General Nov 22, 2020 | 11:43 PMby chess24 staff

Skilling Open 1: Giri leads mouse-slipping Carlsen

Anish Giri is sole leader of the Skilling Open after scoring 4/5 on Day 1, and it could have been more, since he took a draw in a winning position against Hikaru Nakamura. Magnus Carlsen feared “a very, very long day” after blundering his queen against Ian Nepomniachtchi and letting a win slip against MVL, but he needn’t have worried. He bounced back to win the next three games, including against Alireza Firouzja, saying, “It’s always nice to beat him while I still can!” The surprise was bottom seed David Anton, who beat Svidler, Nepo and Radjabov to tie Magnus for 2nd place.

Anish Giri managed to win Rook + Bishop vs. Rook against Vidit to take the sole lead, while Magnus looked on

You can replay all the games from Day 1 of the Skilling Open, the first event on the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour, using the selector below.

We had four commentary streams in English alone, which you can always catch live on our broadcast page by choosing the different flags under the broadcast. Here’s the TV studio broadcast from Oslo featuring David Howell, Jovanka Houska and host Kaja Snare.

And here’s Peter Leko and Tania Sachdev.

Magnus Carlsen bounces back after shock start

Round 1 saw six draws, but Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen provided more than enough drama to make up for it! At first it seemed Russian no. 1 Ian Nepomniachtchi was comfortably on top in a 3…Nge7 Ruy Lopez, but Ian lost his way and then with 33.Rd5? allowed a sudden counter-strike.

33…c6! of course attacks the rook, but the point is that it prepares Qa7 and an attack on the white king. Nepo’s 34.Rd4 parried that threat (34…Qa7 35.Qa4!) but Magnus continued the same theme with 34…d5!, this time clearing the queen’s path to a3. Nepo was in shock.

It was just a question of how Magnus would win, until suddenly instead of retreating his queen to one of the winning squares on the b-file, he dropped it on b4, where it could be captured by Nepo’s pawn.

Magnus was still bewildered afterwards when Kaja Snare asked him what had happened with the mouse-slip.

The truth is I don’t really know. Usually I will know it’s one of two things. Either you just try to make the move and then you move it too far or not far enough, or the other one is that you think about making a move and then you drop  the piece back on the wrong square, and frankly I don’t even remember which one it was, which is very strange. Regardless of what happens it was kind of sudden. I was choosing between many strong continuations there and all of a sudden I have to resign.

He didn't necessarily have to resign, but when Nepo hesitated Magnus stepped in to avoid any repeat of the kind of magnanimity he’d shown himself when Ding Liren lost on time against him in the Chessable Masters.

Maybe because he was in shock of what happened and I decided that one thing I don’t want to happen is him to think, 'should I offer a draw since he slipped in a winning position?' and so on, so I just resigned so he wouldn’t have to make any of those decisions.

Magnus feels mouse-slips are just part and parcel of the online game.

There are functions that you can choose like confirm move, that you have to confirm every move, but this can take away mouse-slips, but it slows the game down and takes away precious seconds. I think mouse-slips are part of the game, but obviously when it happens that’s really the worst way to lose the game!

When Magnus was asked by Kaja Snare before the tournament about his ambitions he responded.

My basic ambition is to try and spread the game as far as possible... and when the time comes, to win it all!

There was a very long way to go, but Magnus has a tendency to bounce straight back from losses, and he went for it in his next game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Magnus judged he could grab a pawn on a2, despite the bishop getting trapped.

Here Maxime spent 3 minutes on 19.Rxa2 (19.Ne2! actually seems to give White great winning chances), and after 19...c5! Black was much better, though MVL managed to scrape a draw after many more twists and turns. Magnus admitted he “kind of blew it” and said he thought this might be “a very, very long day”.

In the end, however, he’d go on to win the next three games. Teimour Radjabov was tempted by a queen exchange, perhaps feeling that Magnus couldn’t grab a pawn because of the tactical idea of 24…Ne3.

