New Year fireworks as Carlsen’s conquerer comes back down to earth

Russian chess sensation Daniil Dubov came crashing back down to earth today as he fell behind in the Airthings Masters semi-finals.

After downing World Champion Magnus Carlsen yesterday, Dubov lost the first set in his two-day Champions Chess Tour semi against Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov.

The pair got off to a slow start as Radjabov appeared to take a slow and steady approach to grind 24-year-old Dubov down.

Two drawn games were followed by a key game 3 which saw Radjabov finally break down Dubov’s defence to go 2-1 up.

Then, in a final game thriller, Radjabov held firm score a win and take the set 3-1. He is now one set away from getting through to his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour final.

In the other semi, Armenia’s Levon Aronian, for so long considered an underachiever, continued in the rich vein of form he’s displayed so far in this tournament.

After a storming passage to the semis, the world number 6 picked up where he left off yesterday with a win in Game 1 over Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Aronian then missed an opportunity in Game 2 to go 2-0 up as the encounter ended in a draw before it was his turn to escape with a draw in Game 3.

Needing a win in the final game, MVL threw caution to the wind but blundered in the endgame and Aronian eased to safety. MVL threw in the towel early knowing a draw was the same as a loss.

He will need to win tomorrow’s second set to level the score and then overcome Aronian in a tiebreaker to go through. Aronian, meanwhile, appears in imperious form.

Aronian said afterward that he would spend only an hour celebrating New Year with his girlfriend’s family before tomorrow’s second set starts.

Asked what his hopes for 2021 are, he said: “I hope to enjoy the year more than 2020, to have more reasons to smile and to continue just playing chess and fulfilling my mission in life.”

The semi-finals of the Airthings Masters, organised by the Play Magnus Group, starts up again at 15:00 CET tomorrow. If the scores are locked at 1-1, tiebreaks will be played to decide who goes through.

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