Firouzja takes down Carlsen to win Classic

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/16/2024 – Alireza Firouzja beat Magnus Carlsen to claim overall victory in the second event of the 2024 Champions Chess Tour, the Classic. Since Firouzja reached the deciding match from the lower bracket, beating Carlsen in the 4-game Grand Final only forced a Reset — which the youngster went on to win as well. Firouzja won both matches in Armageddon.

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“I played completely terrible today”

Magnus Carlsen was the favourite to beat Alireza Firouzja in the Grand Final of the Classic — not only because he is Magnus Carlsen, but also because he reached the deciding stage by prevailing in the winners’ bracket, which meant Firouzja needed to win two matches in a row to take the title. Nevertheless, the 20-year-old emerged victorious, claiming consecutive Armageddon victories in hard-fought encounters against his famed opponent.

After coming from behind to claim his seventh tournament victory in a row in Warsaw, Carlsen entered the match with an aura of invincibility. The first two games finished drawn, and the Norwegian scored a win with white in game 3 to get ahead on the scoreboard. Firouzja, however, is not one to go down without a fight, as he won on demand in the fourth encounter to take the match to Armageddon.

In the key fourth game, Carlsen failed to find a move that would have secured him at least a draw (all he needed to win the tournament) in a rook endgame. The rapid and blitz world champion was visibly upset after this miss, and highlighted this moment in an interview after losing the title to Firouzja, as shared by Tarjei J. Svensen on X:

I played completely terrible today. I actually felt bad from the morning even. Absolutely not my day, but so frustrating that I was one move from winning the fourth game. In total, very deserved that I lose, it’s just a pity that I play so much worse than I am able to.

Firouzja had outplayed Carlsen in the early middlegame, getting an extra pawn and eventually simplifying into this four-rook endgame. However, Carlsen managed to activate his king and rooks, obtaining what seemed to be enough compensation to get the draw he needed to claim overall victory.

Moreover, Firouzja’s 38.Rf6 even turned the tables in Black’s favour, as 38...e3 here is a winning pawn push — importantly, it prevents the white rook on a3 from quickly transferring to the kingside, e.g. 39.Rf4+ Ke5 40.Rf3 Rc1+ 41.Rf1 Rxf1+ 42.Kxf1 Kf4 (diagram).

Black can win this position with precise play, and a draw is all that Carlsen needed. However, none of this appeared on the board as the Norwegian opted for 38...Rc1+ at once, and after 39.Rf1 erred again with 39...Rcc2 (39...Rxf1+ was stronger), allowing 40.Rg3, and White is ready to push his g-pawn down the board.

Firouzja made the most of his favourable position and went on to get the victory he needed to take the match to Armageddon.

Playing black (with 10 minutes to 8), Firouzja preavailed in the sudden-death decider to force a Reset, a 2-game match that would decide the winner of the event.

Two tension-filled draws followed, which meant it would all come down to Armageddon, again. Carlsen played black the second time around, and saw a tactically alert Firouzja getting the upper hand in a complex middlegame.

19.Nd6 relies on the fact that 19...Bxd6 exd6 20.Qxd6 fails to 20...c4, and the knight is pinned. Thus, Carlsen had to play 19...Red8, which was followed by 20.c4 Nb6 21.c5, gaining two key tempi to further reinforce the octopus-knight’s position.

Firouzja held his nerve in exemplary fashion, making the most of his positional advantage to slowly improve his position. Ten moves later, his knight remained on d6 amid an even more favourable setup for White.

Carlsen resigned the game on move 42, as Firouzja had twice prevailed in Armageddon to finally break the Norwegian’s tournament-winning streak!

All games - Division I

Bracket - Division I


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.
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