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Colin McGourty

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Magnus in Generation Cup Last 8, but still in danger!

Magnus Carlsen was in imperious form as he top scored on Day 3 to take the lead and ensure qualification for the Julius Baer Generation Cup knockout stages, but there may still be trouble ahead. Statistically his most likely quarterfinal opponent is Hans Niemann, though the battle for the Top 8 places is set to be intense.

When the dust had settled on Day 3 of the Julius Baer Generation Cup the standings looked as follows.

Magnus Carlsen and Arjun Erigaisi are sure to feature in the knockout stages starting Thursday, but anyone down to no. 13 Levon Aronian has a realistic chance of making the Top 8 (Ivan Saric has a mathematical chance if he wins his last three games).

Let’s take a look at how Day 3 went for those top 13 players.

1) Magnus Carlsen (3 wins, 1 draw)

Magnus continued his mission to combine a statement loss to Hans Niemann with proving he’s the best. The World Champion took the sole lead on Day 3 with three wins that showcased his skills. He ground out a technical two bishops vs. two knights endgame against Ivan Saric, then won a brilliant tactical game against Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

26.Ne5! was one of a number of only moves to ensure he converted the win.

Against 54-year-old Boris Gelfand he punished one overly inventive move by his opponent.

27.Nc4? is a multi-purpose move, threatening to take on c3, fork with Nb6 or take the e5-pawn. Alas for Boris, Magnus found the refutation 27…Qd3!, when the problem with 28.Ncxe5? is 28…Ne2+! 29.Kh1 Ng3+!

30.Kg1 Qxf1# is checkmate, so the only option would be to take the knight and give up the rook. Instead Boris retreated his knight with 28.Ncd2, accepting a strategically lost position that he resigned three moves later.

The one game that didn’t go Magnus’ way was against Vasyl Ivanchuk, but it was arguably the game of the day. A fantastic struggle looked to be swinging Magnus’ way when he spotted a fine tactical detail, but then just when he could wrap up victory he stumbled, missing the chance to end the game with 55…Qb3+, picking up the c2-rook.

Magnus took the d6-pawn instead, and instantly realised his mistake.

There was a long time for regret, as Magnus was unable to break down Vasyl’s fortress despite battling on until move 122!

In the bigger picture it didn’t matter, as Magnus ended the day as the sole leader, with a guaranteed spot in the knockout, though our stats wizard pointed out a potential pitfall!

If Magnus is tied against Hans in the quarterfinals (for instance if he finishes 1st and Hans 8th, or 2nd while Hans is 7th, and so on) would he again refuse to play Hans and simply forfeit the match?

2) Arjun Erigaisi (2 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss)

Arjun is the other player already through to the quarterfinals, even if it was a somewhat poor day by his already exceptional standards. He did what Magnus didn’t, beat Ivanchuk, with the 19-year-old afterwards confessing that Vasyl isn’t quite the legend for him that he is for older players and fans.

I have heard a lot of stories about him, but I started following chess a bit late, so when I was following it was already Magnus…

Arjun was shaky against Gelfand, however, and complained about playing “a bit too fast” against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. He had some chances even after misplaying the opening. 26.d5! was brilliant by Duda…

…who was winning after Arjun took the bait with 26…exf5? 27.Qf6!, but in fact 26…exd5! was holding.

3) Liem Le (2 wins, 2 draws)

There’s a reason Liem Le is no. 4 on the overall Meltwater Champions Chess Tour standings and for a second day in a row he showed it, quietly outplaying some of the best of the best. He beat Levon Aronian and Vasyl Ivanchuk and could easily have taken down Ivan Saric as well. The Vietnamese no. 1 is close to securing a quarterfinal spot.

If you want to know how he does it you can check out his new chess24 video series!

4) Praggnanandhaa (4 draws)

No-one has ever accused Praggnanandhaa of a lack of fighting spirit, so it’s a surprise to see that the Indian prodigy has now scored 6 draws in a row. The last of those was an epic escape, however, since Pragg was completely busted out of the opening against Hans Niemann.

He needed all his resourcefulness, and some help from his opponent, to survive.

5) Vincent Keymer (2 wins, 2 draws)

17-year-old German star Vincent Keymer continues to torture his coach Peter Leko with long and incredibly tense games. He could have all but sealed qualification if he’d won winning positions against Gelfand and Yoo, but he snatched a win against Radek Wojtaszek and blew Jan-Krzysztof Duda off the board.

The beautiful threat here is Qxc8+ and Rc8# and there’s nothing reasonable Black can do about it.

