Carlsen and So advanced to Clutch Chess Semifinals


Day 3 Recap

By WGM Tatev Abrahamyan

Congratulations to Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So for qualifying to the semifinals after defeating Jeffery Xiong and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave respectively. So clinched the match with a round to spare while the battle between Carlsen and Xiong was a close affair which was decided in the final game. Vachier-Lagrave and Xiong are both eliminated, earning $15,000 each, with Xiong collecting a bonus of $2,000 for defeating the World Champion in clutch game number 5. Carlsen will face the winner of the Levon Aronian vs. Alexander Grischuk match, whereas So will square off against one of his countryman, the winner of the Fabiano Caruana vs Leinier Dominguez match. These aforementioned matches will resume tomorrow.
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Today’s quarterfinals matchups and results

Fabiano Caruana vs Leinier Dominguez  5.5 - 2.5

After their last encounter in the first edition of Clutch Chess, Dominguez finally got his chance for vengeance. He started off with a crushing win in the Caro Kann defense where Caruana was on the defense from the opening. The world number two had winning chances in the second game but blundered his extra piece to a simple pin. Game three is when things went downhill for Dominguez. In an equal endgame, he blundered with a pawn capture, allowing his opponent to trade down to a winning king and pawn endgame. The commentators felt that the result was a shift in the momentum as the former World Blitz Champion never seemed to recover from the mistake. He was outplayed in game four, thus entering the two clutch games with a point deficit. Caruana’s Caro Kann held up much better as not only did he successfully survive the opening but managed to build an attack on the light squares against the enemy king. Dominguez stopped the bleeding with a draw in the final game, but ended the day three points behind his opponent. Caruana felt confident throughout the match even though the first two games were a struggle; he felt as though his opponent did not overcome the psychological pressure after losing the crucial third game.

Congratulations to Magnus Carlsen for qualifying to the semifinals

Magnus Carlsen vs. Jeffery Xiong  11.5 - 6.5

Jeffery Xiong started the day off strong by getting a better position out of the opening then capitalizing on a blunder by his opponent, thus equalizing the score. The 19-year-old also had winning chances in the second game, but the World Champion created enough opportunities to escape unscathed. Xiong felt that the third game was the critical point of the match, one he did not recover from psychologically. As the commentators were ready to call the game a draw, the American mistakenly traded down to a lost king and pawn endgame, resigning several moves later. Xiong’s mental anguish was clear in the next game, as he allowed a brute force attack on his king and resigned in 25 moves. Even with a two point lead, the American grandmaster had the better tiebreaks in case of a tie as he had previously won a clutch game. He needed to score a win and a draw in the remaining two clutch games, where each win was worth three points. After a comfortable draw for Carlsen with the black pieces in the penultimate game, his opponent had a monumental task ahead of him: a must win situation with the black pieces. Carlsen had the advantage in the middlegame and sealed the deal after his opponent’s blunder. He also picked up the $8,000 rolled over bonus for this win. In the postgame interview Carlsen observed that the match could have gone either way and shared the frustration he felt in the first two games due to playing poorly and not winning. The young American star received a lot of praise both from his opponent and the commentators and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to face the World Champion.