Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 5: Carlsen Recovers
GM Magnus Carlsen leads the finals at the halfway point. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 5: Carlsen Recovers

| 38 | Chess Event Coverage

In round five of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals GM Magnus Carlsen recovered from yesterday's loss and remains the sole leader, while GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, and Teimour Radjabov keep chasing him. Today was very entertaining, as four matches were decided within the first four games and two of them took just three games!

We are now at the halfway point for the tournament, with the fifth round featuring the following matchups: GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda versus Vachier-Lagrave, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov against GM Vladislav Artemiev, Carlsen versus GM Hikaru Nakamura, So faced GM Anish Giri, and finally, GM Levon Aronian against Radjabov. 

How to watch?
The games of the Champions Chess Tour Finals can be found here as part of our live events platform.

Round 5 Standings

# Fed Player Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Points Bonus Total
1 Magnus Carlsen 2855 3 3 0 2 2 10 16.5 26.5
2 Wesley So 2778 1 3 0 2 3 9 12.5 21.5
3 Levon Aronian 2782 0 0 3 1 3 7 8 15
4 Teimour Radjabov 2763 3 1 1 1 3 9 6 15
5 Hikaru Nakamura 2736 0 2 3 2 1 8 4 12
6 Vladislav Artemiev 2699 3 0 0 2 3 8 3.5 11.5
7 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2763 1 3 2 0 3 9 2.5 11.5
8 Anish Giri 2777 1 0 2 2 0 5 5.5 10.5
9 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2762 1 0 0 3 1 5 0.5 5.5
10 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2756 0 0 0 3 2 5 0 5


The match started in a somewhat unexpected way: the Polish player had the white pieces in the first game and opened with 1.e4. However, instead of his beloved Najdorf, the Frenchman chose the Caro-Kann and followed up with a sharp line that involved a piece sacrifice. Duda consolidated and obtained a dominant position, but he missed a powerful pawn sacrifice that enabled MVL to activate his pieces and obtain a dangerous initiative.

Black obtained a nearly decisive advantage, but then... took a draw in a very advantageous position, despite having plenty of time on the clock and not facing particular dangers. A lucky escape for the Polish grandmaster!

2021 Champions chess tour
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored a nice win in the fifth round. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In the second round, the players again had the Caro-Kann appear on the board. Vachier-Lagrave, who was White, chose the very trendy variation with 2.Nf3 d5 3.d3, where White quickly trades queens and hopes to get pressure in the endgame. Duda handled the position very carefully and equalized, and then even got a slight edge. But later he played a couple of imprecise moves, let Vachier-Lagrave obtain pressure, and eventually crumbled, allowing the opponent to take the lead: 1.5-0.5!

In the next game, Duda needed to win with White, as he was trailing. This time, the French grandmaster chose his trusty Najdorf Sicilian and after a very long positional discussion, the players got a position where it would have been wisest to take a draw by repetition. However, the Polish star chose to play on, lost a pawn, and saw his position quickly fall apart, allowing MVL to score another win and finish the match immediately with a score of 2.5-0.5. A great day for the French player, and a tough one for Duda.


Artemiev was definitely the hero of round four, having beaten the World Champion 3-1. Mamedyarov scored his first match win last round, so it was very interesting to see how players would handle today, as they both must have been very excited about their performance from the previous round.

In the first game, Artemiev unexpectedly chose the Tarrasch Defense with Black. The position should have gotten simplified and drawn, but Mamedyarov handled it a bit too ambitiously and allowed the opponent to activate his pieces and obtain a dominant position. That was followed by a blunder, and on move 26 White had no choice other than resignation—Artemiev took the lead: 1-0!

In round two, the Russian grandmaster chose a quiet Reti setup. Mamedyarov solved his opening problems, was pressing, and won a pawn. However, all he got was an endgame with four pawns versus three on one flank, which Artemiev held without much trouble.

Round three turned out very dramatic: Mamedyarov chose 1.e4 as White, and quickly got a lost position in the Caro-Kann. If Artemiev won, he would have clinched the match immediately, but instead... he blundered a checkmate in two. That's how the Azeri GM equalized the score.