25.fxe3? Rxg3 and White is losing, but chess isn't checkers and after 25.Rd2! Magnus had everything under control. When he won the b6-pawn as well, Teimour resigned.

David Anton was the next player to go for a flawed tactic against the World Champion, and it was a significant win for Magnus, since the Spanish bottom seed otherwise had a brilliant day. David smoothly outplayed Peter Svidler in the Grünfeld (!), took just 15 moves to get a winning position against Ian Nepomniachtchi’s 1.b3 and won a topsy-turvy tactical battle against Teimour Radjabov.

In the final game of the day Magnus faced the youngest player in the field, 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja, who had had a very eventful day. In Round 1 Alireza was lost against Vidit but managed to escape with a draw, before in Round 2 he put Wesley So to the sword, despite the US Champion improving on the line Fabiano Caruana had played against Firouzja in a recent Norway Chess Armageddon game.

33.Rxh6! gxh6 34.Qg4+ Kf8 35.Bg7+! and Wesley resigned since it’s mate-in-2.

There was also an echo of Norway Chess in Carlsen-Firouzja, with Magnus playing the novelty 9.Bg3, varying from the 9.Nge2 he’d played against Alireza in their first game from last month's Norway Chess. Back then Magnus was close to winning, then got into some difficulties, before the game ended in a draw. This time it was all Magnus, as he smoothly outplayed the youngster. 

“It’s always nice to beat him while I still can!” Magnus summed up.

Anish Giri emerges as the early leader

Levon Aronian and Ian Nepomniachtchi were fastest out of the blocks. Nepo managed to bamboozle Radjabov in Round 2 after his lucky break against Magnus, while Levon won two model games against Le Quang Liem and Vidit. Both lost in Round 3, however, and it was Anish Giri who ended the day as top scorer.

Anish survived MVL’s decision to return to his main openings and play the Sicilian in Round 1, then impressively outplayed Sergey Karjakin in the next game. He could have added the scalp of Hikaru Nakamura, but suddenly declared an amnesty.

“If I win too many games then Magnus will lose his sponsors, so I decided to not win all of the games and at least make one draw in between,” quipped Anish, before adding:

Actually, to be honest, I messed up a little bit in that game. I was much, much more winning before and I didn’t really realise how badly I messed up, so I thought like I ruined everything already, but it turns out I still had some advantage left.

In fact he clarified that it was “a tremendous advantage”, but in the end it was just a small blemish on an otherwise near perfect day. Anish felt the way his openings went was like being dealt aces in poker: “One time I folded, but in the other games I managed to convert!”    

Giri went on to win a nice ending against Liem Quang Le and then squeeze out victory in the theoretically drawn but very difficult Rook + Bishop vs. Rook endgame against Vidit.

Anish had previously mentioned just how tough it was for Vidit to be playing late at night.

It’s a tricky balancing act, since Hikaru Nakamura beings his games at 9am in the morning, while 18:00 is ideal for Norwegian TV. Ding Liren has the toughest situation, since the games end at after 5am in China, but he survived the first day unscathed with five draws. In fact the world number two, who still has occasional internet issues behind the Great Firewall of China, scored a victory. Our new disconnect policy meant that one of his games was paused after he’d been disconnected for 30 seconds and then resumed quickly when he was back on-line.

Anish summed up Day 1 of the Skilling Open.

Day 2 includes a clash we’ll all be looking forward to.

I remember I play Magnus in Round 9 so in case he’s watching he should already start his sleepless night because he’s playing me tomorrow. He should be aware of that!

All the players are still in contention to finish in the Top 8 places and reach the knockout, however, with Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour runner-up Hikaru Nakamura well-placed in the tie for 4th place after four draws and a win against Sergey Karjakin. Here are the full standings.

The action starts each day at 17:45 CET (11:45 ET) and you can follow it all live here on chess24 with multiple commentary streams in different languages

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