Magnus Carlsen wins third consecutive Champions Chess Tour title

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/17/2023 – Magnus Carlsen beat Wesley So in a hard-fought match to claim his third consecutive Champions Chess Tour title. This time around, the last event of the cycle took place in Toronto and featured eight much deserving qualified players. In the end, however, it was the king of rapid chess who — once again — came out on top. It was a well-deserved victory for the strongest chess player of this era. | Photo: / Thomas Tischio

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Beating the “d4-Berlin”

After losing the first set of the match for the title, Wesley So needed to win two sets in a row to become the winner of the Champions Chess Tour.

On Saturday, the U.S. grandmaster opened with 1.b3 and lost the first game of the second set. He bounced back immediately, and then drew game 3. But Magnus Carlsen put an end to the tournament at once, as his win in game 4 granted him a third consecutive title in the series.

In the post-match interview, Carlsen showed his well-known encyclopaedic chess knowledge by pointing out a notable fact:

It sort of comes full circle. When we had the first Champions Chess Tour event in 2020 [...] and I lost to Wesley in the Final, that’s exactly when this line in the Queen’s Gambit that Wesley played today made it just difficult to play d4 at all — it’s the Berlin versus d4.

Carlsen was visibly excited when he mentioned the aforementioned coincidence, as he also praised his opponent’s play and the format used in the final tournament of the cycle.

Wesley So

A worthy opponent — Wesley So | Photo: / Thomas Tischio

Game 4 was a Semi-Tarrasch variation out of a Queen’s Gambit Declined, in which So thought for over 3 minutes (these were 15-minute games) before deciding to give up the bishop pair on move 14.

White was clearly in the driver’s seat after 17...Bc5 18.Nxc5 Rxc5, but it was only four moves later that So committed a mistake that left him in a clearly inferior position.

22...Rb5 allowed the simple 23.Bc5, and the rook has nowhere to go (on the previous turn, Black needed to place the rook on d7 or d8 to avoid this line).

So tried 23...Na4, but after 24.Be2 Rxc5 25.bxc5 Nc3 White can untangle his pieces and maintain his material advantage starting with 26.Bh5+

Black tried to escape tactically, but it turns out that White also counts with tactical means to consolidate his advantage — there followed 26...g6 27.Rd3 (attacking the knight) Bc4 28.Rd7+, gaining yet another tempo with a check.

28...Ke6 29.Rd6+ Kf7 30.Rc1 — White continues to harass his opponent’s army.

Now 30...Ne4 fails to 31.Rd4, and So threw in the towel. A classy final sequence by a classy, well-deserved champion!

Champions Chess Tour Finals 2023

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Champions Chess Tour Finals 2023


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.