Triumph On A Choppy Day: Carlsen Defeats Firoujza Again

Triumph On A Choppy Day: Carlsen Defeats Firoujza Again


GM Magnus Carlsen defeated GM Alireza Firouzja in the Grand Final of the 2023 Julius Baer Generation Cup to clinch his third tournament victory on the Champions Chess Tour. Though both players were in imperfect form, their fighting nature shined through. Firouzja scored a must-win 130-move victory to take the match into overtime, and Carlsen closed the match by winning with Black in armageddon. 

In Division II, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated GM Levon Aronian with a game to spare, winning the first two and then sealing the match victory with a draw. 

In Division III, GM Sam Sevian pulled off a stunning upset vs. GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Sevian won the first match in a playoff and then was victorious again in the Grand Final Reset. 

See what happened

Division I

Carlsen-Firouzja 3-2

It’s always a thrill to see Carlsen face Firouzja, one of the most confident and creative players from the younger generation. In fact, Firouzja represents the new era of chess in a very literal way: he started playing the game just a year before Carlsen first became the world champion in 2013.

This match was Firouzja’s second chance against Carlsen after the latter’s sweep in the Winners Final, and it was a much closer duel. In game one, the players fought a unique battle on the queenside in the Ruy Lopez. Carlsen played a compelling exchange sacrifice but followed it up by capturing the wrong pawn.

Firouzja had chances in the material-up ending, but they fizzled when he traded away his bishop pair to dislodge Carlsen’s supported but superfluous knight pair.

In the next game, Carlsen chose a risky variation in the Sicilian, unexpectedly heading into a position both suited to Firouzja’s style and advantageous for White. With Carlsen’s king stuck in the center, Firouzja traded into a superior ending where all of his remaining pieces were active compared to Black’s completely undeveloped rooks. 

From there, though, Carlsen defended like a machine, minimizing his opponent’s edge despite his difficult position. 

Carlsen scored his first win in the chaotic fight of game three. Early in the opening, Firouzja sacrificed a center pawn for unclear compensation. He was able to conjure some pressure on the kingside but then allowed a trade of queens, fearlessly heading to a pawn-down ending vs. perhaps the strongest endgame player in history. 

Carlsen sacrificed the pawn back in an attempt to create play, but it turned out to be a misfire. Soon, Firouzja generated counterplay along his opponent’s second rank. As the game looked to be settling into a draw, Carlsen discovered a stunning tactical shot, trading rooks in a way that left Black’s queenside completely defenseless. This battle is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

In a must-win position in the final game, Firouzja opted for the b3 Sicilian, a rare and underestimated system with a great deal of strategic and dynamic possibilities. Surprised by his opponent’s choice of opening, Carlsen spent 2:30 minutes on his third move and soon found himself in a challenging situation with his king trapped in the center. 

As Firouzja fought to open up the center, Carlsen defended tenaciously, running his king to shelter on the kingside. The fight continued with Firouzja picking up loose pawns while Carlsen worked to create counterplay. The youngster’s material edge looked to be decisive in the queen endgame, but Carlsen made it as difficult as possible, haunting the white king with looming perpetuals. 

In the time scramble, Firouzja played a shocking underpromotion to a knight and gained victory after 130 moves by promoting again, this time to a second queen. 

The armageddon game began as a b3 Sicilian reload, but Carlsen had a much different follow-up prepared. The Norwegian grandmaster gained an active position out of the opening and began pressing White’s more cramped setup. After winning two pawns, Carlsen rebuked Firouzja’s attempts to stir up dynamic play and ultimately gained a winning ending, even though all he needed was a draw. 

Carlsen reflected on his performance afterward:

It was not my day at all today. To be honest, I think I was pretty lucky to even make it to the armageddon. My brain was not working today at all. I had a nice dinner with my family before I played, and even before that, I felt that it was not working. Especially after that, it was just dead. Some days are good. Some days, you have to get through them, and I’m really happy that I did.

Some days are good. Some days you have to get through them.

-Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen earned $30,000 for this victory in addition to the $75,000 he’s already collected from the tour. He has also reached an uncatchable 525 points in the tour standings and has qualified for the CCT Final along with GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Fabiano Caruana, and Wesley So.

Firouzja earned $20,000 and is neck-and-neck with GM Denis Lazavik in the race to qualify, with just one more CCT event left. 

Tour Standings

Division I Standings

Division II

Game one featured the incredible dynamic fight between Nepomniachtchi and Aronian. In a calm middlegame, Aronian began launching his king’s pawn cover forward and then won material by leaving his queen en prise.

Yet, in a matter of moves, it was Nepomniachtchi who was attacking, sacrificing the exchange to go king hunting. The battle culminated in a fascinating queen and five pawns vs. queen and rook ending. 

Nepomniachtchi earned $10,000 and the chance to compete in Division I in the next event. Aronian won $7,500 for second.

Division II Standings

Division III

Sevian pulled off an incredible feat vs. Mamedyarov, a player with a peak FIDE rating of 2820. First, Sevian won the first match in armageddon, triggering a Grand Final Reset. Then, the American grandmaster defeated his distinguished opponent again in the fresh match. After drawing the first two games, Sevian displayed excellent technique to convert a knight and two pawns vs. rook ending.

Sevian won $5,000 for winning Division III, while Mamedyarov earned $3,600 for his efforts. 

Division III Standings

The Champions Chess Tour 2023 (CCT) is the biggest online tournament of the year. It is composed of six events that span the entire year and culminate in live in-person finals. With the best players in the world and a prize fund of $2,000,000, the CCT is’s most important event yet.

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