Skilling Open 3: Firouzja heartbreak as Carlsen wins prelims


Magnus Carlsen survived a blunder against Hikaru Nakamura in the first round of the day to win the Skilling
Open prelims, but the main drama was elsewhere. 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja
seemed to have wrapped up a quarterfinal spot with a stunning three wins in a
row, but losses in the last two rounds meant heartbreak. After leading for two
days, Anish Giri only scraped into the quarterfinals in 8th place and now faces
Carlsen, while world no. 2 Ding Liren, who went into the round in 2nd place, is
also out.

You can replay all the Skilling Open preliminary games using
the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Kaja Snare,
Jovanka Houska and David Howell.

And from Tania Sachdev and Peter Leko.

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There was joy and despair on the final day of the Skilling
Open Prelims, as the 16 players battled to claim eight places in the quarterfinals.
No-one summed up the joy better than Levon Aronian, who bounced back from a bad
day to win three games and ultimately finish in 5th place. He celebrated with
his dog Ponchik!

Elsewhere there was huge relief for Anish Giri, who went
into his final round game, Black against Ding Liren, with his tournament survival
hanging by a thread.

It would have been a shocker to get knocked out after leading
for the first two days, but the Dutch star got the draw he ultimately needed. 

French no. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also made it in by the
finest of margins.

The most dramatic story, however, was that of 17-year-old
Alireza Firouzja. For the first three rounds he was on fire, taking down Ding
Liren, Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin. He was garnering high praise.

It seemed just a formality that he’d reach the knockout
stage, but in the penultimate round he ran into a killer tactic from Hikaru
Nakamura.

Then in the final round it turned out that a draw against
Liem Quang Le would have been enough for him to qualify, but instead he again fell
to defeat.

Tania Sachdev was far from alone among chess fans in
despairing at what she was seeing.

After Liem’s win it turned out both players were the unlucky
ones to lose out in a 5-way tie with Teimour Radjabov, MVL and Anish Giri, since in that mini-league Teimour scored 3/5, MVL and Giri 2/5 and Firouzja and Le only 1.5/5.

The final standings looked as follows, with the
quarterfinalists on the left.

The no. 1 finisher plays the no. 8, the no. 2 the no. 7 and so
on, which produced the following mouth-watering ties.

There’s no rest day with the matches beginning Wednesday at
18:00 CET. Each clash is held over two days, with a 4-game rapid match each
day. If the score is 1:1 after those two matches a playoff will be held with
two blitz games and then Armageddon.

Carlsen-Giri in particular is sure to be intense, while
Carlsen and Nakamura finishing in 1st and 2nd places in the prelims means we’re
potentially headed for another Magnus vs. Hikaru final. There’s a long way to
go before that, however. Tune in to all the action from 18:00 CET on Wednesday!

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