Carlsen, So Move To Clutch Chess Semifinals
Carlsen vs. Xiong. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

Carlsen, So Move To Clutch Chess Semifinals

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Wesley So are the first two players to reach the Clutch Chess International's semifinals. On Monday they defeated GM Jeffery Xiong and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave respectively.

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.

After the match was over, Xiong thanked the organizers for the opportunity that was given to him. He was very happy to get the chance to play the world champion in a match, saying: "I think everyone would be."

The 19-year-old player did an excellent job especially in the middle of the match, where he didn't lose five games in a row and won two himself. The third game on Monday was a turning point, as he was doing well but ended up losing.

"There were many ups and downs in this match," Xiong said. "I have to say that game three today was probably the critical one where I had a very promising position but I just burned all my time for no good reason. After that, I don't think I mentally adjusted.'

Jeffery Xiong Clutch Chess
Jeffery Xiong. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

To not win that game was acceptable, but to even lose it was a tough blow for Xiong. He got blown off the board in the next game, which was shared widely because of Carlsen's remarkable seventh move.

The maneuver is both similar and opposite to Gyula Breyer's ...Nc6-b8-d7 in the Ruy Lopez, but somehow we rarely see this kind of move, for White, on the kingside.

After a draw in game five, Carlsen won the last game, also a Clutch, that involved a $3,000 bonus prize and triple points which explains the big final score of 11.5-6.5.

"I gotta say, today could have gone either way," Carlsen said. "In the first two and a half games, I was suffering quite a bit. It was definitely no easy at all. It was a bit frustrating to go so many games without either winning or playing particularly well but I got a couple of wins under my belt and then I felt a lot more comfortable going into these last three games. After such a tough start I think he did amazing to make it a serious match."

Clutch Chess Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

Vachier-Lagrave's play was better than in the first half of the match but at the end of the day it wasn't enough. He did win the first decisive game on Monday, after two draws:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Clutch Chess
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

A draw followed, and so everything was still possible with two clutch games to go. The first one was critical, as Vachier-Lagrave got a promising position out of the opening, but failed to capitalize on it. So then also won the last game. 

"I started decently today despite having trouble in the openings," said MVL." I thought I was playing fairly OK. Then there was game four, which didn't matter at all, and I took it as such. Then, game five was a turning point and in game six I just couldn't play chess anymore after this."

So: "I seem quite fortunate to win these matches. I mean, today was quite difficult, Maxime came quite determined from the very beginning, he played very aggressive chess, he played much better than two days ago. I could feel the heat."

Wesley So Clutch Chess
Wesley So. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

All games of day 3

On Tuesday we'll see the second half of the matches GM Fabiano Caruana vs. GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Levon Aronian vs. GM Alexander Grischuk.

Clutch Chess 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 reports:

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.”

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