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Carlsen, Caruana Clinch Matches With Game To Spare; Abdusattorov Beats So On Demand

Carlsen, Caruana Clinch Matches With Game To Spare; Abdusattorov Beats So On Demand

AnthonyLevin
| 5 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and Levon Aronian move on to the Winners Bracket in Division I of the Champions Chess Tour Aimchess Rapid 2023 after winning their matches on the first day.

Carlsen and Caruana beat their opponents, GMs Jorden van Foreest and Eduardo Iturrizaga, respectively, with a game to spare. Aronian won game two against GM Vladimir Fedoseev and made three other draws for the match victory. Abdusattorov won on demand with Black in game four against GM Wesley So and then won the armageddon game with White after losing in game three to spin the match around.

In Division II, eight players advance to the Winners Quarterfinals. The young star GM Denis Lazavik, who made it all the way to the Losers Final in the last event, came back with a vengeance as he defeated experienced Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo 3-1.

The same is in Division III. Eight players move on to the Winners Quarterfinals. GM Laurent Fressinet, who defeated his boss Carlsen in the Play-In a few weeks ago, this time sent legendary GM Vladimir Kramnik to the Losers Bracket. 

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

How to review?
You can review the Champions Chess Tour Aimchess Rapid 2023 on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and review all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive. Games from the event can be viewed on our events page.

The live broadcast was hosted by GM David Howell, Simon Williams, IMs Danny Rensch, Tania Sachdev, and WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili.


The Aimchess Rapid is the fourth leg of the Champions Chess Tour, and just two remain after this before the Playoffs. While Howell, Williams, and Sachdev have commentated on previous iterations of the event, the Oslo studio welcomed two new but well-known commentators: Rensch and Tsatsalashvili.

Three players have qualified for the Playoffs so far, which will occur at the end of the year. They are Carlsen, Nakamura, and Abdusattorov. The clock is ticking for the five remaining seats to be filled.

Division I

Van Foreest-Carlsen 0.5-2.5

Entering this match, Carlsen was coming off the high of scoring 11/11 in Titled Tuesday and also scoring 9/9 over the board against some of the world's top players in one day, all in one week. Carlsen scored seven wins in their previous rapid games with just one loss (and five draws). Obviously, he was the favorite—but that is usually the case regardless of his opponent.

Van Foreest is known for his creative opening ideas and has worked as Carlsen's second, making for an interesting situation regarding the start of their game. The big question was: which opening would we see? Carlsen answered that question on move one.

Despite Carlsen's historic winning streaks in the previous week, he did lose to another second, Fressinet, in the Play-In. Van Foreest also defeated GM Hikaru Nakamura in the last CCT event, proving he can hang with anyone in the high-stakes rapid format.

In game one, Carlsen responded to 1.e4 with 1...a6, the same opening choice he used in every black game in Titled Tuesday last week. In his signature style, he won what looked to be another one of those "dead drawn" endgames.

The Norwegian won another knight endgame in the next game. This one was even nicer as Carlsen, showcasing his reputation as perhaps the greatest endgame player of all time, finished the game by sacrificing the only minor piece he had left.

This endgame masterclass is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below. 

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

The world number-one played 1...a6 again and closed out the match with a draw (from a winning position), finishing in three games and not needing the fourth.

The former world champion mentioned that he's played in two back-to-back tournaments before this, the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League 2023, followed by the Grand Chess Tour: SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia 2023.

Due to traveling back home after winning the tournament in Zagreb yesterday, he said: "I was pretty tired today, so my play was not so good, but I managed to eke out some games anyway." He mentioned that Van Foreest played in the Dutch Championship yesterday (losing narrowly to GM Anish Giri) and may have also been tired, as an explanation for some uncharacteristic mistakes.

Caruana-Iturrizaga 2.5-0.5

These two have played just five recorded games previously, their last over-the-board game taking place in 2014. Caruana won four of them, and they drew their last encounter. 

The Spanish grandmaster achieved an advantage with Black out of the opening in the first game but agreed to draw by threefold repetition, perhaps a decision he would regret with hindsight since he wouldn't get another chance.

The American GM won the second game in 26 moves and used just under three minutes of his time for the entire game.

It was a spectacular display of opening preparation and flawless conversion after achieving the advantage. After the game, Rensch said: "That game started in Fabiano's kitchen." One move after the opening novelty 17.Qxc4 (played by Iturrizaga), White already had insufficient compensation for the exchange and lost quickly.

