Reports May 24, 2022 | 11:07 AMby Colin McGourty

Chessable Masters 5: Giri, Carlsen, Ding & Pragg advance

Anish Giri continued to cruise through the Chessable Masters as he eased past Aryan Tari 2.5:0.5 in the quarterfinals. Magnus Carlsen achieved the same scoreline, but admitted what he did after his 1.f4 in the 3rd game was “silly” and could have let David Anton back into the match. Ding Liren (vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov) and Praggnanandhaa (vs. Wei Yi) both powered to a 2:0 lead, but then lost Game 3 before drawing Game 4, with Praggnanandhaa surviving some nail-biting moments. We’ve now got Carlsen-Ding and Giri-Pragg in the semi-finals.

The 8 quarterfinalists were cut down to just 4 players

You can replay all the games from the knockout stages of the Chessable Masters, the 4th event on the $1.6 million 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, using the selector below.

The Chessable Masters semi-finals were all over in four rapid games, but Wei Yi vs. Praggnanandhaa in particular developed into a huge battle.

Anish Giri 2.5:0.5 Aryan Tari

By far the smoothest win of the day came for Anish Giri, who continued the fine form that saw him remain unbeaten while winning the Prelims. He said afterwards:

Yeah, I’m thrilled and I’m just enjoying it. I’ve had, to be fair, experiences in my life that I’ve been playing well before, so it’s not entirely new to me, but still I’m very thrilled.

The last chance for Aryan Tari in Game 1 came after 29.Rf1.

29…Rxc5! 30.Rxc5 Bd4 was essential, with decent chances to hold the likely rook endgame that would follow. Instead after 29…Rb8? 30.Qe7! Anish got an endgame where he picked up the a5-pawn as well and cruised to a win, using a little exchange sacrifice tactic at the end to wrap things up.

The threat of mate on h8 means the e5-rook can’t move.

Game 2 was also a case of a misjudged endgame.

Giri, with Black, is up a pawn, but White’s passed d-pawn gives White some hopes. Here, however, regaining the pawn with 30.Bxe5? Bxe5 31.Rxe5 left Black’s a-pawn too strong after 31…a3! 32.Ra7 a2. What Aryan might have missed was that after 33.Kh2 Anish had the crucial 33…Bb5!, planning Bc4, to defend the pawn on a2.    

Anish had no trouble in the remainder of the game.

There also wasn’t a glimmer of hope for Aryan in the 3rd game. Anish defended his opponent’s decision to take a draw by repetition at the end in a worse position.

I do think it makes a difference sometimes as to how you feel, because he had a very good qualification final day, and the day before that, and he doesn’t want to leave the tournament with a very bitter feeling of having lost all three games, so I perfectly understand that. You just salvage half a point and you don’t have such a bad feeling about today.

Magnus Carlsen 2.5:0.5 David Anton

Magnus also wrapped things up in three games, but didn’t have things so easy. He said afterwards:

I thought the first game was ok. I think he defended really well from a difficult position, until he made a mistake at the end.

Here David Anton should have exchanged queens on b5, spoiling White’s pawn structure, with good chances to hold. Instead 44…f6? 45.Qxe5 fxe5 46.g4! just left Magnus with a trivial win, since he could bring his king to e3, capture the d3-pawn, and then create a passed pawn on the queenside.

In the next clash, however, it was David who applied pressure with an extra pawn, with Magnus explaining:

The 2nd game was not good, but I think I actually calculated really, really well at some point to get a drawn position. Apparently I blundered a little bit at some point later, but that was not so easy to spot.

For the third game Magnus decided to complete his tour of the possible chess openings — he’d already tried 1.c3, 1.d3 and 1.h4 in the Chessable Masters alone — with 1.f4, Bird’s Opening, something he’d last done five years ago in 2017. Back then he scored 3/3 after first surprising Vladimir Kramnik in the Leuven Grand Chess Tour rapid. The trolling continued afterwards…

…referring to a Family Guy episode.

Magnus commented this time round:

I beat Mickey Adams in classical chess as well, although I was completely lost in that game. So I think the opening in itself hasn’t been a massive success. Even against Kramnik, I completely outplayed him in that game, but I wasn’t doing so well at first. It seemed to bring me good results, but I think it’s appropriate that I only wheel it out once every few years!

Magnus described the game as “silly”, however, for his decision to go for 12.Na3?

I spent all this time looking at one of his knight jumps and I completely missed the other, and I think then I was considerably worse at some point, but fortunately it didn’t last for very long, and gradually I took over the initiative and it became pretty comfortable.

Magnus must have been looking at 12…Nb4, when e.g. 13.Qd2 leaves Black with nothing better than to retreat the knight. David Anton instead played 12…Nd4! and had a significant edge, but as Magnus noted, Black’s advantage didn’t last long, and when the World Champion got on top he was ruthless. 44.a5! was a nice, if standard, little trick.

44…Rxa5?? 45.c6+ would win the black rook, but the deeper idea was that after 44…Kd8, making capturing a real threat, Magnus could just dominate with 45.Kd5! Rxa5 46.Kd6 and ultimately emerge with two passed pawns on the queenside.

Magnus will now face world no. 2 Ding Liren. He was asked about the upcoming clash:

I always seem to turn up on the same side of the bracket as Ding, so it’s going to be tough, but still I’m looking forward to it!

Ding Liren 2.5:1.5 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov started this match with a slight and what seemed safe advantage with the white pieces, but when he grabbed a pawn on h7 in exchange his a4-pawn things went downhill fast for him.

