Caruana Wins In Final Round To Take Sole 1st In Classic Play-in
After disappointment in Toronto, Caruana found glory online. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana Wins In Final Round To Take Sole 1st In Classic Play-in

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana finished first in the Play-in stage of the Champions Chess Tour Classic 2024. It's a resounding comeback for the world number-two who had a disappointing final round in the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament but showed great form on Wednesday.

Based on their results, the top 11 finishers move on to Division I Placement, 18 players to Division II Placement, and 40 to Division III Placement.

Day two begins on Thursday, May 9, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET / 18:30 CEST / 10 p.m. IST

Players Qualified For Division I Placement Stage

What's The Format And Who's Playing?

The Classic is the second of four online events that lead to the grand, in-person Finals at the end of the year. Like the last event, the 2024 Chessable Masters, this will last seven days. The Play-in is the initial stage of determining which division the players will enter later on—and there are three divisions in total.

Based on their performances in the last CCT event, some players get to skip the first two days of this tournament. GMs Magnus Carlsen (Division I first place), Alireza Firouzja (Division I second place), and Vincent Keymer (Division II first place) are already in Division I and will start their tournament on May 10, with the other five players still to be determined.

Four other players we didn't see on the first day are GM Denis Lazavik, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, GM Levon Aronian, and GM Alexey Sarana. Thanks to their performances in the Chessable Masters, they start the tournament on May 9, in Division Placement round two.

The field of 167 players consisted nearly entirely of grandmasters, and there was no shortage of top players. Coming off the heels of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2024, we saw Caruana and GM Vidit Gujrathi join the fray. World number-five GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov had just won the strong 2024 TePe Sigeman Chess Tournament the week before, and of course super-GMs Wesley So and Anish Giri need no introduction.

A few players are juggling two tournaments as well, playing in the Grand Chess Tour: Superbet Poland Rapid & Blitz 2024 over-the-board right before playing in this event online. They are Carlsen, Abdusattorov, Giri, and GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

Play-in Final Standings

(You can see the full standings here.)

Warmup: Puzzles

There were several epic one- or two-movers as well as forced checkmates that occurred in the hundreds of games played. Let's see if you can solve them.

In round two against GM Andrew Hong, GM Daniil Dubov "sacrificed" his extra queen to finish off his attack in style. You can play 19.Qxf5 as the first move, but then can you find the finish?

GM Rasmus Svane was much worse against Caruana in round three anyway, but he walked into a forced checkmating sequence. Can you find it?

They had just played thrilling tiebreaks over the board in Malmo, Sweden, and Abdusattorov came out victorious once again. Can you find his move that forced GM Peter Svidler to resign? (Keep in mind it's not the only winning move.)

Top Finishers Play Crushing Miniatures, Caruana Returns

The tournament was a nine-round Swiss with a time control of 10+2. The eventual winners weren't very surprising; they'd led throughout the entire event, especially Caruana who finished strong with a black win.

Let's start with two impressive miniatures from earlier in the tournament, before jumping to Caruana's Game of the Day against GM Andrey Esipenko in the last round.

Duda played a spectacular attacking game against GM Sanan Sjugirov in round two. It was a great display of how quickly a position can crumble after one inaccurate move. After 20...Na6?, the first new move of the game, Black was already lost; and Duda broke through with a stunning piece sacrifice.

So played a devastating miniature against GM Axel Bachmann in round five. The finale of it was pleasing: a bishop sacrifice on f7 started the hunt for the black king, a sweet morsel that two knights would devour.

Caruana, who scored 3.5/8 in the last event before withdrawing, did much better this time around. While he didn't even make it to Division III a few months ago, he is well-poised to join Division I now.

He was the most dominant player in the tournament, winning his first four games before slowing down against 2700+ opposition in the second half. 

Caruana later revealed that he used "a lot of my preparation from the Candidates" in the tournament, something that helped him achieve good positions and also keep an edge on the clock. About playing for the win with Black against Esipenko, he said: "In the last round, I felt like I should play for a win because I thought even if I lose I'm probably not out of the top 11."

He also added later: "I didn't really have to win, like it was also reasonable to, let's say, play it safe. But I got a position that I was comfortable with and I pressed him."

I didn't really have to win, like it was also reasonable to, let's say, play it safe.

—Fabiano Caruana

Indeed, bravery was rewarded. GM Rafael Leitao gives a detailed account of the game below.

Caruana skips the first round of Division I Placement on Thursday, and he'll join that stage in round two. The four players who qualified for Division I Placement (mentioned above) will also skip the first round.

You can listen to Caruana's full interview below:

These are the pairings for round one of the Division I Placement stage. In the order that they finished in the Swiss, players chose their opponents; that is, Vachier-Lagrave chose first, followed by So, followed by Duda, etc.

Division II And III

Below, you can find all the players who will be playing in Division II and III Placement.

Division II:


Division III: 


How to watch?
You can watch the 2024 Classic on You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on Games from the event can be viewed on our events page.

The live broadcast was hosted by GM Daniel Naroditsky and IM Danny Rensch.

The 2024 Classic is the second of the Champions Chess Tour's four events and determines one of the players who'll make it to the in-person CCT Finals. The event starts on May 8 at 12:30 p.m. ET/18:30 CEST/10 p.m. IST and features a $300,000 prize fund.

Previous coverage:

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

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, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.





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