Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen has outlasted American star Wesley so the final leg of the Meltwater Chess Champions’ tour got off to an exciting start here on Tuesday (IST).
Carlsen and So, the two top contenders on the 2021 Tour, went head-to-head on Day 1 of the 2022 Tour Finals in a showdown that experts deemed as a potential championship decider.
He played in his first Tour event of the year, so he struggled mightily but the Norwegian World Champion was on top, despite a series of blunders.
The opener started with Berlin’s famously drawn opener but came to a thrilling match with Carlsen, with the white pieces, having a slight advantage before ending in a draw by repeat.
Wesley So, winner of the Chess.com World Speed Chess Championship, had Carlsen on the ropes in Game 2, after he was allowed to advance a pawn to rank seven.
But Carlsen’s search for defensive resources prevented this from taking over. Thus, the chances of winning evaporated, and the match ended in a draw after 113 moves.
Coming back from the brink, Carlsen hit back hard. With the champ threatening to break through, So played a 30… Qa8 which allowed Carlsen into his position. 35. Qg5+ was followed by the killer 35. Qg5+.
Carlsen had made the breakthrough to go 2-1 up and so was left needing to win the quick final.
It looked like sailing for the Norwegian, but a one-step blunder in the final match leveled the score. Carlsen misplayed 25… Qg6 who allowed his queen to pin after 26. Nf6 + gxf6 27. Rg3. Carlsen was angry with himself. However, 27. Qxc6 would have been played and instead left the door open for Carlsen to create a fortress.
The world champion, who previously said he “doesn’t believe in fortresses,” duly did so and picked up the draw he needed to win the match and take his $200,000+ tour earnings for the season.
So, playing Minnetonka, Minnetonka realized his mistake and said afterwards that he had “forgotten” Carlsen’s defensive capabilities.
“Honestly, today’s match was very weak by our standards. We can do better,” said Carlsen.
In other matches, Jan Krzysztof Duda was the first player to win a match – and $7,500 USD – defeating Indian teenager Arjun Erigesi 2.5-0.5. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov came out on top against Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa in the battle between the youngest and biggest players in the competition.
Shakh, who was playing from Baku at midnight, had a huge win over the teenager who set the 2022 season on fire. It took one last game to beat the 17-year-old 2.5-1.5.
Last match to finish was an intense confrontation between Vietnamese pace specialist Lim Quang Le and Dutch No. 1 Anish Giri. After four straight draws, the match went into the play-offs. Jerry took the first and then got the par he needed in the second to win the game. After thinking the quality of the matches was “very high”, Jerry said.
Carlsen plays India’s Arjun Erigesi on the second day, Liem So, Mamedyarov takes on Doda and Prajnananda Giri.
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