Clutch Chess: Good Start For Aronian, Caruana
Fabiano Caruana took the biggest lead in all Clutch Chess matches so far. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Clutch Chess: Good Start For Aronian, Caruana

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian are leading their Clutch Chess matches at halftime vs. GMs Leinier Dominguez and Alexander Grischuk respectively. Caruana and Aronian both won one clutch game for a $2,000 bonus prize.

How to watch?
The games of the Clutch Chess Champions Showdown can be found here, and the Saint Louis Chess Club live coverage can be found here. GM Robert Hess is providing daily commentary on his Twitch channel. The games start at 1 p.m. Pacific time/9 p.m. Central European time each day.

A very spectacular second day of Clutch Chess provided plenty of entertainment, which included plain blunders. It's the combination of rapid chess and the fact that it's all played on a computer that makes the top-level chess we're seeing in these corona times not so top-level, but to complain about it would be absurd.

Let's start with an excellent game by Dominguez vs. Caruana as the Cuban-born GM, still fresh, outplayed his opponent beautifully with a long-term pawn sacrifice in the opening. Caruana later described it as a blunder from his side after he was lost from move 10.

Leinier Dominguez Clutch Chess
Leinier Dominguez. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

After a draw in game two, Dominguez blundered terribly in an equal (Berlin) endgame. It was a turning point for the match that then Caruana dominated, winning the next two (including one clutch).

"It was a bit sad to lose that game but on the other hand, these things can easily happen in this format," said Dominguez. "I should have adjusted better, clearly. I was a bit upset about this game, and it was reflected in the next two or three games." 

"I sort of set up this trap, but I really didn't expect it to happen," Caruana said. "It was a major relief."

Fabiano Caruana Clutch Chess
Like many people during corona times, Fabiano Caruana hasn't seen a barber for a while! Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

Aronian and Grischuk played a much more balanced match that was still tied before the last (clutch) game. 

Grischuk took the lead in a topsy-turvy game where he was OK out of the opening but then was outplayed by Aronian. The Armenian GM failed to decide the game in his favor and then went too far in his winning attempts:

After a draw in game two, Aronian leveled the score with a nice exchange sacrifice, which occurred after some earlier adventures. It's highly unclear what happened here after the opening, but from the moment Aronian took on h5, his play was flawless.

Two draws followed, and then came the sixth game, which was the second clutch. For chess fans, it was a great battle and definitely the game of the day. From the players' perspective, it was not a good game at all. The reason? Both players were playing well after midnight.

"The last game is just terrible all around," said Grischuk, who had seen that 80.Rc8 was a draw but somehow thought 80.g8Q was even easier. "It was completely unnecessary; it was just pure idiotism to play 80.g8."

Aronian: "I think both of us were playing way below our usual level. There were too many blunders for this type of time control.... The only explanation I have is that it's 2:40 a.m. I'm not used to playing chess at this hour because I normally go to sleep around 11-12."

Alexander Grischuk Clutch Chess
Alexander Grischuk: "Pure idiotism to play 80.g8." Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

All games of day 2

On Monday, the matches of GM Magnus Carlsen vs. GM Jeffery Xiong and GM Wesley So vs. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will resume. A day later, Aronian, Grischuk, Caruana, and Dominguez will play the second half of their matches.

Clutch Chess International bracket
The Clutch Chess International Champions Showdown is an eight-player knockout event that runs on lichess June 6-14 in association with the Saint Louis Chess Club. The prize fund is $265,000 with a first prize of $50,000.

The time control is 10 minutes for all moves with a five-second increment after each move. Each match consists of 12 games with six games played each day. The final two games of each day are "clutch" games that are worth double the points on day one and triple on day two, as well as a $2,000 bonus per game on day one and $3,000 on day two.

Previous report:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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