Anish Giri won a spectacular game against Wei Yi and made draws against Magnus Carlsen and Aryan Tari to finish the Chessable Masters Prelims a point ahead of Magnus, who described himself as “not too thrilled” with his play. Giri now faces Tari in the quarterfinals and, after some huge swings in the final round, we also have Carlsen-Anton, Ding Liren-Mamedyarov and Praggnanandhaa-Wei Yi.
You can replay all the games from the Preliminaries of the Chessable Masters, the 4th event on the $1.6 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, using the selector below.
And here’s the day’s live commentary from David Howell, Jovanka Houska, Kaja Snare and Simon Williams…
…and from Tania Sachdev and Andras Toth.
With the 15 rounds of the Prelims complete, the Top 8 players qualified for the knockout stages.
Anish Giri went in to the final day of the Chessable Masters Prelims as the sole leader, and would get off to the perfect start against a man who had recently described him as a “super player”.
Anish played the Najdorf and ultimately reached the following terrifying position.
Black is crushing on the queenside, but what should you do about the kingside? The only solution was 29…h5!, of which Anish said, “it was so beautiful, I was really happy to have played it!”
Wei Yi was so shocked he spent almost three minutes on his next move, but after capturing en prise with 30.gxh6? fxg6 31.Qg3 Kh8 White’s attack was over and Wei Yi resigned. It turns out that 30.gxf7+! would still have held the balance.
That win increased the gap over Magnus to three points, since the World Champion, who began the day with some sport…
…made a very shaky draw against world no. 2 Ding Liren.
It felt as though Magnus’ speed of play was perhaps more down to wanting to watch the final games of the English Premier League than deep preparation, but the speed paid off in the final position where, 12 minutes behind on the clock, Ding decided to take a draw.
Carlsen-Giri in the penultimate round was a chance for Magnus to catch the leader, but instead it was Anish who had any advantage in a 38-move draw. It wasn’t quite all over, since in the final round Magnus managed to win a game where he’d been completely on the ropes against Eric Hansen. The final twist came on move 59.
If Eric had played his queen to a4, b4 or c4 White has everything under control, but 59.Qg3? was a game-losing mistake.59…e5 prevented any checks, and after 60.Qg4 Qd3+ 61.Kc1 f2 the f-pawn was too powerful. Magnus soon ended the game by forcing off queens.
That meant there was a chance for Magnus to catch Giri, especially as Anish admitted his game against Aryan Tari left “a horrible aftertaste”.
I mixed up the opening so terribly, so stupidly. It looks so stupid what I did! In some line it was a move, but not here. Then in the end I had a tactic, I don’t know if you guys spotted, but at one point he blundered out of nowhere a tactic and I could have won there, so I’m a bit bummed with that, but otherwise, fantastic.
That tactical moment seems to have been after 27…b6?
28.Bxe6! fxe6 29.Rxe6, attacking the bishop and knight, would win two pawns, though Black could still fight on by not capturing the bishop. Instead after the instantly played 28.Ne5? Bb7 the moment had gone, but no harm was done, with the draw that followed ensuring both that Anish won the tournament and that Aryan Tari made it through to the quarterfinals.
Aryan owed his place to a 3-game winning streak on Saturday that he continued in the first game on Sunday against qualification rival Vidit. It was the kind of game that Giri was talking about when he commented:
I think we do play better than the Grand Chess Tour, which is taking place earlier in the day — also a great event. They play over-the-board, and with over-the-board there’s seconds, and pieces falling, and everybody losing on time. I think we have more controlled games a little bit with the online format, but still crazy games today — all the games were crazy!
Here’s the position after Vidit’s striking 24.Nh5?!
You can’t take the h5-knight due to checkmate on h7, while 24…hxg5 would give White some play with 25.Nf6+. Here Aryan found the best move in the position, and a fitting response to the knight assault on the other side of the board, 24…Nc3+! Now 25.bxc3 bxc3+ is mate-in-3 for Black, so 25.Rxc3 was forced, but after 25…bxc3 the threat of mate on b2 meant White had no time for any attacking fun.
Aryan commented after qualifying:
I feel really good. It means a lot for me to qualify. I played this event two times before and I didn’t manage. It’s really, really hard!
Just how hard it can be was demonstrated by the players who fell just short of making it through to the quarterfinals. Harikrishna started the day in 8th place, and though he lost to Jorden van Foreest in Round 13 he hit back with a nice win over Abhimanyu Mishra.
49.c5! gave White the c4-square for the knight, which jumped from d3 to b2, c4, b6, d5, f6 — offering a sacrifice that couldn’t be accepted without letting the g6-pawn queen — and finally h5, forcing the black king to f8 to defend the g7-pawn, so that the king could finally break through to e6.
A win in the final round would have been enough for Hari to make it through, and he got the chaos he needed against Sam Shankland to have a chance.
It soon went wrong, however, with Hari falling to defeat when trying to push for a win.
Hari had gone into the final round with the best chance of anyone outside the Top 8, but there were six players fighting for two spots.
Nils Grandelius only had an outside chance and never got any reason to hope as he slipped to defeat against Wei Yi. Vidit, meanwhile, seemed certain to beat Praggnanandhaa, and the only consolation for what followed was that it ultimately turned out that even a win wouldn’t have been quite enough for the Indian star.
Here White can easily force a draw, but needing more Vidit went for 36.Rf8?, only to get hit by 36…Qb1+ 37.Kd2 Rxb2+ 38.Ke3 Qe4+ and he resigned, with mate-in-2 on the board.
It turns out 36.Qxe5!, crucially controlling the e4-square, was winning, or e.g. 36.Qf8+! (defending the f1-rook) 36…Kh7 37.Rc2. Praggnanandhaa is very tricky, however, as he also showed earlier in the day against Mishra. Abhimanyu thought he could allow Bc5 as he could block with d4, but after 37…Qe4! there was no defence against the multiple threats along the adjacent diagonals.
38.Qg2 was met by 38…Bxd4+ 39.Kh1 Rxa5!
The crucial last game to finish was between Jorden van Foreest and David Anton. David started the day by blundering to defeat against Eric Hansen, then was held to a draw by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, so that his qualification spot was in jeopardy. Jorden, meanwhile, was having a yo-yo event. Three losses on Day 1, three wins on Day 2, four (!) losses on Day 3 and then, on Day 4, he beat Harikrishna and then Gawain Jones to keep his qualification hopes alive.
As it turned out, Jorden would have qualified in place of David with a win, and he was soon better. The advantage grew until Anton suddenly seized his chance to turn a difficult situation around.
49…Rxg4+! 50.fxg4 Qxg4+ 51.Kh2 Rf3! and Jorden had to give up his queen. It was a material balance that looked likely to end in a draw, but there would be one huge moment for the Dutchman.
If Jorden played 60.Kh5+! here it turns out the king and rooks can weave a mating net and force heavy losses on Black. Instead, after 60.Kh3+, it was the black king that boldly advanced down the board as Anton made a draw from a position of strength.
Up next for David is a quarterfinal against Magnus Carlsen. He commented:
It’s going to be an exciting match, for sure. I think I’m just going to try to enjoy it. Of course, I will try to win, but it’s going to be hard, especially as after these days I feel I’m a bit tired, a bit out of energy. So it’s going to be tough, but of course I’ll try my best and I’m looking forward to play against Magnus.
The full quarterfinal line-up is as follows.
There’s no break before the quarterfinals, which are played on Monday as a single 4-game rapid match. If tied after four games we’ll get two blitz games and then, if needed, Armageddon.
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