2 Favorites Go Down: Van Foreest Upsets Nakamura, Kollars Beats Firouzja

2 Favorites Go Down: Van Foreest Upsets Nakamura, Kollars Beats Firouzja


GMs Jorden van Foreest, Dmitrij Kollars, Fabiano Caruana, and Nodirbek Abdusattorov move on to the Champions Chess Tour ChessKid Cup 2023 Winners Semifinals in Division I. Respectively, they defeated GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Alireza Firouzja, Aleksandr Shimanov, and Jules Moussard—who now enter the Losers Bracket—in the Quarterfinals on Monday. 

Van Foreest and Kollars pulled off the two upsets in the first division. The Dutch number-two played a spectacular queen sacrifice in game one, which is our Game of the Day, and won the match in game four. Kollars beat the world number-two in an armageddon game after four decisive games left them with an even score.

In Division II, eight players move on to the Winners Quarterfinals. The most one-sided match of the day was certainly GM Liem Le‘s 3-0 sweep against the teenage rising star and GM Bharath Subramaniyam.

In Division III, eight players also move on to the Winners Quarterfinals. There, we go over young GM Denis Lazavik‘s victory over the more established GM and streamer Benjamin Bok.

The ChessKid Cup continues on Tuesday, May 23, starting at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST.

Division I

As has been the case with some other chess events recently, there was an 800-pound Norwegian not in the room (as GM Garry Kasparov earlier put it). GM Magnus Carlsen qualified for Division I in the last CCT event, but withdrew to participate in the Grand Chess Tour: Superbet Poland Rapid & Blitz 2023. His limited edition Puma sneakers still made it to the broadcast though.

For the same reason, GMs Kiril Shevchenko, Anish Giri, and Levon Aronian—who qualified in the Play-in—were replaced with GMs Jorden van ForeestAleksandr Shimanov, and Jules Moussard, by Swiss seed. Van Foreest certainly justified his spot on day one by defeating Nakamura, and more surprises remain to be seen in the Losers Bracket later this week.

Noticeably, several participants logged in from Norway or close by in Europe. Next week, chess fans can look forward to seeing Nakamura (in Norway now), Abdusattorov (also in Norway), Firouzja (in France), and Caruana (currently in Spain) playing at Norway Chess 2023 in Stavanger. 

Nakamura-Van Foreest 

Nakamura essayed the London System in the first game but got nothing special out of the opening. After a queen sacrifice in the middlegame, Van Foreest commanded a brilliant attacking game and took the first point in the match.

GM Rafael Leitao covers this brilliant attacking game as our Game of the Day below.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

Nakamura was nearly blown off the board with the black pieces in game two as well. Despite having what the engine decided was a lost position straight out of the opening, he continued to fight hard. In the endgame, he managed to win a pawn, and although Van Foreest had a drawn pawn-down ending, the Dutch player missed a skewer and lost the game. 

Following a draw in game three, Van Foreest decided the match in game four without reaching an armageddon. It was a topsy-turvy, 90-move struggle where he ultimately converted a tricky endgame while up the exchange for a pawn.

Although Nakamura lost one match, he still has a second chance at life in the Losers Bracket—and his fans will surely remember how he came back from a match loss to finish first in the last CCT event.


This was the bloodiest match of the day. All five games were decisive, including the armageddon, and it could have gone either way. 

Firouzja won the first, and Kollars won the second. Game three was the most shocking as Firouzja blundered a checkmate in one move in a position that was actually winning for him.

But Firouzja won on demand in the last game to make it to the tiebreaker. 

Firouzja won the bid for the black pieces, and he would play with eight minutes and 20 seconds against Kollars’ 15. Indeed, the German grandmaster said after the game that he thought Firouzja’s bid was too low.

After beating the world’s number-two player, Kollars was humble: “I feel like I should have lost the match probably.” He, of course, commented on how exciting it was not just to watch the games but to play them.


This match was one of the two straightforward victories in the Quarterfinals, with Abdusattorov’s three-game match win being the other. It didn’t help that Shimanov was playing from Malaysia, where his first game started at 11:15 p.m. local time. As Caruana said in the interview, game one was the most critical—and it was smooth sailing from there.

Caruana misstepped in the opening of game one and was worse early on after allowing 9…g5!. In a position where both kings were exposed, however, the U.S. champion navigated the complications better than his opponent.

After a draw in game two, Caruana won the third game with a convincing attack. A fourth game wasn’t needed. 

After the match, Caruana stated: “I blundered …g5 in the first game, so I had a very bad position after like eight moves with the white pieces, but then everything went very smoothly.” 


Abdusattorov also enjoyed a comfortable day at the office on Monday. Like Caruana, he won game one, drew game two, and won again in the third to clinch the match. 

Game one, here too, set the tone. Taking the road less traveled, he played the offbeat Chekhover Variation against the Sicilian Defense. After winning a pawn, he quickly switched his attention to the kingside, where the game was decided. 

In the interview, Abdusattorov expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play strong opponents in Division I of this CCT event.

Division I Standings

Division II

Le won the most one-sided match in the second division, winning all three games even when a draw in the last would have secured the match. 

The second game was a good one, where a few inaccuracies by his opponent, in particular the passive 23…Rc7?!, gave him free rein on the kingside with little counterplay. 

Among other mouthwatering matchups, the Vietnamese number-one will face the Vietnamese number-two, GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, in the Winners Bracket on Tuesday. 

Division II Standings

Division III

It’s no longer appropriate to call Lazavik a “rising star” or even an “underdog” as he has proven his world-class strength in online events recently. While he may not be in Division I in this leg of the Champions Chess Tour, the 17-year-old Belarusian grandmaster is one to keep an eye on.

Unlike the other two divisions, all matches in this one are decided in just two games. After an unexciting draw in the first game, the second one had much more action. Both players made mistakes, but Bok made the last.  

GM Sam Sevian, who is also still in the Winners Bracket of this division, will surely be looking to win Division III for the second time this year.

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 Chess.com 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 Chess.com’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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