Nakamura, Caruana To Play In All-American Winners Final

Nakamura, Caruana To Play In All-American Winners Final


GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana advance to the Winners Final of the Champions Chess Tour Chessable Masters 2023 after respectively defeating GMs Wesley So and Vladislav Artemiev in Division I on Tuesday. In the Losers Bracket, GM Magnus Carlsen eliminated GM Liem Le and GM Levon Aronian knocked out GM Vladimir Fedoseev to keep their hopes of title victory alive.

In Division II, the most one-sided matches were won by veterans against their younger counterparts. GM Vachier-Lagrave defeated R Praggnanandhaa 3-0, while GM Vladimir Kramnik dispatched GM Grigoriy Oparin 3-1. They will face each other tomorrow in the Winners Semifinals, while GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov will face GM Denis Lazavik as well.

In Division III, GM Amin Tabatabaei defeated GM Gata Kamsky. He will face GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov, who went through GM Alexey Sarana, in the Winners Final.

The Chessable Masters continues on Wednesday, April 5, 2023, at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CET.

Division I

Already on the second day of the event, the players in the Losers Bracket played with fire under their feet—another match loss signified elimination from the season.

Losers Bracket

The day started with the Losers Bracket games. Unlike the Winners Bracket, which had the usual four-game match format, these duels consisted of just two games.

Carlsen-Le 1.5-1.5

This match was decided by three draws. The quality of chess between the two super-GMs was extremely high, and sometimes this means a lack of decisive results.

The two regular games were hard-fought and double-edged but nevertheless ended in peace. It all came down to armageddon, where Carlsen with the black pieces vacuumed everything but the kings from the chessboard and drew the game. Thus, he won the match according to the tiebreak rules.

Carlsen, who has been in Chamonix, France, commented after the game: “I didn’t do anything special… I think his choice of opening in armageddon was pretty unfortunate. The way it happened, I just got a very comfortable position.”

Le earns $7,500 for finishing in 7-8th.

Fedoseev-Aronian 0.5-1.5

Aronian, who was playing from a hotel room in Egypt, managed to win the match in the second game. 

The American grandmaster was on the better side of a draw in game one. However, in a rook endgame with under 20 seconds, he was unable to convert a winning advantage.

It was no harm, no foul, as he redeemed himself in the second game with exceptional technique in a queenless middlegame—for the most part (a few flubs by both sides here and there, but it was a complicated position and a rapid game). 

Asked about what it took to win today, Aronian responded: “At some point, I told myself that I have to play faster.” He liked the positions he got and added: “Especially in the second game… once I got this knight I felt that I’m going to win.”

Fedoseev makes $7,500 for finishing the tournament at this stage.

Winners Bracket

So-Nakamura 1.5-2.5

The two Americans are no strangers. In rapid games alone, they’ve played over 60 games, and Nakamura leads their head-to-head score by a small margin.

The match was ultimately decided by Nakamura’s victory in the second game—the sole decisive game of the match, although there were plenty of adventures in the second half despite the draws.

Nakamura won game two with an instructive pawn sacrifice in the endgame, proving just how dangerous a passed rook pawn can be against an enemy knight.

You can also check out Nakamura’s analysis in the video below:

In the third game, So was on his path to winning on demand with the black pieces when he suddenly blundered a full piece. In a full circle of poetic justice, however, Nakamura was unable to convert the advantage. The chaotic game ended in a draw.

Again, Nakamura was in trouble in game four, but as one of the greatest and most tenacious defenders in the game, he created a mess and survived the complications. With this result, Nakamura sent So to the Losers Bracket.

After the match, Nakamura replied: “The third game could’ve gone either way. This fourth game… the position was just very chaotic… it was pretty much a bullet game at the end.” 

Artemiev-Caruana 2.5-2.5

Caruana went into the last round of this match trailing by one point. In a must-win situation, he showcased great fighting spirit, that a grandmaster is never truly down and out until the proverbial scoresheet is signed.

Game one was a straightforward draw. In games two and three, Caruana had several minutes against mere seconds, but the Russian grandmaster seemed to only gain in strength as his clock dwindled; his accuracy never waned.

After failing to win a won position in game two, Artemiev managed to land a blow in game three. In both games, Artemiev was in severe time trouble and started from a worse position before outplaying the world number-seven.

But Caruana won on demand with the white pieces in the last game, tying the score and making it to tiebreaks. In the armagededon game, he had draw odds with the black pieces, and his brilliant defensive effort makes this our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below. It will be added soon.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

After the game, Caruana was harsh on his performance in the first half, saying in round three he “lost like a complete idiot.” However, he summed up his overall performance nicely: “My play isn’t perfect, but at least my fighting spirit is there.”

My play isn’t perfect, but at least my fighting spirit is there.

—Fabiano Caruana

Despite the even score, Caruana wins the match due to having draw odds with the black pieces in armageddon.

Division I Standings

Division II

While two of the matches were closer, the experienced Vachier-Lagrave and Kramnik dispatched their opponents with dominant scores.

The starkest margin was Vachier-Lagrave’s 3-0 victory over the Indian prodigy. While the French super-GM soundly outplayed his younger opponent in the first two games, he was the beneficiary of what has to be one of the worst mouse slips in this Champions Chess Tour season. 

To add insult to injury, Praggnanandhaa was a pawn up before losing his queen in one move. This game ended the match.

The next round in the Winners Bracket will pit two youngsters in one match and two veterans in the other, guaranteeing a clash of generations in the Winners Final.

Division II Standings

Division III

Just two players remain in the Winners Bracket after day two. 

Tabatabaei’s victory over Kamsky came in the very first game. Interestingly, he played the London System against the American legend, who is one of the strongest practitioners of it himself, and was three pawns up by move 35—prompting resignation.

With a draw in the following game, he secured the match. 

Of course, Kamsky is still alive and well in the Losers Bracket, and we may see him play for the top spot once again in the coming days.

Division III Standings

The Champions Chess Tour 2023 (CCT) is a massive chess circuit combining the best features of previous Champions Chess Tour editions with the Global Championship. The tour comprises six events spanning the entire year and culminating in live in-person Finals. With the very best players in the world and a $2,000,000 prize fund, the CCT is’s most important event to date.

Only grandmasters are eligible for automatic entry into the Play-In Phase. Other titled players (IM and below) can play in the Qualifiers that take place every Monday starting February 13, except on weeks with a Play-In or Knockout (21 in total). The top three players from each Qualifier will be eligible to participate in the upcoming Play-In. 

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