Magnus Carlsen has won the most viewed chess event in history – the inaugural Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
A year of intense competition came to a thrilling climax today as the Norwegian clinched first place overall in the Tour’s showpiece Finals event.
Carlsen’s win was secured when closest rival Wesley So collapsed in a must-win match to leave the champ with an unassailable lead.
Carlsen takes home $100,000 for winning the Finals to add to the $215,000 he has already made, the title of Tour Champion and the world’s first NFT chess trophy.
Carlsen has eyeing that up from the start:
I have my eyes set on the @ChampChessTour trophy🏆— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 29, 2021
The first NFT trophy in chess history.
There are two editions of the trophy. One for the winner and one up for auction. If I win, we'll be trophy brothers for life😄
You also get to play me🤝https://t.co/FBeQiq13Mq pic.twitter.com/HJiKYbxT5w
Carlsen is also now considered the undisputed best online chess player in the world – the prestigious Tour’s true prize.
There are also still two days left to play, meaning Carlsen could stretch his lead further.
While Carlsen’s victory was thoroughly deserved, So put up a fierce challenge from day one last November. Memorably, So beat Carlsen to win the first event, the Skilling Open, on his rival’s 30th birthday.
But the man who went on to match Carlsen with an impressive three tournament titles appeared to finally run out of steam yesterday.
Needing a win in today’s Round 7 match to stay in the race, So’s misery continued as a limp performance saw him quickly go 2-0 down against Levon Aronian.
It meant the Filipino-born American had to win both the remaining games just to take the match to tiebreaks.
Yet an increasingly-desperate So was unable to break down the wily Aronian in the third as the game ended with So crashing to defeat. The key match that decided the Tour was lost 3-0.
Congratulations to @MagnusCarlsen on winning the @Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, and the $100,000 top prize, with 2 rounds to spare! https://t.co/MTZpVrVLou#ChessChamps #TourFinals2021 pic.twitter.com/m40b7NPkH4— chess24.com (@chess24com) October 2, 2021
Carlsen’s match against the Azerbaijani star Teimour Radjabov was rendered irrelevant to the final result, with So’s challenge already ended.
It was Radjabov who struck a fatal blow against So yesterday and with the win the super-solid Azeri has drawn his American rival into a battle for second-place. Radjabov is now just half a point behind So.
Carlsen afforded him self a small double air punch when he was told he’d won but was still in the middle of his Round 7 match. In the end, Carlsen lost 3-1 to Radjabov – but it didn’t matter.
Relieved to finally secure victory, Carlsen said: “Today was really poor, but right now I don’t really care. I am just happy to have won overall.”
In the other matches, the second Azeri in the event Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov downed the Dutch number 1 Anish Giri 2.5-1.5.
In the battle between the line-up’s two youngest players, Jan-Krzysztof Duda beat Vladislav Artemiev by the same score..
The final match to finish was an almighty tussle between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and US star Hikaru Nakamura that went to Armageddon. Nakamura had to win a final blitz game to take it to the final tiebreak and then prevailed.
The Finals will resume at 17:00 CEST tomorrow with two more rounds to decide the placings.
Carlsen heads to defend his World Championship in Dubai after the tournament before the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour returns in 2022.