Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 8: Radjabov Moves To 2nd Place
GM Teimour Radjabov wins the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals with a round to spare. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 8: Radjabov Moves To 2nd Place

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

In Sunday's round eight of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals GM Teimour Radjabov moved up to second place after beating his countryman, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. GM Magnus Carlsen failed to recover from yesterday's loss and lost 1-3 to GM Levon Aronian.

As for other encounters, GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda faced GM Wesley So, GM Anish Giri played GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and finally, the Russian star GM Vladislav Artemiev competed against GM Hikaru Nakamura.

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Despite tough losses in a few recent rounds, So still had chances to fight for the second spot in the series, but winning some final matches would be critical. On the other hand, Duda beat Artemiev on Saturday and must have been feeling upbeat about his chess. Let's see how the players approached the match with those psychological mindsets.

In the first game, So chose one of the sharpest lines against the Grunfeld, namely 3.f3. However, Duda reacted extremely well and quickly got a huge advantage, which the American player eventually managed to neutralize to hold a draw.

In the next round, the American player chose the Queen's Gambit Accepted and was confidently simplifying the position. All of a sudden, the Polish star found a brilliant tactical shot, but it only led to further simplifications and another draw.

In round three, So went for a Neo-Catalan type of setup, but Duda was precise and never let the position get unbalanced or inferior. One more solid draw!

The final game saw another solid draw, and the players went to the playoffs.

GM Wesley So
GM Wesley So won the playoffs to win his match. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In the first blitz game, So had the white pieces in the English and quickly got in a lost position. However, his opponent erred and allowed for a massive kingside attack, and then the American grandmaster converted his advantage flawlessly. In the next game, So took a draw in a winning position and won the match.


Saturday was an interesting day for the world champion who lost his match 1-3 but secured first place in the entire series. Although he would not have any pressure for winning the series, it was certain that he would do his best to score a convincing comeback win.

However, Armenia's number one wasn't exactly excited about that type of scenario. In round one, having opened with 1.e4, he watched the world champion reply 1...Nc6!?, reacted very precisely, obtained a large advantage, and convincingly converted it to take the lead.

In the next game, Carlsen went for the Mikenas variation as a way to avoid the Nimzo positions but didn't get any advantage. At the end of the day, he managed to get only a drawn rook endgame a pawn up, which Aronian easily held. 

Needing to equalize the score, the Norwegian star went for the King's Indian setup in the third game, but Aronian handled the position very confidently. After sacrificing yet another exchange (recall his games from the previous rounds, such as Aronian-Giri), Aronian got the position under firm control. The world champion managed to survive under pressure, but winning was never a possibility.

Finally, in the last rapid game, Carlsen found himself in another must-win situation. However, unlike yesterday, this time he had the white pieces.

To score a full point, he chose the ambitious Saemisch Variation but didn't get much of an attack as compensation for the dicey pawn structure. The Armenian grandmaster kept things under control. When the world champion advanced his center prematurely, Aronian dealt with that perfectly to obtain a winning position and seal the match 3-1. It's been several tough days for the world champion.

Levon Aronian
GM Levon Aronian won a difficult match against the world champion. Photo: Maria Emelianova/


Having beaten the world champion 3-1 on Saturday, Radjabov won yet again, this time against Mamedyarov.

It was very interesting to anticipate how this match would go, because normally, the two Azeri stars never play each other in tournaments, pretty much always agreeing to a draw early on. Of course, this time there could be only one winner.

Unfortunately, this tendency of short draws continued. In the two first games, the players chose the famous drawn variations in the Ragozin and Berlin to avoid making a single move of their own.

Nevertheless, they got a good fight in round three, where Radjabov as White chose an ambitious line against the Ragozin, but quickly found himself in hot waters, as he lost a pawn, got under pressure, and saw his position collapsing. Amazingly, the tournament leader managed to defend a position where he was three(!) pawns down, securing an equal score before the last rapid game.

In the final rapid encounter, the Fianchetto Grunfeld resulted in equality. However, after Radjabov temporarily sacrificed a pawn, his adversary got a large advantage when the rook landed on d6. Black managed to bail out, and after White made a huge blunder, soon it was over. Winning another match without tiebreaks, the leader scored three full points and moved to second place, ahead of So.


In the first game of the match, Giri chose the 6.Bf4 variation in one of the most popular positions in the Symmetrical English. He got a very comfortable endgame with a better pawn structure and converted the advantage with surprising ease.

Next game, the Dutch player chose the Petroff Defense and met a rare sideline with a pawn sacrifice. He was a pawn down for most of the game but easily held a draw with much more active pieces and the bishop pair. In fact, he could even aspire for more at the very end but chose to repeat moves, which is an understandable decision, given his lead.

Being a point ahead, in the third round Giri chose to give up the advantage of having the white pieces and went for a famous draw in the Grunfeld.

In the last rapid game, MVL chose a different line against the Petroff but didn't get any advantage. In fact, he quickly ended up nearly lost. In a winning position, Giri chose a sequence that drew the game by force and secured a match victory without playoffs, gaining full three points.


In the first game, Nakamura had the white pieces. The players brought out the Symmetrical Fianchetto Grunfeld, and after a while, equality was disturbed, as the American player got a clear advantage. However, a few moves later it was gone, and soon the players agreed to a draw.

Having chosen his trusty English in the next game, Artemiev got an equal position. However, he ignored the emerging threats on the kingside, ended up under a very strong attack, and saw his position collapse in no time.

Game three saw Nakamura choose a rather harmless version of the Reti. When his position started to deteriorate very quickly, the Russian grandmaster grabbed space and won material. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to convert an extra pawn in the endgame, so Nakamura got off the hook and kept a one-point lead before the last game.

Artemiev was in a must-win situation in the last round, and he managed to get a significant advantage. Nakamura desperately sacrificed a piece, but the position was entirely lost. The Russian grandmaster easily converted his advantage and took the match to the playoffs.

2021 GM Dejan Bojkov gotd

The American grandmaster has won a few playoff matches in a row, and today wasn't an exception. He scored 1.5/2 in blitz and claimed two match points. 

All Games Round 8


# Fed Player Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Points Bonus Total
1 Magnus Carlsen 2855 0 3 0 3 0 2 2 2 12 16.5 28.5
2 Teimour Radjabov 2763 3 3 3 1 1 1 3 3 18 6 24
3 Wesley So 2778 0 0 1 3 2 0 2 3 11 12.5 23.5
4 Levon Aronian 2782 3 0 3 0 3 3 1 0 13 8 21
5 Hikaru Nakamura 2736 0 2 2 3 2 1 2 2 14 4 18
6 Vladislav Artemiev 2699 3 2 0 0 1 2 0 3 11 3.5 14.5
7 Anish Giri 2777 1 2 1 0 2 3 0 0 9 5.5 14.5
8 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2763 1 3 2 1 1 0 3 0 11 2.5 13.5
9 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2756 0 0 1 3 3 3 0 2 12 0 12
10 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2762 1 0 0 1 0 3 3 1 9 0.5 9.5

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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