Caruana Beats Nakamura Without Needing 4th Game, Advances To Grand Final

Caruana Beats Nakamura Without Needing 4th Game, Advances To Grand Final


GM Fabiano Caruana defeated GM Hikaru Nakamura in the Division I Winners Final of the Champions Chess Tour Chessable Masters 2023 to punch his ticket to the Grand Final. In the Losers Quarterfinals, GM Magnus Carlsen eliminated GM Wesley So, while GM Levon Aronian ended GM Vladislav Artemiev‘s tournament.

Nakamura will face the winner of Carlsen vs. Aronian on Thursday; the winner of that match will enter the Grand Final, which will be played on Friday, the last day of this event. 

In Division II, the WInners Semifinals saw GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov defeat GM Denis Lazavik, while GM Vachier-Lagrave also sent GM Vladimir Kramnik to the Losers Bracket. Abdusattorov will play Vachier-Lagrave in the Winners Final. 

In Division III, the Grand Final is already set between the victor of the Winners Bracket, GM Amin Tabatabaei, and GM Alexey Sarana, who won the Losers Bracket.

The Chessable Masters continues on Thursday, April 6, 2023, at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CET.

Division I

Losers Quarterfinals

So-Carlsen 0.5-1.5

Carlsen won convincingly with Black in the first game and drew the second to take the match. After the games, he said: “It was clearly my best day so far.”

Game one was self-destruction in the opening for So. The world champion repeated a Rossolimo Sicilian line with 4…Bd6 that he’s played many times and it should not have been a surprise.

So sacrificed a pawn, but after Carlsen grabbed it the American super-GM thought for a full minute before making his move. Although So was objectively okay at first, his position slowly began to slip, and Carlsen consolidated the extra pawn and won the game.

The world champion drew the second game comfortably to secure the match. 

About game one, the world champion said: “I think he just mixed something up and he was sort of trying to look for compensation.” 

Carlsen also expressed confusion with the format, saying he expected to play White in the first game and thought he’d play another match as well. He explained: “I’m clearly not used to being in the Loser’s Bracket.”

So walks away with $10,000 for finishing in 5-6th.

Artemiev-Aronian 1.5-1.5

After trading blow for blow in the first two games, the match was decided in the armageddon tiebreaker. Aronian won the match with an even score because he had draw odds with Black in the final tiebreaking game.

In the first game, Aronian trapped his opponent’s rook and went on to win up the exchange. Artemiev, in a must-win situation already in game two, won the game instantly after his opponent blundered a tactic. 

Can you find it? Black to move and win.

And so the two combatants decided everything with an armageddon game. Aronian earned draw odds after an extremely low bid of seven minutes and 30 seconds. He would have half his opponent’s time, but a draw would win him the match.

The match was decided by a good old-fashioned time scramble as both players desperately punched in moves with zero increment added. To his credit, Aronian did prove adequate defense on the board in the rook endgame; and the draw by repetition secured the match win.

He could hardly contain himself and threw his hands in the air after the hair-raising final game.

After the game, Aronian said: “I think I really cannot play without drama. I created all of this myself…  [Winning the match] took the usual recipe that I always show: the luck.”

Artemiev exits the tournament with $10,000 for reaching this stage.

Winners Final

The good news for these players is that, by making it to the Winners Final, both players automatically qualify for Division I of the next Champions Chess Tour event in May, which guarantees a minimum $7,500 prize. 

Caruana-Nakamura 2.5-0.5

Nakamura led his head-to-head encounters with Caruana in rapid chess with 16 to 9 wins and 21 draws. However, the reigning American champion overcame all odds, even with a recent shoulder injury, to enter the tournament’s last stage: the Grand Final.

Caruana won the wild first game where both players gunned for the opposing king. After tactical jockeying throughout the game, the winning sequence Caruana found to win the game was simply startling.

He called a bluff and grabbed a hanging piece, but at the cost of walking into what looked like a dangerous attack—one that objectively fell short after the white king ran into the middle of the board, shockingly safe.

This complex duel is covered by GM Dejan Bojkov, annotated below. (The annotations will be added soon.)  

Caruana had a winning position in game two, but despite having two extra pawns, he blundered a piece and still managed to draw.

The match came to an abrupt end in the third game. Caruana was once again winning but started to slip under the time pressure; just when Nakamura seemed to rescue himself, he walked into a self-checkmate-in-one.

Caruana said: “I mean, he help-mated himself, which was kind of ridiculous, kind of unexpected, obviously very lucky for me, but it was probably the funniest way, at least from my point of view, that it could’ve ended.”

Nakamura will face the winner of Carlsen vs. Aronian in the Losers Final tomorrow. You can also watch his recap of the match in the video below:

Division I Standings

Division II

The Winners Semifinals of this division featured two young players in one match and two veterans in the other. 

The Abdusattorov-Lazavik was a close encounter where the Uzbek GM ultimately prevailed by winning with the white pieces in the armageddon tiebreaker.

The other match had some technical drama. After losing game one, Kramnik blundered his queen in one move due to a mouse slip in game two. The former world champion was playing on his phone after issues with his computer—sadly, he was at least equal in the position and also had a two-minute lead on the clock.

Vachier-Lagrave, showing good sportsmanship, threw game three in an entertaining fashion, walking into a self-mate in Bongcloud style after just five moves:

In their fourth game, just needing to draw, Vachier-Lagrave disconnected and lost on time. Kramnik, showing sportsmanship in return, forfeited the armageddon game without playing to award the Frenchman the match victory. 

Division II Standings

Division III

Both of the eventual grand finalists won their first games and made a draw in the second to secure match victories.

In the Winners Final, Tabatabaei took advantage of a weak pawn on the queenside. After his opponent missed the difficult path to equality, with a specific way of sacrificing the pawn, the Iranian grandmaster cruised to victory with flawless play.

To see two beasts of rapid chess like Tabatabaei and Sarana in Division III is, as commentators have said and I have written, a testament to the strength of this event. We are in for a gripping Grand Final.

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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