Aimchess Rapid: Carlsen in Grand Final, Iturrizaga knocks out Aronian

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/13/2023 – Magnus Carlsen advanced to the Grand Final of the Aimchess Rapid online tournament by getting a clear victory over Nodirbek Abdusattorov. In the Grand Final, Carlsen will face the winner of the losers’ bracket, where Wesley So and Eduardo Iturrizaga are set to face each other in a fight to get the right to play Abdusattorov. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / FIDE

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Carlsen on the attack

Right after Nodirbek Abdusattorov impressed with his confident play against Levon Aronian on Tuesday, Magnus Carlsen demonstrated that he can also play aggressively and succeed — and he proved it against Abdusattorov himself. The recent winner of the Grand Chess Tour event in Croatia started the match by showcasing his great endgame technique with black, thus getting ahead on the scoreboard.

Game 2 was a Sicilian, in which Abdusattorov’s tame approach prompted Carlsen to show that he can also go for sharp tactical continuations when the position calls for it.

The idea that justifies White’s 17.Nd5 is not that after 17...exd5 the black queen can be attacked via 18.cxd5 — instead, the most trying continuation is 18.Nf5, using the fact that the white queen on f3 is attacking the knight on h5!

Entering that line would not have led to a losing position for Black, although defending such a setup against Carlsen would have certainly been difficult. After thinking for a bit over 30 seconds, Abdusattorov played 17...Qd8, the engines’ first suggestion. Carlsen did not get to show the beautiful back-to-back knight sacrifices, but did keep the initiative on his side.

A couple of moves later, Black faltered strategically while under considerable pressure.

21...e5 was not the correct pawn push in this setup (21...f5 was stronger). Carlsen did not take long to continue with 22.f5 himself — by this point, the Norwegian also had obtained a clear 4-minute advantage on the clock.

Carlsen’s conversion was not as smooth as it could have been, but he did continue to pose difficult questions to his opponent. As it often happens, instead of giving checkmate, the attacking side got to grab a bit of extra material while his opponent fought hard in defence. Carlsen was two pawns up when he correctly forced an exchange of rooks on the back rank.

Once the rooks left the board after 40.Rd8 Carlsen only needed three more moves to force his young rival’s resignation. A draw in game 3 — from what had been a clearly inferior position — allowed the rating favourite to reach the tournament’s Grand Final.

Magnus Carlsen

The Champions Chess Tour grants players a second opportunity in the knockout stage, which means Abdusattorov might still win the event. To do so, he needs to win the losers’ bracket, where he will face either Wesley So or Eduardo Iturrizaga in Thursday’s final match.

Both So and Iturrizaga scored convincing 2–0 victories, over Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian respectively.

In a must-win situation, Aronian blundered amid a double-edged tactical struggle.

59...Ra6 would have kept the battle going, as White would have been forced to go for 60.Qxa6 Bxa6 61.Rxa6. Aronian’s 59...Rb7, on the other hand, failed to 60.Rxf6, since 60...Rb2+ 61.Kc1 Rb3 does not solve Black’s problems tactically — 62.Rxg6+ is winning.

Born in Venezuela, Iturrizaga represents Spain since 2021. Remarkably, the 33-year-old is already a 2-time Spanish champion.

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.