BlitzChamps Is Coming To Texas!


Athletes don’t stop competing when their game ends! As continues to engage with colleges and universities to bring the game of chess to more and more campuses, we’ve also found that football players seem to love the rich game of chess as well. The strategizing in their sport is often referred to as a chess match, so it makes sense!

After the success of the original BlitzChamps for NFL players, the series has expanded not only into a sequel (see the highlight reel below!), but the college ranks as well. After coming to the University of Michigan and Stanford University, whose players provided us with great entertainment, we are excited to announce that BlitzChamps Texas is now on the docket for October 10 at 2 p.m. Central U.S. Time

The Texas football squad is off to a scorching start in the 2023 season, including a huge win over third-ranked Alabama on September 9. Now, eight of their best chess players will face off for bragging rights on the chessboard (there are also two alternates listed here):

BlitzChamps Texas will be broadcast on Twitch and YouTube. Join the BlitzChamps Club now to stay up-to-date!

Looking for other ways to support chess at your school? Check out the Collegiate Chess League! The fall 2023 season is already underway. 


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Antipov Perfect In Mizzou’s Dominant Victory Over UChicago


A destructive performance by the University of Missouri (Mizzou) in the 2023 Collegiate Chess League (CCL) has placed the three-GM team atop the lead after two weeks of play. Board two GM Mikhail Antipov surged to 4/4 while Mizzou’s board one GM Grigoriy Oparin scored 3.5/4 as their team confirmed an 11.5-4.5 result over GM Awonder Liang‘s University of Chicago (UChicago).

In the other broadcasted match of the day, Columbia University (CU) posted a 10-6 victory against Yale University (YU), with famed blitzer GM Brandon Jacobson (4/4) being the standout for his team

Week three of the CCL will commence October 7 at 2:00 p.m. ET / 20:00 CEST / 11.30 p.m. IST.

Week one’s report highlighted how the CCL’s fall season is littered with top chess players and how holding the event online means that teams are not restricted by geographical barriers. In terms of the format, the 5+2 time control creates the potential for major upsets and fast-paced action.

On Saturday, the top division continued with four matchups, two of which were broadcast live on’s YouTube channel thanks to tournament sponsor SIG.

YU 6 – 10 CU

After losing their match against Saint Louis University by a hefty score in week one, CU regrouped and bounced back to dispatch YU, keeping their season alive. The teams looked relatively equal on paper, with GM Nicolas Checa and Jacobson representing YU and CU respectively on board one. NM Linden Lee and FM Aristo Liu were destined to clash on board two.

A 3-1 score in round one gave CU a head start with the decisive upset occurring in the game between Lee and Kevin Xu. Lee, the brother of the 13-year-old prodigy IM Alice Lee, was unable to repel Xu’s kingside attack in the King’s Indian Defense without losing a pawn.

Round two saw several games with rating mismatches transpire, and there were no surprising results as YU and CU drew 2-2. CU’s Akash Kumar came within a whisker of confirming another 3-1 result for his team but suffered an unfortunate mouse slip with 20 seconds on the clock, allowing Lee to snap up his rook and win the game.

Kumar found himself in an excellent position against Lee before disaster struck. Image:

A second 2-2 result in the next round meant that the score heading into round four was 7-5 in favor of CU; thus each team was still able to win. With both team’s megastars having pulled their weight and sitting firmly on 3/3, it was time for the board-one showdown between Checa and Jacobson.

A complex King’s Indian Defense was the battlefield for the GM duel and, suffice to say, the game was packed to the brim with thematic ideas and tactical wizardry. Our Game of the Day has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Upon Checa’s resignation, the board-two pairing between Lee and Liu finished simultaneously in favor CU, thereby confirming its victory. The final score stood at 10-6, but the match overall was closer than the scoreline suggests.

UChicago 4.5 – 11.5 Mizzou

Following a strong start against the University of Virginia in week one, Mizzou continued to assert themselves as one of the season favorites, this time scoring a convincing win over UChicago. With three titled players on their team—GM Liang, GM Praveen Balakrishnan, and FM Kapil Chandran—it seemed unlikely that UChicago would be on the receiving end of any big scores; however, Mizzou showed little mercy to the former CCL champions.

Lee: “Awonder is probably my favorite player to watch in the whole CCL because his openings are so crazy. Image:

Wins for each of Mizzou’s three GMs in round one got them off to a 3-1 start, with the key clash between Balakrishnan and GM Raja Harshit being won by Mizzou’s board three. An ominous sign for UChicago was Balakrishnan’s inability to win a piece up against a resilient Harshit, who, thrust his king up the board and bamboozled his opponent in the endgame.

Meanwhile, Antipov stunned Chandran with a move-17 bishop sacrifice which secured an early lead for Mizzou.

Round two was the tightest of the match, and the teams split the points 2-2, with both team’s boards one and two picking up respective wins against their opposition’s boards three and four. For Antipov, the second round was an opportunity to show off his positional prowess, and he was able to completely paralyze Miles Brown on the white side of the Sicilian Defense: Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind Formation.

Looking to ramp up the intensity in round three, Mizzou produced a “knockout” round, dispatching UChicago by the maximum score. WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova picked up her first point of the match for Mizzou with a splash of hope while down a piece to commence the bloodshed.

Not even Liang could put a stop to the demolition as he fell at the hands of Antipov while UChicago’s other GM, Balakrishnan, was ground down by Oparin.

For Oparin, this was his most clinical game of the match. When his opponent waved the white flag,’s Game Review was quick to highlight his 98.3 CAPS score and a 3700-performance rating!

No mistakes, blunders, or inaccuracies for Oparin. Image:

With the result of the match wrapped up at 9-3, team Mizzou was able to relax in the fourth round and coast to an 11.5-4.5 result but not before a distressing mouse slip, 22.Re6??, befell Harshit and prevented him from finishing on a high.

The moment when Lee and Nemo realized that 22.Re6?? had been played. Image:

Despite the slip, Harshit could take solace in the fact that his team had won the match by such a convincing margin and propelled themselves to the top of the leaderboard. Mizzou is sizing up to be a top contender in Division One thus far and is certainly a team worth watching.

All Games | Week Two

The CCL is the premier online chess competition for college students. The CCL Fall Season is a team event that started on September 23 and features a $25,000 prize fund.

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It’s The Spookiest Time Of The Year! Play These Revamped Fan-Favorite Bots With A Weekly Twist


It’s the spookiest month of the year, October! To celebrate, we’re re-launching five new versions of some of our most popular bots. Go to our Play Computer page to battle against Martin, Filip, Laura, Isla, and Morphy in all of their new glory. 

New opening books, new playing styles and strengths, and hundreds of lines of new dialogue await your games against these fun computer personalities. If that wasn’t enough, a spooky surprise will happen every Monday, so be sure to check back and see what we have in store throughout October.

