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Reports Nov 17, 2022 | 1:24 PMby Colin McGourty

MCCT Finals 3: Duda's Immortal

Jan-Krzysztof Duda couldn’t stop smiling as he unleashed a 9-move checkmating combination on Anish Giri to win their Round 3 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals match 2.5:0.5. It was a fast day, as Magnus Carlsen swept Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 3:0, Praggnanandhaa did the same to Liem Le, and Wesley So scored his 1st win of this year’s Tour.

Peter Leko celebrates as Jan-Krzysztof Duda plays the 1st move of an amazing checkmating combination

All four matches were over with a game to spare in Wednesday's Round 3 of the 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals.

Watch the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals live here on chess24!

Magnus Carlsen was the first to finish, after getting off to a flying start against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov when he spotted 18.b3! cxb3 19.Ra4!, preventing Black from playing a4.

After 19…Nd7 20.Nxb3 Nb6?! (20…Ne5! had to be tried), moves that cost Shakh 8 minutes, Magnus was already much better with 21.Rxa5! and he went on to win smoothly.

After the way the remaining games went, Tania asked if Mamedyarov’s creative style had made a blowout more likely?

Yeah, but I think anybody would struggle if I win the first game and I’m feeling ok!

Magnus was clearly in top form as he gradually equalised and then took over with the black pieces in the next game, though there was one surprising miss.

Magnus played 42…Bxa4?! and won without incident six moves later, but he could have played 42…Qxh3+! 43.Kg1 Qe3+ and only then taken on a4, giving himself an extra pawn for free. He was shocked when Tania pointed out the possibility.

Mamedyarov then had to win the 3rd game on demand and went for the quintessentially Shakh approach of playing 3…g5?!

Rustam Kasimdzhanov drily noted that getting a bad position doesn’t actually improve your winning chances, while Magnus, who isn’t afraid of playing g5 himself, explained that this wasn’t the time for it.

Actually g5 is a decent move in a lot of situations, like for instance after 3…Nc6, if 4.Nc3 then you can play 4…g5 quite reasonably, but when you don’t have time to prevent d4 then that’s just a lot worse.

Shakh only struggled on to move 18, when he resigned just before he was about to be a piece down.

That took Magnus to 9/9, but not into the sole lead, since co-leader Jan-Krzysztof Duda pulled off the coup of the day as he beat Anish Giri 2.5:0.5. The first game set the tone, as Anish, playing Black, won a pawn, but then froze.

After a long think he went for 26…c5?!, when Duda was on top and even managed to weave a mating net with minimal forces before Giri resigned (the rook is threatening to come to h8 or g7).

Anish said afterwards:

I made mistakes in every game. The first one was a pity, for sure. I got kind of ambitious at some point. I felt like he misplayed it a little bit, I could win a pawn, but as soon as I won a pawn I realised I’m stuck, and I no longer saw how to pull the emergency break properly.

For one move in Game 2 Anish was winning, but he missed that chance, and Game 3 was all about Duda. On move 15 he repeated a piece sacrifice he’d played against Yu Yangyi in the 2021 Shenzhen Masters.

Both players claimed they had a murky recollection of what happened there, but after 15…fxe5 16.Bb5+ Kf8 17.Nxe5 Giri spent over 7 minutes on 17…Kg7?!, a mistake compared to Yu Yangyi’s 17…Qd5!, which ultimately gave the Chinese grandmaster a draw.

Anish was soon in big trouble, until 27…Rac8 set the stage for a stunning finish. Rustam Kasimdzhanov managed to work it all out shortly before Duda unleashed the brilliant rook sacrifice 28.Rg7+!!

“The combination was so beautiful, so atypical, but also with checks, something extraordinary to me,” said Duda, who noted he’d always appreciated the beauty in chess. He explained:

It’s basically a long variation with checks. I did see it very, very quickly, but you calculate 1000 times to make sure that it’s really checkmate, that I don’t blunder anything, because otherwise it would be a disaster, and it’s very, very nice. It’s very nice me smiling against Giri and not the reverse as it used to be.

There was nothing for Anish but to play along with 28…Kxg7 29.f6+! Kh6 30.Ng4+ Kg5 31.Qf5+! (sacrificing the queen as well!) 31…Nxf5 32.Rxf5+.

Here Vishy Anand’s long-term second wasn’t suggesting a way to escape but simply that 32…Kxg4 33.h3# would be a fittingly beautiful end to the game.

Instead Anish played 32…Kg6, asking Jan-Krzysztof to demonstrate the key move 33.Re5+!. Then he resigned.

Duda was disappointed that 33…Kf7 (other moves just delay the inevitable) 34.Re7+ Kg8 35.Nh6+ Kh8 36.Rh7# wasn’t allowed to appear on the board. Anish said “kudos to him for finding it” of the combination, but explained he wasn’t a fan of playing on to mate, adding:

I think 33.Re5 is a move that some people would struggle with if they’re very new at chess, but after that I think Agadmator will show them how it’s done!

Asked if it was one of his best ever games, Duda responded, “the combination, yes, the game, not really!”

There were crushing wins everywhere, with Praggnanandhaa not just inflicting a first rapid loss of the tournament on Liem Le, but three in a row! In the first game he marshalled his knights brilliantly to break open his opponent’s king position, while in the second Liem went astray early on with 12.f4?!

After 12…Nd3! 13.Qxc4 Bc5! Pragg had a big advantage, and he later commented:

I think he made this emotional decision with f4 because of the match situation, because otherwise in probably 100 games he would never play f4!

There were some twists and turns ahead, but no stopping Pragg.

A 2:0 lead is almost insurmountable, but of course Pragg only had to look back to the day before against Giri to know that it was possible to lose from such a position. Asked if that experience helped him this time, he quipped:

It definitely helps, the experience, but I didn’t want the experience, I wanted to win yesterday!

Pragg admitted that at some point he’d nevertheless “played for a draw”, but this time there was no punishment and he ultimately went on to score a convincing win.

That was a first match win for Pragg, while for Wesley So his 2.5:0.5 victory over Arjun Erigaisi saw both his first individual wins and match win of the 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. It hadn’t looked so optimistic after the first game.

Wesley had slightly misplayed a very good position, but could still have maintained a winning edge with a number of moves. Instead 35.h3?! invited 35…Nxh3!, and suddenly Wesley needed to show all his class to navigate a path to safety.

He escaped with a draw, however, and then took over midway through the second game to score an impressive win with the black pieces.

That left Arjun in trouble, but not in as much trouble as he was 7 moves into the final game when he blundered with 7…Bb4+? instead of playing 7…Ne4 first. When Wesley played g3 a couple of moves later it was already all but over.

Wesley smoothly wrapped up victory and said afterwards of Arjun Erigaisi:

I think Arjun is a very strong player, but maybe he’s focusing on classical chess. I think his play here in rapid seems to be a bit uncertain, it’s like he’s doubting himself. He’s very young, he’s very strong and he’s going to improve pretty soon, I’m sure.

Arjun is bottom of the table, but given how brilliantly he’s played in earlier events this year it feels much more likely that he’s just struggling to adapt to starting his games at 1:30 am in India — something that was hard to avoid given half of the field is in San Francisco, where the games begin at noon.

In Thursday’s Round 4 we cross the halfway point of the tournament, with Giri-Carlsen likely to be the most anticipated clash. It’s also the one day we have two matches between players in San Francisco, with Praggnanandhaa-So, while we’ve also got the online match-ups Le-Duda and Mamedyarov-Erigaisi.

The games begin at 12 noon in San Francisco (15:00 ET, 21:00 CET, 01:30 IST).

Watch the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals live here on chess24!

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