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April 12, 2021

Carlsen on brink of Opera Euro Rapid final

3 min read

He’s been disgusted with his play so far in the Opera Euro Rapid and only just scraped it into the last four.

But today Magnus Carlsen returned to the elite online chess event looking determined, smart and ready to wreak havoc.

It was a re-focused World Champion who turned up to steamroller his way to a one-set lead over the in-form Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Carlsen, who is still searching for his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title, now has one foot in the final. Just a 2-2 draw in the second set win tomorrow and he is through.

The Norwegian started the day by dealing a devastating blow to MVL’s chances in game 1. Carlsen simply overpowered his opponent with a classy win.

Carlsen was made to fight harder in the second as the “Tricky Frenchman” showed he still posed a huge threat. But after MVL lost control of the position, Carlsen sensed blood.

Only a mistake from Carlsen right at the end saved MVL and the game ended in a draw. Carlsen wasn’t happy, but he still led the set 1.5-0.5.

There was no let-up in the third as Carlsen went all out for the win, despite only needing to avoid defeat in the last two games.

Carlsen had a forced win in the bag but played it too quickly and made a mistake.

MVL was handed a lifeline but then blundered himself to hand it right back to Carlsen who made no mistake a second time.

“You’re not really supposed to miss mate-in-twos I think, at this level,” Carlsen said afterward. “So that was really crazy!”

Carlsen won the set 2.5-0.5 with a game to spare. The champ is now the hot favourite to reach the final.

Carlsen said: “Today was a lot better. Neither of us played perfectly, especially in the second game… In general, I have to be happy.”

MVL said: “I certainly didn’t play to my best but Magnus was very close to his best.”

The other semi-final saw a clash between the first two Tour event champions, Wesley So and Teimour Radjabov.

Skilling Open winner So went into the match on a four-game winning streak while Radjabov, the Airthings Masters winner, was unbeaten so far in the tournament.

Something had to give and it was So who inflicted a first defeat on Radjabov to continue his run with a fifth victory in a row.

Radjabov, however, was not going to roll over and hit back immediately to end So’s streak and level the tie 1-1.

So went back into the lead in the third to go 2-1 up and leave Radjabov needing to win on-demand to take it to tiebreaks.

The American World Champion at Fischer-Random then shut up shop and Radjabov couldn’t break through. The draw gives So a one-set lead overnight.

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