Learn more about each of our bots below!


Playing strength: 250.

Martin learned chess to play with his kids. He doesn’t win often (even against his 4-year-old), but the game brings the family together.


Playing strength: 700.

Filip is learning chess as a way to unwind from his office job. Play a game and help this workaholic relax after a long day at work.


Playing strength: 1100.

Laura the librarian took up chess after reading about GM Judit Polgar. Pay attention! You might learn something from this bookworm.


Playing strength: 1700.

Isla learned about chess from viral videos. This “terminally online” Zoomer is learning to improve her game one chess meme at a time.


Playing strength: 2600.

Paul Morphy is your favorite chess player’s favorite chess player. Can you beat this visionary 19th-century master?

Can you predict the end of the month bot surprise? Comment down below if you’re ready for one of the toughest monthly bots ever! And click here if you’d like to download the high-resolution versions of the bot avatars.


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Naroditsky Secures 5th Bullet Brawl Title


GM Daniel Naroditsky was crowned as the winner of September’s last Bullet Brawl after amassing a score of 288, 54 points ahead of the second-placed GM Hikaru Nakamura and third-placed GM Pranav Venkatesh. The total of 78 wins, three draws, and six losses was enough for the energetic commentator to claim $400, his fifth title, and his rightful spot in second place on the all-time leaderboard.

The $100 prize for the top-scoring female was won by a new winner—IM Tatjana Vasilevich, who finished 32nd overall, while the community event was topped by user “GrandMalakidis.”

The next edition of Bullet Brawl will take place on Saturday, October 7, 2023, at 1 p.m. ET/19:00 CEST.

How to review games?
The games from September’s fifth Bullet Brawl can be found here.

One of the general requisites for success in Bullet Brawl is producing a reasonable score against the 10-time victor Nakamura. On Saturday, Naroditsky procured a par score of 1.5/3 against the often indomitable speed demon.

Naroditsky recovered well after losing his first game to Nakamura. Image:

His sole win over Nakamura sprouted from the Jobava London System, a setup that Naroditsky has used to quickly topple GM-level opponents in recent editions of Bullet Brawl.

Compared to Nakamura and Pranav, Naroditsky also managed to complete more games—87 games to their 80 and 78 respectively. The reason for this is fairly straightforward: Naroditsky was able to win many of his games in less than 20 moves and when they did take longer, the American GM often found himself with plenty of time spare on the clock.

See if you can find the tactics in the positions below that helped Naroditsky win efficiently. 

Though the next puzzle does not result in significant material gain or a checkmate, it is an important intermezzo that gave Naroditsky an edge.

September’s fifth edition of Bullet Brawl also saw the emergence of a star of the future, the 16-year-old Indian GM Pranav. For his efforts in the event, the champion of the 2022 Challengers Chess Tour won $150 and showcased his uncompromising style in a 16-move miniature against IM Karina Ambartsumova.

With its 20th edition looming, Bullet Brawl has still seen just five unique winners, thanks to Nakamura’s and Naroditsky’s consistent domination. Growing in popularity among titled players each week, though, it is only a matter of time until a new winner emerges to claim the lion’s share of the $1,000 prize fund.

The exclusive group of Bullet Brawl winners. Image:


Rank Fed Title Name Username Rating Score
1 GM Daniel Naroditsky DanielNaroditsky 3288 288
2 GM Hikaru Nakamura Hikaru 3278 234
3 GM Pranav Venkatesh vi_pranav 3060 209
4 GM Oleksandr Bortnyk Oleksandr_Bortnyk 3170 194
5 GM Jose Martinez Jospem 3089 191
6 GM Andrew Tang penguingm1 3101 167

GM Dmitry Andreikin FairChess_on_YouTube 3009 153
8 GM S.L. Naryanan IndianLad 2993 151

IM Matvey Galchenko MatthewG-p4p 3013 148

FM Arthur De Winter CrazyAdvenTures 2859 135

GM David Paravyan dropstoneDP 3034 135
12 GM Andrew Hong SpeedofLight10 2837 131
13 GM Leon Livaic Elsa167 2897 129

GM Sergei Zhigalko Zhigalko_Sergei 3034 126
15 IM Kacper Drozdowski Kacparov 2906 123
16 GM Vasif Durarbayli Durarbayli 2874 117
17 GM

sumopork 2854 115
18 FM Petros Trimitzios TrimitziosP7 2927 113

CM Eqor Baskakov stollenmonster 2814 111
20 GM Eric Hansen hansen 2882 110

Bullet Brawl is an exciting new titled arena that features’s top bullet specialists and now takes place weekly on Saturdays. The format is a two-hour arena with a 1+0 time control; the prize fund is $1,000.

Much like Titled Tuesday and Arena Kings, Bullet Brawl often features top GMs, including Hikaru Nakamura, Daniel Naroditsky, Andrew Tang, Tuan Minh Le, and many more!

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AI Cup: MVL Pulls Off Mission Impossible, Beats Carlsen TWICE To Win Title


GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has pulled off the mission impossible of beating world number-one Magnus Carlsen in not one, but two matches, to win the 2023 AI Cup and qualify for the Champions Chess Tour Finals in Toronto. “Maxime was strong and I failed at the critical moments,” said Carlsen, after a single win in each mini-match decided the outcome.

That meant heartbreak for GM Vladimir Fedoseev, whose victory over GM Vladislav Artemiev in the Division II Grand Final would have meant a spot in Toronto if not for Vachier-Lagrave’s heroics. 

GM Sam Sevian ended the season with the extraordinary feat of winning Division III three times, after also winning two matches against GM Rauf Mamedov

See what happened

The final day of the AI Cup meant the Grand Final in all three divisions.

Division I

To win the AI Cup, Vachier-Lagrave knew that he would first have to beat Carlsen in a four-game match, and then again in a two-game “reset”. It was a mountain to climb, but climb it he did!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” a Chinese proverb runs, and for the French grandmaster that step was an extraordinary win in the first game of the first match.

Grand Final: Vachier-Lagrave 2.5-1.5 Carlsen

One of the questions going into the day was whether we would see a repeat of the phenomenally hard-fought and accurate play we’d seen from the same two players in their match two days earlier, when Carlsen had scraped home as the winner with a draw in the final sudden-death game. The answer was yes and no.

The first moves highlighted one difference, since after four Sicilians in that match, Carlsen opened 1.d4, and then Vachier-Lagrave went for the Queen’s Gambit Accepted with 1…d5 2.c4 dxc4.

Any expectation of quieter games was dispelled when the Frenchman went for one of his typical pawn sacrifices for activity early in the middlegame, and he was making Carlsen burn up time to preserve a nominal advantage. By the time we reached the endgame, however, a draw looked inevitable, and only the five-time world champion could be better.

