CCT Finals: So still perfect, Naka in trouble

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/12/2023 – Wesley So beat Magnus Carlsen and Nodirbek Abdusattorov to keep a perfect score of 6 wins in 6 matches at the Champions Chess Tour Finals in Toronto. Carlsen (5 points) has also secured a ticket to the semifinals, while Hikaru Nakamura (1) and Denis Lazavik (1), who face each other in round 7, will need a couple of results to go their way if they want to reach the ‘survival stage’. | Photo: / Thomas Tischio

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Fighting for survival

The scoring system in the round-robin section of the Champions Chess Tour Finals is all about match wins. Players simply get 1 point if they win a match, or 0 points if they lose. In case of ties in the final standings, the first tiebreak criterion is the direct result between players — i.e. in case of a two-way tie, this criterion will always be enough to break the tie.

Going into the final round, Wesley So already secured a direct ticket to the semifinals with his 6 points in as many rounds. Magnus Carlsen, with 5 points, is also in semis, as even if he loses and Fabiano Caruana (4 points) wins on Tuesday, Carlsen will get through as he won their direct confrontation in the third round.

Caruana and Nodirbek Abdusattorov (3 points) already have secured spots in the 4-player ‘survival stage’, while Hikaru Nakamura (1) and Denis Lazavik (1) will fight for survival in their round-7 match. If Nakamura wins, he also needs for Alireza Firouzja (2) to lose against Carlsen, while if Lazavik wins, he also needs for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2) to lose against Abdusattorov.

Champions Chess Tour Finals 2023

Round 5: So beats Carlsen

Champions Chess Tour Finals 2023

The two players who kept perfect scores throughout the first two days of action, Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen, were paired up against each other in round 5. After drawing the two first games, So played a magnificent game with white in the Armageddon (analysed below by GM Karsten Müller) to defeat the tour’s defending champion.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov also won with white in Armageddon to inflict Hikaru Nakamura’s fourth loss of the event. Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, on their part, got 1½-½ victories over Denis Lazavik and Alireza Firouzja, respectively.

All games - Round 5

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: / Thomas Tischio

Round 6: Caruana beats Nakamura

Champions Chess Tour Finals 2023

Showing great defensive skills in the first two games of the match, Fabiano Caruana managed to take his confrontation against Hikaru Nakamura to Armageddon. A tactically alert Caruana took the initiative in the middlegame, and went on to get the win. For Caruana, this did not change his standing on the tournament table, but the loss was very significant for Nakamura, who might be — surprisingly — eliminated from the competition on Tuesday.

Wesley So kept his perfect score in round 6 by drawing three games with Nodirbek Abdusattorov, as he got the black pieces in the sudden-death decider. Similarly, Alireza Firouzja beat Denis Lazavik by drawing in Armageddon with black.

The one match decided after two 15-minute games saw Magnus Carlsen beating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

All games - Round 6

Denis Lazavik

Denis Lazavik | Photo: / Thomas Tischio


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.