In the last rapid game, Artemiev repeated his Reti choice and got into a reversed Benoni type of position. It is particularly worth pointing out the beautiful move 11.Nf3, which put so much pressure on Black. Mamedyarov mishandled it, lost the e-pawn, and had the rest of his position fall apart equally fast. 

2021 GotD GM Dejan Bojkov

This win from Artemiev won him the match 2.5-1.5 and grab three match points since there was no playoff. A great continuation of last round's run for the Russian super grandmaster.


Many world champions, including Alexander Alekhine and GM Garry Kasparov, have been known to play better than ever after a loss. The Norwegian star certainly fits that description, too. After yesterday's loss, today he was facing the dominant figure of online chess and streaming, the American grandmaster Nakamura.

In the first round, Nakamura chose the Berlin as Black and got a very solid position. However, after a minor inaccuracy or two, his setup started falling apart. With a series of very energetic moves, Carlsen scored his first win. In the second game, the Norwegian easily held his own in the Catalan, and then starting pressing with Black, but couldn't make progress as his opponent carefully saved half a point.

2021 Champions Chess Tour Finals Carlsen
GM Magnus Carlsen defeated Nakamura in round five. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In round three, Carlsen again had the White pieces. Once again, Nakamura chose the Berlin, but this time he didn't get a reliable position: the world champion treated the opening very energetically, and by threatening to get a decisive attack against the American grandmaster's king he forced a very favorable endgame. He then went on to easily convert it, clinching the match right away with a score of 2.5-0.5. A very impressive comeback after yesterday's tough match!


In round one, the American player got a slight advantage, but then Black equalized with careful play. It looked like a rather quiet position, but Wesley So got a bit too ambitious and had his position fall apart very quickly. 1-0 in Giri's favor. In the next game, Giri was pressing in the Catalan, but with careful play, So managed to save half a point.

In round three, Giri chose the Dubov Tarrasch with Black and managed to develop a decisive attack on the kingside. It looked like he was going to win shortly, but after a dramatic blunder the tables turned and So ended up winning and equalizing the score!

In the last rapid game, Giri chose to go for the infamous 14-move draw in the Berlin and took the game to blitz playoffs.

The first blitz game was drawn in a rather peaceful manner, while in the second one, So went on to play a great game in the Catalan as Black and won the match. Definitely an upset for Giri who was so close to winning!


The first game of the match saw a very dry symmetrical Italian, which Aronian soon made a lot more exciting by creating tension on the kingside and temporarily sacrificing a piece. That did not turn out a good decision, and to prevent his other knight from getting stuck on h6 forever he had to play a piece down. However, Radjabov did not use all the opportunities and allowed White to bail out.

The next round had the game unfold in a rather similar scenario with colors reversed: this time, it was the Azeri grandmaster who sacrificed a piece in a rather optimistic way in a quiet Italian position. Had Black kept the piece, he would have been better, but Aronian decided to immediately return it, which landed him in a lost endgame. Radjabov played well and used his chance to score a full point and get ahead in the match: 1.5-0.5 after the second game.

2021 champions chess tour finals
GM Teimour Radjabov won an important match in the fifth round. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In round three, Aronian again chose the quiet Italian with White. He was better, but then allowed the opponent to get a protected passed pawn, and then saw all of his pawns fall apart one by one. It looked like Radjabov was on his way to another win, which would immediately clinch the match. However, the Azeri star did not find a precise solution in a winning rook endgame and Aronian managed to escape, still keeping chances alive in a must-win situation in the last game.

In round four, Aronian chose the King's Indian Defense, but Radjabov kept the game under control and settled for a draw from a position of strength to win the match in the rapid section, get three match points, and join the chase of the leader.

All Games Day 5

The $300,000 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals take place September 25-October 4, 2021 on chess24. The format is a 10-player round-robin, with each round having the players play a four-game rapid match. The time control is 15 minutes for the whole game plus a 10-second increment.

Earlier reports:

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