Queens have just been exchanged, and if here Carlsen had put his bishop on e5 it’s inconceivable that he could have lost with his extra pawn. Instead, however, he went for 28.Bd6?!, allowing Vachier-Lagrave to capture the knight and then the pawn on d4. Carlsen must have held out some hopes for his b-pawn, but instead things went from bad to worse as he soon dropped another pawn.

Maxime later had a sober assessment of the first match: “I think I was quite dominated throughout, but I got this lucky break in game one where he overpushed and then gave up this pawn on f2, thinking probably that he was forcing a draw, but actually he wasn’t.”

Carlsen didn’t get another chance and found himself having to resign. 

It was already clear that Carlsen wasn’t at the top of his game, but then neither was Vachier-Lagrave. He commented:

Today I feel like I played a bit worse actually, but Magnus as well was quite tired. I don’t know about the quality of the moves, but at least I was missing a lot of ideas for Magnus, and Magnus was also missing a lot of ideas for me. That was not happening two days ago.

The Frenchman also shared his secret to preserving his lead:

Somehow this mix of solidity and finding practical resources to get counterplay, this obviously is one of the things I’m very good at, at least I consider myself to be very good at. I did manage this today. There’s something I feel I didn’t manage too well today—my calculation was a bit shaky, but overall it’s kind of normal. I was feeling tired already from the start of the day and throughout it got worse.

That ability to find resources came in handy in the second game of the day, when Carlsen threatened to take over on the black side of a quiet Berlin Defense before Vachier-Lagrave’s counterplay ensured a draw.

Game three, however, was where the former world champion missed a huge chance to hit back. He’d had time to refresh his memory of some sharper replies to the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and struck early in the center. Vachier-Lagrave reacted badly and, after some twists and turns, found himself completely lost.

Time was low, but if Carlsen had kept queens on the board he had a huge advantage. Instead he took on f5 with his queen, going for an endgame. Suddenly the winning margin grew narrow, and soon Black found a way to defend and escape with a draw. 

Carlsen had such episodes on his mind when he summed up later: “I’m disappointed obviously. I was hoping to do quite a bit better today, but Maxime was strong and I failed at the critical moments, so that’s I think a fair outcome.”

That meant Carlsen had to win the final game on demand with the black pieces to take the match to armageddon. He switched to the Caro-Kann, but this time nothing went his way, and in fact Vachier-Lagrave got to launch a kingside attack.

Soon all Carlsen could do was save the game with a draw by perpetual check, but that was fine by Vachier-Lagrave, since it meant he’d won the first match and forced a Grand Final “Reset”. He managed to retain his momentum in the deciding match. 

Grand Final Reset: Vachier-Lagrave 2-0 Magnus Carlsen

The key game was again the first, when Carlsen unleashed an extraordinary queen sacrifice.

Vachier-Lagrave said he’d checked this “very briefly”, and though he blitzed out his moves he forgot a final touch. Carlsen was on top, but one slip turned the tables. Instead of taking the rook on a8, he played 31.g5? and got hit by 31…Rac8!

He commented:

I just didn’t see that he could play Rc8 and threaten Qc2. I was calculating other things. If I’d seen that, I would have taken the rook, and I would have had a very, very safe position, and I think presumably good winning chances. So things often go my way, they didn’t today, but I think the margins were fine, and, as I said, I think it’s a fair outcome—he was better today!

GM Rafael Leitao has analyzed that stunning Game of the Day.

That meant Carlsen again had to try and win with the black pieces on demand, and this time he chose the Sicilian. It worked out much better, and the Norwegian seemed to be weaving his magic, until Vachier-Lagrave suddenly went for a bishop sacrifice on h7 that transformed the game.

He explained his reasoning:

I thought it might disrupt the course of the game, because at that moment he had too much flow going for him, all his moves were coming in easy, and I thought that’s not what I want, especially I’m down 3-4 minutes, and he can just apply pressure and play forever, so this was a practical decision. Of course, if it loses by force then I look very stupid, but it worked out very well in the end!

It worked to perfection, though it was also losing by force! 

At the end it seemed Vachier-Lagrave could barely believe he’d done it.

It wasn’t only about winning the tournament, since despite only playing Division I once all season, Vachier-Lagrave had qualified to join Carlsen, and GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Denis Lazavik, and Alireza Firouzja in the Champions Chess Tour Finals in Toronto this December, when a $200,000 top prize will be up for grabs.

Carlsen saw it as absolutely fitting that Vachier-Lagrave had made it.

It’s hard to find a more deserving qualifier for the Finals. It’s amazing. I think he was very, very strong in the Speed Chess Championship as well. Over the two and a half matches that we played now he was better, so it’s good to see Maxime doing well. There was never any real reason for him to all of a sudden be falling off, so I think this is the level that he’s always been capable of playing at, and happy to see him back!

Carlsen had failed to make it three Division I victories in a row, but he wasn’t too downhearted:

I’m not going to sit here and be extremely disappointed by losing in the Grand Final against such a field. I always want to win, but he was very strong and I failed at the critical moments, so I’m definitely not heartbroken by this loss.

Neither player has long to dwell on the outcome, since they’re both flying on Saturday to Albania, where the 2023 European Chess Club Cup team event starts Sunday.

Division I Bracket

Division II

For one person to succeed others must fail, and it was tough on Fedoseev, who did his job by beating Artemiev for a second time this event to win Division II. The match turned on a single win, which Fedoseev scored in the theoretically drawn but notoriously difficult to defend rook and bishop vs. rook endgame.

One careless check by Artemiev and it was over.

112…Kg3! attacked the rook on h4 and also threatened mate-in-1 by bringing the rook to the a1-square. Artemiev allowed checkmate on the board.

That looked likely to mean a dream day, and tournament, for Fedoseev.

In the end, however, Vachier-Lagrave denied Fedoseev a spot in Toronto.

Division II Bracket

Division III

Sevian, meanwhile, has carved out a niche for himself as the absolutely dominant force in Division III. He scored a third victory by “doing a Vachier-Lagrave” and coming from the Losers bracket to beat Mamedov twice on the same day and clinch the title. 

Division III Bracket

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.

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Announcing 2024 Chess Events Calendar

[ad_1] is excited to announce our 2024 events calendar!

2023 has been a year full of groundbreaking formats and marquee tournaments. Recently, the 2023 Speed Chess Championship once again brought together GMs Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura to write another chapter in their rivalry. This week, the Champions Chess Tour AI Cup 2023 determined who will fly to Toronto for the live Finals this December

As we wrap up another year of high-speed tactics and strategic masterpieces, we look ahead to future seasons of top-level competition. Please review the schedule below and mark your calendars for a thrilling new year. 

