Magnus Carlsen finished in style to win his first ever game against Anish Giri in Wijk aan Zee, getting revenge for a loss on the final day of the World Blitz Championship. It was a bad day for the Dutch, as Jorden van Foreest also lost a tricky knight ending to Richard Rapport. The other Masters games, including the Karjakin-Dubov grudge match, were drawn, but Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s amazing 3.g4!? against Andrey Esipenko will live in the memory. 15-year-old Volodar Murzin leads the Challengers after beating compatriot Polina Shuvalova.
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And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler.
Before we get to the clear game of the round, let’s take a look at the five draws in Round 2. There was nothing to say about Vidit-Caruana, where Vidit was clearly very happy to take a quick draw against the world no. 4 after his 6.5-hour game the day before.
That wasn’t the fastest draw of the round, since that surprisingly came in Karjakin-Dubov. In the wake of the World Championship match controversy there seemed to be more reason than ever for a fight, and these were two rivals who had rarely needed much of a reason for fireworks. The Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge quarterfinal in 2020 memorably saw Dubov twice win mini-matches 3:0, in between which Sergey hit back with a 3:2 win, where all five games were decisive!
This time round, however, there was to be no drama. Daniil’s opening couldn’t be classed as a surprise…
…but he did emerge with the bragging rights of only spending over a minute on two of his 23 moves, as he drew with more time on his clock than he started.
Duda-Praggnanandhaa was a tense fight that never burst into flames…
…while Shankland-Grandelius felt like what it was, a clash between two players who had suffered tough defeats the day before. Sam let a big positional edge slip in mutual time trouble and was potentially in some danger before the game ended peacefully.
The draw you couldn’t take your eyes off, however, was Mamedyarov-Esipenko, which began with the extraordinary Shakh Attack 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g4!?, a move that correspondence players had tried, but that had never been played at close to the top level over-the-board. Peter Svidler’s reaction said it all!
19-year-old Andrey Esipenko thought for 8 minutes before deciding on 3…d5. Magnus Carlsen felt that was a bit too modest.
I would have snapped it off, I think, as Black! I think he must have seen some of my father’s blitz games, because he always does this on move 2: 1.d4 Nf6 2.g4. That’s his pet opening, which is probably a considerably worse version than what Mamedyarov did, but yeah, it was interesting, and he actually got a pretty promising position as well, so you cannot say that it was not a success.
After 3…d5 Shakh was able to follow up with 4.g5, but ten moves later his 14.g6!? really seemed to be pushing things.
Esipenko correctly responded 14…Nc6! and after 15.gxh7+ Kh8 had a safe king and every chance of taking over. All it took, however, was one slip, and the game fizzled out into another draw, or rather, for the 2nd day in a row, Mamedyarov ended a wild game by agreeing a draw in what was still a complicated, but objectively equal, position.
It’s time, however, to get to the game of the round, that saw Magnus Carlsen take on his great rival Anish Giri.
It added some spice that Anish had recently torpedoed Magnus’ hopes in the World Blitz Championship, seeming to wink at the camera afterwards.
The game was interesting right from the start, with Magnus starting with the Dubov-inspired Catalan he’d played against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the World Championship match. 7.Na3!? varied from 7.Qc2 in Game 2 of the match, and the highest rated players to have tried it were Vasyl Ivanchuk and, you guessed it, Daniil Dubov.
The game really left the trodden path, however, with 9.a4!?, which had Peter and Jan intrigued.
Magnus said it “was maybe back-up World Championship prep”, and added:
It was very tense. I think the opening was pretty successful in that it was a fresh position where he had to navigate some really difficult variations.
Anish may briefly have had an edge, but 15…Qd5?! left the door open for Magnus to play a powerful exchange sacrifice. The day before against Andrey Esipenko, Magnus had let such a chance slip, but after a 17-minute think this time he did grab the bishop on c6.
After 16…Qxc6 17.Ne5 Qb5 18.Qc2! Magnus had posed the toughest of tasks to his opponent.
The problem is that White is threatening Rb1, and if the queen has to go to a5, then Bb4 will win material. 18…Reb8!?, giving the queen the e8-square, is one computer suggestion, though the only move it thinks really holds is 18…Nb6!. A line such as 19.Bxb7! Nc4! 20.Bxa8 Nxa3! is tough to believe in, however.
Instead Anish tried to block the powerful g2-bishop with 18…Nd5?!, when sufficiently powerful silicon declared it was game over. The move the computers wanted was 20.Be4!, provoking 20…g6, and only then 21.Bxd5!, but that was a nuance missed by the World Champion, who immediately played the main idea, 20.Bxd5.
