Airthings Masters Day 3: Nepo Maintains Lead; Carlsen Leaps To Second

Airthings Masters Day 3: Nepo Maintains Lead; Carlsen Leaps To Second

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi is in the lead by a massive seven-point margin, while GMs Magnus Carlsen, Vladislav Artemiev, and Vincent Keymer are top contenders for qualifying spots.

How to watch?
The games of the Airthings Masters preliminaries can be found here as part of our live events platform.
Aithings Masters Champions Chess Tour 2022

Airthings Masters | Day 3 Standings

# Fed Player Rtg Points
1 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2773 27/36
2 Carlsen, Magnus 2865 20/36
3 Artemiev, Vladislav 2700 20/36
4 Keymer, Vincent 2664 20/36
5 Giri, Anish 2772 19/36
6 Hansen, Eric 2606 19/36
7 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 2651 18/36
8 Esipenko, Andrey 2714 18/36
9 Ding, Liren 2799 18/36
10 Aronian, Levon 2772 17/36
11 Le, Quang Liem 2709 15/36
12 Praggnanandhaa R 2612 15/36
13 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2760 12/36
14 Niemann, Hans Moke 2642 11/36
15 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2767 11/36
16 Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2516 0/36

I'd like to start with a disclaimer. For some reason I wasn't feeling up to writing my usual detailed analysis today, and, instead, took the position of a spectator, just enjoying the games. This report will show some fragments of today's games that caught my eye.

The opening round was a bit spotty. I'll start with a peculiar case of mutual blunders in the game between GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda and GM Levon Aronian.

Nepomniachtchi could have easily added another win to his record by beating Keymer in a technical endgame.

I praised GM Le Quang Liem's steady play in the first two days, but he couldn't hold his nerve in the endgame at the start of Day Three. It didn't help that his opponent was named Magnus Carlsen.

The next round brought yet another shocking upset. GM Eric Hansen defeated the world champion as Black. Granted, Magnus blundered badly, but credit where credit's due, Eric played his opening, the Classical Ruy Lopez, and never backed down.

In other important developments, I would mention GM Anish Giri's steady progress. After a so-so showing on day one, Anish gradually picked up the speed, when his third win in a row (the last one over GM Ding Liren) catapulted him into a shared second place. Ding, on the other hand, begins to show the detrimental effects of playing chess in the middle of the night. Life is tough on China's number one.

Anish Giri Airthings Masters 2022
Giri is picking up the pace after his third consecutive win. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The last game to finish was a workman-like win by Artemiev over Aronian, which enabled the Russian to get a hold of the last qualifying spot with five rounds to go.

Round 11 started off with a grandmaster draw between Ding and Carlsen. All things considered, we should go easy on the players, as neither of them is having a fun tournament at the moment. Sometimes, a short breather is all it takes to correct the ship's course.

A big battle between Hansen and GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov nearly went in favor of the Canadian, but Eric took too much time and walked into a nasty tactic.

Riding this win, the young world rapid champion found himself right in the mix. His chances further improved thanks to a miraculous escape from a bad position against Ding in round 12.

In the meantime, Artemiev continued his late surge by winning a nice game over Keymer—game of the day it is.

Vlad almost made it a perfect 4/4, but he couldn't convert his extra pawn against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round 12. A well-rested Carlsen caught up with him by defeating Duda with surprising ease. Didn't GM Bobby Fischer say the Dragon was easy: try open the h-file, sac, and mate?

Carlsen and Artemiev are joined in a tie for second by Keymer, who just never seems to go away and bounces back after losses. He did it again by defeating GM Hans Niemann to conclude day three.

Let's take a look at the standings and estimate the players' chances of making it to the top eight.

Obviously, Nepo is already through. His massive tally of 27 points (9.5/12 and two points ahead of the field by the old scoring system) will take care of that. Truth be told, with a bit more attention, Ian could have had two more wins today, had he not blown a large endgame advantage against Keymer and Le. Still, his speed continues to impress. Nepo breezes through literally every game, hardly spending more than five minutes of his clock. Whether his confidence holds when the playoffs begin is quite another story.

Airthings Masters 2022 Ian Nepomniachtchi
Nepo is already in the playoffs. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The much-publicized struggles of Carlsen should not make much difference once the playoffs begin. I have a feeling Magnus doesn't care that much which position he's going to have. According to an official press release, the first enemy he has to defeat is Covid-19. I'm not really in a position to elaborate on medical matters, but I'm confident that a super-fit 31-year-old will pull through.

I think Artemiev has proved his class already. His only two losses came against Carlsen and Ding, and there aren't many players left who can outplay him. My guess is that Vlad is going to be in the playoffs.

Airthings Masters 2022 Artemiev
Artemiev has proved he's a force to be reckoned with. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The rest is a big mess. I'd want to see Keymer, Abdusattorov, and, particularly, Hansen making it. However, experience counts in this business, and I think Giri and Aronian will be there. Not sure about Ding, though—the timezone situation is brutal. Le and Praggnanandhaa aren't out of it, but they are going to need a big push. Anyway, only three rounds tomorrow stand between us and all the answers.

All Games Day 3

The 2022 Champions Chess Tour's Airthings Masters runs February 19-27 on chess24. The preliminary phase is a 16-player rapid (15+10) round-robin. The top eight players advance to a knockout that consists of one four-game rapid match during the quarterfinals and semifinals and two four-game rapid matches during the final.  Play advance to blitz (5+3) and armageddon (White has five minutes, Black has four with no increment) tiebreaks only if a knockout match ends in a tie. The total prize fund of the event is $150,000, with $750 for each win and $250 for each draw in the preliminaries.

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