Anish Giri Wins 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational
Anish Giri. Photo: Peter Doggers/

Anish Giri Wins 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational

| 96 | Chess Event Coverage

After another 2-2 in their second match, GM Anish Giri defeated GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in the playoff to win the Magnus Carlsen Invitational on Sunday. Giri earned $60,000 for first place. GM Magnus Carlsen came in third after securing two game points vs. Wesley So

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The games of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational can be found here as part of our live events platform.

Magnus Carlsen Invitational 2021 results

Giri vs. Nepomniachtchi 2-2 / 2-0

"Again it was a lottery, and this time the winning ticket went to another guy," is how Nepomniachtchi summed up this final. And he had a point because he clearly had chances to win it as well—but only after Giri had dominated in the first three games.

Again it was a lottery, and this time the winning ticket went to another guy.
—Ian Nepomniachtchi

Giri took the lead in game two, once again with the wonderful, dynamic play that he had been showing throughout the tournament. As it turns out, you can also play the Keres Attack against the Taimanov!

Giri's Najdorf again held up very well in both his black games. Here's game three:

So far, so good for the Dutch number-one. However, fortunes changed completely in game four, when Nepomniachtchi had to win on demand.

"These must-win games are very tense for both sides," said Carlsen the other day. The effect on Giri was that he decided to say goodbye to his dynamic chess and return to a safer approach.

Concretely, this meant choosing 3.Bb5 instead of the Open Sicilian. In hindsight, it's easy to criticize but it does feel that this approach sort of backfired—not because Giri was worse out of the opening (on the contrary), but because it resulted in his playing worse than in the earlier games.

"Of course, the game was bad. I'm disappointed, in terms of chess, the way I played the game," Giri said, before praising his opponent for finding a very nice regrouping with his queen and bishop: "That was very impressive, I thought."

It's often said that the player who comes back from a deficit goes into a playoff with a psychological advantage. How did Giri recover so well?

"What really helped is the match of Ian against Magnus because there Ian messed up two must-not-lose games and then still won," Giri said. "He did it right there a day ago, so I never had any doubt that the match was [not] over once I went to the tiebreak."

In the first game, again as White, Giri chose the Alapin, and Nepomniachtchi steered the game into a French. At the wrong moment, Giri sacrificed a piece and didn't get much compensation but won anyway as Nepomniachtchi blundered terribly on move 25.

"Considering the comeback in game four and a completely winning position in the first blitz game, I would probably claim that I deserved a little bit more," said Nepomniachtchi. "But when you spend one minute on 25…Rh7, then you see 25…Rh7 is wrong and anyway you play 25…Rh7, OK, this is probably karma or something. Perhaps he deserved more or I should have done something better."

Ian Nepomniachtchi Magnus Invitational
Nepomniachtchi: "I would probably claim that I deserved a little bit more." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The Russian player chose 1.b3 for the second blitz game but didn't get anything out of the opening and then blundered positionally, after which his winning chances were gone.

Giri was surprised to see 1.b3: "Usually, people play 1.b3 because they want to get an interesting position because they are sick and tired of boring openings. But I'm playing the Najdorf. I don't really see why you would avoid the Najdorf in a must-win. It's anything but solid. But I can imagine, he probably felt I was very well prepared, and he didn't want to end up in the situation where he ends up in my preparation. He just wanted to get a 'man against a man.' It's fair enough."

As always, the playoff was mostly about nerves, and that was also why this victory was so important for Giri. Two months ago in Wijk aan Zee, he was incredibly close to winning his first super-tournament where the participants included Carlsen but in the tiebreak, he stumbled against his compatriot and friend GM Jorden van Foreest. This time, Giri showed that he can overcome his nerves.

It's also a very welcome development for him taking into account that the next big tournament is the FIDE Candidates, which will resume on April 20. Giri reflected:

"Mostly, it's good for the vibes, for the Candidates, for the preparation. It's also good because I am of a firm belief that there is no such thing as 'destined,' or some people say that the champions are made of something, this kind of nonsense. I absolutely don't buy this. It's good, before the Candidates, that I win a tournament like this one and that I know if I get to the very fortunate situation that I will be close there, which is a long way to go, but if I ever get in that situation, I will not have any doubts, despite what many people are trying to create. I know there is no curse, but [now] I will know for sure there isn't such a thing."

Giri Nepomniachtchi Candidates
Last year Nepomniachtchi beat Giri in the Candidates. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nepomniachtchi was mostly happy that it's over, saying: "The main achievement for me is that I survived these nine days of very intense playing. I got great practice. It's a little bit difficult to play chess never playing your own openings but OK, it was a nice experience."

The players can get back to their training for next month, where preparation will be very important. Giri said that, preparation-wise, he benefited from the fact that the second half of the tournament was postponed twice as he has already organized several training camps.

At the same time, he didn't agree that his tournament victory was based on his preparation for the Candidates: "Working on chess is like a continuous process. This process is lasting from the beginning of your career. It's like accumulating more and more knowledge. I've started preparing for the Candidates since I'm seven."

I've started preparing for the Candidates since I'm seven.
—Anish Giri

Carlsen vs. So 2-1

Having won the first match on Saturday, Carlsen needed to score just two game points to secure (at least) 2-2. He did, with two draws and the following win in the first game. The opening went well for So, but the American GM missed a nasty knight move, and it all turned around:

Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen came in third in "his" invitational. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games Day 9

The Champions Chess Tour's Magnus Carlsen Invitational ran March 13-21 on chess24. The preliminary phase was a 16-player rapid (15|10) round-robin. The top eight players advanced to a six-day knockout that consisted of two days of four-game rapid matches, which advanced to blitz (5|3) and armageddon (White had five minutes, Black four with no increment) tiebreaks if a knockout match was tied after the second day. The prize fund was $220,000.

Previous reports:

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