CCT Finals: Carlsen wins first set

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/16/2023 – Magnus Carlsen only needs a draw in the second set of the Champions Chess Tour Finals to claim his third consecutive title in the online series (he also won in 2020, when the tour was fittingly named after him). Carlsen beat Wesley So in the first set of the match for the title after scoring the one win of the set from a very balanced endgame position. | Photo: / Thomas Tischio

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


“I hustle him”

How to beat a player as solid as Wesley So? Magnus Carlsen, the best chess player of this era, revealed the formula after winning the first set of the Champions Chess Tour Finals’ match for the title:

I just, you know — I hustle him. I use his sort of lack of aggression against him.

Saturday’s 4-game set was a tense, technical battle. So, who has been very active on X lately, asked Fabiano Caruana for last-minute tips for the match. Caruana jokingly replied:

Just be yourself! And prepare for 1.b3

After sharing that he hopes that Carlsen does not get to read that post, he indeed played 1.b3 in the first game of the match. The game was balanced throughout and ended in a draw after 44 moves. The second encounter was also drawn, after 41 moves.

Carlsen again got the black pieces in game 3, and he attempted to get imbalances from the get go out of a Sicilian Defence. True to his style, So tried to keep things under control — but he could not prevent Carlsen from getting a slight edge in the pure rook endgame that appeared on the board.

Black is a pawn up, but he also has four pawn islands to White’s two, and his king is not as active as its white counterpart.

So began to find the most precise defensive ideas in the position, regaining the balance with active play. However, on move 53, with around 10 seconds on his clock, the Filipino-born GM misjudged where he needed to place his king.

Despite being two pawns down, White needs not to hurry with 53.Kxh5 (as played in the game) and instead continue to activate his king via 53.Kf6 — there would follow 53...b4 54.Rb8+ Kd7 55.Kxf7 Kc7 56.Rb5, and the white king will return to g6 to capture the h-pawn (diagram).

Note that the black king cannot be easily activated due to the pawn on d5.

In the game, on the other hand, Black got to push his f-pawn, getting two distant passers. As it turns out, White’s h-pawn did not provide enough compensation. Resignation came in the following position.

It was a remarkable showing by the former world champion, who converted such small advantages into wins on his way to the very top of the rankings — and during his long, ongoing stay at the pinnacle of the sport.

A draw in the next game granted Carlsen overall victory in the first set of the match.

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Champions Chess Tour Finals 2023

Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave showed up at the Fan Zone set up in Toronto | 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.