So Beats Caruana, Wins Clutch Chess
Caruana and So, playing from their homes. Image courtesy of the St. Louis Chess Club.

So Beats Caruana, Wins Clutch Chess

| 22 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Wesley So won the Clutch Chess Champions Showdown on Friday as he beat GM Fabiano Caruana in the final, with a game to spare. The final score was 9-9, with So winning on first tiebreak: most clutch victories.

So went into the final day leading 4.5-3.5, having won the $2,000 clutch bonus on Thursday. The last day saw six more games at a 10+5 time control, the first four being worth 1 point for a win and 1/2 for a draw, while the last two games were worth 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw.

The official broadcast of the final day.

It was this specific new twist that GM Maurice Ashley had come up with, a famed chess commentator/organizer who is never shy of trying out new elements to spice up the board game a little. In this first try, it led to some confusion as well but that was partly the players' fault.

Caruana started with two wins to take over the lead. The second game of the day was painful for So, who had played a truly great game and was completely winning when he fell for a nasty trap that could easily make it into a second edition of GM David Smerdon's The Complete Chess Swindler.

After a draw, So won the fourth game, or the 10th of the match, and then also the 11th—which we're coming to soon.

So was leading 9-6 before the final game, which meant he had won the tournament. The reason was that even if Caruana would win the final game and tie the score, the first tiebreak was number of clutch points, which was in So's favor.

As it turned out, neither player knew that the match was already decided a round before the end, and they thought there was going to be a tiebreak match.

Here's that game 11, with which So secured victory without knowing it. He nicely outplayed his opponent from the black side of a Berlin, with the ending having similarities with the Exchange Ruy Lopez as well:

Wesley So Clutch Chess 2020
Wesley So: "Today was up and down but I am so relieved because in a two-game blitz match anything can happen." Image courtesy of the St. Louis Chess Club.

Caruana ended up winning the final game, which was not good for first place but still got him the $3,000 clutch bonus. "I was very proud of this game," he said.

It might have helped that he was unaware of the match situation. "I didn't know the match was over before this game," said Caruana. "I usually don't read regulations when they are given to me. I had no idea what I was coming in to."

Fabiano Caruana Clutch Chess 2020
Fabiano Caruana. Image courtesy of the St. Louis Chess Club.

All games of day 4

The Clutch Chess Champions Showdown was a four-player knockout event that ran on lichess May 26-29 in association with the Saint Louis Chess Club. The prize fund was $100,000 with a first prize of $30,000.

After the final was over, a new Clutch Chess event was announced in the official broadcast, starting in just as week from now. Besides Caruana and So, the participants will be GMs Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Leinier Dominguez, and Hikaru Nakamura.

You can find all upcoming, major events in our tournament calendar at

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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.

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