2024 chess events schedule

Below, you can see the schedule in chronological order:

  • Puzzles World Championship: January 11-12
  • Collegiate Chess League Spring Season: January 20-March 31
  • Pro Chess League Qualifiers: January 28-30
  • Champions Chess Tour Event 1: January 31-February 7
  • Pro Chess League Regular Season & Playoffs: February 13-March 22
  • Pro Chess League Live Playoffs: April 28-May 3 (*contingent on sponsor)  
  • Champions Chess Tour Event 2: May 8-15
  • Bullet Chess Championship Qualifiers: May 23-24
  • Bullet Chess Championship Main Event: June 10-14
  • Junior Speed Chess Championship Qualifiers: June 19-22
  • Speed Chess Championship Qualifiers: June 26-29
  • Junior Speed Chess Championship Main Event: July 8-12
  • Champions Chess Tour Event 3: July 17-24
  • Speed Chess Championship Main Event: July 25-August 9 
  • Women’s Speed Chess Championship Qualifiers: August 14-17
  • Women’s Speed Chess Championship Main Event: August 26-30
  • Speed Chess Championship Main Event Live Finals: September 7-8 (*contingent on sponsor)
  • Champions Chess Tour Event 4: September 25-October 2
  • Collegiate Chess League Fall Season: September 28-November 24
  • I’M Not A GM Speed Chess Championship: October 17-25
  • Champions Chess Tour Finals: December 14-21 (*dates contingent on FIDE World Championship, TBA)

2024 promises to be another exhilarating year for chess, with all the events that both the fans and players look forward to. Thanks to a calendar packed with a multitude of tournaments, the chess community is poised to witness grandmasters and emerging talents showcasing their prowess.

“2023 was an incredible year with the new Champions Chess Tour, the return of the Pro Chess League, a star-studded Bullet Chess Championship, and another Magnus vs. Hikaru showdown in the Speed Chess Championship,” said Michael Brancato, Vice President of Esports at “More titled players than ever are playing in our events, and we’re excited to continue delivering the best opportunities in online chess for players and fans in 2024,” he added.

We’re excited to continue delivering the best opportunities in online chess for players and fans in 2024.

—Michael Brancato

The scheduled dates above are subject to change pending unforeseen circumstances. To see the upcoming tournaments in 2023, please see this page


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AI Cup (Day 4): MVL Beats Nepo To Set Up Carlsen Rematch


GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was again in sparkling form as he defeated GM Ian Nepomniachtchi 2-0 to earn another shot at GM Magnus Carlsen in Friday’s 2023 AI Cup Grand Final. Nepomniachtchi had earlier knocked out GM Anish Giri 1.5-0.5.

GM Vladimir Fedoseev kept his dream of reaching the Toronto Finals alive as he beat GM Vladislav Artemiev in the Division II Winners Final, but he’ll now face the same opponent again in the Grand Final.

GM Sam Sevian has a chance to win Division III for a remarkable third time this season when he takes on GM Rauf Mamedov

The tournament ends on Friday, September 29, starting at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CEST / 20:30 IST.

See what happened

Division I

After a marathon day three, day four of the AI Cup was over in the minimum possible number of games. Nepomniachtchi and then Vachier-Lagrave wrapped up their matches in two games, without the need for armageddon.

Nepomniachtchi 1.5-0.5 Giri

First up was the clash between Nepomniachtchi and Giri, with the winner challenging Vachier-Lagrave in the Losers Final. Giri admitted afterward, however, that his thoughts had already strayed to a potential Grand Final against Carlsen, who had expressed a preference for playing his Dutch rival:

“I had some sort of a deja vu, because once I remember Magnus wanted to meet me in the final, and it was a few years ago, the Chessable Masters, and in that tournament I delivered, so I felt maybe I was destined to get there.”

Back in 2020, Carlsen had commented, “See you in the final!” when both players still had to win two matches to get there.

It happened, with Giri beating Nepomniachtchi in the Semifinals, but in 2023 the two-time world championship challenger would be his nemesis. Nepomniachtchi knocked him out of the Winners bracket on day one of the AI Cup, then ended his tournament on day four. Giri commented:

“It was better than my previous match with Ian, but I’m very slowly learning from my mistakes. I need to lose a couple of more times to him to get better!”

The first game showed that Nepomniachtchi meant business. He played the Petroff Defense, his world championship weapon of choice, and unveiled a novelty on move 11, sacrificing a pawn.

There was ample compensation for the pawn, but no more, and a well-played game ended in a 48-move draw.

Game two featured that other famously solid option for Black, the Berlin Defense, but Nepomniachtchi went for the Anti-Berlin with 4.d3, later pushed 14.f4!?, and then did something rarely seen in the Berlin, castled queenside. It was unconventional, but it worked, and after 22.Qf2 the commentators felt there might be no defense for Giri against the coming attack on his king.  

Giri dug deep, however, and found 22…Qe8! 23.Qg3 Qg6!, ending the immediate danger by swapping off queens. It looked like he was saving the game and we would get an armageddon, but suddenly an innocuous-looking rook endgame swung in Nepomniachtchi’s favor, and just like that Giri was out of the tournament.  

That meant the end of Giri’s hopes of qualifying for the eight-player Tour Finals in Toronto this December, but not of his hopes of visiting the Canadian city in the near future.

For Nepomniachtchi, meanwhile, Toronto was tantalizingly close. If he won the next match against Vachier-Lagrave he would clinch the eighth spot, regardless of what happened in the Grand Final against Carlsen. As it turned out, however, his French opponent was once again in inspired form.

Vachier-Lagrave 2-0 Nepomniachtchi 

The first game of the Loser’s Final promised little out of the opening. Nepomniachtchi again played the Petroff, queens were exchanged on move seven, and it was hard to imagine a quieter position. That made it all the more remarkable, therefore, that by the end Vachier-Lagrave had crashed through, won a piece, and his opponent had no choice but to resign. 

In our Game of the Day, GM Rafael Leitao looks at how it happened.

That meant that Nepomniachtchi had to win on demand, which made it perhaps surprising that he met the Sicilian with the solid 3.Bb5 instead of sharper lines.

It soon looked like a decent choice, since a complicated middlegame arose where, despite Vachier-Lagrave feeling like he’d solved most of his problems, there were still tough choices to be made. In fact, after 33…Rf7?, the win White needed was up for grabs, but it was tricky enough that even as great a tactician as Nepomniachtchi went astray.  

The journey of the black king made for a dramatic end to the match.

That was another fine result for Vachier-Lagrave, who recently won the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and showed signs of his best chess despite his defeat to Carlsen. He commented:

I feel good, because it’s been a very long time since I played at that level. Obviously this is a very good feeling, especially with the Grand Swiss for the last two Candidates spots not too far away. It gives me motivation to work even more. When you play well, it’s easier to enjoy chess and push forward.

