Anish Giri scored a brilliant 4/5 on Day 2 of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational to maintain the sole lead. That scored was matched by Magnus, who trails by just half a point, and Wesley So, who put his Day 1 troubles behind him to join his US colleague Hikaru Nakamura in joint 3rd place. It was another day of bloodthirsty action, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov losing 4 in a row, Levon Aronian needing a miracle mate at the end to avoid scoring 0.5/5 and Teimour Radjabov joining Sergey Karjakin outside the qualification spots.
You can replay all the games from the Magnus Invitational Prelims using the selector below.
And here’s the Day 2 commentary to replay from Tania Sachdev and Peter Leko.
And Kaja Snare, Jovanka Houska and David Howell.
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“You love to see it that people are fighting like crazy,” said Magnus Carlsen, and once again no less than 25 of the 40 games were decisive on Day 2 of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, with the standings looking as follows.
Only the Top 8 will go on to the quarterfinals after Monday’s final five rounds, so we can only expect the drama to grow. Let’s look at how the event is going for all the players.
As the leader going into Day 2, Anish could have been forgiven for just trying to cruise to qualification, but instead he began by beating David Anton (“I would be happy to play such a game in a classical tournament”) and Levon Aronian to make it 5 wins in a row. He ended the day by beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov as well and had great chances to beat Nils Grandelius and Daniil Dubov before that. “Today was incredible,” he summed up.
If Anish can play the same way in the Candidates anything is possible. He commented:
The Candidates is a very specific event. It’s just 7 rounds, and given the tournament situation so much depends on a couple of games there that I think it’s going to be a gigantic coin toss. Of course I wish with the form I have now that we’d play 14 rounds from scratch, but still I’m going to give it a shot, and when it comes to form, unfortunately these things change pretty fast, but the last couple of days in Wijk aan Zee as well, I was playing very well. I honestly don’t really know why - maybe I’m a good player, but I doubt that!
Giri was happy to see Magnus do well, since it meant “I’ve beaten Magnus in great shape”. The World Champion beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Karjakin in a row, though he admitted afterwards it wasn’t perfect.
I have to say two of the games I won were kind of gifts by my opponents, but obviously the score is great and it puts me in a great position. I do still feel as though I have to play a bit better in the knockout stages, but I’ll worry more about that later, I guess.
Shak blundered towards the end, while Magnus admitted he was getting outplayed and was on the ropes against Nepo until the Russian made a serious miscalculation.
Here Nepo went for 46.Bxc4?, with Magnus commenting:
The amazing thing about his bishop sac is that I’d seen beforehand that there were two refutations of that move, and because of that I believed there was no chance he would play it, because one refutation you may miss, but you usually don’t miss two, so that’s why I considered that an absolutely gift, since it’s not the sort of thing that should usually happen. Maybe he thought he was winning then realised it was not quite as clear as he thought and then got frustrated, but who knows.
46…dxc4? 47.Rd6 wins for White, but 46…e3 was one refutation, while the other was the move played by Magnus, 46…Rg8! The World Champion actually slipped up a few moves later (after 50…e3? there was a draw with 51.Ra4!), but the compliant 51.Qxe3? allowed a nice finish:
51…Ra1! There’s mate-in-3 after 52.Kxa1 b2+ but in any case the b-pawn can’t be stopped, since Ba2+ will force it home. The game ended 52.Qe5 Ra2+ 53.Kb1 Rxd2 54.Rxd2 b2 White resigns
Magnus should have no trouble qualifying, but is hoping for the added bonus of finishing top and being able to choose the colour he plays first throughout the knockout, including in Armageddon games.
Last time I said that the seeding didn’t really matter, but there are Tour points at stake and also picking colours all the way through the knockouts is really nice! I’m going to be aiming pretty hard for the no. 1 seed tomorrow.
The other star of the day was Wesley So, who completely made up for his two losses with White on the first day with three impressive wins, over Aronian, Dubov and Van Foreest, and two easy draws. The conversion against Levon in particular was spectacular.
Wesley is a tactical beast when provoked, but his +3 score was over-performance.
I’m really just aiming to score +1 and qualify in the top 8, so that’s my goal, even 50% has small chances of qualifying. That’s really what I’m aiming for. If my opponent gives me more chances, I’ll take them.
Nakamura was the player to put in the kind of performance we expect from Wesley or Teimour Radjabov. With the disastrous end to the Opera Euro Rapid preliminaries no doubt still fresh in his mind, Hikaru was the consummate professional, taking three very quick draws against Radjabov, So and Dubov and picking off wins against Alan Pichot and Levon Aronian.
The US star is the only unbeaten player other than Giri and is well on
course to reach the knockouts.
17-year-old Firouzja began the day outside the qualification places but he’s right back on track after a good and entertaining day at the office. He got a big boost in the first game when Shakhriyar Mamedyarov first spoilt a great position and then made a fatal miscalculation in the ending.
