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Carlsen To Play In Grand Final; Wesley So, Iturrizaga Win With Clean Sweeps In Losers

Carlsen To Play In Grand Final; Wesley So, Iturrizaga Win With Clean Sweeps In Losers

AnthonyLevin
| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen defeated GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov to secure his seat in the Division I Grand Final of the Champions Chess Tour Aimchess Rapid 2023. He won the first two games and, despite being down two pawns and dead lost in the third, found a miraculous save to clinch the match without a fourth.

In the Losers Bracket, both matches ended in 2-0 sweeps. GM Eduardo Iturrizaga took down GM Levon Aronian and, in an emotional interview, dedicated his victory to his mother who recently passed away. With Black, GM Wesley So outplayed GM Fabiano Caruana in an endgame, and then won a miniature in 22 moves the second time around. Iturrizaga and So will play in the Losers Semifinals tomorrow, and Abdusattorov will play the winner of that match for the second Grand Final spot.

In Division II, GM Sam Sevian and GM Gata Kamsky had a five-game match with zero draws in the Winners Semifinals. It was decided in the armageddon game, where Sevian won on time. GM Denis Lazavik advanced without a game after GM Amin Tabatabaei lost by forfeit due to a conflict with an over-the-board event. Sevian and Lazavik will play in the Winners Final.

In Division III, GM Yu Yangyi jumped into the Grand Final after overcoming GM Tuan Minh Le with a 2-0 score. Coming up in the Losers Bracket will be GM Rauf Mamedov vs. GM Liem Le and GM Leinier Dominguez vs. GM Dmitry Andreikin tomorrow.

The knockout tournament continues on Thursday, July 13, starting at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CEST / 20:30  IST.

How to watch?
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.


Division I

The third day of the Aimchess Rapid was surprisingly smooth in Division I, with not a single armageddon game played. Another two players, Caruana and Aronian, were eliminated, leaving just four players left in the division.

Winners Bracket

Carlsen-Abdusattorov 2.5-0.5

While Abdusattorov is one of the few players in the world to boast a plus score against Carlsen in classical chess, their rapid encounters were even: one win each with two draws. The Uzbek grandmaster is just 18 years old, but he (along with Carlsen and GM Hikaru Nakamura) has already qualified for the CCT Playoffs in December after winning the ChessKid Cup in May.

Carlsen seemed to be unstoppable in the last week. After defeating Caruana in the Winners Semifinals, he also won the late Titled Tuesday yesterday. This match did not betray the narrative of Carlsen's dominance in speed chess.

The first game was a classic endgame squeeze by the so-called "Mozart of chess." Carlsen won with Black in boa-constrictor fashion.

The second was one of the best games we've seen in the Champions Chess Tour. Carlsen played aggressively against the Kan Sicilian, setting up a Maroczy Bind and marching his g-pawn up the board. Things started getting crazy when he offered a knight sacrifice...

... that was not accepted. Later, Abdusattorov found the tricky 27...g5, which objectively was a mistake but difficult to overcome over the board. Yet, although not without mistakes, Carlsen did.

GM Rafael Leitao annotates this intellectual slugfest, our Game of the Day, below.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

Carlsen needed just a draw in game three to win the match, but he said he "fell asleep at the wheel" and underestimated the danger until he was simply lost. Down two pawns in a rook endgame, he considered resigning, but he played it out, saying Abdusattorov had been "shaky" in the previous games.

It paid off as he drew the game with a miraculous save:

In the interview, Sachdev asked if Carlsen enjoyed playing the younger generation. Carlsen responded: "I like playing anybody, but... it's good to get them while they're young!"

In his last two matches, he won the first game with Black. Asked by Rensch about his aggressive approach with the black pieces, the world number-one said: "I'm just playing terribly when I try to be solid."

He won Titled Tuesday yesterday. Does he enjoy playing in it? "I enjoy it when I do well."

Abdusattorov will still have a second life in the Losers Final tomorrow. 

Losers Bracket

The matches in this bracket were just two games, not four. Both matches ended in clean sweeps resulting in two American super-GMs being eliminated.

Caruana-So 0-2

Despite being lower on the world ranking list in classical chess, So is number three in rapid FIDE rating and Caruana is number-five. Additionally, So led their rapid head-to-head encounters with 13 wins, 10 losses, and 16 draws. Still, the match was shockingly one-sided as the Filipino-American grandmaster won both games.

The first game was a 104-mover that ended with the timeless battle of bishop against knight (with queens on). So had the knight, and Caruana had the bishop. Caruana was better at first, but after several moves, he was defending, and So took quite some risks to avoid a draw by repetition to outplay the reigning U.S. champion. 

The second game lasted just 22 moves. Needing just a draw, he still played ambitiously, and an exchange sacrifice to finish the game was the cherry on top.

Caruana makes $10,000 and 30 tour points for reaching this stage. He's made it twice to the Grand Final stage before, but now he will need to qualify for Division I of the next event through the Play-In.

Aronian-Iturrizaga 0-2

Aronian was the slight favorite in this matchup, with one win in their only recorded rapid game. Still, Iturrizaga had more than proven himself against the world's best players in previous days, both in the Play-In and in his match victory against GM Jorden van Foreest.

The Spanish GM won the first game with the black pieces after trapping his opponent's queen. Chess.com awarded him a 98% accuracy score.

Aronian had an advantage for most of game two, but in a tactical skirmish under time pressure at the end of the game, Iturrizaga won a piece, the game, and the match.

In a teary interview, Iturrizaga said he was "very nervous and very emotional." He was especially happy with his play in the first game. 

What does this win over the former world number-two mean for him? "It's motivation to try to get better in chess... of course, it's never easy... even this year, my mom died in March and, of course, I dedicate this for her." 

In the interview, he also mentioned that he often looks at the tattoo on his right arm for inspiration. On his inner wrist, in large black letters, is a Samuel Beckett quote: "Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better."

Aronian earns $10,000 and 30 tour points for getting this far in Division I. 

Division I Standings

Division II

Sevian's match against Kamsky was bloody. The four regular games were all decisive and finished with a 2-2 score. The match was decided in the armageddon game, where Sevian won on time.

Sevian's second victory featured this author's second-favorite checkmating pattern (the first being smothered mate). Can you find it?

Lazavik will face Sevian in the Winners Final after winning his match against Tabatabaei by forfeit. The latter was unable to play due to participating in an over-the-board tournament at the same time.

Division II Standings

Division III

Yu won both games in his match against Le, previously billed as the strongest IM in the world until he earned his GM title last year. 

In the first one, the Chinese grandmaster equalized easily with Black and outplayed his opponent in a knight and rook endgame. Needing just a draw in game two, he won again, blowing the Nimzovich Variation of the Sicilian Defense off the board in 27 moves.

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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