-fought draw in game one, he beat Firouzja twice: initially in a lovely attacking game and then by showing fantastic defensive skills. The 10th world champion GM Boris Spassky is often described as the first completely universal grandmaster,  but these days, all top GMs are.

First, that nice win from So with the white pieces:

In a must-win situation, Firouzja tried his best, but So was up to the task:

Wesley So
Wesley So, again showing great chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Giri vs. Vachier-Lagrave 3-1

Giri eliminated Vachier-Lagrave by scoring two wins with the white pieces and drawing his two black games. It will be the first semifinal for the Dutchman this season.

A positive mindset cannot hurt, such as the one described below by Giri, who had to interrupt his training for the Candidates while playing this tournament:

"Today was a win-win situation. Either I will start my training session, or resume it, basically, or continue the tournament. Now the situation is the following: no matter how I play, I am stuck for four more days so I think now I change the plan, and I'm going to try and win this tournament."

I think now I change the plan, and I'm going to try and win this tournament.
—Anish Giri

A big step towards match victory was the first game, where Giri outplayed MVL in another Rauzer:

Anish Giri
Giri about his semifinal: "Wesley is a great opponent. I am looking forward!" Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Meanwhile, Vachier-Lagrave can start focusing on the Candidates again. He will be playing in Yekaterinburg with a new sponsor, as was announced on Wednesday: STAKRN Agency, a French company specialized in esports consulting and talent representation. The company will be "in charge of developing sponsorship opportunities as well as partnerships and marketing activations," according to the press release.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave STAKRN Agency
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, now sponsored by STAKRN Agency. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura vs. Nepomniachtchi 0.5-2.5

The other day, Nepomniachtchi said he should work on his technique. He didn't need much on the second day of his match with Nakamura as the American GM couldn't bring his A-game. He went down without much of a fight in the first two games, according to Nepomniachtchi:

"I'm not very excited, partially because the first two games were too simple and too easy actually, and game three was going a little bit wrong." 

Especially in the second game, Nakamura wasn't a shadow of himself.

Hikaru Nakamura
Hikaru Nakamura, not in his best shape. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games Day 5

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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