So Advances To Challenge Carlsen

So Advances To Challenge Carlsen


GM Wesley So has emerged out of the Losers Bracket victorious and will challenge GM Magnus Carlsen for the Division I Grand Final of the Champions Chess Tour Aimchess Rapid 2023.

In a sacrifice-loaded match vs. GM Eduardo Iturrizaga, the American grandmaster flipped his opponent’s attacking energy against him. Facing GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov in a rematch, So successfully stunted the creative prodigy’s attempts at dynamic play.

In Division II, GM Denis Lazavik edged ahead of GM Sam Sevian in a neck-and-neck match decided in armageddon. However, Sevian surged in the Losers Bracket and will get a second chance versus Lazavik tomorrow. 

In Division III, GM Tuan Minh Le beat GM Liem Le for the chance to challenge GM Yu Yangyi for top honors.

The knockout tournament continues on Friday, July 14, starting at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CEST / 20:30  IST.

Division I

Though both Iturrizaga and Abdusattorov showed up at the board ready with creative ideas and fighting spirit, So was in phenomenal form, winning both matches without tiebreaks. 

Losers Semifinal

So-Iturrizaga 1.5-0.5

Iturrizaga’s resourcefulness certainly showed, but it was So’s higher accuracy that ultimately prevailed. 

In the first game, So went for the classic grandmaster squeeze, setting up a double fianchetto Maroczy Bind structure against Iturrizaga’s attempt to spark the game into dynamic play with the Sicilian.

Searching for chances to sharpen play at every turn, Iturrizaga eventually found a way, sacrificing an exchange to unleash an attack on the loose enemy king as the players both fell into intense time trouble. In the end, So flipped the game into a surging king attack of his own when his opponent played a move of hesitation. 

This duel of wild twists and turns is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

In game two, Iturrizaga again tried to unbalance the game from the opening, setting up a Benoni-like structure from the white side. Yet So kept the game under control by sacrificing a pawn to activate the last of his pieces, making it hard for Iturrizaga to generate any threats himself.

Position after So’s 18…a5!?

The players drew, sealing the match for So, who advanced to meet Abdusattorov in the Losers final. 

Losers Final

So-Abdusattorov 1.5-0.5

Not only were the players competing for the chance to face Carlsen in the Grand Final, but this was So’s chance at a rematch vs. the Uzbek prodigy after a loss earlier in the event. 

Unable to hold back laughter, Abdusattorov started the match with a devious surprise for his opponent: 2.Bb5?!, described as a “drunken Ruy Lopez” by the commentators. 

Both players seemed to be so bewildered by Abdusattorov’s shocking opening choice that they spent 10 minutes each in the first 10 moves. Though Abdusattorov’s bold start generated an interesting middlegame, So eventually stabilized the position into an even ending. And in the midst of the time scramble, Abdusattorov played a fatal pre-move.

In the second game in a must-win position with black, Abdusattorov began to gather his pieces around the white kingside when So found a way to force the queens off the board by tactical means. Despite only needing a draw, So created such an overwhelming strategic grip on the position, Abdusattorov himself conceded the match by offering a draw.

With this win, So will make Carlsen’s wish come true and will face the 16th world champion in the upcoming Grand Final. The current world number-three in live rapid rankings―after GMs Ding Liren and Carlsen―shared his thoughts on his chances.

Division I Standings

Division II

Lazavik vs. Sevian was an all-out brawl between these two closely matched grandmasters. They drew all four of their regular match games, including a 146-move one where they fought in the endgame for 100 moves until they were down to king and knight vs. king.

It all came down to armageddon. Even though he started with 10 ten minutes on his clock, Lazavik gained a formidable position with black, targeting all the weak points in White’s camp to secure the match victory. 

Sevian will get a second chance at Lazavik in the Grand Final after fighting his way back by defeating GM Jose Martinez in the Losers Final.

Division II Standings

Division III

Fighting spirit carried Le Liem through his first two matches; both went to an armageddon playoff, and every one of his six games was decisive. 

In one of his key victories, he rebuffed GM Rauf Mamedov’s attacking play with a unique resource. Step into his shoes and try to find it.

White to move.

Unfortunately for Le Liem, his only draw of the day knocked him out in his must-win second game of the Losers Final vs. Le Tuan. Le Tuan gained the upper hand in the match when he ground out a 106-move win in their first game.

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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