Nepomniachtchi, Giri spoil projected So-Carlsen title duel

The projected Magnus Carlsen-Wesley So battle will still happen. Instead of fighting for the title, however, they will tangle for 3rd place this time.

Ian Nepomniachtchi kept his poise in the wake of Carlsen's fightback in the second set of their semifinal matches to prevail in the blitz tiebreaker while Anish Giri pounced on a blunder by So in the fourth game of the other semifinal on Saturday, March 20 to forge a championship tussle in the 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational.

Having beaten Carlsen, 2.5-1.5, in the first set on Friday, Nepomniachtchi needed only a 2-2 count in the last set. 

The Russian No. 1 put Carlsen on the ropes with a victory in the second game, 1.5-0.5, but the world champion showed his resilience by winning games 3 and 4 to send the match into blitz tiebreaks.

They drew the first but Nepomniachtchi prevailed in the second to prolong Carlsen's slump. Though Carlsen has topped the preliminary stages of the first 4 legs of the Champions Chess Tour, the Norwegian legend has yet to win a title.

Pressed for a win in the fourth game, So faltered enabling Giri to match his 2.5-1.5 victory over the United States champion in the first set.

Pitted against So, Carlsen will have to summon his old, brilliant form to salvage 3rd place in the event which he ruled last year.

So has beaten Carlsen in both finals of the Skilling Open and Opera Euro Rapid and paces the overall points race in the $1.5 million (P72 million), 10-leg Tour.

With Airthings Masters champion Teimour Radjabov unable to reach the knockout playoffs, the Filipino-born So will keep the top spot regardless of the outcome of his match with the third-running Carlsen.

So and Carlsen drew their game in the preliminary phase while Nepomniachtchi prevailed over Giri. –