Magnus Carlsen said he played “anti-young-player chess” to beat Arjun Erigaisi 2:0 on Day 2 of the Julius Baer Generation Cup final and win the tournament with two games to spare. Arjun never got a chance, but had a great run and has qualified for the final Tour event this year in San Francisco.
Needing to win on demand on Day 2 of the final was a tough place for Arjun Erigaisi to find himself in, and nothing went to plan as Magnus wrapped up victory in the lowest possible number of games.
Magnus got off to the perfect start, as he perhaps managed to surprise Arjun by returning to the Pirc Defence he’d used to beat his Indian rival in the very first game of the Prelims.
Magnus had then almost crashed and burned against Praggnanandhaa when he repeated the line, but this time he went for the subtly different 4…c6 instead of 4…a6. What followed was very double-edged, with both players taking some questionable decisions.
Peter Leko felt that if Arjun could expand with g4, h5 in a good version Black might be in trouble, but after 12.Qe1 Bxh3 13.Rxh3 Ng7 Arjun lost his way.
Peter was highly critical of 14.Bh6?! Ne6 15.Bxf8 Rxf8, with Arjun taking time out to eliminate the black bishop that had yet to develop from f8.
Magnus would later comment:
I sort of played very much throughout this match “anti-young-player chess”, in the sense that I tried to play a little bit older, less theoretical lines that have some serious strategic complexity, and it worked out pretty well.
I would say that I’m happy with the opening choices that I made, the strategy I had from a psychological point of view… Now I’m playing younger and younger players it makes sense to employ some different tricks as they catch up!
The rook move meant castling was no longer a viable option, but when Magnus was asked if not castling was a strategy he’d been adopting recently, he quipped:
I think I just play terrible openings that don’t enable me to castle! I think it’s as simple as that.
After another shaky move, 16.Rh2!?, Arjun was on the back foot, but the real moment of truth came when Magnus went for 22…b3!, with the point that the d4-knight couldn’t be taken without allowing bxa2 and a new queen.
Arjun took the fateful decision to respond immediately with 23.a4?
It turns out that 23.Nc3! would have kept White in the game.
Instead after 23…Qxc2+ 24.Qxc2 Nxc2 25.Bb5+ Kd8 26.Nc3 e6 Magnus was a pawn up and had everything under control.
He made what follows look very easy as he never lost his grip and ultimately brought his knights in to deliver checkmate. Arjun resigned on move 48, with mate-in-2 on the board.
That left Arjun needing to win at least two of the next three games to win the mini-match and take the final to tiebreaks — an almost impossible task.
He might have chosen to try and consolidate with Black first, but instead he went for a King’s Indian setup.
Magnus here thought for just over a minute before playing the Saemisch Variation with 5.f3, and it proved a perfect choice, with Magnus commenting:
I feel like in the 2nd game today already from the opening I had a considerably better position, and after that it was fairly straightforward.
While Arjun had exchanged off dark-squared bishops at the wrong moment with Bh6 in Game 1, Magnus did the same at an appropriate moment and, when Arjun expanded with b5 on the queenside, the World Champion was suddenly on the verge of victory.
It turns out White can crash through almost immediately with the sacrificial 20.f4! b4 21.e5! bxc3 22.Ne4!, but Magnus didn’t need to go all-in and instead played 20.Ra7.
After 20…b4 21.Rxc7 bxc3 22.bxc3 Rb2 he once again found himself in the dream position of having an extra pawn when it was his opponent who was in need of a win.
The other advantages of the position had gone nowhere, and soon Magnus was able to start the attack with f4 and e5 anyway, while after 30…dxe5 he struck with 31.f5!
It was an all-but flawless game, with Magnus having no need to find the computer’s absolute best moves.
36.Ng4!! fxg4 37.Bd3! is crushing, but 36.Rh6+ Nh7 37.Qh5 f6 38.Bxe6 Rxe6 39.Qxf5 Rxd6 40.Rxh4 left material equal, with White still attacking the weak black king.
Magnus again made the rest look easy as he dodged any chance of a draw by perpetual check. On move 52, it was all over.
Magnus had won the final in the bare minimum five games, didn’t need tiebreaks in either the quarterfinals or semi-finals, and posted a record score in the Prelims.
He’d also crossed 2900 on the Tour ratings. He commented:
That’s very nice! I’m assuming most of the gain recently has come from this tournament alone, and while I can nit-pick things here and there, and I obviously will, overall the performance score-wise has been great. As I said before, after the round robin it was on a par with some of my best rapid results ever, and now in the knockout, even though I wasn’t always happy, the score was great.
That was Magnus’ 4th win in the 7 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour events this season, and he didn't play the FTX Road to Miami.
It’s no surprise that he already has an almost unassailable lead in the overall Tour standings, which is set to earn him another $50,000.
It was a tough couple of days for Arjun Erigaisi, but Magnus has no doubt his young opponent will be back.
I do feel also today Arjun can do a lot better than this, and I’m sure he’ll learn from playing a wily old fox like me a few more times!
There was also a lot of truth in the half-joke made by Vishy Anand’s long-term second Grzegorz Gajewski.
Arjun will also get the chance to play at least one more match this year against Magnus, since reaching the final saw him qualify for the final event of this year's tour. The last Major in November is an 8-player round-robin as in Oslo and Miami, and will be held in another new venue for elite chess, San Francisco.
There’s a lot to come in chess before that, however, with more developments expected in the Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann saga. Magnus had scored his record Prelims results despite resigning after 1 move against Hans, and was asked if the situation had motivated him more than usual.
I cannot say that 100%, but I haven’t felt less motivated, let’s put it like that!
Will we now get a statement from him?
I will say a little bit more. Whether it will be tomorrow, or one of the days after, is not completely clear.
Is he happy to get things off his chest?
To some extent. I generally want cheating in chess to be dealt with seriously, but we’ll see what happens. I’ll certainly put out a statement very soon, and that will also not be all you hear from me on the topic.
Magnus was asked about a less controversial topic, the upcoming Lawrence Trent vs. Aman Hambleton chess boxing match.
Magnus revealed he may be playing a full part in it.
I think it’s a great spectacle and I’ve been invited by my good friend Ludwig to commentate. I hope to be able to do it, and obviously when it comes to Lawrence, I know he’s taking this super seriously, and Aman as well, so it’s going to be a great fight and I just hope that they will both escape with their health.
Who would Magnus be interested in facing in chess boxing?
That’s a difficult question. I think there was somebody who has wanted to fight me in the past, who might be a suitable opponent both in boxing and in chess, and I’ll leave it to you and the viewers as well to speculate who!
We’ll be seeing Magnus in more traditional chess action soon as well, in the European Chess Club Cup that starts Monday, October 3rd in Mayrhofen, Austria, where chess24 will be the official broadcasting partner.
Magnus commented on his upcoming events:
I’m playing the European Club Cup with my club Offerspill. That’s starting I think Monday, in a week and a day, so that’s my next challenge, and obviously after that there’s the next tour event. Never any time to be bored!
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