Red-hot Carlsen nears 2900 as ‘Iceman’ melts on first day of final

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen is on the brink of becoming the first player to hit the historic 2900 Tour Rating mark after crushing “The Iceman” Arjun Erigaisi on day one of the Julius Baer Generation Cup final.

Norway’s World Champion now has one hand on the trophy having ended the challenge of Erigaisi, one of India’s brightest talents, 2.5-0.5 with one game to spare.

In his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour final, Erigaisi needs to pick himself up before the second half of the final tomorrow after a chastening day of chess for the youngster.

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Carlsen said he was “far from satisfied” with his play and said there were some “pretty bad moments, but overall I can’t complain”.

He added: “It felt to me that he [Erigaisi] didn’t fully believe in it, which I can understand. So maybe he didn’t take his chances in the last game fully either because I think he had serious chances to press. But it didn’t feel like he was grasping the moment.”

Arjun Erigaisi

Carlsen started with a brutal win over his teenage opponent. The champ built a checkmating attack on the kingside before delivering the killer blow with the bishop sacrifice 35.Bxg6.

It quickly got worse for Erigaisi. In game number 2, Carlsen knocked the Indian off his stride with a novelty in the opening 8…Bd7 before seeing deep enough to launch another unstoppable kingside attack.

With 28…N4d5! Carlsen found the only winning move and the game ended with Erigaisi resigning on move 30.

“What a masterpiece, what a tactical duel by both players,” enthused Grandmaster David Howell in the commentary box.

“A stunning game,” Grandmaster Peter Leko added.

In game 3, Erigaisi needed a win to stay in the match but Carlsen appeared to put down the shutters and close up shop before unleashing another attack in the endgame.

With 38.Nh5, Erigaisi’s face fell. Carlsen then inexplicably blundered away what seemed another certain win, but the draw was enough for a 2.5-0.5 win.

Carlsen was ahead in the final and Erigaisi now needs to win tomorrow just to take it to tiebreaks.

GM Howell said: “I must say, in this tournament so far he [Carlsen] is possibly the best I’ve seen since 2019, since he was just destroying everyone.

“He’s been on a roll. He won something like nine games in the prelims and straight through here without any play-offs.”

“Calm, controlled, measured. He looks on the top of his game.”

Erigaisi, playing from Warangal in India, was downcast at the end but said he wanted to remain positive.

“It’s just evident that he’s the better player but hopefully things will go my way and I’ll try to play my best chess,” he said.

Play on day 2 of the final begins at 18:00 CEST on Sunday with live commentary available on chess24.com.

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