This was Giri’s last chance, since 20…Qxd5!, giving up the knight on the rim, leaves Black with some hope that his rooks and pawns will be enough to hold a draw. The point of the 20.Be4! trick is that without it 20...Qxd5 21.Qxc7 b5! is actually equal — while with the pawn on g6, White is winning!
Magnus summed up:
I think he may have had chances to hold if he’d played correctly, but it was very tough, and the way that he played I got a chance to wrap it up pretty nicely.
After 20…exd5? 21.Rxb7! c5?! 22.Qf5! Rf8 the black king was suddenly in desperate trouble and the outcome of the game no longer looked in any doubt.
Magnus crashed through with 23.Nxf7!, but at least here Anish got to play a stylish move, 23…Qd8!
Alas, even 24.Nxd8 Rxf5 25.Nc6 is strong for White, but, with a huge advantage on the clock, Magnus calmly decided to go for a clear and simple win, with 24.dxc5!. After 24…Qf6 25.Qxf6 gxf6 26.Nh6+ Kh8 White was still down an exchange, with no mating attack in sight, but the c-pawn would decide the game: 27.c6! Rfc8 28.c7!
All that remained was for Magnus to bring his h6-knight back into the game, jumping to f7, d6 and then taking the rook on c8, for the game to be over. In the final position White is just two pawns up with complete dominance.
It was a win that brought back memories of 2019, when Magnus had regularly used left-over preparation from the 2018 World Championship match and crushed the world’s top grandmasters in real style. It was also notable as the first decisive classical game in Wijk aan Zee between the players since 16-year-old Giri sensationally beat Magnus in 22 moves in 2011.
It’s the first time I’ve beaten him here, no? So I’ve finally evened my score here against him after 11 years, so that’s really nice, and in the last couple of years I’ve had long stretches without any actual really convincing wins, so yeah, really appreciate this one!
The other decisive game in the top group had nowhere near the aesthetic appeal of Carlsen’s win, with Richard Rapport summing up his victory over 2021 Tata Steel Masters winner Jorden van Foreest:
The game was extremely lucky. He kind of tricked me in the opening. I wasn’t even expecting the Slav, but afterwards with this plan Ne4, Qa5, it’s just a very comfortable position. I was trying to equalise.
In the end, however, Richard managed to get a slightly favourable knight ending, and everything turned on move 35.
35…fxe4! 36.Nxe4+ Ke7! and Richard felt it was just an immediate draw, but instead Jorden slipped with 35…Nd7? 36.Nxh7! and it turned out there was no way to save the game. Richard summed up his tournament so far.
Yesterday at some point I was trying to play for a win, which was completely uncalled for, and then I lost, and today I got this kind of present from him, so 50% is probably what I deserve out of the games, but still I kind of feel for him, because I know how it is to be on the other side of these kind of losses, and it’s not really nice.
That saw Jorden drop out of the leading group, with Magnus joining Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Vidit on 1.5/2.
In the Challengers group Volodar Murzin is the sole leader on 2/2 after overwhelming fellow Russian Polina Shuvalova with a kingside pawn storm in the Ruy Lopez.
Erwin l’Ami bounced back with a win over Zhu Jiner, while Jonas Bjerre, who had beaten Ami in Round 1, was brought back down to earth by Thai Dai Van Nguyen. The 20-year-old Czech player set up a beautiful zugzwang, with Jonas resigning in the following position.
50…h5 is the only move that doesn’t lose material, but then simply 51.h4! gives Black the sad necessity to move again.
The most dramatic game of the round, however, was a first win for top seed Arjun Erigaisi. He had actually been on the back foot against Max Warmerdam, until the Dutchman took 38 minutes to “unleash” 16.Rxa6?
Max certainly hadn’t blundered 16…Bxf2+! 17.Kxf2 Rxc2 18.bxa7, and was relying on his powerful a-pawn and having three pieces for the queen. Peter Svidler noted that if White could untangle he’d be completely winning, but it turned out there was no time for that, with the loose rook on a6, trapped bishop on c1, and weak white king, giving Arjun all the ammunition he needed to win the upcoming tactical battle.
Max was perhaps a bit harsh on himself when he tweeted.
Erigaisi joins Nguyen and Ganguly half a point behind the leader.
We’ve got the intriguing clash of the leaders, Duda-Carlsen, in Round 3, while the all-US battle Caruana-Shankland promises to be another game to watch.
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