Magnus Carlsen won all three games on the final day of the Julius Baer Generation Cup to finish a massive 9 points ahead of 2nd placed Arjun Erigaisi. Carlsen plays Levon Aronian next, but could still meet Hans Niemann in the final. We’ve also got Keymer-Pragg, Niemann-Le and Yoo-Erigaisi in the quarterfinals, while Anish Giri just missed out.
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The final day of the Julius Baer Generation Cup was an absolute thriller, but not when it came to the battle for 1st place. Magnus Carlsen wrapped up victory with a round to spare after defeating Christopher Yoo and Radek Wojtaszek, while his last-round win over Vincent Keymer meant that despite gifting Hans Niemann 3 points he’d posted a record 34/45 points total for the 2022 Tour.
Magnus was happy, but admitted the end hadn’t been quite as easy as it looked on paper.
My score was, I think, taking the opposition and so on into account, on par with some of my best ever rapid round-robin events, so that was very good. I feel the quality of my games perhaps dipped a little bit, the last couple today, but overall it was very good.
17-year-old Vincent Keymer, who had wrapped up qualification with a 102-move grinding win against Arjun Erigaisi the game before, was on the brink of beating Magnus. The last clear chance came after 41.Qa3.
41…Qf2! with Rb2 to follow, and Black can combine threatening checkmate on the kingside with picking up the crucial c3-pawn and pushing his own queenside pawns. Magnus would have been helpless.
Instead after 41…Qc6? 42.Bh3! the World Champion was surviving, until 50…Qd2? (50…Qh2! and White has nothing better that forcing a draw) allowed him to take over.
51.Qd5+! forced off queens, and Magnus had a winning endgame.
He did have one reason to be nervous, however — the chance that he might face Hans Niemann in the quarterfinals, when he would have had to decide whether or not simply to forfeit the match.
They would have met if Hans finished 8th, but despite getting outplayed by Ivan Saric in the first game of the day, Hans hit back to finish in clear 3rd place.
His bounce-back win over Vasyl Ivanchuk was strange, as Vasyl simply blitzed out bad moves and resigned with 13 minutes on his clock.
Peter Leko suggested the Ukrainian’s nerves had failed him, as they had at times in the past, though Levon Aronian's "clarification" of what he'd meant the day before, when he talked in an interview about losing to Hans in 21 moves, may be relevant.
If someone’s known to have a history of wrong behaviour, even if he’s not doing anything wrong, you tend to overthink it. You tend to just get out of shape, and that’s what happened to me yesterday.
Magnus was also, inevitably, asked about his game against Hans Niemann. He commented:
Unfortunately I cannot particularly speak on that, but people can draw their own conclusion, and they certainly have. I have to say I’m very impressed by Niemann’s play, and I think his mentor Maxim Dlugy must be doing a great job.
That was perhaps a barbed comment by Magnus. Maxim Dlugy is indeed a mentor of Hans...
...but he’s also been accused of cheating on Chess.com in the past.
Magnus talked about how he’d been handling the situation.
I’m ok, just living my life and trying to do well in the tournaments. People who know me and followed, for instance, the tournament in Zagreb in 2019, know that I can sort of shut things out when I play.
Back then Magnus won the 2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour, returning to his lifetime peak 2882 rating, despite facing an unprecedented wave of criticism in Norway over his attempts to get the Norwegian Chess Federation to accept sponsorship from a gambling company. Garry Kasparov, who was highly critical of Magnus after recent events in St. Louis, supported the World Champion back then.
Things couldn’t have been closer going into the final round of the Prelims. Magnus and Hans were joined by Arjun Erigaisi, Vincent Keymer and Liem Le as players already through to the quarterfinals, but everything else was up for grabs.
It’s noteworthy that of the players in the 6th to 8th spots before the last round it was only Praggnanandhaa who qualified, after a slow but utterly convincing win over Ivan Saric — it came just in time, as Pragg had gone 8 games without a win!
Jan-Krzysztof Duda lost with barely a chance against Hans Niemann, and had a lot to regret, since before losing to David Navara in the penultimate round he’d seemed right on course to qualify. Navara himself never got anything against Boris Gelfand in the final round, and a draw wasn’t enough.
The most intense battle was among the four players tied on 18 points, with no less than three of them winning. One of them was 15-year-old Christopher Yoo, who bounced back from losing to Magnus in the first game of the day to beat Adhiban and then clinch a qualification spot with a fantastic win with the black pieces against the in-form Liem Le.
Afterwards the youngest player in the tournament said he’d been happy just to get invited. He commented:
I kind of feel like I’ve had nothing to lose and I just tried to play with no fear and just tried to enjoy the games and get complicated positions. It’s kind of nice to be that guy that nobody really expects anything of. You also don’t have any expectations of yourself, so you can just play carefree chess.
“Hopefully some miracle will happen and I’ll qualify — then I promise to play well!” said Levon Aronian a day earlier, after he’d gone on a run of 6 losses in 7 games. The miracle did happen, with Levon first beating Praggnanandhaa, then drawing against Saric, before finally winning a rollercoaster against Vasyl Ivanchuk, who himself had an outside chance of qualifying.
The winning line for Ivanchuk was the surprising 41…Qc2+! 42.Kf3 Qb1! and it turns out you can’t defend both the rook and bishop e.g. after 43.Nd2 Qd3+. “Beautiful, and the horsey’s gone!” said Levon, when it was pointed out to him.
Vasyl also missed that, however, and Levon managed to weave a mating net and win the game.
Levon admitted to getting “really lucky” to win the position and echoed Ivan Sokolov with, “if you survive something like this, then most likely you will live very long!”
In the Tour Prelims there always tends to be one player who just misses out, and this time it was Anish Giri, who did everything in his power in the final round.
“I thought if I should beat Arjun with Black I deserve qualification”, said Anish afterwards, and if conventional scoring and not 3 points for a win had been used he would have finished half a point above both Yoo and Aronian.
As it was, however, they were tied on 21 points, and Anish was doomed by having lost to both his rivals.
So when the dust had settled, we got the following quarterfinal pairings: Carlsen-Aronian, Keymer-Praggnanandhaa, Niemann-Le and Yoo-Erigaisi.
There are no more representatives of the legends, but the two all-teen match-ups ensure we’ll have at least two young prodigies in the semi-finals. In fact there are five teens in the semis, with Magnus commenting when asked if we're witnessing the start of generation shift in chess:
Oh, it’s not at the start, it’s already happening, and I feel like it’s already well-known that guys like Pragg, Arjun, Vincent Keymer are very strong, but now others are coming along as well. It’s certainly exciting to see and it’s motivating for me as well.
We could also get a Carlsen-Niemann final, but that’s one bridge to cross if and when we get to it!
There’s no break, as the one-day quarterfinals take place on Thursday at the same time. Each match is played over four rapid games, with two blitz games and potentially Armageddon if the players are tied.
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