When you play well, it’s easier to enjoy chess and push forward.

—Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

The French star explained that he’d been working very hard for the last few years with little obvious result but feels his efforts to transform his previously narrow opening repertoire are finally paying off. The next test ahead is that rematch with Carlsen, when Vachier-Lagrave needs to beat the world number-one not once but twice to clinch the AI Cup title and a spot in the Finals in Toronto. What does he think about that task?

I’m just hoping he won’t play as well tomorrow as he did yesterday! If I can show up at what feels like my best level in the past two games, I have a good chance, but of course, if he plays as well as he played yesterday, it will be still be an uphill task, no matter how well I play.

Carlsen vs. Vachier-Lagrave is the one remaining match in Division I.

Division I Bracket

Division II

If Vachier-Lagrave doesn’t beat Carlsen twice, that would be a huge chance for Fedoseev, who can qualify for Toronto if he wins Division II—while if neither Vachier-Lagrave nor Fedoseev wins, Nepomniachtchi will be going to Toronto after all.

The winner in Toronto will take home $200,000.

That means the stakes are high, but so far Fedoseev has done his part. On day four he beat Artemiev in the Winners Final after a bumpy ride. He took the lead but then fell for a sucker punch.

25.Rxd5! won the game and led to armageddon, but it was Fedoseev who got to strike the final blow after 42.Re2??.

That wasn’t the end of the road for Artemiev, however, since he fought back to win a tight match against GM Yuriy Kuzubov and set up a Grand Final rematch. Kuzubov had himself been on an incredible run, knocking star GMs Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Leinier Dominguez, Alexey Sarana, and Fabiano Caruana out of the tournament. 

Division II Bracket

Division III

The stakes are lower in Division III, but Sevian has a chance to accomplish the unlikely feat of winning Division III three times in a six-event season. He overcame his fellow US GM Ray Robson in armageddon and then got revenge over GM Evgeny Alekseev, who had knocked him out of the Winners Bracket. Up next? The Grand Final against Mamedov, where Sevian needs to win twice to take the title.

Division III Bracket

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.

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AI Cup (Day 3): Carlsen Beats MVL In Armageddon After Sicilian Duel


“This is the sort of thing that happens when you play Sicilians in every game,” said GM Magnus Carlsen after four fighting Sicilians left his 2023 AI Cup Winners Final against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave level at 2-2. The world number-one clinched the match in armageddon to reach Friday’s Grand Final. 

That will either be a rematch, or Carlsen will face one of the two other players still alive in the Losers Bracket: GM Anish Giri, who followed a 2-0 sweep of GM Hikaru Nakamura by doing the same to GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, or GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who needed luck and brilliance to come back and defeat GM Alireza Firouzja in armageddon.    

GM Vladimir Fedoseev will face GM Vladislav Artemiev in the Division II Winners Final as he retains outside chances of qualifying for the Champions Chess Tour Finals in Toronto, while in Division III GM Rauf Mamedov reached the Grand Final by overcoming GM Evgeny Alekseev

The tournament continues on Thursday, September 28, starting at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CEST / 20:30 IST.

See what happened

Division I

Six players remained in Division I of the AI Cup, and it was a rare occasion when all of them were playing from the same Central European time zone.

A day of intense action followed, with the Winners Final and the Losers Quarterfinals.

Carlsen 3-2 Vachier-Lagrave

This match got off to a delayed start, with Carlsen confessing: “I sort of missed the start of the match because I was just falling asleep on the couch—I was really tired!”

When he did wake up, however, he chose violence, and found a very willing accomplice in Vachier-Lagrave, who set the pattern by playing the Sicilian in game one. 

The world number-one opted for a quiet approach with 3.Bb5, but couldn’t prevent mayhem. By move 16, Vachier-Lagrave offered a pawn on d5, which Carlsen rejected with the positionally risky 17.Bf6!?.

The Norwegian ultimately gave up two pawns, but he had enough compensation to hold on, and in fact you couldn’t seriously fault a single move by either player.

“It was nothing special, just a generally well-played game,” said Carlsen. 

For the second game he was the one who chose the Sicilian, going for his opponent’s beloved Najdorf. He admitted that had an element of mind games: “I feel I can play such positions as well. In this case I just decided to play something that looks interesting over the board, and frankly it wasn’t very good, but I just wanted to have some big fights, so that was fun!”

The position out of the opening wasn’t, perhaps, a lot of fun for Black, as Carlsen found himself having to give up a pawn. If roles were reversed, it felt as though he would have been a big favorite to take home the full point. 

Howell, asked by co-commentator Tania whether Carlsen was only trying to hold on, uttered some words that almost proved prophetic: “It is Magnus. You never know. First he starts with a worse endgame, then an equal endgame, then he wins. That’s how he rolls!”

That scenario began to unfold, as Vachier-Lagrave lashed out with the impatient 27.a4!?, soon lost all control, and ultimately had to scurry to save a draw with some knight acrobatics at the end.

Somehow no blood had been spilt, but that changed in game three, when we got the wildest Sicilian yet.

To no-one’s great surprise, it turned out the world number-one was aware of that game, though not all the details.

I was just excited to play an exciting position, so I didn’t totally expect the line that he played, and frankly my knowledge of the line he played ends around 2005-6, when Topalov introduced it at the highest level, and I remember there was a queen sac line… I didn’t remember the evaluation or anything, I just remembered that it was a line, and following chess back then it was a lot of fun to see, so I thought let’s go for that. Hopefully he doesn’t know it so well.

Back then GM Viswanathan Anand in fact went for a dubious queen sacrifice (Carlsen correctly gave the moves, and suggested the computer’s top line as an alternative), while the Norwegian went for one that was entirely sound, and swiftly met by Vachier-Lagrave giving up his own queen.

Carlsen handled the ensuing endgame better, though he admitted that his opponent’s passed pawns were “scary” until Vachier-Lagrave fell into a tactical trap that ended the game on the spot. That spectacular encounter is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Carlsen now only needed a draw, but he couldn’t resist a fourth Sicilian in a row. Once again, all hell broke loose, but despite seeming to have navigated all the most difficult challenges, the reigning Champions Chess Tour champion fell at the final hurdle, stumbling into a dead lost position.

After some time spent reflecting on his life choices, he fell on his sword with 48…Rb6, after which Vachier-Lagrave had only one winning move, but a fairly convincing one: checkmate with 49.Qxa2#

That meant armageddon, and this time Carlsen’s read of his opponent was wide of the mark, since as he pointed out, he could have bid an extra two minutes and still got the black pieces.

