Clutch Chess Final: A one-point lead for So

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/29/2020 – Each of the finalists of the Clutch Chess Champions Showdown won a game on day one of the deciding match, but Wesley So goes into day two with a one-point lead over Fabiano Caruana thanks to his win in the second "clutch game" of the day. The winner of the tournament will be decided on Friday, when six more games will be played, with the last two worth three points apiece. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Tactics, blunders, tension

The first six games of the final displayed so much of what makes rapid and blitz chess an entertaining format when elite players go all out for the win. Fabiano Caruana sacrificed material in the first two games and played ambitiously from start to finish, but was not able to get more than a win against a very resourceful Wesley So.

Caruana was the first one to score, taking down So's Berlin Defence. The world number two finished the game in style:

 

White found 23.Rd7, attacking two pawns at once. Black responded with 23...Rc8 and after 24.Rxf7 Nf8 Caruana played the decisive 25.Rh1. So resigned due to 25...Nxe6 26.Ne5 Rf4+ 27.Rxf4 Nxf4 and 28.Rh8+, winning the rook.  

Getting ahead on the scoreboard did not prompt Caruana to play it safe from that point on, as he went for the Benoni in the next game. The Italian-American grandmaster got a favourable position in the middlegame, but blundered a tactic that could have gained So a piece:

 

Just when the commentators were praising Caruana's tactical alertness, the latest World Championship challenger missed that White had 26.f4 in the diagrammed position. Luckily for him, though, So also missed this move and played 26.h4 instead! In the end, this and the following two games finished drawn.

After keeping the lead for a while, Caruana finished the day faltering with white in the second "clutch game" of the session (worth two points). Keeping the format in mind, Caruana noted that there is not much of a difference between finishing day one tied or down a point, as it is very likely for the match to be decided in games 11 and 12.

For now, So has a one-point lead nonetheless.

  Total G1 G2 G3 G4 G5* G6* G7 G8 G9 G10 G11** G12**
Fabiano Caruana ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 0            
Wesley So ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1            
*Games 5 and 6 are worth two points each
** Games 11 and 12 are worth three points each
 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

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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.

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