2020 Clutch Chess Day 1 Recap

By WGM Tatev Abrahamyan

Day one of Clutch Chess concluded with two clutch victories by Caruana and Nakamura, both of whom earned 2 points and an extra $2,000 for their wins. GM Fabiano Caruana was unstoppable in his match against GM Leinier Dominguez, winning four out of the six possible games. Fresh off his match against GM Magnus Carlsen from earlier today, GM Wesley So had the upper hand in his match against GM Hikaru Nakamura throughout the day. In the last clutch game, Nakamura was able to muddy the waters and leapfrog his opponent by winning the clutch game which was worth two points. Tomorrow the stakes increase, as a win in the final two games is worth three points, giving the trailing players a greater shot at a comeback.

Match results after day 1

GM Fabiano Caruana vs GM Leinier Dominguez 6.5 - 1.5

The commentators were extremely impressed by Caruana’s enterprising and aggressive play. He started off with an ambitious line in the Ruy Lopez, the Archangel Variation, essaying a novelty on move 12. Caruana was in the driver’s seat the entire time, but the rollercoaster game eventually ended in a draw after tireless defense by Dominguez. The world number two dominated the rest of the match by winning the next three games. With the exception of round three, Caruana was never in danger in any of the games, while Dominguez was behind on the clock in every single one. With the final two games being worth two points each, Dominguez was in a must-win situation. Unfortunately for him, Caruana had no intention of slowing down. With tenacious defense, Dominguez was able to draw the first game, but got slowly outplayed in the final one, allowing Caruana take a 5 point lead.

GM Fabiano Caruana playing from home

GM Hikaru Nakamura vs GM Wesley So 4.5-3.5

In his interview, Nakamura praised his opponent for his better play, especially after a difficult match against World Champion Magnus Carlsen earlier in the day. Nakamura had winning chances in the first game after sacrificing an exchange for two pawns but was not able to convert. In the second game, Nakamura was down two pawns but had a fortress in an opposite colored bishops endgame. So missed an incredible win with a rook sacrifice in a rook endgame but went on to win the last regular game of the day, taking a full point lead. Nakamura demonstrated why he’s an incredible rapid and online player in the next game, when he went into “swindle mode” as described by tournament commentator, GM Maurice Ashley. While down three pawns, he caused enough complications to ultimately draw the game. The final game was a complicated Sicilian where So had the initiative but had to play very precisely, just the kind of situation Nakamura was hoping for. The reigning US Champion didn’t shy away from accepting a knight sacrifice and went on to win with his extra piece.

GM Hikaru Nakamura with his stream set up