Why was he willing to have six and a half minutes less than his opponent? “It was more of a mindset thing for me, because I didn’t want to have to try and win. It’s better if I just react, it’s also better if I don’t think, so getting Black would be good!”

Carlsen also changed things by playing the Caro-Kann instead of the Sicilian (“I’d sort of had enough of this stupid line that I played in the last game!”), and it worked to perfection, since he felt his opponent’s novelty 8.Qb3?! was “practically a decisive mistake, in terms of him having hopes of winning. I think after that there’s no coming back—my position is too solid”.

Vachier-Lagrave was worse in a game he needed to win, so that his only realistic chance was to win on the clock. He never came close, however, with a draw agreed on move 54. It was a quiet end to a fantastic match, with the former world champion summing up:

Sometimes I’m really harsh on myself, or a lot of the time I am, but today I made mistakes, he made mistakes, we both found resources. […] But overall it was just a great day of chess, really good fights. I think I can play even better, but I’m fairly happy considering the complexity of the positions.  

Carlsen now gets a rest day on Thursday, before playing the Grand Final on Friday against either Giri or Nepomniachtchi. He was clear who he would pick.

The Losers Bracket also saw dramatic action.

Giri 2-0 Mamedyarov

On Tuesday, Giri beat Nakamura 2-0, and just to prove that was no fluke he won again by the same scoreline against Mamedyarov, whose offbeat opening in the first game only led to trouble. Giri explained: “The first game, the opening was good, then I messed up, he was already back, and then again it turned and I don’t know, I think at some point the decisive factor was probably that he was low on time and it was just hard to defend that position.”

Mamedyarov’s last mistake was to swap off minor pieces into what turned out to be a lost pawn endgame.

The Azerbaijani star then came out all-guns-blazing in the second must-win game, but his Scandinavian Defense (1.e4 d5) left him close to lost by move 10. In a hopeless position, he brought an end to matters with a rook sacrifice that wasn’t entirely crazy. If Giri captured with the king 24…Be4+! would have turned the tables, but when the queen took the rook it was game over.

Did Giri want to face Firouzja or Nepomniachtchi, who beat him on day one, in the Losers Semifinal? “Variety is the spice of life, so you prefer to lose to more people than to just Ian alone!”

You can’t always get what you want.

Nepomniachtchi 2-1 Firouzja

This was a battle between two explosive players, and it didn’t disappoint. Firouzja went all-out in the first game with the black pieces.

At first it seemed Nepomniachtchi had weathered the early storm and had any winning chances, but Firouzja took over until the main obstacle standing in his way was the low time on his clock. The two-time world championship challenger tried to exploit the time situation with his usual rapid play, but it only led to mistakes, and though Firouzja missed one or two chances he didn’t miss the last. 

79.Rf3! draws, while after 79.Kg3?? Rb2 Nepomniachtchi was lost. This was not a case of players being unfairly criticised for missing a computer move, since the main criticism came from the man himself.

The first game was just completely disgusting! First of all, I found myself defending this worse endgame, and secondly, in a very, very well-known position, I just forgot to play Rf3, a very topical side attack of the passed pawn. When it’s a rook pawn, it never promotes because of this little trick, but I sort of blitzed out Kg3, and then I thought, ok, wow, just what did I do! This was painful.

That appeared to be match over, since in the next game Firouzja got off to a perfect start and found himself in a position of which Giri asked, “how is it possible that he lost that position?”. Again, it was all about the clock, as this time the Iranian-born French GM failed to keep things together on seconds and blundered his queen.

That was a tough blow for the youngster, but he seemed to shrug it off in the armageddon, as he found some sparkling tactics and looked favorite to hold a draw and win the match. Instead it was Nepomniachtchi who got to shine, playing what Tania labeled “the move of the tour”.

Nepomniachtchi played the move down, calling it, “quite a topical breakthrough” and “more or less my only trick in the whole position”, but it was enough to knock out Firouzja. 

That means we’ll now have a Nepomniachtchi-Giri rematch, with the winner then playing Vachier-Lagrave for a spot in the Grand Final against Carlsen. It’s not just the fate of the AI Cup that hangs in the balance, but the last spot in the 8-player Finals slated to take place in Toronto, Canada in December. All three challengers to Carlsen can still win it, with Nepomniachtchi having a chance to secure the spot on Thursday if he wins both matches.

Division I Standings

There’s still one other player who can win the spot, and he’s in action in Division II. 

Division II

Fedoseev kept his Toronto hopes alive in the Winners Semifinals by winning the first two games against GM Alexey Sarana before wrapping up a 2.5:0.5 victory, with a game to spare. Fedoseev will now take on Artemiev, who got off to a flying start against GM Dmitry Andreikin.

Andreikin hit back, but was unable to win the 145-move armageddon game that clinched the match for Artemiev.

Andreikin now plays GM Fabiano Caruana, who like Giri has scored 4-0 after losing in the Winners Bracket.  

Division II Standings

Division III

Azerbaijan’s Mamedov is already through to the Grand Final of Division III after defeating Alekseev 1.5-0.5 with a 24-move win in game two. He’ll face either a rematch against Alekseev, or one of the American duo of GMs Sam Sevian and Ray Robson.

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.

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Warning: To Beat Magnus, Tiebreaks May Be Required


It seems like no one can beat GM Magnus Carlsen these days. In just the last five weeks, he’s won the World Cup, the Julius Baer Generations Cup, and the Speed Chess Championship. After advancing in the AI Cup earlier in the day on September 26, he joined up the late Titled Tuesday and finished in… second place. But it took the tiebreak system to finish him off.

Instead, GMs Sergey Drygalov and Aram Hakobyan were the winners of this week’s Titled Tuesdays. Drygalov outright won early with 10 points in a field that was missing some regulars who were instead playing the AI Cup, including Carlsen, GM Hikaru Namakura, GM Alireza Firouzja, and others, but also featured several previous Titled Tuesday champions. Hakobyan won late on tiebreaks over Carlsen, with both on 9.5 points.

Early Tournament

Despite some missing big names, a group of 539 players joined the early Titled Tuesday tournament, including several who have won one since 2022, such as GMs Matthias Bluebaum, Daniel Naroditsky, Vugar Rasulov and Gata Kamsky.

Drygalov didn’t lose a single game, making draws in rounds two and three ahead of an eight-game win streak to wrap things up. Because the draws came so early, however, he didn’t take even a share of the lead in the tournament until round 10. Then, in round 11, Drygalov beat Naroditsky to take sole first place.

Meanwhile, the co-leader through 10 rounds, GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov, lost to GM Sergei Zhigalko, who finished second with the win.

