Fan-favorite GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen produced yet another epic match, this time in the Losers Final of the Champions Chess Tour Chessable Masters 2023. Following two draws, Nakamura won the armageddon game after tenaciously defending a difficult position for a long time; in the final seconds of the game, the world champion dropped his queen with a mouse slip.
This sets up an all-American Grand Final, a rematch between Nakamura and GM Fabiano Caruana, who defeated him once on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Carlsen also eliminated GM Levon Aronian from the event with a 2-0 score.
In Division II, GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov will face GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the Grand Final, another rematch. Abdusattorov already beat his adversary once the Winners Final, with a crushing 3-0 score. The Frenchman with three names, however, went through GM Anish Giri in the Losers Final to earn his second chance at tournament victory.
GM Amin Tabatabaei won Division III after defeating GM Alexey Sarana in the Grand Final. After each winning a game in the first three encounters, the Iranian grandmaster seized the top spot in the fourth and last game.
The Chessable Masters concludes on Friday, April 7, 2023, at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CET.
Losers Semifinal: Carlsen-Aronian 2-0
The world champion won the match convincingly by winning both games. He was the clear favorite going into the match with a +11 score in their rapid head-to-head record.
Carlsen won game one in signature style, in a long endgame grind. Needing just a draw in game two to win the match, with the black pieces he nevertheless outplayed his opponent. In the middlegame, he sacrificed the exchange, and although he missed a direct win at one point, the result was still the same.
Aronian, seeing no difference between zero points and a half-point, given the circumstances, went down in flames to avoid the draw.
Aronian receives $12,500 and 50 tour points for finishing fourth in this division.
Losers Final: Carlsen-Nakamura 0.5-1.5
If chess fans were worried about being deprived of yet another slugfest of minds between Carlsen and Nakamura, their concerns were assuaged on Thursday. Though, who could have predicted that this match would take place in the Losers Bracket?
Despite the very close nature of their recent head-to-head encounters, Carlsen led their record in rapid chess by nine points. In recent matches, however, Nakamura seems to have found his flow against the world champion.
Game one was a mesmerizing struggle as Carlsen sacrificed two pawns but had long-term compensation. In a display of high-level chess by both players, the game ultimately petered out to a draw in an opposite-colored bishop endgame.
The second game featured an interesting early h4 idea by Carlsen in the Nimzo-Indian, but it too ended in a draw after 28 moves.
It all came down to yet another armageddon battle between these two titans. Carlsen, who had 15 minutes against Nakamura’s 9:17 (with draw odds), had sizeable advantages at several points of the game. The American GM, however, just would not succumb—he stayed alive.
It came down to the final waning seconds of the game. This game had no increment added, and it was just a question of who will flag whom. With 25 seconds against Nakamura’s 15, Carlsen dropped his queen on move 63 and resigned. To Nakamura’s credit, however, he defended a tough position and was objectively equal before the blunder.
GM Rafael Leitao covers the intense final game in our Game of the Day, annotated below. (It will be added soon.)
You can see Nakamura’s analysis of the match in the video below:
Wearing a t-shirt that said “I LITERALLY DON’T CARE” (all capitalized) in the interview, Nakamura shared the following comparison to explain his rivalry with Carlsen: “It’s like comparing the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Socks. I mean, the Red Socks won a World Series in 1918; they didn’t win again until, I think it was, 2004.”
“You know, the last couple years, I found a way to play well… I think the main thing is I don’t fall apart against Magnus. In the past, I would’ve fallen apart very quickly.”
“I think the main thing is I don’t fall apart against Magnus. In the past, I would’ve fallen apart very quickly.”
– @GMHikaru on his longtime rivalry with the world champion.#ChessChamps #ChessableMasters pic.twitter.com/f8FRlsMWr1
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) April 6, 2023
Carlsen exits the tournament with $15,000, 75 tour points, and a ticket to Division I of the next event. All three of the top finishers in this division will automatically place in Division I next time.
Division I Standings
Abdusattorov and Vachier-Lagrave have set up their own rivalry in the second division, one that will only be decided on the final day as they face each other for the second time in this event.
Their first encounter could not have been more one-sided; Abdusattorov won every one of three games and didn’t need a fourth to clinch the match.
Vachier-Lagrave sacrificed material in every single game, but not one panned out in his favor. In the first, he sacrificed his queen; in the second, a rook; and in the third, a bishop. Uncharacteristically for the French number-two, he didn’t make it past move 40 once.
In game two, Vachier-Lagrave found a cunning rook sacrifice, but it was met with an even more impressive defensive move. The game ended with a checkmate-in-one.
The stakes are high in the Grand Final. Just the winner will earn entry to the next event’s Division I in May, which comes with a guarantee of at least $7,500.
Division II Standings
Tabatabaei took home $5,000 and 20 tour points after finishing first in this division. The final four-game encounter against Sarana was a close one that was decided only in the last game.
That last game was a long and technical rook endgame. Instead, we will look at his victory in game one, which featured a ferocious attack despite the lack of queens on the board.
Congratulations to Amin Tabatabaei for winning Division III of the #ChessableMasters! 🎉 pic.twitter.com/9C7344krUb
— Champions Chess Tour (@ChampChessTour) April 6, 2023
Sarana wins $3,600 and 15 tour points for finishing second in the event.
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.