Airthings Masters: Aronian, MVL Start With Wins
Levon Aronian defeated Hikaru Nakamura on Tuesday. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Airthings Masters: Aronian, MVL Start With Wins

| 23 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Levon Aronian and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won their first quarterfinal matches at the Airthings Masters against GM Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So respectively. The other two matches ended in 2-2: GM Daniil Dubov vs. GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi vs. Teimour Radjabov

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.

Aronian vs. Nakamura: 2.5-1.5

"I thought my play was better today because the last two days were horrendous, so I got angry at myself," said Aronian after he defeated Nakamura on the first day of the quarterfinals. "I decided that I need to play some solid chess, and things worked out today."

The Armenian GM was indeed very solid in, for example, his two black games, using the Ragozin defense with great success. It was game two, with a London System, that got Aronian the win:

Aronian's game plan for the second match? "Try to relax. Today I feel I wasn't tense, so I think it's good. That's how I'm supposed to be playing."

Vachier-Lagrave vs. So: 3-1

It was a bad day for U.S. chess because So also lost. Uncharacteristically, he went down in both his white games. This was related to the fact that the American GM was willing to test MVL's Najdorf repertoire in a relatively sharp line (6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5). It was a praiseworthy approach that, however, backfired.

Skilling Open: Knockouts Day 2.

Carlsen-Dubov: 2-2

Carlsen started with a fine win in this match and in fact, Dubov thought it was perhaps the best game of the four. The world champion kept giving him problems in the endgame, and eventually Dubov slipped:

In the second game, Carlsen miscalculated while avoiding a move repetition and as a result, he was on the defensive side for 34 moves before scraping the draw. In the next game, he went down after all.

"In the third game, I fell asleep at some point," he said. "I understood that he might have some tricks, but I didn't consider them dangerous, and then for whatever reason, I just stopped calculating. I just blundered."

Magnus Carlsen Airthings
Magnus Carlsen blundered in game three. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Dubov: "I know I sometimes can beat Magnus, but this game is very strange by his standards. It's not the way you beat him normally. I think he just played badly, to be honest."

"It's very disappointing, after all, to be one game up and lose with white sort of unnecessarily," said Carlsen. "That's the way it is sometimes. All in all, it was an even match."

Dubov had been pressing a bit in game four as well, so he had mixed feelings about the 2-2. The Russian player emphasized how happy he is to play the world champion: "The result is obviously fine. I enjoyed it tremendously; he's my favorite opponent."

He went as far as calling it "a Christmas gift" to be paired with Carlsen, adding: "My only wish for tomorrow is for it to last as long as possible."

Daniil Dubov Airthings
Daniil Dubov is happy to be playing Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nepomniachtchi vs. Radjabov: 2-2

This match was rather hard-fought, but all games ended in draws. The first was arguably the most interesting. As a former King's Indian player, Radjabov should have put his mindset more towards attacking as he had two chances to give up an exchange in return for a very strong attack:

Teimour Radjabov Airthings
Teimour Radjabov missed a nice exchange sac. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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.

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