Airthings Masters: Carlsen Joins Leaders
Magnus Carlsen. Photo (archive): Peter Doggers/

Airthings Masters: Carlsen Joins Leaders

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen needed just one win to join the leaders at the Airthings Masters. The second playing day saw a very high percentage of games ending in draws. 

How to watch?
The games of the Champions Chess Tour Airthings Masters 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 from 6:00 a.m. Pacific / 15:00 Central Europe.

A packed group of six players—half the field—is sharing the lead with a modest plus-one score. Although the first day saw seven decisive games out of 24 encounters, the second day had just three. The drawing percentage is now 79.2 percent.

With just the top eight qualifying for the knockout phase, GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Pentala Harikrishna (on 3.5/8) as well as Anish Giri and David Anton (3/8) are currently in trouble while two Russian GMs, Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi (4/8), are in the danger zone.

Airthings Masters | Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 Nakamura, Hikaru 2829 2816 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.5/8 18.5
2 Carlsen, Magnus 2881 2795 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5/8 17.75
3 Aronian, Levon 2778 2838 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/8 17.75
4 Radjabov, Teimour 2758 2820 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/8 17.5
5 So, Wesley 2741 2832 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5/8 17
6 Dubov, Daniil 2770 2820 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 4.5/8 16
7 Grischuk, Alexander 2784 2754 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 4.0/8 16.25
8 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2778 2774 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 4.0/8 15.75
9 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2860 2725 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.5/8 14.5
10 Harikrishna, Pentala 2705 2743 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 3.5/8 14
11 Giri, Anish 2731 2672 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 3.0/8 11.5
12 Anton Guijarro, David 2667 2690 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.0/8 11.5

After starting with four draws on the first day, Carlsen scored a win in the first round on Sunday. He beat GM Daniil Dubov in 58 moves after the Russian player had sacrificed a pawn in the early middlegame. With two vs. three on the kingside, the position was still a draw if Dubov had managed to activate Aron Nimzowitch's "perpetuum mobile." See the annotations for what that means:

Skilling Open: Knockouts Day 2.

Three more draws followed for Carlsen, who wasn't happy with his play but couldn't pinpoint the problem: "I don't know; it's just been sluggish. I think I've had some decent positions from the opening as well, especially with the white pieces. I just haven't played so well after. I don't know what's missing really, and it's been a bit frustrating so far, but as long as I don't fall apart tomorrow, it's going to be fine."

Magnus Carlsen Airthings
According to the press release, Carlsen was playing in "sweltering" temperatures from an undisclosed tropical location, with a recorded temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.6 Celsius). Photo (archive): Maria Emelianova/

In the same fifth round, Giri got off to a good start as well. The Dutchman castled queenside in a Meran Semi-Slav and managed to win material with a nice tactic. The engine spoiled some of the fun by pointing out the execution could have been more accurate.

In the next round, Giri was thrown back to a (shared) last place as he lost to Dubov. The game started with a line in the Berlin Ruy Lopez that often ends in a very quick draw, like GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Wesley So had done in round five.

About this draw and a few others, one tweet referenced a famous Mikhail Tal quote:

Giri sidestepped that quick draw with his eighth move, although Dubov probably was planning on avoiding it as well. The resulting middlegame should be equal, but Giri couldn't find the most accurate moves and then missed a small tactic (20.Bc5!)—another one that follows Dubov's motto: "When you're attacked, attack something else."

Giri said: "I feel I'm in decent shape, so it's very unfortunate to be in this situation because of course now, for everybody who is on a good score, they’re just there chilling and playing safe against each other, just waiting for the qualification phase to be over. And people like me, who are in the gutter, we have to fight our way back, so it’s going to be hard, but I feel my play has been OK."

All Games

The Champions Chess Tour Airthings Masters runs December 26-January 3. The preliminary phase is a 12-player rapid (15|10) round-robin. The top eight players advance 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 the knockout match is tied after the second day. The prize fund is $200,000 with $60,000 for first place.

Previous report:

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.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

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