2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Giri, Nepomniachtchi Lead In Semifinals
Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Magnus Carlsen 2.5-1.5. Photo: Peter Doggers/

2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational: Giri, Nepomniachtchi Lead In Semifinals

| 47 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Wesley So both need to win their second matches (and the playoff) to set up another Champions Chess Tour final among themselves. The two favorites lost to GM Anish Giri and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi respectively on the first day of the 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational's semifinals. 

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. Nepomniachtchi 1.5-2.5

The match between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi could have gone either way and afterward, both players were not satisfied. "My play was not shiny at all," said the Russian grandmaster, who noted once again that he needs to improve. Most top grandmasters are perfectionists, it seems!

Credits should go to Nepomniachtchi for saving a difficult queen endgame in game one. Then, after a quick draw, the third game was the one that decided the match.

Carlsen said his loss felt like "a massive own goal." He referred to the following moment:

Position after 21...f5.

Here, Carlsen played 22.Nxd6, allowing the positionally desirable 22...cxd6. It looks like a rookie mistake, but it was based on a calculation error: after 23.Bg2 he thought he would just continue 24.b3, "and Black's position collapses" overlooking that 24...c3 is possible.

"That was just really bad," said Carlsen. "On any of the previous moves, any idiot could go Nc5 and just dominate the game, really."

Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen: "A massive own goal." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Adding to his frustration, Carlsen felt he had missed a chance in the fourth game as well to at least "keep the game going."

Giri vs. So 2.5-1.5

To beat the solid So in a match like this isn't too bad in itself, but doing it after a loss in the first game was impressive. From a better position, Giri collapsed completely as he must have missed something simple in his calculations. "A dumb game," he himself called it.

The second game was a quick draw, after which the same line in the Anti-Berlin was played in game three. Giri got a nice pawn center again, but So found more counterplay.

"It was not easy for him because he wanted to clarify the situation while probably he has to play for an advantage," said Giri. "It's difficult to play for advantage when a draw is good. So he was probably hesitant there."

In the time-trouble phase, both kings looked in danger. Although he missed one or two quicker wins, Giri was well focused there.

In game four, So switched to the Bf4 system against the Grunfeld and held a slight edge from the opening. When the position became perhaps too dynamic for his liking, the American GM panicked on move 24, according to Giri: "I was not playing for a win for a long time, and then things turned around very quickly."

Anish Giri chess
Giri already felt pity for a possible scenario for his opponent: "If you have to play Magnus for third place, it's not the kind of match you wanna be in!" Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games Day 6

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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