Clutch Armageddon Finishes By Carlsen, Iturrizaga Complete Division I Roster

Clutch Armageddon Finishes By Carlsen, Iturrizaga Complete Division I Roster

| 15 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Wesley So, and Eduardo Iturrizaga each secured qualifying spots for the 2023 Champions Chess Tour's fourth leg, the Aimchess Rapid, on Monday after progressing through a challenging Swiss event before winning their respective rapid matches against other top-eight finishers.

Aronian was unbeaten en route to a 7/9 score in the Swiss portion and was joined by Carlsen and Iturrizaga, the former of whom was defeated by one of his longtime seconds, GM Laurent Fressinet.

The qualifying players will join ChessKid Cup top-finishers, GMs Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Fabiano Caruana, Jorden van Foreest, and Vladimir Fedoseev in a winner-takes-all knockout in July as they vie for their share of the $225,000 prize fund.

The Aimchess Rapid Knockout will commence on Monday, July 10, starting at 8 a.m. Pacific/17:00 CEST.

See what happened
You can re-watch the Aimchess rapid Play-in on You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on The games can also be followed from our Events Page.
The Play-in was hosted by commentators GM Robert Hess and IM Tania Sachdev.


With four Division I qualifying spots up for grabs in Monday's Play-in, it was unsurprising to see a field of 181 titled players competing for their chance to play among the world's best. To progress to Match Play for Division I, players needed to finish inside the top eight in the Swiss.

Carlsen headed the illustrious field and was one of the favorites to win his spot in the knockout but suffered a shock trouncing at the hands of his own second, Fressinet. The French number-five showed his intentions to play for a win after opening up his own kingside to launch a brutal assault on Carlsen's king. Though the former world champion managed to defend the onslaught, the resulting position required the utmost precision.

On move 24, Carlsen played the dubious 24.Rae1? and Fressinet pounced, confirming the stunning result 22 moves later. Our deserving Game of the Day has been annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Though Fressinet faded to a 33rd-placed finish on 5.5/9, he would later Tweet at Carlsen: "You made my day." Carlsen, on the other hand, won four games straight after the loss and ended up finishing =1st on 7/9.

Aronian was the form player in the Swiss qualifier and won his first five games before drawing his way to victory. His games were awash with sparkling tactics and his overpowering of GMs Peter Svidler and Rauf Mamedov were particularly impressive.

Iturrizaga, of the Pro Chess League's Spanish Maniac Shrimps, was the surprise packet of the Swiss event and after having his qualifying chances dinted in round two by GM Maxim Matlakov, but he sprung to life, scoring 6/7 to finish the event. A win over the recent world championship challenger GM Ian Nepomniachtchi was a highlight for the 33-year-old.

The other five Match Play qualifiers had to rely on strong tiebreaks as there was a 13-way tie on 6.5/9. GMs Amin Tabatabaei, Ivan Saric, Gata Kamsky, and Wesley So were fortunate enough to scrape through while Matlakov and Georgia's GM Levan Pantsulaia just missed out on making the top eight.

Results | Play-In Swiss (Top 20)

Though many strong GMs missed out on qualifying for the Match Play stage, each player ranked inside the top 72 in the Swiss tournament had their chance to qualify for the second and third divisions of the Aimchess Rapid, where $122,500 of prize money has been allocated.

Match Play

The Match Play rules stipulated that the top four finishers of the Swiss tournament would pick, one by one, their opponents among the players placed between fifth and eight and play a two-game rapid match, with the winner proceeding to the Knockout in July.

No major surprises occurred in the selection process and the top four finishers picked the lowest to highest-rated players, leaving fourth-placed finisher Tabatabaei with the difficult task of having to face So.

Pairings - Match Play

  • Aronian vs. Kamsky

  • Carlsen vs. Saric

  • Iturrizaga vs. Maghsoodloo

  • Tabatabaei vs. So

Aronian and So kept up their blistering form and won their respective matches 1.5/2 over Kamsky and Tabatabaei, respectively. Following a draw in which both players played at over 97% accuracy according to's game review, So was forced to pull out all the stops to quash Tabatabaei and did so using some crafty minor-piece maneuvering.

The other two Match Play fixtures required armageddon games to decide the victor and both were quite the spectacle. Carlsen pushed out to a 1-0 lead after winning from the white side of the Sicilian Defense: Canal Attack, but Saric riposted and won the second following the same line he used to rout the then-world champion at the SuperUnited Croatia blitz tournament in 2022.

Undeterred by the loss, Carlsen bounced back with his finest victory of the day in the armageddon game after grinding down his opponent in a knight vs. bishop endgame.

On paper, Iturrizaga came into his match against Maghsoodloo as the slight underdog, and following a loss with the white pieces in the first game it seemed as though his qualification chances were slipping away. In the second game though, the Spanish GM rolled the dice and incited a kingside brawl that culminated in a win, taking the match into overtime.

The final armageddon game of the day featured one of the most exciting time scrambles in recent times, and with less than 30 seconds left on the clock each, they reached a bizarre, imbalanced endgame.

Blitzing out move after move, Iturrizaga launched his pawns up the board while Maghsoodloo desperately tried to hold on with his tangoing knight. The pressure proved too much for the Iranian number-one though and Iturrizaga's pawns rolled through. On move 75, Maghsoodloo allowed his flag to fall and Iturrizaga celebrated emphatically.

 Results - Match Play

With the eight Division I players now locked in, the Aimchess Rapid Knockout already promises to be one of the strongest rapid tournaments of the year, and in the context of the Champions Chess Tour, it will go a long way to deciding where frontrunners Caruana, Carlsen, and Abdusattorov will finish in the overall 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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