Something that can hurt a world champion even more than defeat is playing very badly. Magnus Carlsen has suffered both today when he lost to the Dutchman Anish Giri, 5th in the world at the age of 28, with whom he has also had a courtesy-hate relationship since 2011, in the 4th round of the Tata Festival in Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands). ). It is the Norwegian’s first defeat in the classic modality since the scandal he caused after losing on September 4 to the American Hans Niemann, whom he accused of cheating. The day registered two other victories: the Uzbek Nodirbek Abdusattórov, 18, (leader with Giri) and the Indian Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 17, defeated the Iranian Parham Maghsoodloo and the Chinese Liren Ding (2nd in the world), respectively.
Everything indicates that Carlsen, with the black pieces, felt very uncomfortable seeing that Giri followed an opening line that the Norwegian, with white, had used against the Swiss Yannick Pelletier in 2008. Since the Dutchman is known for frequently looking for the tie in positions where he could play to win, the Scandinavian perhaps thought that was going to happen today as well. To avoid this, Carlsen first chose a suspicious continuation, which left him objectively worse, and then made a tactical omission in his calculations that already placed him on the verge of defeat after only 24 sets.
Seeing the disaster that he alone had caused, the multi-time world champion covered his face with his hands for a long time, trying to mentally compose himself while brooding over his anger. He then continued to fight and use desperate resources, but it was all to no avail. When Carlsen’s surrender seemed close, Giri took off his jacket, perhaps so that the names of his sponsors would have maximum visibility at the historic moment.
Before today’s round, the balance between the two favored Carlsen 6-1 and 22 draws. Giri defeated him in 2011, when he was 16 years old and his rival was 20, precisely in Wijk aan Zee. 14 draws followed until, in the 2016 Bilbao Masters Final, the Norwegian achieved the first of his six victories. And the Dutchman has achieved his second victory today.
The champion has an additional reason to feel very irritated and stung today. Although he has never said it with crystal clear clarity, his statements over the last five years indicate that he sees Giri as a rival who wastes his enormous talent with excessive conservatism. For example, Carlsen tweeted this in 2018, addressing Giri: “Win a tournament for the first time in your life and maybe people will start taking you seriously.”
But today it has also become clear that Carlsen recognizes Giri’s talent and respects him, because at the moment of surrendering -shaking his hand and stopping the clock- he has done something that he rarely does when he loses: stay to comment on the game without getting up from the table with bad manners. The champion touched his forehead with his left hand, as if to say “I don’t know where my head was”, and then held a conversation for several minutes with his opponent. Perhaps the psychological consolation he clings to is that, in reality, Giri has not won today, he has lost.
Fourth round: So – Aronian, tables; Keymer–Erigaisi; Ding – Praggnanandhaa, 0-1; Giri-Carlsen, 1-0; Abdusattorov – Maghsoodloo, 1-0; Van Foreest – Gukesh, draws; Rapport – Caruana, draws.
Classification: 1st-2nd Giri and Abdusattórov 3 points; 3rd-4th Caruana and Praggnanandhaa 2.5 points; 5th-9th Carlsen, Ding, Aronian, Erigaisi and So 2; 10th-13th Maghsoodloo, Van Forest, Rapport and Keymer 1.5; 14th Gukesh 1.
Fifth round (Thursday, 2:00 p.m.): Caruana-So; Gukesh-Rapport; Maghsoodloo–Van Forest; Carlsen-Abdusattorov; Praggnanandhaa-Giri; Erigaisi–Ding; Aronian-Keymer.
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