6) Jan-Krzysztof Duda (2 wins, 2 losses)

We’ve seen Duda crushed twice already in this report, but he also pulled off that spectacular win over Erigaisi and confirmed his status as the most entertaining player of the day (in fact he’s only drawn one game all tournament) with a fantastic win over Adhiban.

If Black takes the white queen with 14…exd5 then 15.dxc7 all but forces Black to give the queen straight back to stop White making a new queen on b8.

It turns out 14…Rb6! might be enough for Black to hold, but after Adhiban’s 14…cxd6 Duda was on top and went on to claim the win his imaginative play deserved.

7) Hans Niemann (1 win, 2 draws, 1 loss)

The man everyone’s talking about had a mixed day, losing to Giri and missing a win vs. Pragg, but absolutely blowing Levon Aronian off the board in just 21 moves. Agadmator couldn’t resist:

8.Be2?! had been an unusual novelty, with the follow-up 9.0-0!?, 12.g4!? and 14.b3!? ultimately bamboozling Levon, who commented:

I think it was a strange game. I think Hans played very, very strange moves at some point and I think I lost my concentration and blundered.

Levon was asked if the controversy surrounding Hans had affected him:

I don’t really care about the drama, I’m not affected by any of that, but when I’m playing badly there’s nothing that can be done. I’ve got to work harder.

8) Anish Giri (2 wins, 2 losses)

Anish is the last player in a qualification spot, but had a rocky day. He won what he called “a high quality game“ against Hans, but had earlier lost to Christopher Yoo and then exchanged blunders with his last two opponents.

First he picked up three points against Radek Wojtaszek, who managed to restrain his emotions after blundering mate-in-1…

…but then he stumbled against Levon.

33…Rxh4! forced resignation, since after 34.gxh4 Qg4+ Black gives mate next move.

9) Christopher Yoo (2 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss)

15-year-old Christopher Yoo is the youngest player in the event and started with 2 losses on Day 1, but he’s hit back since and is in with a fighting chance on the final day. He garnered very high praise from Peter Leko for his play with little time on the clock.

46.e6! was a brilliant last try after the youngster seemed to have lost his way against Anish Giri.

You can’t take on e6 due to Rf8+, so that 46…Rxc5 had to be tried, with 47.b7! the correct follow-up. The only defence was 47…Rb5, though after 48.Rxf7 White would be on top, while after 47…Bc7 48.e7! Re5 49.Rc2! Christopher had won a fine game!

Rc8+ wins if the bishop moves, while 49…Rxe7 would be hit by 50.Rxc7! and the b-pawn queens.

10) Radek Wojtaszek (1 win, 3 losses)

Radek’s convincing win over Boris Gelfand was his 3rd in a row, putting the Polish star on course for the knockouts, but 3 losses, including that painful blunder of mate-in-1, have left him a tough challenge ahead — particularly as he starts the final day with Black vs. Erigaisi and White vs. Carlsen.

11) Vasyl Ivanchuk (2 draws, 2 losses)

It would be wonderful to see Ivanchuk in the quarterfinals, particularly given the theme of chess generations. We saw glimpses of his absolute best against Magnus, but he had a tough day at the office, losing to Erigaisi and Le, and essentially taking a draw against Adhiban to recover from the 122-move marathon the game before. Navara, Niemann and Aronian are his final-day opponents.

12) David Navara (2 wins, 2 draws)

When David made a very solid draw against Hans Niemann at the start of Day 3 he’d gone 8 games without a win, but the Czech no. 1 was beating Levon Aronian in 21 moves and then crushed Ivan Saric in the final game of the day to get within striking distance of the knockout. He’d done it by reversing the usual tactics — he made solid draws with White and won with Black!

13) Levon Aronian (1 win, 3 losses)

Giri Aronian Kaja

It's hard to dampen Levon Aronian's spirits!

Given how badly Levon Aronian has been playing the surprise is that he’s still in contention for the knockout at all. He's now lost 6 games in 8, and admitted it could just as easily have been all 8 if not for a helping hand from Adhiban and Giri. What will be his strategy for the final day of the Prelims?

To get lucky! It’s always my secret, and I think people know. I quite often play terribly in the Preliminaries, but when I qualify then I play well. I somehow cannot get the rhythm in this whole tournament. Hopefully some miracle will happen and I’ll qualify — then I promise to play well!

It’s hard not to root for Lev, but of the 13 hopefuls only 8 can make it on Day 3.

Don't miss all the Julius Baer Generation Cup action from 18:00 CEST/12pm ET each day here on chess24!

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See also

Erigaisi leads after more Carlsen-Niemann drama

Peter Heine Nielsen's interview: Every word on the Carlsen-Niemann cheating scandal

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