The $150,000 Aimchess Rapid kicked off today with 18-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov taking an early lead and Indian youngster Aditya Mittal nearly toppling World Champion Magnus Carlsen. In a topsy-turvy final round of the day, Mittal, at 16 the youngest player in the tournament and the lowest rated, had two moments when he could have beaten Carlsen. Had the International Master taken them, it would have been a huge shock – perhaps the biggest in Meltwater Champions Chess Tour history. Unfortunately for Mittal, the teenager who qualified from the MPL Indian Chess Tour failed to spot 38…Qb6 and then 42…Qa8 in the endgame and it fizzled out to a draw. Carlsen was let off the hook – but it was still a stunning result.
Meanwhile, Abdusattorov, the World Rapid Champ and winner of the Chess Olympiad, is in sole first place on the prelim leaderboard after scoring three wins and then a draw to end Day 1 unbeaten on 10/12 points.
Showing off his much vaunted speed chess skills, the 18-year-old from Uzbekistan said: “It’s pretty nice to start with three wins. I just want to play some interesting games, to see what I can learn from them. Today was a very good day obviously.”
Carlsen’s final-round draw against Mittal capped a shaky start to the event for the Norwegian, who is chasing a hat-trick of tournament wins and a fifth in the 2022 Tour season.
Playing from a cabin in Sweden, the 31-year-old suffered a surprise loss in Round 1 to the Azerbaijani Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov.
With the black pieces, Carlsen started in aggressive fashion with 9…h5 but when the attack fizzled out “Shak” turned the focus on the champion’s king.
With his opponent threatening an unstoppable rook-queen battery on the c-file, Carlsen resigned on move 45.
Having not lost a game in the Julius Baer Generation prelims, except the one he resigned to Hans Niemann on move 2, Carlsen started the Aimchess Rapid with a loss.
The champion’s attacking instincts weren’t dampened in Round 2, however, as he opened with the rarely played Scotch Gambit, a super-sharp specialty of the English Grandmaster Gawain Jones. Carlsen went on to beat Eric Hansen with relative ease.
Carlsen’s R3 game against German prodigy Vincent Keymer was very different. There was a huge moment when Carlsen blundered a two-move tactic with 18…b5 but Keymer, perhaps not believing the champion had made a mistake, didn’t take the opportunity.
Carlsen had got away with one, yet the excitement didn’t end there. In a rollercoaster game, both players missed chances to win before Carlsen found the win.
Having beaten Carlsen in R1, Mamedyarov was also having a up and down start. Azerbaijan’s number 1 lost his follow-up against Jan-Krzysztof Duda before taking an incredible win with a string of sacrifices in R3 against Anish Giri.
International Master Tania Sachdev couldn’t believe her eyes, saying: “This is not the game of the tournament, this is the game of the Champions Chess Tour. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov sacrificing a knight, a bishop, a rook and a queen in one game!”
Shak ended the day in a five-way split for second with Carlsen, Duda, the impressive Keymer and the newly-Romanian register Richard Rapport. All are on 7/12 and three points behind the leader.
Before his game with Carlsen, Mittal had scored his first win on debut in the Tour against the Swede Nils Grandelius. He stands alongside another promising Indian youngster Arjun Erigaisi on 5/12 with Gukesh D ahead on 6/12.
The award-winning Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, the world’s leading year-round chess circuit, reaches its penultimate tournament with the Aimchess Rapid.
The event features 16 players in a round-robin prelim stage before the field is cut to eight and knockouts begin.
The Aimchess Rapid is the last “Regular” tournament of the 2022 season with a prize pot of $150,000 before the end-of-season final event starts on November 14.