GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov is the first grand finalist of the Champions Chess Tour ChessKid Cup 2023 Division I after beating Jorden van Foreest in a close fight that nearly made it to armageddon. In the Losers Bracket, GM Fabiano Caruana eliminated GM Alireza Firouzja and will face GM Jules Moussard, who took out GM Dmitrij Kollars.
In the Division II Winners Semifinals, GMs Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son and Vladimir Fedoseev respectively sent GMs Grigoriy Oparin and Raunak Sadhwani to the Losers Bracket. In the Losers Bracket, the two Vietnamese players, GM Tuan Minh Le and GM Liem Le respectively succumbed to GM Dmitry Andreikin and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
In Division III, GM Alan Pichot bested GM Pentala Harikrishna to attain his spot in the Grand Final. His win in the match was a short, 25-move game. GM Denis Lazavik will play GM Gata Kamsky, while GM Vitaliy Bernadskiy will encounter GM David Navara, in the Losers Quarterfinals.
The ChessKid Cup continues on Thursday, May 25, starting at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST.
The Losers Bracket featured two-game matches instead of the regular four games in the Winners. Both matches could have gone either way; Caruana nearly lost game one but won, while Moussard’s victory came only in the final armageddon game.
Caruana won both games, but the trajectory of the match was not as linear as the final score may suggest. Caruana’s game-one victory was critical, after which Firouzja, despite sacrificing his queen in game two, could not generate winning chances and went on to lose again.
Firouzja was clearly winning, up two pawns, for most of game one. After correctly giving up one pawn for a decisive attack with 50…Qe7!, he was unable to deliver the final blow. After losing control, with under 10 seconds on the clock, he played the wrong check, and his own king was left to the dogs.
In game two, the French grandmaster met a double piece sacrifice with a queen sacrifice of his own, but the evaluation was still equal. In the end, he blundered a bishop, and that ended his run at the ChessKid Cup.
Caruana reflected: “The first game was a miracle. That’s, I think, the only way to put it.”
The first game was a miracle. That’s, I think, the only way to put it.
About game two, the US champion remarked: “… right up until the end, until he blundered a piece, I was extremely nervous. Because even though the position is probably OK for me… you can easily get a losing position from this.”
Firouzja exits the tournament with a hefty $10,000 and 30 tour points.
White won all three games in this match. After two decisive games, yet an even score, Moussard won with the white pieces in the armageddon tiebreaker.
Kollars was off to a powerful start after dismantling the titanium-plated Petroff Defense in game one. But Moussard struck back in a complicated Open Ruy Lopez struggle where a series of powerful moves netted him an extra pawn by move 29. A steady hand in the rest of the game ensured the full point.
GM Rafael Leitao annotates this distinct Game of the Day below.
In the armageddon game, Moussard bluffed (knowingly, he said in the interview!) with 23.Bxc7?, grabbing a pawn. His opponent believed him, let him keep the extra pawn, and he went on to win smoothly.
After winning the match, Moussard quipped with a smile: “I have to take revenge for my country friend Alireza because he lost to Kollars and I took revenge for him, so now it’s my turn to do the same with Fabi, I hope.”
I have to take revenge for my country friend Alireza…
Kollars earns $10,000 and 30 tour points for reaching this stage of the event.
Van Foreest-Abdusattorov 1.5-2.5
This was another match that went down to the wire. After taking the lead in game three, Abdusattorov blundered into a losing position in game four, but survived the game and avoided what would surely have been a tempestuous armageddon game.
Every game (besides a clean yet uneventful game-one draw) was full of mistakes, as Abdusattorov said after the match. Abdusattorov could have captured a piece on move 31 and won, but didn’t. Later, on move 35, Van Foreest could have also won, but didn’t see it—draw.
The key moment of the match, and for Van Foreest the biggest regret, came in game three. The game was effectively over after a one-move blunder, 22.Qc2??.
LPDO (Loose Pieces Drop Off). Black to move and win material.
The last time Abdusattorov was in a must-draw situation with high stakes was in Tata Steel 2023. There, he lost, and ultimately GM Anish Giri won the title.
Steering nicely toward the coveted draw, it was deja vu as he missed 35.f5! and found himself in a lost position.
Flashes of this year’s Tata Steel meltdown!😱
Nodirbek Abdusattorov needed to draw to win the match, but blundered. We may have armageddon!#ChessChamps #ChessKidCup pic.twitter.com/SZoRBliAtu
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) May 24, 2023
A few moves later, though, good fortune (or Caissa herself) smiled on the Uzbek GM, and Van Foreest squandered his chance. Abdusattorov could breathe again knowing he’s made it to the Grand Final.
In the interview, Abdusattorov responded that he immediately knew he missed 31.Rxd2 in game two. He also said: “There were a lot of mistakes, I think, and I was a little bit maybe lucky that I survived in the last game, but overall I think we played a very good match.”
Van Foreest still has a second chance at life in the Losers Bracket on Thursday. Abdusattorov earns a rest day, during which he says he will explore Stavanger, Norway.
The second grand finalist will be decided between Caruana, Moussard, and Van Foreest.
Division I Standings
Fedoseev’s victory over Raunak was extremely convincing in the Winners Final. It took just three games.
He won in game one and two, but the first was by far more flashy.
With the white pieces, he was able to draw the last game in 21 moves, no problem.
Division II Standings
The match between Pichot and Harikrishna came down to one game—more precisely, one move. After winning game one, Pichot had no problems game two to win the match.
Pichot uncorked an aggressive line in the Italian (not so “Pianissimo”!) and caught his opponent in an opening trap that has been reached before in practice. Effectively, the match was decided on move eight of the first game.
In a must-win situation, Harikrishna opted for the London System with the white pieces, but the eval bar never steered far from equality.
The Indian grandmaster will still have his second shot at glory in the Losers Bracket—and he has every chance to have the last laugh!
Division III Standings
The Champions Chess Tour 2023 (CCT) is a massive chess circuit combining the best features of previous Champions Chess Tour editions with the Chess.com Global Championship. The tour comprises six events spanning the entire year and culminating in live in-person Finals. With the very best players in the world and a $2,000,000 prize fund, the CCT is Chess.com’s most important event to date.
Only grandmasters are eligible for automatic entry into the Play-In Phase. Other titled players (IM and below) can play in the Qualifiers that take place every Monday starting February 13, except on weeks with a Play-In or Knockout (21 in total). The top three players from each Qualifier will be eligible to participate in the upcoming Play-In.