Magnus Carlsen survived a blunder against Hikaru Nakamura in the first round of the day to win the Skilling Open prelims, but the main drama was elsewhere. 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja seemed to have wrapped up a quarterfinal spot with a stunning three wins in a row, but losses in the last two rounds meant heartbreak. After leading for two days, Anish Giri only scraped into the quarterfinals in 8th place and now faces Carlsen, while world no. 2 Ding Liren, who went into the day in 2nd place, is also out.
You can replay all the Skilling Open preliminary games using the selector below.
And here’s the day’s live commentary from Kaja Snare, Jovanka Houska and David Howell.
And from Tania Sachdev and Peter Leko.
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There was joy and despair on the final day of the Skilling Open Prelims, as the 16 players battled to claim eight places in the quarterfinals. No-one summed up the joy better than Levon Aronian, who bounced back from a bad day to win three games and ultimately finish in 5th place. He celebrated with his dog Ponchik!
Elsewhere there was huge relief for Anish Giri, who went into his final round game, Black against Ding Liren, with his tournament survival hanging by a thread.
It would have been a shocker to get knocked out after leading for the first two days, but the Dutch star got the draw he ultimately needed.
French no. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also made it in by the finest of margins.
The most dramatic story, however, was that of 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja. For the first three rounds he was on fire, taking down Ding Liren, Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin to take the joint lead with Magnus Carlsen with just two rounds to go. He was garnering high praise.
It seemed just a formality that he’d reach the knockout stage, but in the penultimate round he ran into a killer tactic from Hikaru Nakamura.
Then in the final round, when a draw with White against Liem Quang Le would have been enough for him to qualify, he again fell to defeat.
Tania Sachdev was far from alone among chess fans in despairing at what she was seeing.
After Liem’s win it turned out both players were the unlucky ones to lose out in a 5-way tie with Teimour Radjabov, MVL and Anish Giri, since in that mini-league Teimour scored 3/5, MVL and Giri 2/5 and Firouzja and Le only 1.5/5.
The final standings look as follows, with the quarterfinalists on the left.
The no. 1 finisher plays the no. 8, the no. 2 the no. 7 and so on, which produced the following mouth-watering ties.
There’s no rest day, with the matches beginning Wednesday at 18:00 CET. Each clash is held over two days, with a 4-game rapid match each day. If the score is 1:1 after those two matches a playoff will be held with two blitz games and then Armageddon.
Carlsen-Giri in particular is sure to be intense, while Carlsen and Nakamura finishing in 1st and 2nd places in the prelims means we’re potentially headed for another Magnus vs. Hikaru final. There’s a long way to go before that, however. Tune in to all the action from 18:00 CET on Wednesday!
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