2020 Clutch Chess International - Day 2 Recap

Day two of Clutch Chess International featured two exciting match ups: Fabiano Caruana vs Leinier Dominguez and Levon Aronian vs Alexander Grischuk. The all American pairing was a rematch from their last encounter in the previous Clutch Chess USA, which Caruana won in a dominant fashion. He finished the first half of the match with a three point lead. Aronian and Grischuk are two of the most entertaining, creative and well-liked personalities in the chess world and their match today did not lack any flavor. The tumultuous six game struggle ended in the favor of the Armenian Grandmaster, but could have easily gone in the other direction. Caruana and Aronian picked up an extra $2,000 each for their clutch game victories. These two matches will resume on Tuesday, as tomorrow the two semifinalists of the Magnus Carlsen vs Jeffery Xiong and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Wesley So will be determined.

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.

Fabiano Caruana and Leinier Dominguez face off yet again in this format

Levon Aronian vs Alexander Grischuk 5 - 3

The match between Grischuk and Aronian produced some highly instructive endgames and attacking motifs. In the first game, Aronian pressed too hard for a win with the white pieces, ultimately giving up too many pawns for the exchange. The second game could have resulted in a disaster for the Armenian player as he found himself under attack but survived by the skin of his teeth by finding the only defensive method after his opponent’s error. Aronian’s decision to sacrifice an exchange in order to weaken his opponent’s king to create some practical chances paid off and allowed him to tie the match. The score remained even in the next two games as both players missed winning chances with the white pieces. The final game was a complete rollercoaster ride with the evaluation changing from winning for Aronian to complete draw in time struggle. While both players made a series of mistakes, Grischuk made the final mistake, which cost him the game and put him two points behind his opponent. Aronian felt that the level of the play was below their abilities but was nonetheless happy to end the night on a high note. In his postgame interview, Aronian observed the fact that it was nearly 3 in the morning for him and 2 in the morning for his opponent.

Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian during the critical moment of game two