A phenomenal second day of Champions Chess Tour Airthings Masters 2023 saw the stage set for a blockbuster — a clash between five-time World Champion Magnus Carlsen and GM Hikaru Nakamura. The GMs two will face off on Wednesday in the Division I Winners Bracket Final after defeating GMs Arjun Erigaisi and Wesley So respectively.
This will be their first match since Nakamura won their last encounter in the SCC final in December last year.
If this Champions Chess Tour opener has shown us anything, is that Indian GMs Arjun Erigaisi and D Gukesh are set for an incredible season.
Exceeding all expectations, Erigaisi had destroyed World No. 4 Alireza Firouzja 3-0 to enter the semifinal, which he then lost to Carlsen, who by his own admission, “played a very good game”.
In the semifinal, an armageddon game decided the match. Carlsen won the bid for the black pieces by offering 10 minutes and one second against Erigaisi’s 11 minutes and 59 seconds.
Needing only a draw, Carlsen defended solidly. And a desperate Erigaisi, who complicated the game as much as he could, was never unable to turn the tide. The game ended in a draw, a match win for the world champion.
Gukesh, who lost to Nakamura in the quarterfinal, played excellently in the Division I Losers Bracket to knock out GM Rauf Mamedov.
Do Gukesh and Erigaisi have a chance?
As per the format, the four players who lost their matches on the previous day moved to the Losers Bracket. The four others remained in the Winners.
With the double-elimination format, every player who remains has a chance to win the entire event—the winner of the Losers Bracket, however, must defeat the victor of the Winners Bracket two times in the Grand Finals. That means that Gukesh and Erigaisi, despite losing their matches, have a chance at winning the entire tournament.
GM Alexey Sarana eliminated GM Alireza Firouzja from the Division I Losers Bracket and will play So on Wednesday in the Losers Quarterfinals. In the other match, Erigaisi will face GM Gukesh D.
In Division II, the biggest upset is GM Nodirbek Yakubboev’s win over GM Dmitry Andreikin. He will face GM Fabiano Caruana in the Winners Semifinals, while the other match will feature GM Alexander Predke (who won by forfeit after GM Ian Nepomniachtchi did not show) vs. GM Yu Yangyi.
In Division III, GM R Praggnanandhaa defeated GM Aleksandr Lenderman in the Winners Bracket Semifinals. He will face GM Sam Sevian, who defeated GM Oleksandr Bortnyk, in the Winners Bracket Final.