September 26 Titled Tuesday | Early | Final Standings (Top 20)

Number Rk Fed Title Username Name Rating Score Tiebreak 1
1 18 GM @sergoy Sergey Drygalov 2958 10 71
2 37 GM @Zhigalko_Sergei Sergei Zhigalko 2876 9.5 67.5
3 47 GM @moro182 Luca Moroni Jr 2869 9 78.5
4 10 GM @Shield12 Shamsiddin Vokhidov 2989 9 77.5
5 2 GM @Msb2 Matthias Bluebaum 3086 9 75.5
6 43 IM @remi04 Tsvetan Stoyanov 2853 9 72
7 1 GM @DanielNaroditsky Daniel Naroditsky 3139 8.5 79
8 15 GM @vugarrasulov Vugar Rasulov 2956 8.5 76.5
9 19 GM @Denis_Makhnyov Denis Makhnev 2927 8.5 72.5
10 62 FM @Zohid6 Mukhammadzokhid Suyarov 2801 8.5 69
11 12 GM @TigrVShlyape Gata Kamsky 2953 8.5 67.5
12 11 GM @h4parah5 Jaime Santos Latasa 2959 8.5 67
13 67 GM @DuleMudule Igor Miladinovic 2797 8.5 66.5
14 5

GM @Krakozia Denis Khismatullin 3022 8.5 66.5
15 59 IM @AlmasRakhmatullaev Almas Rakhmatullaev 2805 8.5 65.5
16 26 GM @platy3 Alan Pichot 2876 8.5 61
17 102 IM @CSB7 Balázs Csonka 2759 8.5 60.5
18 58 IM @blitzking1729 Srihari L R 2788 8.5 56.5
19 166 GM @astralpulse Alex Goldin 2683 8 70
20 23 FM @artin10862 Artin Ashraf 2887 8 67.5
45 75 GM @ChessQueen Alexandra Kosteniuk 2732 7.5 57

(Full final standings here.)

Drygalov earned $1,000 for his victory, while Zhigalko claimed $750 in second place. GM Luca Moroni Jr finished third for $350, Vokhidov fourth for $200, and Bluebaum fifth for $100. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk scored 7.5/11 and won the $100 women’s prize.

Late Tournament

While Hakobyan lost in the fourth round of the late tournament against Moroni, Carlsen appeared to be running away from the late field of 431 after a perfect eight rounds. When Carlsen’s run ended in round nine, it was not Hakobyan but instead GM David Paravyan who stopped the streak after Carlsen got his king stuck in the center of the board. Paravyan would finish in third place.

Hakobyan and Carlsen played each other in round 10 and made a draw, their 8.5 points each falling behind Paravyan’s 9/10. 

Hakobyan did what Carlsen could not and defeated Paravyan, who was knocked off his perch but still finished in third place. The game ended on time, but Paravyan’s queen was trapped.

Carlsen got Zhigalko, who was trying to finish in the top two in both the early and late events. Carlsen, unlike in his game against Paravyan, was sure to keep his king safe this time.

The eight rounds of perfection were only enough in the end for Carlsen to finish in second place. But he’s also gotten to enjoy plenty of other wins lately

September 26 Titled Tuesday | Late | Final Standings (Top 20)

Number Rk Fed Title Username Name Rating Score Tiebreak 1
1 7 GM @Njal28 Aram Hakobyan 3097 9.5 78
2 1 GM @MagnusCarlsen Magnus Carlsen 3278 9.5 74.5
3 4

GM @dropstoneDP David Paravyan 3125 9 72.5
4 16 GM @Jospem Jose Martinez 3022 9 67.5
5 13 GM @Oleksandr_Bortnyk Oleksandr Bortnyk 3023 9 62
6 8 GM @Polish_fighter3000 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 3090 9 60.5
7 21 GM @OparinGrigoriy Grigoriy Oparin 2988 8.5 75.5
8 9 GM @mishanick Aleksei Sarana 3092 8.5 73.5
9 41 GM @Zhigalko_Sergei Sergei Zhigalko 2939 8.5 71.5
10 52 GM @mitrabhaa Mitrabha Guha 2862 8.5 67.5
11 30 GM @jcibarra José Ibarra 2957 8.5 66
12 11 GM @SpeedofLight0 Andrew Hong 3041 8.5 65
13 45

FM @Bauman_Guy Konstantin Popov 2875 8 72.5
14 6 GM @FairChess_on_YouTube Dmitry Andreikin 3074 8 69
15 10 IM @0gZPanda Anthony He 3024 8 67
16 2 GM @Hikaru Hikaru Nakamura 3185 8 65
17 67 IM @Nor1lsk Kuzmicz Krystian 2742 8 61.5
18 25 GM @vugarrasulov Vugar Rasulov 2948 8 60.5
19 100 IM @MMSANCHEZ Max Gedajlovic 2715 8 59.5
20 31 GM @nihalsarin Nihal Sarin 3066 8 52
47 164 IM @zajka-molotok Yuliia Osmak 2580 7 59

(Full final standings here.)

Hakobyan won the $1,000 first-place prize for his efforts. Carlsen went home with $750 and Paravyan with $350. Rounding out the top five were GM Jose Martinez, who won $200, and GM Oleksandr Bortnyk, for a $100 prize. IM Yuliia Osmak was the $100 women’s prize winner with seven points.

Titled Tuesday

Titled Tuesday is an 11-round Swiss tournament for titled players hosted by There are two tournaments each week, both on Tuesday: one at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time/17:00 Central European/20:30 Indian Standard Time and then another at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time/23:00 Central European/2:30 Indian Standard Time (next day).


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AI Cup (Day 2): Carlsen Beats Nepomniachtchi After Missing Mate But Swindling Stalemate


GMs Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are the last two players standing in the Winners Bracket of the 2023 AI Cup.

With blazing attacking play in the final game, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi came within inches of forcing a playoff vs. Carlsen. Yet, the world number-one sidestepped defeat with the help of stalemate tricks. In the clash of attackers, Vachier-Lagrave’s dynamic awareness overcame GM Shakriyar Mamedyarov‘s aggressive attempts.

In the Losers Bracket, GM Anish Giri launched fireworks on the board to knock out GM Hikaru Nakamura. Meanwhile, GM Alireza Firouzja found a state of strategic clarity to eliminate GM Denis Lazavik.

In Division II, GM Alexey Sarana scored a major upset vs. GM Fabiano Caruana

In Division III, GMs Evgeny Alekseev and Rauf Mamedov defeated younger opponents and will meet in the Winners Final. 

The knockout tournament continues on Wednesday, September 26, starting at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CEST / 20:30 IST.

See what happened

Division I

Winners Match Scores – Day 2

Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi 2.5-1.5

The five-time world champion vs. the two-time challenger. The model pragmatic, universal player vs. the unbridled attacker. We have another chapter of Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi and once again, it’s the challenger with everything to prove. In their recent Speed Chess Championship encounter, Carlsen didn’t just win the match—he dominated in all three time controls. Known for taking his competitive situations to heart, Nepomniachtchi was certainly out for vengeance. 

