The all-star field in the Chessable Masters was cut in half today as a nervy climax to the $150,000 event’s prelim stage saw eight go through to the knockout.
Anish Giri finished top of the leaderboard on 29 points and $7,250 earned, pipping World Champion and long-time Meltwater Champions Chess Tour rival Magnus Carlsen.
Read more: Behind the scenes – Carlsen and his team prepare for the World Championship Match
Giri and Carlsen sailed into the quarters along with world no.2 Ding Liren and the Indian teen sensation Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, who both secured the points they needed early. It was left to the rest of the line-up to scramble for places. And the drama was plenty.
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In a crucial Round 14 game, Norway’s no.2 Aryan Tari faced Wei Yi. Wei, who led the leaderboard on first two days, hadn’t won a game since Round 8 while Tari was on a run of four straight wins and going for a fifth. But it was Tari who was on the defensive for most of it before he suddenly had a chance to win in the endgame. The 22-year-old went for the safe option of a draw, however. It could have proved costly – but it didn’t. Wei sealed his place on 24 points, but Tari still had more to do. Also through at this point was the Azerbaijan no.1 Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov who drew his first two games to progress safely. Replay the games here
Going into the final round six players were safe, and four were still in with a shout of filling two spots. It was a straight shootout. Wins for Tari and Anton meant they would be safe, while Harikrishna and the Swede Nils Grandelius needed results to go their way.
On paper, it was Tari who had the toughest opponent in Giri, who was yet to lose a game in the tournament. After taking only a draw in the previous round the Norwegian badly needed a win.
Luckily for Tari another contender for a quarter-final place, Pentala Harikrishna, quickly found himself in big trouble against the former US champ Sam Shankland and lost. Soon after Giri and Tari agreed their draw – a result which aided both of them and meant Tari was nearly through and Giri finished top of the leaderboard. Replay the game here
Seconds later, Pragg ended Vidit Gujrathi’s hopes by beating his fellow Indian and rubbering-stamp Tari’s place. Tari said: “I feel really good, it means a lot for me to qualify.”
Meanwhile, Jorden van Foreest blew his chance of beating David Anton to claim a quarter-final berth when the Dutchman fell for a nasty trick while right on the brink of victory. It was heart-breaking for van Foreest. Anton had looked like being eliminated, but the draw instead dumped van Foreest out. Replay the game here
The Knockout starts at 18:00 CEST tomorrow. Carlsen will be the favorite when he faces Anton. Giri takes on Tari and the battle of two prodigies will see Pragg vs Wei and the last quarter final is Ding vs Mamedyarov. Follow the knockout phase LIVE