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Team C-Squared Neutralizes Novelty From Bickering Giri & Rensch

Team C-Squared Neutralizes Novelty From Bickering Giri & Rensch

AnthonyLevin
| 15 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Cristian Chirila cut the proverbial opening ribbon of the inaugural 2024 Team Chess Battle by beating GM Anish Giri and IM Danny Rensch with a 2-0 score. 

After losing game one while trash-talking his own teammate, Giri uncorked a novelty in game two against Caruana's Ruy Lopez "Dark Archangel". Despite getting multiple winning positions, Giri and Rensch again went down in flames in time trouble.

The next quarterfinal match will be GM Wesley So and IM Alice Lee vs. GM Peter Leko and GM Pia Cramling. That starts on Thursday, February 22, at 12:00 p.m. EST / 18:00 CET / 20:30 IST.


Team Chess: Trash Talk Spices Up The Game

The format is easy enough to understand:

  • Teams consist of two players
  • The lower-rated player moves the pieces
  • Teams may discuss moves during the game, or anything else for that matter
  • The time control is 10+10
  • Matches are two games (four games in the Final), with an armageddon tiebreak if needed

Just one game is played at a time, and the rapid time control allows plenty of space for banter and trash talk. Nobody was safe from catching a stray, not even teammates from one another.

Giri got things going by suggesting that Rensch wasn't exactly his first pick for a teammate:

And although he hosts the C-Squared podcast with his teammate, Caruana explained: "I remember the last time I played on a team with Cristian. It was about six years ago and there's a reason it was so long ago."

I remember the last time I played on a team with Cristian. It was about six years ago and there's a reason it was so long ago.

—Fabiano Caruana

He went on to explain that in a game of bughouse, he warned Chirila to watch out for a checkmate-in-one on the next move—and, well, you know what happened next. The game was over one move later.

After more than half a decade "apart," the dream team came together swinging hard and achieved the maximum score.

Caruana & Chirila 2-0 Giri & Rensch 


Despite the familiar dig at his partner early on, Caruana & Chirila operated with synergy for the entire match.

Giri and Rensch, on the other hand, struggled to find their footing in this format, and it showed in the very first game. Despite the engine claiming equality, Giri was pessimistic about his position right out of the opening—and for the rest of the game.

Two critical moments followed. 

Giri said of the following position, where Black is better if they take the knight and sacrifice the exchange: "I thought about 18...bxc3 as the most natural way, but then he said it! I thought, if that's the idea coming from him [Rensch], it must be bad."

I thought, if that's the idea coming from him, it must be bad.

—Anish Giri

After 18...bxc3! 19.Bxc6 cxb2 20.Bxb2 Rb8 21.Bxe8 Rxb2, Black would have more than enough compensation for the exchange (and you can click through the moves in the full-game analysis below). 

There was still plenty of potential for a game, but Giri considered their position lost. He later suggested 24...g5?, to which Rensch responded: "You're killing me!" and looked for alternatives. Giri responded: "Confidently and quickly, that's how I'm killing you!" urging him to play quickly to at least put pressure on the clock.

The C-Squared team went on to win a relatively clean game after that, wrapping up with the precise 30.Qe5!. It's our Game of the Day, which GM Rafael Leitao analyzes below.

In a short intermission where the two teams talked to each other, Giri explained that a major internal conflict was playing openings he knew but not revealing his preparation for classical games.

Chirila responded: "C'mon... you're not saving any prep for the Candidates, Anish," pointing out that despite being close to qualifying last year, the latter didn't make it into the 2024 Candidates Tournament

C'mon... you're not saving any prep for the Candidates, Anish.

—Cristian Chirila

So Giri went straight for heavy mainline theory in game two and revealed an opening novelty against Caruana's beloved "Dark Archangel" opening. About 13.Be3N, Caruana later said: "What can I say, the [Chessable] course needs an update."

Shaken by the new move, Caruana nearly lost the game on the spot by suggesting castling. It was Chirila who slowed down and corrected the move, which would have blundered a piece after 14.d5 Bxe3 15.dxc6. 

The novelty still worked like a charm, and later on Rensch found a brilliant followup:

Giri was full of praise for 31.Rg6!!: "You are going to win this game for us, do you realize that?!" Of course, 31...Qxg6?? is met with 32.Ne7+ winning the queen.

You are going to win this game for us, do you realize that?!

—Anish Giri

Not one of the winning positions in the game was trivial, and in time trouble White collapsed. Here's the rest of the game, which actually ended with checkmate on the board:

"They're a well-oiled machine," said Giri after the match. "I mean, me and Danny, we love each other first, but our love hasn't been tested through trips, through hours of training camps, through hours of preparation. Me and Danny... we didn't even have a barbecue or anything."

They're a well-oiled machine.

—Anish Giri 

Giri and Rensch still make $2,000 (divided between them) as consolation for participating while Team C-Squared advances. 

All four players join for the post-match interview.

Chirila, on the other hand, explained: "We felt that you guys are the most difficult team to deal with. And, in fact, Fabi just before we started this match, he said that we really need to win this one," perhaps alluding to the kinds of posts Giri might make on X if his team won.

Before closing, Caruana made an interesting observation about the next quarterfinal match: "Peter [Leko is] the one player [in this event] I've never beaten in a chess game.... Personally, I want to play against Peter and Pia" in the Semifinals, if they win their match, that is. He added that So and rising star Lee will be a tough team nevertheless.

Peter's the one player I've never beaten in a chess game.

—Fabiano Caruana

How to watch?
You can watch the 2024 Team Chess Battle 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 Robert Hess.

Team Chess Battle is an event where two-player teams can freely communicate while facing other teams in a series of rapid chess games. Eight teams of two players each compete in a single-elimination bracket. Matches consist of two games (the Final is a four-game match) with a 10+10 time control. The event starts on February 21 and features a $25,000 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.

Email:  anthony.levin@chess.com

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