2020 Clutch Chess International - Day 5 Recap

The semifinalists returned to action after the rest day ready to fight, as Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So took a commanding four point lead over Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana respectively. The matches mirrored each other in results, as neither Caruana nor Aronian were able to find their footing and score a single win. Even with a big score discrepancy, neither match is in the bag as wins in games 11 and 12 will be worth three points each, leaving room for big comebacks. Tomorrow, the two Clutch Chess International finalists will be decided.

Standings after day one of the semifinals

Magnus Carlsen vs Levon Aronian 6-2

The World Champion was merciless today. The match could have taken a different turn had Aronian converted his big advantage with the black pieces in the first game. The Armenian Grandmaster collapsed in the time scramble, grabbing a dangerous pawn and resigning three moves later. In the second game, Carlsen opted for the Alekhine Defense, an unusual opening choice at the top level. Aronian was severely punished for leaving his king in the center for too long. After drawing a balanced game in round three, Aronian again missed chances in game four, the final game before the clutch games, letting his opponent escape unscathed. Carlsen extended his lead to 4 points with a kingside attack after his opponent failed to create active counterchances. Disaster could have really struck in the final game had the World Champion not made a critical blunder in a completely winning position, allowing his opponent to get away with a perpetual.

In the postgame interview Carlsen expressed his satisfaction with both the result and the quality of the games, while Aronian shared his strategy for tomorrow of “going berserk” to keep his chances alive.

Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen during game two of the match

Wesley So vs Fabiano Caruana 6-2

The two rivals met again a mere 12 days after the final battle in the inaugural Clutch Chess USA. In the first game, Caruana took a gamble with a risky opening that he himself described as a bluff but still required precision from his opponent. So’s handling of the opening preparation was superb as was his play in the rest of the game. His win in the second game was a result of Caruana’s mistake on move 66, when instead of equalizing the game with a tactic, the world number two went astray. The two games before the clutch portion were relatively quiet draws, with So being on the better side of it in game four. In the first clutch game, Caruana opted  for another surprise in the opening, the Evans Gambit. He reached a winning position out of the opening as his pieces moved to the kingside to attack his opponent’s exposed king. After letting the advantage slip, Caruana didn’t backtrack at the right moment, allowing his opponent to create a mating net himself. Caruana tried to squeeze water out of stone in the final clutch game, but never had any realistic winning chances. In their postgame interviews, both players agreed that the match isn’t over with six points on the line in the final two games. So also observed that his opponent employed a different strategy in this match, surprising him in the opening.

Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So in deep concentration