Clutch Chess Champions Showdown: Caruana with good start

by André Schulz
5/27/2020 – Yesterday, the Clutch Chess Champions Showdown began. The top four players in the US play an online blitz tournament in knockout mode. But some games in their matches are "clutch games" – they are especially important because they count more than the other games. This scoring system allowed Hikaru Nakamura to take the lead in an even match against Wesley So while Fabiano Caruana dominated Leinier Dominguez at will.

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Semifinals, Day 1

1. Semifinal

In the first semifinal Fabiano Caruana dominated Leinier Dominguez. After a draw in the first game, Caruana, currently the world's number two, won games 2,3 and 4, and in the end he also won game 6 which counted double.

In game 3 Caruana had an endgame with rook against two minor pieces on the board (or screen):


49... h3 Threatening Rxf4 and h2. 50.Ne4 Rb1 51.b5? Allowing Black to create a second passed pawn. 51...a5 52.d6 f5 But not 52...cxd6? 53.Nxd6+ Kd7 54.c5 with counterplay. 53.Nf2 a4 54.c5 White storms ahead. 54.Nxh3 Rb3+. 54...a3 55.c6 cxd6 56.Bxd6 a2 57.b6 a1Q 58.b7+ Rxb7 59.cxb7+ Kxb7 0–1


  Total G1 G2 G3 G4 G5* G6*
Fabiano Caruana ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1
Leinier Domínguez ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0

* Games 5 and 6 are worth two points each.



2. Semifinal

Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So do not only play the Clutch Chess Champions Showdown they also play – or played – in the Lindores Abbey Chess Challenge. The Abbey, respectively its ruin, is in Scotland, while the Clutch Chess Champions Showdown is organized by the St. Louis Chess Club in the USA. Quite a distance to play in both tournaments at the same time, but when playing online distance is no object.

Yesterday, Nakamura had already qualified for the semi-finals of the Lindores Abbey Chess Challenge and after beating Levon Aronian at the Lindores tournament he had enough time for a virtual return to the USA. For Wesley So things were more difficult. When it was afternoon in Europe and morning in the US he had a difficult match against Magnus Carlsen "in" Lindores. When it was evening in Europe and afternoon in the US So had to play Nakamura whose skills in online blitz and rapid are legendary. But So very much hold his own. However, because of the unusual scoring system in this tournament – the last two games of the match count twice – So trails in the match though he won as many games as Nakamura. You could also say that Nakamura demonstrated what "clutch chess" is about.


22.Re2? White has no time to move the knight. After 22.Nf3 Re8 Black has the ugly threat of Be6. But after 22.h4! hxg5 (22...Ne7!?) 23.hxg5 Bxg5 24.fxg5 Qg3+ 25.Kh1 Rd8 the position is still unclear. 22...hxg5 23.fxg5 Qd8 24.Qf3 Qxd3 25.gxf6 Rxf6 26.Qh5+ Kg8 27.Bg5 Qd4+ 28.Kh1 Be6 0–2 (!)


  Total G1 G2 G3 G4 G5* G6*
Hikaru Nakamura ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1
Wesley So ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0

* Games 5 and 6 are worth two points each.



Tournament page...

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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