Opera Euro Rapid QF: Carlsen, MVL, Radjabov, So Through
Carlsen took revenge for his loss to Dubov in the Airthings Masters. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Opera Euro Rapid QF: Carlsen, MVL, Radjabov, So Through

| 38 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Magnus CarlsenMaxime Vachier-LagraveWesley So, and Teimour Radjabov made it to the semifinals of the Opera Euro Rapid tournament. Carlsen lost his second match to GM Daniil Dubov but eventually pulled through in the armageddon game of the playoff.

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

Dubov couldn't repeat his upset victory vs. Carlsen in the Airthings Masters, but he came as close as he could.

Dubov needed just three rapid games to wash away his loss from day one and actually beat Carlsen twice in under 25 moves. He then also won the second blitz game on demand after unnecessarily losing the first. Carlsen finally got himself together in the armageddon.

The reaction on camera of the two players was striking. Whereas Carlsen made a throw-away gesture with both hands, unhappy (perhaps even disgusted) about his play, Dubov was the one showing a smile after being eliminated.

"There is no reaction, really," Dubov said. "Today I didn't really care, to be honest."

Daniil Dubov Opera Euro Rapid
Dubov: "Today I didn't really care, to be honest." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This comment should be seen in the light of the many mistakes both players had made. Dubov knew that too:

"Obviously we were both quite far from our normal standards, but still if you score four points against Magnus, it matters something. We both played like idiots. He plays like an idiot quite often, but it's not that everybody manages to use it. In these terms, it's sort of OK. But overall, it's very well deserved."

He plays like an idiot quite often, but it's not that everybody manages to use it.
—Daniil Dubov

"Obviously it's a relief, the final result, but that was a sorrily disgusting performance on my part. I gotta be a lot better," said a tired and frustrated Carlsen. "I feel like the preliminaries were one step forward, and this is two steps back. At least I'm through. It's better than not being, but overall this was a very disappointing day of chess."

Magnus Carlsen Opera Euro Rapid
Carlsen: "I feel like the preliminaries were one step forward, and this is two steps back." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After a draw in the first rapid game, Carlsen lost to a back-rank checkmate tactic twice in a row. He felt he made many avoidable mistakes, especially in the second game.

"By giving him that chance, I feel like I gave him so much life, and it just completely unnerved me," said Carlsen. "Obviously, that's partly due to the way he plays, but I felt that in this case, it was mostly just a massive own-goal."

Still tilted, Carlsen again went down quickly in the third game, and in no-time Dubov had secured a playoff.

Dubov initially kept the momentum in the first blitz game as Carlsen played a dubious pawn sacrifice that allowed a bishop sacrifice on h3. In what was one of the key moments of the whole match, Dubov missed several chances for an advantage and then misjudged the position as he missed a draw:

Dubov then scored a lucky win in the second blitz game as Carlsen made another avoidable mistake in a winning position. But despite all these frustrating moments, the world champion managed to pull it off in the armageddon:

In the post-match interview, Dubov was asked how he felt about people thinking he has a unique playing style. His reply was interesting:

"It's a very bad sign for chess if my style is called unique! I think, in general, we have a very creative young generation. I think it's not just about me. I think it's also about Duda, for instance. We have a very big number of your guys who want to play real games, who don't want to play this Berlin, and who sort of play a lot of decisive games, and who are sort of fine with both winning and losing."

Vachier-Lagrave vs. Aronian

GM Levon Aronian needed to win the second rapid playoff match to force a playoff, but that became a tough task after starting with an unnecessary loss. This was one of the most interesting games of the day, especially for the fans of the Open Sicilian.

Aronian did manage to win his next white game, but with two draws in the other games, MVL ended up qualifying for the semifinals where he will meet Carlsen.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Opera Euro Rapid
Vachier-Lagrave won the last match he played with Carlsen: the 2020 Speed Chess Championship semifinal. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

So vs. Duda

It was So who reached the semis in the most convincing way. Having won the first match, he needed only 2-2 in the second and secured that with two straight victories.  

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda's King's Indian in game two was a logical choice when a win is needed, but So was always in control, even when his king was dragged into the open:

Wesley So Opera Euro Rapid
Wesley So smoothly sailed toward the semifinals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Giri vs. Radjabov

In this match between arguably the two most solid top grandmasters around, it's no surprise that the four rapid games ended in draws. After another draw in the first blitz game, it was Radjabov who ended up winning what was a shaky second game from both sides.

Giri: "I chose not to do the right moves where I saw them and ended up missing some tactics."

Radjabov started by apologizing somewhat for being "a bit too solid" sometimes in the preliminaries but pointed out that it's a strategy that works.

"Today, I don't feel happy, to be honest, because I have good relations with Anish," he said. "We're friends, and so it doesn't feel like a victory. It's nice to be through, but I don't feel this happiness like against the other players. [I am] a bit disappointed with some of the games but certainly fine with the result."

Teimour Radjabov Opera Euro Rapid
Teimour Radjabov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Almost any strong player would have played Radjabov's tactic 17.Nxg5 without much thinking, but as you can see in the annotations, 17.Nh4!? is apparently even stronger according to the engines. It's well worth checking the amazing possibilities by playing out this position yourself.

All Games QF Day 2

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.

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