Firouzja, Shevchenko, Kollars, Giri, Aronian Qualify For ChessKid Cup Division I

Firouzja, Shevchenko, Kollars, Giri, Aronian Qualify For ChessKid Cup Division I


GMs Alireza Firouzja, Kirill Shevchenko, Dmitrij Kollars, Anish Giri, and Levon Aronian fought their way through a field of 144 players, mostly grandmasters, and qualified through match play for Division I of the Champions Chess Tour ChessKid Cup 2023. They will join GMs Hikaru NakamuraFabiano Caruana, and Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who already qualified in the Knockout of the last CCT event.

Since GM Magnus Carlsen withdrew from this leg of the tour, an extra spot was available in Division I. Five players qualified instead of the usual four.

The Knockout begins on Monday, May 22, starting at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CET


The Swiss segment saw four (!) players—Firouzja and GMs Aleksandr Shimanov, Jules Moussard, and Jorden van Foreest—finish in tied-first with seven points out of nine games.

GM David Anton Guijarro got off to the best start in the Swiss. He was the last player on a perfect score by round four, with 4/4 points. But his round-two brilliant victory over GM David Navara was an immediate contender for our Game of the Day.

The demolition was a matter of 28 moves, which GM Rafael Leitao breaks down for us below.

After a draw with GM Levon Aronian in round five, Anton’s undefeated run came to an end in round six after a loss to the world number-four, Firouzja.

The French-Iranian prodigy defeated the surging Spanish grandmaster in just 24 moves. After this victory, the former would draw his next three games to finish in tied-first with seven points.

Despite this setback, Anton still finished in the top 10 with 6.5 points.

Meanwhile, Shimanov joined Firouzja in the lead in round seven after defeating GMs Francisco Vallejo Pons, Giri, and Aronian consecutively. As if that’s not enough super-GM scalps, he also took down GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round two. 

The other two first-place finishers showed that losing one game does not necessarily knock a player out of contention. After winning his first three games, Moussard lost to Anton. A 4/5 score in his remaining rounds was enough to finish in tied-first.

In round five, Moussard’s opponent had an equal position because, in the endgame, the rook and knight (without pawns) cannot win against a rook. However, Black walked into a tragic self-mate.

Do you see the winning move? White to move and checkmate.

Van Foreest also lost a game in round four, but he won nearly all his other games—against GMs Alexey Sarana, Raunak Sadhwani, and Denis Lazavik—to jump back into contention. After a draw with GM Dmitry Andreikin, he won his last-round game to complete the comeback. 

In his last-round game, included below, he activated his king to generate checkmate threats despite limited material in the endgame.

All tied with 6.5 points, Aronian, Giri, Andreikin, Anton, Kollars, and Shevchenko finished in the other top-10 spots to make it to the Match Play stage and fight for a place in Division I. 

Play-in Swiss Top 10 

(See final Swiss standings here.)

Match Play

The top-five finishers of the Swiss earned the privilege of selecting their opponents in Match Play. As always, there were no easy pairings, which were:

  • Firouzja vs. Anton
  • Moussard vs. Kollars
  • Shimanov vs. Shevchenko
  • Van Foreest vs. Giri
  • Aronian vs. Andreikin

Dutch number-one Giri defeated fellow-Dutch number-two Van Foreest in the most one-sided match of the day by winning 2-0. 

In their first game, Giri’s attack with the black pieces culminated with a flurry of piece sacrifices hurled at the white king. 

Moussard picked Kollars as his opponent, but the idea backfired. After a draw in round one, the 23-year-old German grandmaster sent the nearly 2650-rated French GM to Division II.

Aronian defeated Andreikin in the first game and drew the second to consolidate the match win. In the first game, he put his sharp combinational vision on full display.

The other two matches were decided by armageddon after the two regular games ended in draws.

Firouzja defeated Anton with the black pieces. In the final position, White simply resigned despite being a pawn up—he was helpless to prevent Black’s infiltration with 30…Rxe2.

The final and most climactic match ending was Shevchenko’s swindle-win over Shimanov. Both players were under 30 seconds and the eval bar swung like a yo-yo. 

According to GM Garry Kasparov, “Typically, however, the winner is just the player who made the next-to-last mistake,” and this was certainly the case in this game.

The players who lost their matches will still play in Division II in a few weeks. The winner of that section will qualify for Division I of the next CCT event, as Abdusattorov did in the previous edition.

Match Play Scores

Division I | Knockout Field

The ChessKid Cup is the third leg of the Champions Chess Tour 2023 (CCT), 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.

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