Magnus Carlsen resigned after 1 move against Hans Niemann in Round 6 of the Julius Baer Generation Cup, ensuring the rest of the day’s chess was a mere footnote to that drama. Magnus beat Levon Aronian and survived a scare against Praggnanandhaa to join the young Indian in second place, while a 5-game winning streak took Arjun Erigaisi into the sole lead.
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There was one game everyone was anticipating on Day 2 of the Julius Baer Generation Cup.
Hans Niemann would have White against Magnus Carlsen in their first meeting since Hans beat Magnus in the Sinquefield Cup and the World Champion sensationally quit the tournament a day later.
It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to determine that Magnus was pointing the finger at Hans, but in the absence of any interviews or statements in the intervening two weeks there was a chance to back down. Even if Magnus judged it prudent to make no statement he might have quietly played the game and allowed the drama to fizzle out. Instead he woke up and chose violence.
Magnus had to make at least one move in the Playzone before he could resign, but he did no more than that, making it abundantly clear that he’s simply unwilling to play against Hans Niemann.
There's more on Magnus' decision here:
Magnus himself maintained his silence.
The dramatic decision was a world away from another deliberate loss that won Magnus Carlsen a Fair Play award back in 2020.
Even then there was some criticism that you shouldn’t lose a game deliberately in sport in any circumstances, but it was tempered by the game occurring in a match situation, where Magnus was essentially only hurting his own chances.
This time round the 3 points gifted to Hans might easily affect which 8 players qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament.
That can’t be fixed, but Magnus did everything in his power to ensure the loss didn’t affect his own tournament.
Magnus, likely already knowing he was going to throw a game, had started off unusually fast on Day 1, and he nearly continued on Day 2, as he won a pawn against David Navara. The Czech no. 1 held firm, however, finding some clever drawing resources.
57…Ra7! wasn’t the only drawing move, but how could you resist playing it if you spot it — if White takes the rook, it’s an instant draw by stalemate, as Black has no moves but his king isn’t in check.
The loss to Hans meant Magnus had got off to a slow start on Day 2, but he shrugged it off instantly in the game that followed. Anish Giri commented:
It’s quite interesting that the game after that he played so well. I was thinking, you might be disturbed, but he was just undisturbed — a really special human being, for sure.
Magnus played a sensational game against Levon Aronian.
Here Magnus sacrificed the f4-bishop with 22.bxc3!, correctly judging that he’d get enough pawns and play for the piece.
The rest was remarkably smooth, with Tania labelling the game “the best of the event so far”, while Peter went so far as to echo Niemann’s infamous “chess speaks for itself”.
Magnus didn’t have it all his own way, however, since in the final round he walked into a move 6 pawn sacrifice from 17-year-old Praggnanandhaa. You didn’t need to be a body language expert to tell that this wasn’t a dream scenario for Magnus.
Praggnanandhaa revealed he’d looked at the move on the morning of the game, commenting, “h5 is already completely crushing for White, so I was just upset that I couldn’t finish him off there!”
6.h5 Nxh5 was met by the exchange sacrifice 7.Rxh5 gxh5 8.Qxh5 — something that had in fact all been played before.
Pragg was on top, but he missed the most incisive line and allowed Magnus a chance.
The World Champion did indeed go for 15…d4!, a resource you could only employ if you'd seen 16.Bxd4 Nxd4 17.Rxd4 Bxe5! 18.fxe5 Rhf8!, though even there 19.Rxd7! is strong for Pragg.
The Indian prodigy instead played 17.Qxg7 and Magnus had all but equalised, but Pragg still got another chance to claim victory.
28.Ke4! and the white passed pawns are just too powerful, while in the game after 28.Kg3 Magnus was able to hold on, even if Pragg showed all his fighting spirit by continuing to press right until the end.
Magnus showed that he's ready to praise young talents.
Meanwhile Hans Niemann would have dropped out of the qualifying spots if not for the 3 points from Magnus. Perhaps preoccupied, he started his day with a clanger, overlooking the crunching 15.Nxd5! when he put his queen on a5 against Arjun Ergaisi.
There was nothing better than 15…Qxd2, when after the zwischenzug 16.Nxf6+ Black simply ended up a crucial pawn down. Resistance was futile.
Hans them “stabilised” after the win against Magnus with a draw against Adhiban before getting outplayed despite having the white pieces against Liem Le.
It has to be said Hans was unfortunate in his opponents, since the Vietnamese star was the day’s top scorer with 3 wins and a draw — a result that saw him bounce straight back after a winless Day 1 where he lost to Erigaisi and Carlsen.
Arjun Erigaisi already took the sole lead with his win over Niemann and then made it 5-in-a-row by taking down Levon Aronian. He played some sparkling chess.
Here Levon had nothing better than the sad 36.Rf1, since moving the rook on the h-file runs into Rh7, and a knight check on e2 after exchanges.
Arjun’s main challenge came from his Indian compatriot Praggnanandhaa, who could have leapfrogged into first place if he’d found the right path in their intense Round 7 game. As it was, Pragg had to settle for joint 2nd place, while Hans Niemann was joined in the tie for 4th by two players.
One was Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who was the second top scorer on the day after beating Giri, Gelfand and Yoo before falling into a beautiful trap in the final game of the day, against his Polish rival Radek Wojtaszek.
17.Ra6? lost essentially on the spot to 17…Ncb4!, and the white queen is trapped.
There was nothing better than 18.cxb4 Bd7 and giving up the queen.
The other player in 4th place is chess legend Vasyl Ivanchuk, who had a tough day at the office. After a draw against his fellow veteran Boris Gelfand, who he first played 37 years ago in 1985, he lost on time after earlier dropping a pawn against 15-year-old Christopher Yoo.
Ivanchuk then blundered and lost to Radek Wojtaszek, but he hit back to take down Vincent Keymer in the last game of the day to finish.
17-year-old Vincent played by far the most moves of the day and could easily have done better, or worse, from the fighting chess that earned him two wins and two losses.
He has a battle ahead to qualify for the knockout, but he’s level with Levon Aronian, who admitted to being lucky not to lose all four games on Day 2.
He's also ahead of Anish Giri, who's scored two wins and two losses in his tournament so far.
The standings look as follows with 7 rounds of the Prelims to go.
Ivanchuk-Carlsen and Gelfand-Carlsen are among the games to look out for on Day 3, where the chess will hopefully take centre stage. An inevitable storyline, however, is going to be the possibility of Magnus being paired against Hans for the quarterfinals. Would Magnus then simply forfeit the match?
Hans has another path to glory, since he went into the tournament leading the race for a Fighting Chess Index prize. A 2-move decisive game can’t have done too much harm to his chances, can it?
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