Airthings Masters Day 4: Nepo, Carlsen, Ding To Face Young Stars In Upcoming Knockouts

Airthings Masters Day 4: Nepo, Carlsen, Ding To Face Young Stars In Upcoming Knockouts

| 20 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi won the preliminary stage of the Airthings Masters. Pre-tournament favorites GMs Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren are also in. They will be challenged by a well-represented group of young stars when the knockout stage begins tomorrow.

How to watch?
The games of the Airthings Masters preliminaries can be found here as part of our live events platform.
Airthings Masters Preliminaries Events

Airthings Masters | Day 4 Standings

# Fed Player Rtg Points
1 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2773 29/45
2 Carlsen, Magnus 2865 25/45
3 Artemiev, Vladislav 2700 24/45
4 Esipenko, Andrey 2714 24/45
5 Hansen, Eric 2606 23/45
6 Ding, Liren 2799 22/45
7 Le, Quang Liem 2709 22/45
8 Keymer, Vincent 2664 22/45
9 Aronian, Levon 2772 21/45
10 Giri, Anish 2772 21/45
11 Praggnanandhaa R 2612 19/45
12 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 2651 19/45
13 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2760 17/45
14 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2767 17/45
15 Niemann, Hans Moke 2642 15/45
16 Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2516 3/45

The final day of the preliminary tournament was all about securing a qualifying spot. The first man to get the job done was GM Vladislav Artemiev, who easily defeated GM Hans Niemann. For Hans, this tournament was a great experience, and I'm sure he will do better next time. His openings could be a subject for improvement.

GM Eric Hansen made an important step forward by defeating the leader Nepomniachtchi. The latter spoiled a good position by one ill-advised pawn push on move 15, and after that Eric's play was a model of consistency.

Airthings Masters 2022 Eric Hansen.
Hansen once more pleasantly surprised his fans by defeating tournament leader Nepomniachtchi. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

GM Anish Giri's hopes took a hit when he overpressed against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Shakh had long been out of contention, but on the last day, he was happy to play the role of a spoiler.

The game I like the most (also known as Game of the Day) is below. GM Andrey Esipenko made use of plenty of tactical chops to bamboozle his esteemed opponent, Ding.

Carlsen was able to emerge a pawn ahead out of a tactical skirmish with GM Levon Aronian, but this time the defense prevailed, leaving both players in need of another win in the last two rounds.

Both superstars accomplished just that in round 14. Carlsen crashed through Mamedyarov's Kings Indian with a thematic e4-e5 push, while Aronian intricately outplayed GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov in what seemed an equal endgame. This loss hurt Nodirbek's chances and left him needing a win in the last round—which just wasn't meant to be.

Airthings Masters 2022 Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen crashed through Mamedyarov's King's Indian Defense despite not feeling physically well. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Another young player who stumbled, Esipenko, was the hero of the previous round. Andrey had white against GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who was only playing for his pride and a bit of pocket change (every win at the Airthings makes you $750 richer), and he went wrong in the early middlegame. Esipenko's kingside offensive totally backfired, and the heroic defense to follow was only good enough to resist until move 71.

To make matters worse for those of us who root for the younger generation, GM Vincent Keymer lost his way in a simple endgame against GM Le Quang Liem, and suffered a painful defeat.

In the meantime, Niemann deliver the death blow to GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu's chances, and he did it in style.

However, all this drama pales in comparison to the following bombshell of a game. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk finally lit the scoreboard at the expense of Hansen.

Alexandra must have been relieved to get off the schneid.

In a way, her win also helped her last-round opponent, Ding, who needed three points to solve his qualification issues. The pressure was gone, and Ding won a smooth game. Eric, in his stead, had to defend stoically to earn a draw in his last round battle with Keymer. When the smoke cleared, both warriors were happy to find themselves among the top eight finishers.

Airthings Masters 2022 Alexandra Kosteniuk
Kosteniuk won her game against Hansen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

However, other high-rated players weren't able to follow suit. It all started when Aronian inexplicably blundered and lost to Esipenko after just 20 moves.

The result of this game had huge implications. Esipenko leapfrogged a bunch of people to land in fourth place, while Aronian had to sit and hope others wouldn't be able to surpass him. I'm not sure how the tie-breaks would have worked out for Levon, but at the end of the day, the only help he got was a win by Mamedyarov over Abdusattorov, with everything else going against him.

Yesterday I expressed my belief in more experienced players finding ways to win when it counts the most. Giri left me perplexed when he agreed to a draw in the following position:

So, it's Nepomniachtchi-Keymer, Hansen-Esipenko, Artemiev-Ding and Le-Carlsen tomorrow. Stay tuned.

All Games Day 4

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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