Carlsen, So Dominate In Identical Clutch Matches
Carlsen scored 6-2 vs. Aronian, like So vs. Caruana. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

Carlsen, So Dominate In Identical Clutch Matches

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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18 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Wesley So are leading their Clutch Chess semifinal matches 6-2 against GM Levon Aronian and GM Fabiano Caruana, respectively. The matches were identical with Carlsen and So winning the first two games as well as game five, the first clutch game.

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/20:00 Central European time each day.


"I think the whole day I've been playing terribly. It all started with the first game, where I just self-mated," Aronian started his interview after day one of the semifinals. His loss in the first game against Carlsen might have influenced his subsequent play, although the Armenian GM mostly blame his clock handling:

"I can't say anything to my defense. I knew this was a thing to avoid against Magnus and I allowed myself to get into it. You shouldn't go down on time against him. It's a big mistake."

It probably helped that Carlsen simply didn't panic when that first game was going downhill for him: "I didn't approach it as a difficult situation. Clearly he was winning on the queenside but I felt I had serious counter-chances on the kingside, so I didn't think that was too remarkable actually."

Aronian's first mistake (taking on e5) was played with 57 seconds left on the clock, and after the losing error, he had seven seconds left.

From that point onwards, Carlsen dominated in the remaining games. He said: "After the first game, to be fair I could have won basically every game so in that sense, I feel I could have gotten more but obviously the score is great and the play was also pretty good so in the end I have very few complaints."

Here's Carlsen's clutch win, with which he doubled his lead to four points:

Carlsen Clutch international
Carlsen, in a relaxed pose during one of the games. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

The situation could have been even worse for Aronian, who got a miracle safe in game six:

Aronian noted that thanks to clutch he still has a chance, and he learned that from the alternative history of the military:

"I am basically not showing my best chess in order to relax Magnus. This normally happens on the battlefield. You have these heroic actions. I think most of them are just failures to find the normal ways to cope with the situation and then some people went berserk and things worked out. So I guess this is my plan tomorrow."

Levon Aronian Clutch
Aronian, providing a valuable lesson in military history. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

Carlsen: "I felt relaxed today. I just felt I ran a bit out of steam at the very end. There were a lot of long games with a lot of calculation so I was a bit tired at the end. I am not gonna let my guard down obviously, I would love to go into the clutch games with at least the lead that I have now. So I'm gonna keep pushing and try to put him away as soon as possible and if he goes berserk I would understand that. He will certainly need to make up some ground before the next clutch games."

In what was a mirror of the other match, So started with two wins as well, and after two draws he also won the first clutch before another draw.

"I was playing really sharp openings; probably a bit too risky, in the very first game at least. It's sort of a bluff, playing this line," said Caruana.

Caruana Clutch Chess international
Caruana took more risk in the opening. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

The second game was a completely unnecessary loss for Caruana, who overpressed in a dead drawn endgame. He continued with his slightly risky approach in the openings when he tried out the Evans Gambit in (clutch) game five.

So said he noticed a different strategy from his opponent compared to last week. "He kept surprising me with small ideas in every single opening system. In the last match, he just played the main lines."

The surprise effect did its work in this game, as Caruana got a winning position. He could have washed away the two earlier two losses then and there, but spoiled it and then even lost:

So said he was happy with his play: "I think today has been the best day that I played in all the clutch matches so far."

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

Games semifinals, day 1

Friday will see the second half of the semifinals with Aronian and Caruana having to catch up four game points. Luckily for them, the two clutch games will be worth three points each.

Clutch 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.


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