After 35.Rd1 the rook ending is very drawish, but instead Shak went for 35.fxe3? when it turns out the pawn ending after 35…Kxd6 is just lost for White! It’s counter-intuitive, as the black king has to go on an expedition to capture the a-pawn, but White has a longer journey to g7 and Firouzja’s e-pawn won the day.
The most impressive win came against Teimour Radjabov’s King’s Indian, that has seldom looked so toothless.
Maxime scored +1 for a second day in a row despite getting off to the worst possible start. You might say 1…a5!? was asking for that…
…but the opening wasn’t really to blame for the crushing defeat that followed.
Maxime made up for that with a win over Alan Pichot and gratefully accepted a gift from Radjabov. 20.Rd1? is the kind of blunder Teimour almost never makes.
20…Rxd1+ 21.Qxd1 e4! 22.Bxg7 exf3! and it was game-over, despite White dragging things out for a few more moves.
That Levon didn’t end a day he started in joint 2nd place by scoring 0.5/5 and finishing outside the qualification spots is all down to one moment of madness from Jorden van Foreest. 64…Qf5??, in a completely winning ending, is perfectly understandable – bringing the queen to a safe square near the king and offering a queen trade – but in fact it only takes away the vital f5-square from the black king!
65.Qh8+ Kg5 66.Qh4 mate
Levon complained of completely forgetting his opening preparation, and summed up:
I’ve been playing my worst chess today. I think I kind of tilted at some point, especially in the second game against Anish - I was playing too slowly and lost a very harmless position. Then things went sour from there on, but of course to get this lucky moment when you don’t really deserve it at least gives me a chance to fight for qualification.
Daniil is in a qualification spot, just, but the best that could be said about his Day 2 was that it could have been worse! Apart from the loss to Wesley So, he was losing against Anish Giri and looked completely dead and buried against Alan Pichot.
Dubov has done well to whip up some counterplay, but among other moves the direct 65.b5! is still winning here – 65…Nd3 66.b6 Nf2+ 67.Rxf2 Bxf2 and 68.b7 wins, though 68.Ne5+! first is even better. Instead after 65.Nd4? Nd3 66.b5 Nf2+ 67.Rxf2 Bxf2 there was no time to push the b-pawn and it turned out just to be a draw.
Daniil’s last day opponents include the murderers’ row of MVL, Firouzja and Carlsen.
Sergey started the day outside the qualification spots and didn’t quite make it back to safety, but this was much better apart from one tough loss to Magnus. There were good wins against Jorden van Foreest and Alireza Firouzja, and the final win over David Anton showed impressive fighting spirit, even if it almost gave Peter Leko a heart attack!
The same can be said about Ian Nepomniachtchi, who had a better second day but still has work to do after losing a promising position to Magnus. His opening win over MVL remains one of the day’s most convincing crushes.
Teimour was unbeaten in his first 18 games in the Opera Euro Rapid and everything seemed to be going to plan this time as well until the final stages of his Round 7 game against Jorden van Foreest. Jorden found a brilliant attempt at last-ditch defence, giving up his remaining pieces to try and force stalemate. The critical moment came after 53.Rb7+
With just 3 seconds left on his clock Teimour picked 53…Ka5? and it was only a draw after 54.Rb5+, with nowhere for the black king to escape anymore – a few moves later Teimour took the white rook and it was stalemate. Instead after 53…Kc5! the king can advance and Black wins. The key point is that after 54.Rc7+ Kb4 55.Rxc2 Black is still completely winning without the rook after a move like 55…d3.
That was a heavy blow and, as we’ve seen, Teimour then went on to blunder badly in the next game against MVL before his aggression against Firouzja completely backfired. On the final day Teimour now knows he needs at least one win to have a chance of qualification.
Teimour’s Azerbaijan colleague Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had an even worse day at the office. It all began with a painful endgame loss to Firouzja, before a blunder against Carlsen and a loss to David Anton made it 4 losses in a row. A nice win against Nils Grandelius proved only a brief respite before Mamedyarov made an inexplicable blunder at the end of a game Anish Giri felt he had only a 60:40 chance of converting.
Once again, Shak is very capable of qualifying, but can’t afford a repeat of his Day 2.
Nils got off to a great start with a draw against Magnus and a win against David Anton and suffered only that loss to Mamedyarov to score 50% for the day. A decent performance, but Nils needs to score +2 against elite opposition on the final day to push for qualification.
Jorden’s escape against Radjabov was a high point, but the disastrous blunder into mate at the end against Aronian leaves him needing a miracle to qualify on the final day.
The Spanish Champion is a danger to anyone, as he showed with convincing wins over Firouzja on Day 1 and Mamedyarov on Day 2, but he’s also suffered 7 losses and will miss out on the knockouts for a 3rd Tour event.
Alan almost got the day off to a perfect start with a first Tour win against Daniil Dubov, but the Russian found a way to wriggle out and draw. He’s now achieved the points target he set himself before the event, but there’s no hiding how tough it’s been! As he tweeted:
The 3rd and final day of the preliminary stage promises to be unmissable, with some star names certain to be eliminated.
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