Airthings Masters Finals: Radjabov Wins 1st Match
Teimour Radjabov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Airthings Masters Finals: Radjabov Wins 1st Match

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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25 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Teimour Radjabov took the lead in the Airthings Masters final, winning one game and drawing three vs. GM Levon Aronian on Saturday. Despite starting with two losses, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave tied the first match with GM Daniil Dubov in the fight for third place.

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.

Airthings chess bracket

Aronian vs. Radjabov 1.5-2.5

The match saw an incredible depth of preparation by both players as early as the first game. For 29(!) moves, they followed a correspondence game before drawing on move 45.

The next game saw a topical line in the Rossolimo Sicilian with 16 moves of theory. Radjabov wasn't fully up to the task and lost a healthy pawn for what seemed to be very little compensation. 

Radjabov said he had an "awful" position that was "close to lost," although it might not have been that bad:

After another draw in the same line of the Queen's Gambit as in game one, Radjabov clinched the match by winning game four—or rather, Aronian losing it. The Armenian GM avoided a move repetition, but the move he played instead (23.f6) just wasn't good.

It came as a surprise to Radjabov: "There was no threat. I don't know what he missed exactly there. After that, I didn't see any chances for him at all."

Afterward, Radjabov shared some thoughts about his preparation: 

"I mostly work these days on my own or with GM Vladimir Chuchelov from time to time. But certainly here, you don't have that much time. You also have to come back to a normal shape, not only after the New Year's Eve celebrations but also after some other matches. You have to be in shape, and it's really hard because it's going every day without any break, and for old people like me, it's not so easy to keep this tension going. And also the opponents are very strong!"

You have to be in shape, and it's really hard because it's going every day without any break, and for old people like me, it's not so easy to keep this tension going.
—Teimour Radjabov

While other players might have refrained from being interviewed, Aronian did comment, referring to game four: "Of course, I'm upset. I remembered this line is very dangerous for Black to play, but I didn't remember why or how I'm supposed to continue. It's a mistake on my part in my preparation."

About day two, he said: "I'll try to play better, I guess, not to miss chances like I did today. That's the plan."

Levon Aronian Airthings final
Aronian cannot afford to miss more chances. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Dubov vs. Vachier-Lagrave 2-2

In this event, the players also play for third place. The first day saw MVL receiving blows and almost getting knocked out before hitting back in game three. He was then on the ground for eight seconds in game four but got back on his feet again. The jury couldn't pick a winner: 2-2.

Dubov doesn't play only risky openings. In the first game, he equalized comfortably as Black and then played a fairly standard exchange sacrifice that is strong nonetheless:

Needing only a draw, Dubov didn't shy away from complications in game three. He probably won't repeat this 9...Nxe4, but in the game, it worked as he eventually equalized. Then it went wrong for him anyway:

Dubov being Dubov, the Russian GM again showed highly entertaining chess in game four, sacrificing his e-pawn in a 3.Bb5+ Sicilian. He basically caught MVL by surprise, even though the same opening was played in game two. There's simply not enough time between games to properly analyze and memorize everything.

However, Dubov failed to convert what was a winning attack but still ended up with an extra exchange. However, when he allowed the trade of queens, his chances for a win were gone. The endgame was still a draw, but Vachier-Lagrave again managed to score the much-needed full point:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Airthings
How on earth did Vachier-Lagrave survive this match? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

All Games Day 8

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.


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