Caruana won the next game on time as Iturrizaga attempted to change his auto-queen setting. Underpromoting to a knight in the following position could have technically drawn. 

Caruana said he woke up at four in the morning due to travels after his recent super-tournament in Zagreb. About potentially winning the tournament this time around: "It would be a great personal success. I've been close a few times, but... I've stumbled at the finish line twice, against Hikaru and Nodirbek," hinting at his two unsuccessful finals performances before this. 

So far, it's a good start, but he will face Carlsen tomorrow.

Abdusattorov-So 3-2

This was the second time playing in Division I for both players, although Abdusattorov had the benefit of winning the last event and already punching his ticket to the Playoffs. So enjoyed a +17 -10 =9 score in rapid games against the Uzbek prodigy.

They drew the first two games but So nicely won a queen endgame in the third. In game four, Abdusattorov needed to win on demand with Black against one of the world's most solid players—and he did.

This would be the only armageddon game in Division I. So won the bid for the black pieces with eight minutes and 12 seconds against Abdusattorov's wager of eight minutes and 28 seconds. But he simply collapsed. After greedily capturing a pawn on move 18, he got checkmated 11 moves later.

"That felt like not even a game," said Sachdev about the game that Howell called a "disaster-class" (opposite of masterclass) for So.

Abdusattorov said after the match: "I was very happy to win on demand in game four. I didn't believe that I can beat him if he plays normal chess because he's the most solid player in the world, I think." The armageddon, in his words, went "smoothly."

Fedoseev-Aronian 1.5-2.5

Somewhat surprisingly, Fedoseev and Aronian had just played three times in recorded games. They played for the first time six years ago, but the Armenian-American scored his first win against the Russian adversary in the 2021 World Blitz Championship. 

After an uneventful draw in the Berlin Defense in game one, Aronian won game two. He achieved a strategically winning position with the beautiful and instructive 23.b5! and 24.b6, when the white pawns formed the bars of a permanent prison, trapping Black's queenside pieces. Some fancy tactics in the end decided the game.

After the win, Aronian made two more draws to close out the match. In the interview, he said: "I felt my play was of high quality. I was quite happy with it." He mentioned the last game was an exception and that he struggled to make draws on demand, but the engine will confirm he wasn't once worse, even if, from the human perspective, it did look messy. 

Division I Standings

Division II

A year or two ago, it may have been fair to call Lazavik's victory over Maghsoodloo an upset. But the young Belarusian player has made such a name for himself in the online speed chess scene that this description no longer seems accurate, despite the Iranian GM being a very strong player.

Lazavik won games two and four and drew one and three, not losing a single game. Both of his wins came with the white pieces, where he went for a Catalan setup. 

The last game had the nicest finish. Can you find the final sequence of moves to force checkmate?

Division II Standings

Division III

Fressinet continues to prove himself against world champions in the Aimchess Rapid. After a draw in game one, he defeated Kramnik in their second game. Unlike the other two divisions, matches in this section are two games, not four.

It was a Catalan opening where the French GM repeated a Nf1-e3 maneuver he played against GM Leinier Dominguez in 2016. He won the opening battle and had annoying pressure. Kramnik could have defended passively (perhaps inhumanly), but he went for the active approach, and it backfired. The position went from worse to losing after Kramnik overlooked a slam-dunk tactic on move 22, although the position was extremely pleasant already.

That draw, in game one, by the way, occurred due to threefold repetition as Kramnik had just six seconds left. With more time, he would have seen that there was a forced checkmate in four on the board.

There was another wild story from this division worth mentioning. In his match against GM Krikor Sevag Mekhitarian, GM Maxim Matlakov bid three minutes and chose the white pieces for the armageddon game. Black would have 15 and would just need to draw in order to win the match. 

How did that experiment go? Black drew and won the match. It's not clear why the Russian grandmaster chose hara-kiri on a Monday night.

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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AnthonyLevin
NM Anthony Levin

NM Anthony Levin caught the chess bug at the "late" age of 18 and never turned back. He earned his national master title in 2021, actually the night before his first day of work at Chess.com.

Anthony, who also earned his Master's in teaching English in 2018, taught English and chess in New York schools for five years and strives to make chess content accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. At Chess.com, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.

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