We bring a final report from the Opera Euro Rapid in which Magnus Carlsen reached the final against Wesley So.
TalentOffer candidate IM Benjamin Haldorsen performed well in a strong tournament in Serbia, while Offerspill got relegated for the first time in weeks in the online Bundesliga.
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Opera Euro Rapid
We brought you a brief summary of the first two days of this tournament in our previous update. This update will focus on the final between Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So, we will include some of the most entertaining games from other players as well. If you are keen to read more about the tournament we recommend checking out reports by Chess24 and Chessbase.
There was plenty of action in both the preliminaries and the knockout stage of the tournament. Hikaru Nakamura didn't manage to qualify for the knockout stage while the usually so solid Ding Liren ended up dead last after the preliminary rounds. Nakamura needed at least a draw in the last round of the preliminaries against fellow American Sam Shankland, but lost a topsy-turvy game. Shankland coached some of Offerspill's best young players in a TalentOffer weekend in 2020 - it's nice to see Sam scoring great results against top level players, even though it ultimately wasn't enough for qualification this time.
Nakamura - Shankland
The aforementioned Chinese number 1 Ding Liren had to stay awake until early in the morning because of the time difference and was clearly affected by this, but nevertheless managed to upset the World Champion on the last day of preliminary rounds.
Ding Liren - Carlsen
Standings after preliminary rounds
After cutting it very close against nemesis Daniil Dubov in the quarter-final Magnus was paired with French number 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the semi-final. Yet again the World Champion struggled to put the match to bed, but as usual he proved to be Mr. Reliable in the Armageddon game.
Carlsen - MVL
In the other semi-final, Wesley So beat the in-form Teimour Radjabov reasonably comfortably. The following game decided the second mini-match and was a display of So's excellent technique.
So - Radjabov
Final - Day 1
If you remember the Skilling Open you know how dangerous Wesley So can be, especially in time controls like rapid. The latter point was highlighted by Sam Shankland on Chess24's broadcast of the final. Chessbase recently called Carlsen an "eternal favourite" which is no understatement. However, Wesley So keeps finding ways to keep up with the World Champion, and even beat him. This time, though, Magnus got the better start, even though he got tricked into some seriously dangerous preparation.
So - Carlsen
However, Wesley So scored a win on demand to tie the score on the first out of two mini-matches of the Opera Euro Rapid finals against the World Champion. All square before Day 2 of the finals.
Final - Day 2
After exchanging blows on the first day of the finals the players carried on where they left off with some mesmerizing games on Valentine's Day. This was coincidentally also Mother's Day and "Fastelavn" in Norway. The latter previously celebrated as "the day before a period of fast", but now is mostly about eating a lot of buns with whipped cream and jelly - not that we are complaining at all.
Here it is in all its glory - a "fastelavnsbolle".
So won the first game of the day after a dubious sacrifice from Magnus, but the World Champion had chances to hit back in later games if he’d trusted his intuition. Unfortunately, the Norwegian was not his usual self in the final against an American opponent in top shape.
So - Carlsen
The winner, Wesley So, was humble as usual following his win and immediately apologized for ruining Valentine's for Magnus - remember that So has previously beaten Magnus on his birthday in the Skilling Open.
I'd like to apologise to Magnus for ruining his Valentine's Day - Wesley So
Magnus was obviously not content with his own play and probablt felt that in his usual form he would have had the tournament in the bag. Alas, it was not to be.
He gave the following comment to Chess24 after the game:
I don't trust myself fully, and this shows in critical moments, and it's hard to say what exactly I can do about it at the moment. Wesley is very strong, but as you could see today, he's also extremely beatable - Magnus Carlsen
Knockout stage bracket
Offerspill have done well in the online Bundesliga lately, but struggled this Sunday. The level in the 4th division is high and even though it was pretty tight in the standings Offerspill got relegated and will compete in the 5th division next time around. However, there were some bright spots as well with Rabiatwitch (Eirik Aarnes) showing how to attack against the Sicilian Defence in the following game where he beat a higher rated IM!
Rabatwitch (2166) - Lenyas66 (2560)
... and the award for "most unpractical and hopeful attack" goes to PusheenMeow (Jon Kristian Haarr) for the following queen sacrifice:
PusheenMeow (2435) - antey777 (2115)
Third Saturday Mix 167 2021
IM Benjamin Haldorsen is a part of our very talented group of players that are receiving support through the club's talent program "TalentOffer". Recently, Benjamin finished playing in a strong GM-qualifying tournament in Novi Sad, Serbia. After a slow start Benjamin picked up the pace and finished strongly with a +6 ELO points as a result. Sadly, there was no GM-norm this time, but he is participating in a another tournament that started on the 14th of February - and beat a GM in the first round.
Benjamin was gracious enough to send us his favourite games from the tournament.
Watch and learn from this positional masterpiece against a lower rated player.
Haldorsen (2458) - Omorjan (2299)
He also beat a strong Belarusian International Master in a dynamic game - Bryakin finished 2nd in the tournament and is no lightweight.
Haldorsen (2458) - Bryakin (2434)
We wish Benjamin the best of luck in ongoing Third Saturday Mix 157.