Airthings Masters SF: Advantage Radjabov, Aronian

by Carlos Alberto Colodro

12/31/2020 – Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov kicked off the Airthings Masters semi-finals with mini-match wins over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Daniil Dubov respectively. They both reached the fourth game ahead of the scoreboard and saw their opponents outdo in must-see situations. | Photo: FIDE

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Trapped Knights

Levon Aronian has lost only one game so far in the Airthings Masters – he was beaten by David Anton in the last round of the preliminary stage, despite having already secured a knockout spot. He clinched a convincing victory over online blitz specialist Hikaru Nakamura in the quarter-finals and now tops the scoreboard in the semi-finals against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, another quick play expert.

If the Armenian continues his race in good form on Friday, he will face either Teimour Radjabov or Daniil Dubov in the final of the second competition of the Champions Chess Tour. After knocking out Magnus Carlsen in a memorable game, Dubov must win on demand in the second mini-match against Radjabov, as the Azerbaijani kept a firm hand to secure a 3: 1 victory in the first ‘set’ of the semi-final.

With an extraordinary year drawing to a close, we join with Radjabov in wishing all of our readers a Happy New Year. Lucky for us chess fans, from day one of 2021 we’ll see four of the world’s best players show what they’re capable of in an event we couldn’t have predicted exactly one year ago!

Masters Airthings

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Aronian 3: 1 Vachier-Lagrave

On more than one occasion, Aronian has said that the Berlin defense offers plenty of fighting opportunities if the players are ready to enter uncharted territory, and he has shown that to be the case in his two games with Black. Thursday.

In the first meeting of the day, the Armenian emerged victorious after the opening and saw his opponent voluntarily place his knight on the rim on move 27:

The engines consider Vachier-Lagrave 27.Nxa7 be the best move in position, but it’s never easy for a human to play with a piece so far from the action and with almost no mobility – Black played 27 … c6 immediately, taking all of the knight’s relief boxes.

Aronian was in the driver’s seat, and he slowly increased the pressure – as is done in those queenless positions – transferring his king to Queenside to capture the hapless knight:

33 … Kb7 and White soon gave up his knight for the c6 pawn. Vachier-Lagrave stubbornly defended until stroke 67, but to no avail – Aronian did not weaken in the final technical phase.

A draw in Game 2 was followed by another Berlin. This time, it’s Aronian who had a knight stuck on the edge of the board:

Black’s knight was still sitting on h4 since move 22, and White was finally able to attack him in the position shown with 37 Kg3. Unlike MVL’s Knight in the first game, however, Black can save his coin here with 37 … g5. Aronian had defended a difficult position, and he continued to do so until move 46, when a triple repeat meant the Armenian would enter the last quick game of the day needing only a draw to win. the and.

In the last game of the day, Vachier-Lagrave tried but couldn’t do anything with the black pieces. The Frenchman now needs a win to force a blitz tiebreaker on Day 2 of the semi-finals.

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Radjabov 3: 1 Dubov

As mentioned by Peter Leko during the comments webcast, Radjabov is a player capable of both playing solid chess and showing great tactical strength when needed. Leko explained that the Azerbaijani learned this as a young prodigy, when he played tight openings against Kasparov or Kramnik and was duly punished with “ correct ” strategic play once he committed the slightest fault.

This ability served him well against the always dangerous Dubov in the opening set of their semi-final clash. In Game 3, Radjabov gained a strategic advantage from the opener, to which his opponent reacted appropriately, defending his weaknesses until he started what appeared to be a savable endgame. The Azerbaijani continued to press, however, until an imprecision from Dubov allowed him to grab a pawn:

The gear is uniform, but White’s knight is ready to attack Black’s weak pawns on the king’s side with Dubov’s king away from the action. A hit like 70 … Rb2 would have maintained the tension, while the engagement 70 … f6 leads to 71.Rd2 Be5 (71 … Rb4 was better) 72.Nxf6:

Radjabov needed ten more strokes to convert this position into his first semi-final victory.

In an unavoidable situation, Dubov tried to complicate things with a Sicilian, but it was Radjabov who took the upper hand in the middle of the match. The Azerbaijani claimed another victory after 53 strokes.