After the skilling open tournament, Champions Chess Tour begins the second leg “Airthings Masters” on 26th December 2020. The tournament follows a 3 days of round robin system with the time format of 15|10 i.e. 15 minutes and 10 seconds increment, wherein 12 players participate which after 8 of them qualify to the quarter finals for further knockout matches.
Following were the Airthings Masters Lineup
The prize fund of the tournament was to be distributed in the following way
Day 1 of the tournament begins with 4 rounds each player has to play, out of total 24 matches played 17 of them were drawn, which makes the 1st day of the tournament rather slow. Levon Aronian, Wesly So, Teimour Radjabov and Daniil Dubov each one of them wins one game and draws the rest of the three.
Even though Magnus Carlsen drew all four of his games, he had a chance to completely win his game against Levon Aronian
On move no.43 instead of Rxd4 which he actually played in the game, f4 completely wins for white.
Following were the standings at the end of day 1
Second day can be regarded as the slowest day of the entire tournament, as out of the total 24 games, 21 games ended up as draws and only 3 deciding games. Which is what happens when there is a round robin system of 12 players and only 8 are supposed to qualify to the next level.
At the end of day 2 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Pentala Harikrishna, Anish Giri and David Anton Guijarro comes under a must win situation on the next day if they don’t want to get knocked out of the tournament
Day 2 standings were
After a lot of draws, players finally get into a decisive mode. Just to avoid the threat of getting eliminated from the tournament, as only 8 out 12 players will be getting ahead into the quarter finals.
In the first round of day 3 Anish giri tries to settle his score by scoring a win against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Hikaru Nakamura gets a better position against David Anton Guijarro out of the opening and eventually wins the game.
Both the creative russians Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi face each other.
Daniil Dubov, getting creative, sacrifices his knight on the 14th move, however Ian Nepomniachtchi understanding the position and taking the material advantage ends up winning the game.
All the matches from round 2 were drawn except the matchup betweenHikaru Nakamura faces Magnus Carlsen, where after 49 moves, into a rook and bishop endgame puts Nakamura in an uneasy position.
As white has got a passer on a5, and black has to decide where to put his bishop.
It was on move 50 where Hikaru Nakamura blunders by playing Bd5 and Magnus Carlsen spotting the opportunity immediately pins the d5 Bishop.
Evaluation of this position is completely winning for white and Magnus Carlsen ends up scoring a win against Hikaru Nakamura.
Moving ahead In round 3 Maxime Vachier wins a match against Alexander Grischuk and comes back from the loss against Anish Giri from round 1. Anish Giri loses his game with Hikaru Nakamura, by which he gets eliminated from the tournament for not being able to win enough matches.
Also Pentala Harikrishna, on being unable to win any match from his 11 matches out of which he drew 10 and lost 1 wasn’t able to keep up with the score and got eliminated from the tournament. Sad news for all Indian fans.
Alexander Grischuk & David Anton Guijarro having low scores gets eliminated, However, David Anton manages to beat Levon Aronian in the last round proving his excellency and showing the world the reason why he was invited into this tournament.
At the end of day 3 the standings were
The Quarterfinal stage of the Airthings Masters was the best and most exciting stage of the entire tournament as you will read down the paragraphs.
These were the pairings for the quarter finals
On the first day of the quarter-finals, Teimour Radjabov and Ian Nepomniachtchi drew all four of their games.
Maxime Vachier Lagrave won 2 games against Wesly So and drew the rest of the two which gave him a 2 points lead. Wesley So now has to win more games against MVL on day 2 if he wants to go for a tie break and not get knocked out.
Levon Aronian drew 3 of his games against Hikaru Nakamura, however, they both did play decisive games. It was after move no.30 where it’s looking very difficult to create a breakthrough for white
This is where Levon Aronian finds a brilliant idea that involves sacrificing his rook on g6 and is able to create a breakthrough. After a couple of series of moves, it was in this position
on move no.38 Hikaru Nakamura resigns the game and Levon gets a 1 point lead.
In the matches between the world champion Magnus Carlsen and Daniil Dubov 2 games were drawn and they played 2 decisive games. Both of them won 1 game each. This leads to a tie and the one who wins on day 2 of the quarter-finals qualifies ahead.
On the second day, Wesly So wins the first match against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave trying to make come back from his loss and day. As it is mandatory for him to win on day 2 and a draw will lead him to elimination. After which Wesly So was able to hold MVL for 3 draws as he was already up in points on day 2 and players go into the blitz matches with 5|3 (5 minutes and 3 seconds increment) time format.
