Opera Euro Rapid Final Tied; Radjabov Leads vs. MVL
Teimour Radjabov won on day one of his consolation match vs. MVL. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Opera Euro Rapid Final Tied; Radjabov Leads vs. MVL

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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22 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Magnus Carlsen took an early lead but Wesley So hit back to tie the first match of the Opera Euro Rapid final on Saturday. GM Teimour Radjabov leads vs. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the match for third place.

How to watch?
The games of the Opera Euro Rapid 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 8:00 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central Europe.

Opera Euro Rapid Results

Carlsen vs. So

The players will begin with a clean slate on Valentine's Day when one match of four rapid games and a possible tiebreak will decide who can clinch the $30,000 first prize. Carlsen's second, GM Peter Heine Nielsen, might have been put to work because in the first match, So was better prepared—at least in the two games that ended decisively.

After a fighting draw in game one, a Two Knights Defense came on the board in the next game. So is known for playing this line, but Carlsen hadn't looked at it in the morning before the match.

"I was kicking myself a little bit for allowing it because I was checking this stuff during Wijk aan Zee but not today for some reason," he said. "For whatever reason, I thought he would go for the quiet lines, so that was really kind of stupid."

Carlsen Tata
Carlsen had looked at the Two Knights during Wijk aan Zee but not during this event. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

According to So, Carlsen's 21st move loses by force, but he failed to capitalize on it.

"That was really unfortunate, really bad," he said. "Partly I haven't analyzed 21.Qxd4. It's actually losing by force but at the same time, I didn't know how to react. During the game, I was confused about what was happening. I thought I mixed up already some move order. It's a waste of good opening material, but it happens."

Game three was a quick draw. Carlsen used the 5.Re1 line against the Berlin to do so, which was a sign that he didn't mind. "I was knackered so I needed a short game," he said afterward, later adding: "I'm fairly happy with the draw today, so I'll just try and push a little bit harder tomorrow. I'll certainly be more aggressive with white, that's for sure."

I was knackered so I needed a short game.
—Magnus Carlsen

So had to win game four, and he did. This time he chose a line in the Italian and again used about 20 moves of preparation to get a better position out of the opening. Carlsen said he had miscalculated something around there, and by move 22 he was clearly in trouble when he had to play an ugly pawn recapture on f6. 

"It was OK," said Carlsen. "I made a mistake pretty early on, and then I just had a very bad position. I probably could have fought a little bit better there by not taking on d5, but it was difficult."

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Wesley So
Wesley So: "I'm very thrilled obviously to win on demand with the white pieces." Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Radjabov vs. Vachier-Lagrave

Radjabov is leading this match, thanks to winning his two white games. In both games, he used one of the quietest possible ways to meet the Grunfeld, which involves an early queen trade, and then slowly outplayed the Frenchman in the endgame:

MVL did win a nice third game, where he found the proper response to Radjabov's Kalashnikov Sicilian. As he needs just two points in Sunday's match, the Azerbaijani will likely move to something more solid in his next black games.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave must win on Sunday to force a playoff for third place. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

All Games Finals, Day 1

The Opera Euro Rapid runs February 6-14. The preliminary phase was a 16-player rapid round-robin (15 + 10). The top eight players have advanced to a six-day knockout that consists of two days of four-game rapid matches, which may 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 $100,000 with $30,000 for first place.


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