At the beginning of this match, Nepomniachtchi played from a dark room. Was this a display of his pessimistic outlook vs. Carlsen?

In their first game, after Nepomniachtchi equalized in the opening, Carlsen generated attacking play in the queenless middlegame, wrecking his opponent’s kingside structure. 

The players headed into a pawn-up ending for Carlsen, and the result seemed like a foregone conclusion. Yet, Nepomniachtchi―despite the appearance of darkness all around him on camera―kept hope alive and managed to slip into a drawn same-colored bishop ending. 

In game two, the lights came on in Nepomniachtchi’s playing room, paralleling the stroke of luck that saved him from a blunder on the board. In a moment of mutual blindness between the 16th world champion and his last challenger, Carlsen missed the opportunity to checkmate in three moves.

You can see exactly the moment that each player realizes what happened on their cameras. 

Despite the eventfulness of the first two battles, the players remained tied. In the middlegame of game three, Carlsen brought his pieces to their ideal posts and like magic, a slight edge grew into a raging attack. Carlsen redeemed himself for the previous slip by creating a mating net in the rook ending. 

Nepomniachtchi next found himself in a must-win position. The final game was an absolute clash of titans, a struggle between the distinct abilities of both competitors. When Carlsen played the opening inaccurately, Nepomniachtchi crashed through with one sacrifice after another as his pieces hovered around the open black king. Yet, Carlsen escaped into an unbalanced and tricky ending.

Nepomniachtchi continued to press, marching all of his passers down the board to collect up much of Black’s remaining army. Finally, he reached a theoretically won queen vs. rook ending on move 80. Yet, Carlsen fought on, creating every obstacle he could, including setting fork and stalemate traps. In the end, he survived Nepomniachtchi’s 129-move onslaught to win the match without a playoff. 

In the post-match interview, Carlsen shared what caused him to miss the mating combination in game two: “When he played Bc3, I had the feeling that this move was a little bit wrong. The thing is, I was fairly happy with Ne3; that’s why I didn’t look further…. That was insane. Always look for captures and checks, kids.”

Vachier-Lagrave-Mamedyarov 3-1

While both competitors have been known to favor sharp, attacking play, Vachier-Lagrave’s approach tends to be more calculated and balanced while Mamedyarov’s is more intuitive and uncompromising. 

After two draws, Mamedyarov played aggressively—despite many of his pieces being undeveloped—against the uber-solid Ruy Lopez. Vachier-Lagrave countered sharply, taking the fight head-on in the center, drawing the first blood of the match. 

Suited to his style, Mamedyarov chose a hyper-combative approach to his all-or-nothing situation. As the Azerbaijani grandmaster’s queen and bishop stared down the longest diagonal with vicious intentions against the black king, Vachier-Lagrave found a brilliant intermezzo to give his own attacking play an extra tempo and clinch the match with a 28-move victory. 

As the last competitors remaining in the Winners Bracket, Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave will face off on Wednesday.

Losers Match Scores – Day 2

Nakamura-Giri 0-2

For online chess, Nakamura tends to be the favorite against most players. Against Giri in particular, he has a nearly 80-point edge in rapid ratings and a 7-1 lead in their head-to-head games.

Nakamura is known for his inventive opening ideas, especially in online games. Giri has a collected and flexible style, known for his precise opening preparation and his understanding of a wide variety of positions.

In game one, Nakamura’s started with the unorthodox—yet common in his own games—1.b3. When the American grandmaster’s setup left his kingside loose, Giri jabbed at the structure and dashed his minor pieces into the weak points around his opponent’s king. Giving his opponent no time to set up his defenses, Giri continued to rip open that side of the board, creating a myriad of threats. Giri’s explosive victory is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Nakamura was now on his last life, needing a win to trigger a playoff. We learn a lot about a player from how they react with their back against the wall. Do they dive into an all-or-nothing mentality? Do they play it calm and collected, aiming for an unconventional position where they can gradually build up strategic play? Do they head into the types of positions they know best and hope for a kind of home-court advantage?

Nakamura opted for a blend of the latter two: He chose the Hippo opening, avoiding main line theory that Giri knows deeply while aiming for a conventional type of setup that the American grandmaster favors. 

Giri created passer on the queenside and advanced it all the way to the seventh rank while Nakamura pressed forward on the kingside with King’s Indian Defense style attacking ideas—seemingly exactly the kind of game that suits Nakamura in a must-win situation. Yet, Giri’s queenside pressure kept his opponent preoccupied, preventing Nakamura’s attack from ever really leaving the ground. In fact, the Dutch grandmaster even later took over the kingside by conquering the light squares with his queen and bishop.

After the match, Giri shared his thoughts on Carlsen: “It looks to me that the margin is pretty small, yet he wins almost everything.”

Firouzja-Lazavik 1.5-0.5

In the Julius Baer Generation Cup Losers Final, Firouzja and Lazavik faced off for the first time in rapid. In a close match, Firouzja came out ahead but admitted that Lazavik “was a better player today than me.”

These two young competitors represent contrasts in playing styles. Lazavik is known for his strategic and technical approach to the game while Firouzja thrives on his cunning ideas and over-the-board improvisation. 

Firouzja opted for an early queenside expansion, allowing him to shut out Black’s a7-bishop, effectively giving him an extra piece in the struggle. He also set up a preemptive rook lift that he swung over to the kingside many moves later. After gaining great pressure on the kingside, he traded queens, confident in his ability to convert the ending. With his extra piece (in effect) and vast activity, Firouzja picked apart Lazavik’s queenside structure, creating an unstoppable storm of connected passers. 

In game two, Lazavik aimed for a position with a slow grind and a strategic comfort zone. In the midst of the duel, Lazavik was able to imbue his style on the game, achieving a slightly better ending where he could press without risk. Yet, the resourceful Firouzja ultimately held the balance, winning the match. 

As the Losers Bracket progresses, Firouzja will meet Nepomniachtchi while Giri will play against Mamedyarov. 

Division I Standings

Division II

One of the biggest upsets was Sarana’s victory versus Caruana. Tied after three rounds, Sarana tipped the scales in his favor in the final game by creating a positional clamp over the position and doubling his rooks on the seventh.

 Sarana will face GM Vladimir Fedoseev in the Winners Semifinals. 

Division II Standings

Division III

Alekseev and Mamedov defeated their younger American opponents, GMs Sam Sevian and Ray Robson, in the Division III semifinals. With a queen vs. a rook, a bishop, and a pawn, Mamedov picked apart Robson’s center structure in the time scramble, creating an unyielding passer. 

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.

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