On the same side between Teimour Radjabov and Ian Nepomniachtchi, the one who wins out of a total of 4 matches to be played on day 2 qualifies ahead, in case of draw players go for Blitz matches. Teimour Radjabov wins his first match against Nepomniachtchi. After which both of them drew their 2 matches. Up until now Teimour Radjabov is up on points and qualifies ahead even if he is able to hold Ian Nepomniachtchi to a draw. This means Nepomniachtchi was in a must-win situation.
The game very much looked like a draw till the end however, Nepomniachtchi was able to find the nice maneuver of his light square bishop.
Thereafter he ends up scoring the win. And player goes into the blitz with time format 5|3.
In the matches between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura, Levon wins both the matches consecutively played, showing utter domination. And thereby Hikaru Nakamura gets knocked out of the tournament. Sad news for all Hikaru fans and followers.
Daniil Dubov wins his first match against Magnus Carlsen in a magnificent way, sacrificing his queen on move no.41
As the queen can’t be taken because of mate after f4, Kf6, and Rhf7. And Dubov wins this game.
Moving further they both drew their second game. And in the third game, Daniil Dubov starts putting a lot of pressure after where he a knight down, wins with a checkmate on move 39
And with this my friends the 17th world champion Magnus Carlsen gets knocked out of the tournament.
Now it’s time to enter into the Blitz matches played between Maxime- Vachier Lagrave & Wesley So, and Teimour Radjabov & Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Each player wins one of the two games played and this ties the blitz matches.
And players move for Armageddon. To explain in simple words how Armageddon is played in this tournament, the player with the white pieces gets 5 minutes of time and the player with black pieces gets 4 minutes with no increment. A draw is acceptable for the player with black and for white to win, he has to checkmate the opponent’s king and a draw is losing for white.
Between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesly So, MVL plays with the black pieces and Wesely with the white pieces. After a couple of 40 moves, MVL was able to hold the position and the game became a dead draw. With which MVL qualifies for the Semi-finals.
Between Teimour Radjabov and Ian Nepomniachtchi Teimour plays with black pieces and Nepomniachtchi plays with white pieces. Nepomniachtchi does try to create an imbalance in the position however Radjabov defended everything very well and was able to hold Nepomiachtchi to a draw. And with this ladies & gentlemen, Ian Nepomniachtchi gets eliminated, and we have our semi-finalists
The crazy fact about the semi-final pairing is that none of the semi-finalists from the last tournament “Skilling Open” qualified and we have a completely new board of players.
Semi-finals get a lot interesting and exciting as all the higher seeds of the tournament Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesly So, Ian Nepomniachtchi have been eliminated and we are here with Daniil Dubov facing Teimour Radjabov and Maxime Vachier Lagrave facing Levon Aronian.
On the first day, Daniil Dubov and Teimour Radjabov drew their first two games. In their 3rd game, the position was almost equal throughout the game, however, in the endgame, Teimour Radjabov was able to win 2 pawns and get the material advantage
It was in this position where Daniil Dubov resigned the game. By now Radjabov has a one-point lead. Moving onto their 4th game Daniil with white pieces and Radjabov with black pieces. In this game on move no.23, Daniil tries to create an imbalance in the position and tries to attack with the move Kxf6
Keeping both his rook and knight hanging. Later in the game, Radjabov manages to reduce the pressure and goes onto win the game. With this Radjabov has a 1-day lead and just needs to win on the second day to go into finals. On the contrary, Dubov has to win on day 2 and aim for Blitz, if he wants to qualify for the finals.
In the first match between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian, Levon on move no.27 was able to trap MVL’s knight, and after winning the material he easily went onto winning that match. Aronian and MVL drew their next two games. In the fourth and the last game of day 1 after 57 moves MVL resigned the game as he was a pawn down and the white king was too active and there wasn’t any way he could have won or even be able to draw the game.
On the second day, Daniil Dubov and Maxime Vachier Lagrave are in a must win situation, or else they don’t qualify for finals.
In the first game between Daniil Dubov & Teimour Radjabov, Daniil tries to create pressure throughout the game. Though Radjabov knowing he is in the lead from the previous day was ok with a draw and tries to simplify by trading pieces. Dubov knows that a draw is not good for him and tries to attack and put pressure on Radjabov as much as possible. Eventually, Teimour Radjabov wins the game.
And it was in this position Daniil Dubov resigned the game as it’s not possible to stop the pawns from queening with such activity of black pieces.
Now Radjabov just needs one more win to qualify to the quarterfinals, and Daniil Dubov has to avoid losing as well as drawing at all cost.
Moving onto their second match, Daniil with black pieces and Radjabov with white. We see the King’s Indian defense from black. Daniil tries to create some play in the middlegame, however, after a certain point the game gets out of the control of black and it’s white who has the initiative and attacking options against black
And it was in this position where Daniil Dubov resigned, as there is no breakthrough for black instead the black knight is hanging, the pawn on g6 is about to go down and the white king is in such a weak position, A mate is incoming soon.
