Opera Euro Rapid QF: Carlsen, MVL, So Start With Wins
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is back on track. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Opera Euro Rapid QF: Carlsen, MVL, So Start With Wins

| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and GM Wesley So won their first quarterfinal matches in the Opera Euro Rapid tournament. GM Teimour Radjabov and GM Anish Giri tied 2-2 after the Dutchman won game four on demand.

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. Dubov 2.5-0.5

This matchup was the same quarterfinal pairing as in the Airthings Masters when Dubov surprisingly knocked the world champion out of the tournament. On the first day of this new clash, Dubov didn't come anywhere close to beating Carlsen.

"Certainly this was not an ideal pairing for me considering what happened last time," Carlsen said. "But every tournament is a new one so I thought I just need to focus on playing well."

And that's what he did. Carlsen won both his white games convincingly and drew his black game.

"I can not say I played way below my standards," said Dubov. "I think I was just outplayed so it was sort of well deserved."

Here's the third game, where Dubov was outplayed in a Scandinavian:

Magnus Carlsen Opera Euro Rapid
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Vachier-Lagrave vs. Aronian 2.5-1.5

After a pretty disastrous Wijk aan Zee, Vachier-Lagrave seems to be back on track. It's not classical chess and the tournament is not over yet, but the Frenchman is at least throwing some punches again.

"I know I am capable of playing chess, no matter what one tournament can say but of course, it's very good to stop the bleeding in this fashion," MVL said. "It's the life of every chess player, every sportsman: there's gonna be some disappointing events. I just have to make them as minimal as possible."

"It's very good to stop the bleeding in this fashion."
—Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

GM Levon Aronian shared a similar point of view: "He's a brilliant player and having one bad tournament is not a big deal; everybody had them. Even Magnus, one year in Norway, he almost came last. When you have a gift—and Maxime has a brilliant mind—nobody can really take away that gift from you."

MVL was particularly happy with his black games, of which he won the first. Aronian admitted that something went wrong with his preparation here:

Skilling Open: Knockouts Day 2.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

So vs. Duda 2.5-1.5

This match started with a draw after which it was GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda who took the lead following a terrible blunder from So deep in an endgame with a queen versus three minor pieces. It was all the more surprising to see So missing 71.Qa2+ as the white queen had just left that square two moves before.

So: "After I lost the second game I thought it was all going to be downhill after that but Jan-Krzysztof is the kind of player who is very aggressive and so he gives chances for his opponent to come back and chances to complicate the game."

That remark was mostly about game four when Duda indeed played quite sharply. So's first win, in game three, was more instructive as the American GM showed textbook endgame technique. 

Several of the key techniques, such as "king activity," "two weaknesses," and "do not rush," which were wonderfully explained in Mikhail Shereshevsky's classic "Endgame Strategy," can be seen in this game:

Wesley So Opera Euro Rapid
Wesley So. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Giri vs. Radjabov 2-2

These players started with two draws when GM Teimour Radjabov drew first blood in game three. This was a rather unfortunate loss for Giri, who was in control for most of the game and was playing for a win with three pawns for an exchange. First, he lost his advantage, and then he spoiled an almost certain draw:

Giri then won on demand, which is always impressive. The Dutchman suggested that it was not only his own effort: "It's really hard to play when you are in a must-draw situation, even with the white pieces. It's a particular kind of psychological situation that happens in the knockouts and I've seen the greatest players suffer there. You know that someone is coming after you and that is very unpleasant."

"I'm very happy to have won," said Giri. "It's very different going into the second day with a tied score or in a must-win situation when every draw is bringing you closer to the Death Valley."

Anish Giri Opera Euro Rapid
Anish Giri. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games QF Day 1

The Opera Euro Rapid runs February 6-14. The preliminary phase is a 16-player rapid round-robin (15 + 10). The top eight players advance to a six-day knockout that will consist 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.

Update: an earlier version of this report had So winning game two and three. However, the first game So-Duda was drawn, then Duda won game two after which So won games three and four.

Previous reports:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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