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Chess: India’s Erigaisi beats Firouzja to set up Carlsen clash

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New Delhi: The knockout stage of the $235,000 Airthings Masters got off to an explosive start on Monday as Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Arjun Erigaisi all stormed into tomorrow’s Division 1 semi.

Carlsen crushed 23-year-old Alexey Sarana with two wins and a draw, the Indian youngster Erigaisi downed Alireza Firouzja with three straight wins and Nakamura was on top form as he beat another Indian talent Gukesh D 2.5-0.5.

Three of the four quarter-final matches ended in three games as the first event of the new $2 million Champions Chess Tour got under way on Chess.com, the world’s leading chess platform.

The final name to make it through to the semis was U.S. star Wesley So who turned around his match against Rauf Mamedov, the three-time Azerbaijani champ, to win 2.5-1.5. It was a tough match for So as Mamedov battled hard.

The new double-elimination rules means the losers drop down to the lower bracket but get another chance to reach the Grand Final and be crowned the Airthings Masters Champion.

Carlsen, playing from Toronto, Canada, was the first to finish his quarter final. He needed just three games to take revenge on Alexey Sarana for his loss in the World Blitz Championships.

The World Champion won the first two then took a draw from a position of strength to secure passage through to the winners’ semi-finals tomorrow.

In his typically understated style, Carlsen said: “It went quite alright.”

IM Tania Sachdev summed up the day’s play saying: “To me, the star of the day was definitely Arjun defeating Alireza in those three games. We saw so much drama and dominating play in those three matches.

“Rauf was the big surprise, he really had the upper-hand and I think that was slightly heart-breaking for him. Then, of course, Wesley doing Wesley things and keeping everything under control. It was truly a day filled with fighting chess and drama.”

Asked how she thinks the reaction will be in India, Sachdev said: “Everyone is going to be super-excited.”

Carlsen faces Erigaisi in tomorrow’s semi-final, while Nakamura and So set up an all-American clash to bid for a final place and go for the $30,000 top prize.

All the results from Divisions 1, 2 and 3 are available on the tournament page here. A full report of the day’s play will follow.

The Airthings Masters continues on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CET. All Champions Chess Tour games are played on Chess.com. The live broadcast can be viewed on Chess.com and chess24 YouTube and Twitch channels.

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