Champions Showdown Chess9LX: Caruana Wins Match With Kasparov
Caruana won three games and drew one vs. Kasparov on Wednesday. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Champions Showdown Chess9LX: Caruana Wins Match With Kasparov

| 35 | Chess Event Coverage

Fabiano Caruana secured victory in his Champions Showdown Chess9LX match with Garry Kasparov with a day to spare. Scoring three wins and a draw on Wednesday, Caruana cannot be overtaken anymore in the remaining eight blitz games.

Thanks to a good third day, Hikaru Nakamura goes into the final day of blitz just a point behind Levon Aronian. Wesley So and Peter Svidler are still the favorites to win against Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez respectively, but nothing has been decided there either. 

The matches consist of six rapid games with 30 minutes and a 10-second delay on the clock, and 14 blitz games with five minutes and a five-second delay. The total prize fund is $200,000.

The position on day three.

Tony Rich Frank Guadalupe Chess9LX
Arbiters Tony Rich and Frank Guadalupe providing the players with yet another different starting position. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Fabiano Caruana vs. Garry Kasparov: 14.5-3.5

Playing this match with the world number-two in classical chess is not the most pleasant of experiences for Kasparov. Not because he is losing (or rather, already lost the match), but because of the way he is losing.

After his earlier blunders, there was another tragic moment for Kasparov in the first rapid game on Wednesday as he let his clock run down in a winning position.

Position after 46...Re3+

Kasparov had been playing the last few moves of this ending very carefully, making all kinds of gestures with his hands, like a conductor directing his orchestra to a climax. Meanwhile, Caruana remained admirably calm in front of all these movements at the other side of the board.

Kasparov hand gestures Chess9LX
Kasparov seeked the help of his hands in his calculations. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

And then, with five seconds on his clock, Kasparov froze.

First, the 10 seconds of delay passed by and then he let his remaining five seconds run down before making his final (and winning) move 47.Kf6, when Caruana pointed towards the clock.

Kasparov was shocked. He couldn't believe it. He stood up from the board and walked a few meters and back before shaking hands with Caruana, whose body language suggested he had also lost the game. He didn't like it at all to win like this.

Kasparov clock flags Chess9LX
Kasparov realizing he lost on time. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

"I blundered 44.Ke5 and suddenly I’m in huge trouble," Caruana said. "I still thought it was a draw; it only occurred to me after the game that after ...Rd3 he has Bd8 and the pawns are unstoppable. But it still is challenging to find Bd8 when you have like three seconds left, so I thought the normal result for the game would be a draw. I didn’t expect him to run out of time. I kind of understand he just got lost in the moment."

As it turned out, Caruana had in fact missed a win earlier in the game:

Day 3 Chess9LX
Day three of the Chess9LX matches in action. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The third day was the worst for Kasparov so far, as he lost the second rapid and first blitz game as well, before drawing the second blitz game. Because the rapid counts double, Caruana now has an 11-point lead, with eight blitz games remaining on the last day.

Caruana found a nice tactic in game two:

Caruana Chess9LX
Caruana was tactically alert. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the first blitz game, Kasparov collapsed in just two moves from a roughly equal but slightly unpleasant position:

Once again, Nigarhan Gurpinar ( Turkey) recorded some videos. You can find more videos and photos here.

Peter Svidler vs. Leinier Dominguez: 11-7

Dominguez finally won his first game at the start of day three. Asked what his plan was going into the day, the Cuban GM, who now plays for the U.S., replied: "Basically just play faster." He explained why that mattered.

"I don't think I even played better in terms of 960 than the previous two days," said Dominguez, "but I was just playing faster because it’s clear that the games are decided not too much by making always the best moves obviously. It comes down to the last minute or the last seconds. I was trying to put some more pressure on him with the time and somehow it went much better."

It did help that Svidler, who first dodged a bullet, spoiled a drawn knight endgame:

Dominguez Svidler Chess9LX
Dominguez wins a drawn knight ending. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Dominguez also won the first blitz game (the second was drawn), but it was Svidler who won the most spectacular of the four: the second rapid game.

Black's king run to the other side of the board was remarkable and rather brave of Dominguez, who commented: "I saw the idea and I thought it would be fun to even get mated like this, but it would be even better if I could somehow win the pawn on a2 and win the game, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible."

Levon Aronian vs. Hikaru Nakamura: 9.5-8.5

Nakamura continued his comeback with an even better third day. He drew his white games (rapid and blitz) and won both his black games. As a result, the match is now the closest affair of all four.

"I think the fans should be happy because my match, based on the positions I’ve had, really shouldn’t be close either," Nakamura noted. "I found a way to lose at least two if not more positions in the rapid where I lost from completely winning positions."

Nakamura Chess9LX
Nakamura is fully back in contention. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Nakamura was especially happy with the last game of the day, where he felt he played a really good game.

"Maybe it wasn’t precise," said Nakamura, "but I thought, all the moves I played, I played them a tempo, I played them fast, pretty much like Nepo [Ian Nepomniachtchi –PD] would do if he was in form. I was very pleased with the way I played in the second blitz game especially."

Wesley So vs. Veselin Topalov: 13-5

So did the same as Nakamura, drawing his white games and winning his black games. He now has a commanding lead of eight points vs. Topalov, and so he'll only need one draw out of the remaining eight blitz games to clinch the match.

Like Dominguez, So pointed out the importance of playing quickly.

"I thought here in the opening in Chess960 I might as well make fast moves," said So, "because even if I start thinking I make bad moves anyway! In chess it’s different, but here every game is kind of unfamiliar and four games is not really enough to understand the position very deeply, so I thought just make some fast moves and hope that they work."

After a draw in the first rapid game, Topalov lost the second after making an illegal move.

In the final position, he played 14.0-0, basically moving his king from c1 to g1. However, he had forgotten that he had moved his king already—it was on d1 in the starting position after all! And because he had touched his king, there was nothing left but to resign.

Topalov So illegal move Chess9LX
Topalov resigned after his illegal move. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

On Thursday, the players will play four blitz games with a third position, and after a break another four blitz games with yet another starting position. This will conclude the matches.

Day three coverage: 

You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.

All games from day three.

Previous report:

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