Champions Chess Tour Finals Day 9: Carlsen Wins Tour, Radjabov Top Finals Scorer


GM Magnus Carlsen won the 2021 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals. GM Teimour Radjabov finished in second place (although he scored the most points in the event itself) and GM Levon Aronian finished third. Perhaps, GM Wesley So has the most reasons to be disappointed: he was the world champion’s closest contender during the entire event, but a couple of tough recent rounds saw him fall to the fourth spot.

The pairings for the final round were the following: GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda faced GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Vladislav Artemiev competed against GM Anish Giri, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a match against Radjabov, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played Aronian, and finally, the world champion Magnus Carlsen had a match against So.


# Fed Player Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Points Bonus Total
1 Magnus Carlsen 2855 0 0 3 3 0 2 2 3 2 15 16.5 31.5
2 Teimour Radjabov 2763 3 3 3 1 1 1 3 3 3 21 6 27
3 Levon Aronian 2782 3 0 3 0 3 3 1 0 3 16 8 24
4 Wesley So 2778 0 0 0 1 3 2 0 2 3 11 12.5 23.5
5 Hikaru Nakamura 2736 0 2 3 2 2 1 2 3 2 17 4 21
6 Vladislav Artemiev 2699 3 2 0 0 1 3 2 0 3 14 3.5 17.5
7 Anish Giri 2777 1 2 0 1 2 0 3 0 0 9 5.5 14.5
8 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2763 1 0 2 3 1 1 0 3 0 11 2.5 13.5
9 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2756 0 0 3 1 0 3 3 0 2 12 0 12
10 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2762 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 3 1 9 0.5 9.5


This was a very entertaining match, because it only took four rapid games to determine the winner, and not a single one ended in a draw!

In the first game, Nakamura played a very solid variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined with Black. The Polish grandmaster brought his pieces over to the kingside and had a promising position, but then apparently miscalculated an unsound rook sacrifice. Nakamura converted his advantage rather easily.

In the next game, Nakamura played a very quiet e2-e3 variation against the King’s Indian Defense and quickly ran into a powerful kingside attack. However, Duda got his queen trapped in the corner of the board, but managed to build a fortress; eventually, the American grandmaster gradually worsened his position and saw it collapse. 11!

The third round was a disaster for the Polish star, who won a rather suspicious pawn early on and ended up under a lot of pressure, as Black’s pieces were significantly better developed. He never had a chance, and again the American player got ahead, 2-1.

In the last rapid game, Duda chose the French Defense, to which Nakamura responded with 2.Qh5? Perhaps, having fun was more important to the American streaming superstar at that point. Duda got a large advantage, but mishandled the position and saw it fall apart. Nakamura won the match 3-1.

2021 Champions Chess Tour Finals naka
GM Hikaru Nakamura had some fun with 2.Qh5?! against the French. Photo: Maria Emelianova/


Overall, the first three games of this match were rather solid and even. At some points, either party was pressing, but no one was ever winning or nearly winning, and draws looked like a fair outcome.

But in the fourth round, Artemiev chose a rare—and recently trendy!—line against the Catalan. The Russian grandmaster was under pressure, but then found a great trick that enabled him to get a rook and passed pawns versus two pieces in a position with a lot of open files. He ran the pawns down the board rather effortlessly and won the match 2.5-1.5.


The first game saw the Berlin endgame and was fairly even. At some point, Radjabov was slightly better with Black but White was never truly in danger, so a draw seemed a reasonable outcome. However, in the second round, Vachier-Lagrave chose the Ragozin Defense in the Queen’s Gambit Declined, and by move 15 Black was already in trouble:

2021 GM Dejan Bojkov gotd

In the next game, the French star had slight pressure in the Berlin endgame but then had to force a draw. However, he refused to give a perpetual check while being a rook down(!) and Radjabov scored yet another win, finishing the match right away: 2.5-0.5. A truly fantastic tournament for the Azeri GM, who didn’t start that well, but then won six matches in a row.


The first game saw a mix of a sharp Ragozin/Vienna Queen’s Gambit Declined, where the Azeri star found himself a pawn down, got it back, but got his pieces pinned on the d-file… this soon resulted in decisive material losses, and Aronian took the lead.

The second round saw a very interesting pawn structure arise, where for a while two bishops were competing against two knights. Soon enough, the position opened up and Aronian had a bishop versus a knight and a much more active king. However, with precise play, Black kept the opponent at bay for a while. A draw seemed very possible in a rook and pawn endgame, but Mamedyarov didn’t find a precise path and saw his position fall apart. 2-0 for Aronian!

In the third game, players repeated the same variation as in round one. Mamedyarov deviated but soon was entirely lost. Armenia’s number-one was only looking for simplifications, traded, and secured a draw which won him the match 2.5-0.5. A great finish for Levon Aronian!


The world champion had already won the tour before this round, while the American grandmaster was fighting for second place in the final rankings. In round one, Carlsen continued his opening experiments (recall 1.e4 Nc6 from round eight) and started with 1.b3, followed by a double fianchetto. He was pressing throughout the entire game and converted his advantage.

In the second game, the Norwegian again went for 1.e4 Nc6, and was under a lot of pressure but managed to save half a point.

In game there, 1.b3 was met with 1…b6 but again Carlsen got an edge with White and convincingly converted his advantage. The game was over by move 25, and Carlsen won the match 2.5-0.5 and deprived his closest rival of second place in the tour. 

Magnus tweeted the following after winning:

2021 Meltwater finals magnus tweet

All Games Round 9

The $300,000 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals take place September 25-October 4, 2021 on chess24. The format is a 10-player round-robin, with each round having the players play a four-game rapid match. The time control is 15 minutes for the whole game plus a 10-second increment.

Earlier reports:


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