2020 Clutch Chess International - Day 7 Recap

Day one of the Clutch Chess International finals was an absolute thriller from start to finish. The two highest-ranked players, World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana faced off in an echo of their 2018 World Championship match. This time around both players left blood on the battlefield; the commentators were enthralled and fans were left on the edge of their seats during the back-and-forth affair.  

“How can you expect so many decisive games and trading blows?” Caruana reflected on the day in the postgame interview. “We certainly fought well,” Carlsen echoed his opponent’s sentiment. Tomorrow, one of these players will be crowned the Clutch Chess Champion and will take home the first-place bounty of $50,000, plus their share of $46,000 in clutch bonuses.

Match result after day 1 of the finals

Magnus Carlsen vs Fabiano Caruana 4 - 4 

 The match started with two draws, but the final result belies the true story. Caruana himself later admitted that he was lucky to escape unscathed in the first game, as he found himself down a pawn in a rook and knight endgame. He was on the better side in the middlegame of their second encounter, but Carlsen neutralized the position with ease in the middlegame. Commentator Maurice Ashley praised the quality of the game and described it as a “high class draw.” Carlsen drew first blood in game three with a stunning blow on move 25, tearing apart his opponent’s kingside and forcing a resignation 12 moves later. Caruana recovered quickly in the next game, as a blunder on move 43 cost Carlsen a crucial pawn and the game.

The players weren’t done exchanging blows as the clutch games, worth two points each, were up next. Caruana put up a heroic defense in the middlegame with the black pieces, handling the position with absolute precision. His error came on move 44 and allowed Carlsen to pick up all his queenside pawns; Caruana resigned in a losing king and pawn endgame. With this win, the World Champion took a two point lead in the match. The final game was another tough battle. Caruana found himself in another bad position but muddied the waters on move 24. Carlsen reacted poorly to the unexpected move, throwing away a winning advantage. Once Caruana was on the better side, he never let up, scoring a crucial win in a clutch game to even the score. 

In the postgame interview, Carlsen expressed his frustration about the result, as he thought he should have won the final game. Even so, the World Champion remained optimistic, as he feels that he has been playing better for most of the match.

Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen in the middle of game six

Tune in on Sunday, June 14 for the exciting finals of Clutch Chess, where World Champion Magnus Carlsen will square off against his familiar rival, World #2 Fabiano Caruana. GMs Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan along with WGM Jennifer Shahade will call all the action starting at 12:50 PM CDT at uschesschamps.com.