The h-pawn hasn’t started to roll, while here 35…a4! 36.bxa4? b3! was already hopeless for White, with resignation following just three moves later.

Shakh needed to hit back and took big risks with Black in the next game. Ding Liren summed it up well:

The second one of course was the turning point of the whole match. He played a very risky line in the opening and I was winning at some point. I checked the engine after the game, but the move Bg5, I did not see it. After Ng5, Bf6 suddenly I realised that it’s not so easy to mate his king, and then there are many, many ups and downs, and I’m very lucky to not only save the position but also win the game, also with a lot of his help.

21.Ng5? was the mistake.

Instead 21.Bg5! would have prevented Bf6 and allowed White to build up a winning attack.

As Ding noted, there were huge swings in the game, for instance after 36.d7.

36…Kf8! is the computer’s choice, planning to bring the king to e7 and also get it out of some potential trouble on the back rank. Instead 36…Rc5 allowed 37.Rh1! and there was nothing better than 37…c1=Q+, exchanging off rooks.

Shakh was soon better again, but let his edge slip before Ding managed to find a path to victory, queening the d-pawn at the perfect moment to distract the black king and be able to march his own king towards the a-pawn.

Ding then only needed a draw in Game 3, but, in a seemingly innocuous queenless position, Mamedyarov suddenly seized complete control.

23…Re4?! was a mistake (23…d4! 24.Nxd4 Re4!), and after 24.Nd4! Nxd4 25.Rxd4 White was simply winning.

Ding had a second chance to make a draw, however, this time with the white pieces, and he admitted:

I just need to draw in the final one and I played very dirty, I think — I exchanged all the pieces!

Mamedyarov didn’t get a chance, and now it’s world no. 1 vs. world no. 2 in the semifinals. Ding commented:

Always it will be a good pleasure to play against Magnus, especially on the knockout stage, since I think maybe he takes the preliminary stage not so serious, unlike Lebron James plays in the NBA. He comes out with his best in the knockout stage, so it’s going to be a big fight!

Magnus beat Ding in the semi-finals of the Charity Cup and, surprisingly, Ding has never reached the final of an online tour event, despite, for instance, reaching four of the five semi-finals on the original Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour in 2020.

Praggnanandhaa 2.5:1.5 Wei Yi

This was the one win that you might describe as an upset, but by this stage no-one is surprised to see 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa performing at the very highest level. The Indian star came under pressure in the first game, with Wei Yi going for a bold opening concept featuring pushing the h-pawn and later Rh3-Rg3.

Pragg defended well, however, and when White’s attack stalled on the kingside he gradually took over, won a pawn, and then ground out a 90-move win in a queen endgame.

In the second game it was Pragg who dazzled in the opening, coming up with a spectacular concept based around pinning the f6-knight.

Wei Yi dug deep and found a lot of only moves until being punished for one inaccuracy, and soon Pragg seemed to have an overwhelming position.

Black is almost in zugzwang, but as Giri had noted earlier in the tournament, to win beautiful positions sometimes you have to make ugly moves. Pragg tried that with 32.Bg3?!, giving up one of the big trumps of his position, the f6-pawn (the computer recommends treading water e.g. with 32.a3). He would later say:

The second game also I played great till a point and then when I got low on time I just started to make some mistakes.

He lost control and in the end had to settle for a pawn-up rook endgame where Wei Yi could have made a draw with best play. The final chance came on move 68.

68…b2! and White will have to give up his rook for the b-pawn and, it turns out, the lone rook is just in time to stop both white pawns. Some races are almost impossible to calculate with no time, however, and after 68…Rc6+ 69.Kf7 Kd5 70.g5 the white pawns were too much. It was rocky, but Praggnanandhaa got the win his earlier play deserved.

Pragg then “only” needed a draw, and did reach a drawn endgame in Game 3.

He noted he needed to be very accurate, however, and that he didn’t manage. One overly active move allowed Wei Yi to break through and win a fine game.

Wei Yi still had to play for a win with Black, and the method he chose was the Czech Benoni.

It doesn’t have a stellar reputation and soon Pragg had a huge advantage, but 27.h4? spoilt all his good work, allowing 27…Nb5!

It was a tough moment for Pragg:

Last game after I missed Nb5 I didn’t really think that I would save that, because I was seven minutes down and the position was very dangerous, so I’m just really happy to save it.

28.cxb5? Qxc3+ forces checkmate, while the fork Nd4+ is threatened, so 28.Nxb5 was Pragg’s choice after another two and a half minutes. Suddenly White was under immense pressure, and things looked bad when Wei Yi was able to capture on d5.

White would be significantly worse if not for one resource.

When I found this h5-h6 I was quite happy, because I think his king is also weak and I could create some tricks.

34.h5! bxc4 35.Bxc4 Rxd1 36.Kxd1 Re7 37.h6! was in fact just enough to hold a draw, with Black having no way to hunt down the white king, while the simple threat of Qf6, Qg7# can’t be ignored. Wei Yi ultimately had nothing better than to force a draw by perpetual check.

So it’s Giri-Praggnanandhaa and Ding-Carlsen in the semi-finals. 

Pragg will be looking to get revenge for losing 2.5:0.5 to Giri in the final round of the Oslo Esports Cup, when a win would have given the 16-year-old tournament victory.

Don’t miss all the Chessable Masters here on chess24 from 18:00 CEST!

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