GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov convincingly won Division I of the Champions Chess Tour ChessKid Cup 2023 on Friday. Going into game four of the Grand Final with Black and an even score, he defeated GM Fabiano Caruana. No tiebreak or second set was needed.
GM Vladimir Fedoseev showed great fighting spirit in his match against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the Division II Grand Final. After losing game two and drawing in game three, he won on demand with Black in the last game to reach the armageddon tiebreak. There, he won with the white pieces, completely turning the tables and winning the division.
GM Alan Pichot bested GM Pentala Harikrishna in the Grand Final of Division III. Reaching an even score after four games, with one win each, the match was decided in the armageddon tiebreak. Pichot won an absolutely bamboozling pawn race with Black (after his opponent ran out of time) to earn the title.
All participants start with “two lives” in the double-elimination format, but all three champions won their divisions without losing a single match this week.
After four days, the field of eight players funneled down to just two: Caruana and Abdusattorov. While Caruana achieved winning positions in games one and two, the advantage slipped through his fingers like sand. Although the US champion won game three, the Uzbek Olympic gold medalist showed iron resilience no matter how the cards were stacked against him and won a clean game four.
The American grandmaster played a spectacular first game. In fact, this great attacking game would have otherwise been one of the best in the match—until Abdusattorov managed to draw the game with a knight less in the endgame.
Resourceful Abdusattorov defends a completely losing position! Draw! 🤯#ChessChamps #ChessKidCup pic.twitter.com/ZwcyN7D4WY
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) May 26, 2023
The Uzbek prodigy won game two on the black side of the Rossolimo Sicilian Defense. Despite the trade of queens on move 21, the position devolved into mayhem. After Abdusattorov survived another lost position, the game shifted to the utterly absurd-looking tactical melee following the funny-looking (and best) 28…Na3!.
Soon, the moves were all tactical, all prospects were short-term, and positional play was thrown out the window. The younger grandmaster landed the final blow with the curtain-closing 38…f4!, which commentator Howell called out on the broadcast.
It wasn’t the most accurate, but it was certainly the most exciting game. This slugfest is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below. (It will be added soon.)
Caruana won a shaky game three where he nearly let the advantage slip yet again in an endgame with queen and rook for each side.
But game four decided the champion. Just as commentator Naroditsky explained that Black had the preferable side of the draw, Caruana blundered a pawn. The younger player showed exquisite technique from there to win the game and avoided every tempting pitfall along the way (shown below).
Abdusattorov said in the interview that the game he was most proud of from this match was the fourth. Asked how he will celebrate, he reminded us that Norway Chess 2023 is right around the corner (starting Monday). He looks forward to playing GM Magnus Carlsen, whom he defeated in their first and only classical encounter at Tata Steel Chess 2023.
“I will just start concentrating for Norway Chess… of course, Magnus plays there. I am excited to play against him.”
After winning the #ChessKidCup, Abdusattorov has little time to celebrate and will prepare for #NorwayChess. #ChessChamps pic.twitter.com/d6l8zszSuQ
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) May 26, 2023
Abdusattorov pockets $30,000, 150 tour points, a ticket to Division I of the next event, and most importantly one of eight seats in the CCT Playoffs. Finishing second, Caruana still earns a ticket to Division I in the next CCT event, 100 division points, and $20,000.
Division I Standings
Mamedyarov was off to a great start in this match against Fedoseev after winning game two. After making a second draw in game three, it looked like a second set was possible. But the “Big Fish” turned things around from there.
In game four, Fedoseev showcased a keen tactical awareness even in a simplified endgame to win on demand. The tactical 34…g5! could have led to a study-like endgame brilliancy if Mamedyarov captured it, shown in the notes below.
The armageddon game was a heartbreaker for Mamedyarov. After missing a single winning move in the middlegame on move 19, the game became practically difficult—and then objectively impossible— to defend.
Fedoseev earns $10,000, 50 tour points, and a ticket to Division I of the next CCT event. Mamedyarov earns $7,500 and 30 tour points for his second-place finish.
Division II Standings
This was another match that nearly made it to the second set. But the Argentine grandmaster said no thank you to the additional drama as he shut down those dreams in the armageddon game.
An interesting pattern in this match was that all the wins were reached with the black pieces. The two decisive games, two and three, were decided by Black, and so was the tiebreaker.
A Queen’s Indian Defense (by transposition) was the battleground for fireworks in the armageddon. A wild game that can surely be studied for a long time ended in one of the wildest pawn races imaginable, with both sides pushing connected passed pawns.
As you click, put yourself in the players’ shoes: you each have one minute on the clock with no increment. Go.
Pichot wins $5,000 and 20 tour points. Harikrishna, for finishing in second, is compensated $3,600 and 15 tour points.
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.