2020 Clutch Chess International - Day 3 Recap

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.

Today’s quarterfinals matchups and results

 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.

Congratulations to Magnus Carlsen for qualifying tto the semifinals

 Wesley So vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 13-5

 The fast paced match ended before Carlsen and Xiong were even halfway through theirs! Maxime Vachier-Lagrave entered the match three points behind his opponent but still had excellent chances to turn the tables. The first two games ended peacefully after considerable missed opportunities by both players. The third game could have been the breaking point in this match as well and was the perfect example of why rook endgames are notoriously difficult and need to be played out until the end. When it seemed as though the game was headed towards yet another draw, So went astray, allowing his opponent to clinch the win with a pawn sacrifice taking advantage of his cut off king. The fourth game was also Vachier-Lagrave’s to take, but a pawn grab cost him everything, as he allowed so much counterplay on the backrank, that he was the one who had to force the draw. The American clinched the match in the penultimate game but not without a few adventures. While choosing between two moves in a winning position, So chose the one that blundered a pawn and was very obviously an upset on camera. However, he still showed his brilliance by finding a tactical shot that ended the game. The final game ended in fifteen moves as Vachier-Lagrave seemed too jaded after the previous two games to concentrate fully. With this win, So earned all the clutch bonus money, totaling to $10,000. Unsurprisingly, the former US Champion is a big fan of this format but keeps his focus on his play rather than bonus prizes. 

Congratulations to Wesley So for qualifying to the semifinals