And with this Teimour Radjabov gets into the finals of Airthings Masters.
Looking at the matches of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian. Both of them drew their first two matches, after which even a single win to Aronian will get him to the finals. So MVL has to win at least one of the next two matches to be played.
In the 3rd game, the queens get traded early on the 9th move itself. After a couple more moves the even more pieces get traded and we have a knight and bishop versus bishop pair endgame on the board. After a lot more moves of shuffling Aronian was able to create two passed pawns down the a and d file,
and MVL had to sacrifice his bishop on move 86 to stop the ‘d’ pawn from queening. If you don’t sacrifice the bishop the ‘a’ pawn will queen and the dark square bishop won’t be in time. Though MVL had to sacrifice his dark square bishop as well on move no.92 capturing the ‘a’ and we have an endgame where bishop and knight try to mate the opponent king.
And it was in this position on move no.113 where MVL resigned the game. And with this Levon Aronian qualifies for the finals.
Semifinals day 2 standings were
It’s time for the final phase to begin, Teimour Radjabov and Levon Aronian the finalists of the tournament face each other and the result of their matches will determine 1st and 2nd positions of the tournament.
At the same time, Daniil Dubov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from the semi-finals compete for 3rd place in the tournament.
On the first day of the finals both players with the intention to win the tournament playing with everything, they have got. Teimour Radjabov and Levon Aronian straight drew all first three of their games. All games were very intense and complicated. In the fourth game Levon Aronian with white pieces and Teimour Radjabov with black pieces, we get to see the Berlin defense, with the queens being traded on the 8th move. Black tries to play very solidly.
Everything was almost equal and solid until white played the move f4. This move creates an imbalance in the position and looks intimidating from the black side as all the black pieces are tied up on the 8th rank. However, as per the computer evaluation, this position gives an advantage to black and it’s interesting to see how Teimour Radjabov handles this position.
Black slowly and steadily starts mobilizing his pieces, white still keeps up with the pressure. Black starts to trade pieces to reduce the pressure and the imbalance created by white by playing the move f4 becomes a disadvantage for himself and black wins two pawns in the process.
And it was in this position where Levon Aronian resigned the game as black bishop and rook are too strong either of ‘g’ or ‘h’ pawns are about to fall. After which white is going to be three pawns down.
Teimour Radjabov took the lead on day 1 of the finals, he now just has to draw on day 2 and make sure not to lose, to win the tournament. On the contrary, Levon Aronian comes in a must win situation on day 2.
In the matches between Daniil Dubov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Daniil wins the first two of the matches and Maxime wins the last two of the matches and ends the day in a tie
On the last day of the Airthings Masters, it’s finally about to get decided who’s gonna be the winner of Airthings Masters.
Teimour Radjabov with the black pieces and Levon Aronian with the white pieces start off with a crazy game. It was all going normal until after a piece trade all of a sudden we see this position
Here both the knights are hanging, the black king is completely weak, both white rooks are staring down the ‘e’ and ‘d’ file. This position is full of endless possibilities.
Further on in the game black experiences, a massive attack and was almost losing however both players were low on time and they had to make moves quickly, which means there was not much time for calculation
Because of the time trouble, Aronian with the white pieces was not able to continue the attack and players ended up trading a lot of pieces reducing the tension and eventually drew the game.
Between Daniil Dubov and MVL the one who wins on day 2 scores 3rd position in the tournament, and in case of draw players go for blitz matches. MVL wins the first match. Players drew their second match and Dubov was left with only 2 matches to score, win, or else he gets 4th position. In the third match after the continuous effort and tension built, Dubov somehow manages to get a material advantage in the game by trading his knight against MVL’s rook, and eventually wins the game. However, in the 4th game, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with white pieces shows his absolute performance and takes his win and gets the third position in the tournament, and Daniil Dubov lands onto the 4 the position.
Talking Further on the games between Teimour Radjabov and Levon Aronian, Radjabov was able to hold all the positions very well. With which he was able to hold Aronian to draw all the three matches and showing his absolute play.
And with this, my friend Teimour Radjabov wins the tournament and Levon Aronian being the runner-up of the Airthings Masters.
These are some of the pics of Teimour Radjabov after he realized he has won the tournament which included players who are the best in the world. Very well deserved win for Radjabov and respect to all players who participated in the tournament.
And a very big thank you to “Champions Chess Tour” and “Chess24” for organising such tournaments and keeping the sport of Chess exciting and awake even in the times of COVID.