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Vachier-Lagrave, Caruana, Wesley So Kicked Out Of Division I By Ivic, Sarana
Velimir Ivic knocked out two of the pre-tournament favorites. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Vachier-Lagrave, Caruana, Wesley So Kicked Out Of Division I By Ivic, Sarana

AnthonyLevin
| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Velimir Ivic had the performance of a lifetime on day two of the Champions Chess Tour Chess.com Classic 2024. After surviving elimination from Division I thanks to a mouse slip by his opponent, he defeated GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in armageddon—and then went on to send GM Fabiano Caruana to Division II as well.

Ivic is joined in Division I by GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexey Sarana, Denis Lazavik, and the three pre-qualified players, GMs Magnus Carlsen, Alireza Firouzja, and Vincent Keymer.

In Division II Placement, six players won both of their matches. One player to keep an eye on is GM Vidit Gujrathi, who after a difficult FIDE Candidates Tournament and then a less-than-ideal performance in Wednesday's Play-in, has started to punch back.

In Division III Placement, 20 players won their match (only one was played). GM Liem Le played two exceptional attacking games to eliminate GM Christopher Yoo. We will go over the second, in which he managed to promote a pawn in the middlegame. Also notable is GM Hans Niemann's 3-0 clean sweep against GM David Anton.

Day three begins on Friday, May 10, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET / 18:30 CEST / 10 p.m. IST

Division I Bracket

 


    Division Placement: Format Explained

    Day two of this seven-day tournament features the Division Placement stage. Based on their results in the Swiss on day one (with the exception of four players who qualified through the previous CCT event), players were sorted into three sections, Division Placement I through III. 

    In Divisions I and II, participants played two matches. The first one was a two-game match, the second a four-game match (with a potential armageddon tiebreak). Players who won both of their matches will play in the equivalent division in the next phase.

    For example, if a player in Division II Placement wins both matches, they make it into Division II, while if they lose just one match they're bumped down to Division III. Division Placement III featured only one round and players were eliminated if they lost.

    Champions Chess Tour Chessable Masters 2024 Division Placement format

    Division I Placement:  Ivic, Sarana Score Biggest Upsets

    In Division I only, the higher finishers in the Swiss earned the right to choose their opponents. Five matches in Division I Placement were played simultaneously.

    Round 1

    Vachier-Lagrave had the most heartbreaking result of all in the first round. After winning a dominant first game, he lost an equal position due to a mouse slip and then went down in armageddon to lose the match.

    Vachier-Lagrave employed the Catalan Opening with White and won an extremely clean first game against Ivic. The French GM needed just a draw in the second to secure the match, but threw away an equal position with a mouse slip.

    In the armageddon game, Ivic had 10 minutes against Vachier-Lagrave's eight minutes 12 seconds, but had to win. He converted an opposite-color bishops middlegame to win the match, scoring the biggest upset of the round. We will feature one of his wins against Caruana with a closer look later on in the article.

    Duda vs. GM Daniil Dubov featured the most chaotic games of round one. Duda won the first game on the white side of the King's Indian Defense. In the second, Dubov generated a powerful attack but had to find the brilliant and quiet move 33.Qf4!! to follow it up. In the game, he sacrificed nearly all of his pieces out of desperation—and got checkmated.

    GM Sam Sevian vs. GM Leinier Dominguez was the closest match. After a draw in game one, Dominguez was inches away from another draw in the second—but a late blunder, due to a miscalculation, allowed Sevian to win in the 11th hour.

    GM Andrey Esipenko vs. GM Matthias Bluebaum came down to the first game, where the Russian GM won an interesting endgame with a bishop vs. knight. He had an extra pawn, but the engine indicated it was a fortress; nevertheless, White's king managed to infiltrate behind enemy lines and the defense proved too difficult in practice. A draw in game two secured match victory for Esipenko.

    GM Wesley So vs. GM Dmitrij Kollars was one-sided and exhibited So's expertise in converting technical positions. In game one against Kollars, So demonstrated, in clinical fashion, how to play against weak doubled pawns.

     

    Round 2

    There were five players who received a bye in the first round (due to prior performance) but entered the fray in the second: Caruana, Lazavik, Nepomniachtchi, GM Levon Aronian, and Sarana. These matches were four games now, not just two.

    After a bit of luck in his first match—that is, thanks to his opponent's mouse slip—a reinvigorated Ivic convincingly defeated world number-two Caruana, winning two games with the black pieces. It's "tough cookies" for Caruana, who had just shown excellent form the day before by finishing clear first in the Play-in.

    GM Rafael Leitao dives into his second victory, which is the Game of the Day, below.

    Score-wise, Duda had the best day of anyone in Division I Placement. In round two, he defeated Aronian with a game to spare, winning the first two games and drawing the third.

    His bulldozer-like attack in the Sicilian Najdorf in game two could also have been our Game of the Day and featured a flurry of thematic sacrifices. The nicest were 16.Ne6! and 21.Rxf8!, which GM David Howell called the best move of the game.

    Nepomniachtchi was in trouble throughout his match against Sevian, and he was pretty fortunate to win it. He survived the first game, lost the second, then evened the score in the third. The fourth and final game was an emotional rollercoaster as Sevian went from winning to losing in a single move. Nepomniachtchi's expression at this turn of events is priceless:

    The last two matches were draw-heavy but far from dull. Both Sarana-So and Esipenko-Lazavik were decided in armageddon.

    The four draws on paper don't reflect the fact that So saved two dead lost endgames. It was karmic justice that Sarana ultimately won on demand with White in the armageddon game.

    IM Danny Rensch's classic joke worked well to explain the ending to that game: Black had too many "forking problems."

    Beating So is a big deal, as the American grandmaster made it all the way to the in-person Final against Carlsen in Toronto last year. Sarana explained: "I didn't really have a very bad position... I felt like I can fight and then he, in some easy positions, he didn't really feel the danger... suddenly in these games I got winning positions from a draw."

    I didn't really have a very bad position.

    —Alexey Sarana

    You can listen to the full interview below:

    Esipenko-Lazavik, frankly, had the least action of all. Four draws led to an armageddon game, and Lazavik prevailed.

    Ivic has pulled off two spectacular upsets, but can he pull off the biggest upset of all? He plays Carlsen on day three.

    Division II Placement:  Vidit Keeps Kicking

    There are just so many games, but we will take a look at one from Division II in the form of a puzzle. In his first game against GM Anton Kozak, Vidit found a sudden winning idea here after White's 17.Ng3??. Can you?

    Division II Placement Results

    Division II Bracket

    You can find the full standings for Division II Placement here

    Division III Placement: Le Queens Pawn In Middlegame

    After two draws, Le won the last two games against Yoo to take the match. His first win, in game three with the black pieces, featured something we don't see too often: a pawn promotion in the middlegame.

    Division III Placement Results

    Division III Bracket

    You can find the full standings for Division III Placement here

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

    The live broadcast was hosted by GM David Howell and IM Danny Rensch.

    The 2024 Chess.com 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:

    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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