Clutch Chess International SF: Carlsen and Caruana to face off in the final

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/13/2020 – The semifinals of the Clutch Chess International came to an end on Friday. Magnus Carlsen cruised to victory and comfortably knocked out Levon Aronian, while Fabiano Caruana pulled out a remarkable comeback against Wesley So. Thus, the two highest-rated players in the world will face each other in the final, starting Saturday. | Photo: Austin Fuller

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.


An epic comeback

In 2018, Fabiano Caruana was the third player to lose a World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. Much like Sergey Karjakin in 2016, the American managed to keep the balance in the 12-game stage with a classical time control and then lost the rapid tiebreaker. Now, Caruana will get to face the champ in another 12-game match — the stakes are not as high, but the face-off is nonetheless one to look forward to!

The finalists reached the deciding matchup after scoring victories of opposite nature in the semis. Carlsen increased the four-point lead he had obtained on day one while Caruana surmounted a four-point deficit in a hard-fought match against Wesley So. So said of Caruana:

Today he was the much better player. I mean, the Fabi today and the Fabi yesterday was not comparable — it's like if a different player showed up.

Getting to day two so far behind in fact allowed Caruana to relax, as it was So who had the pressure of winning after having amassed such a big lead. Caruana explained:  

I had one thought today, which is that I really have nothing to lose. [...] For me, it doesn't matter if I lose by one point or lose by eight points. I decided to take a break from chess last night and just try to come to the games fresh.

Levon Aronian had a bad couple of days and ended up losing badly to Carlsen. That did not prevent the ever-cheerful Armenian from giving Caruana a piece of advice before the final:

In every position, try to think what kind of move Lev would do, and don't do it!

The 12-game final match kicks off on Saturday. The winner will get US $50,000 and the runner-up US$ 35,000 — not counting the extra money granted for winning individual clutch games!

Clutch Chess International 2020

Caruana 9½:8½ So

So, who came from winning the all-American Clutch Chess tournament, confessed afterwards that having lost two games with white was very disappointing. Things started badly for him (with the white pieces), as he got overconfident in an ending in the first encounter of the day:


White went for the immediate 36.Bxe6 allowing Black to capture the b2-pawn with an intermediate check — 36...Qxb2+ 37.Kh3 fxe6 38.Qxe6+. Instead, So could have gone for 36.Qc2 or 36.Qe5, defending the pawn and keeping the tension. After the text, Black's passers on the queenside were too much to handle for White and resignation came on move 52.

Caruana shortened the gap further by winning game 8, but saw his opponent bounce back with a victory in game 9. A 26-move win for Caruana in the last non-clutch game of the match meant So had a two-point advantage going into the final two encounters (worth three points each).

In game 11, Caruana gained an exchange in the early middlegame, but saw his opponent create plenty of counterplay in the ensuing struggle. However, it was So the one who made the last mistake:


74.Rc8 fails tactically to 74...Rxd7 75.Rxh8 Rd2+ 76.Kf3 Kxh8, and Black has a clear advantage with rook and bishop against the pair of knights. Caruana won the game and took the lead for the first time in the match. 

So would have reached the final with a win in game 12, but surprisingly agreed to enter a triple repetition before move 30. 

  Total G1 G2 G3 G4 G5* G6* G7 G8 G9 G10 G11** G12**
Wesley So 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 0 0 ½
Fabiano Caruana 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 1 1 ½
*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

Carlsen 12:6 Aronian

For a second day in a row, Aronian lost the first game of the day after having obtained a superior position in the middlegame. Game 7 was not as bad as game 1 in this sense, but it was nevertheless a hard blow to take for the Armenian. He was an exchange and a pawn up against Carlsen's menacing bishop pair by move 30:


The sequence 30.h4 Bf6 31.Rad1 (31.Raf1 was playable) Bh5 32.a5 Bh5 gave back the exchange. Aronian still had a strong position, but he began to lose the thread when a rook and knight versus rook and bishop endgame appeared on the board. Carlsen was ruthless in conversion once he got the upper hand and forced his opponent to resign on move 50.

A second win in a row for the world champion meant Aronian needed to score wins right away if he wanted to bounce back, but that cannot be an easy task against an in-form Carlsen. The Norwegian kept his cool and drew the remaining four games to get his pass to the final. 

  Total G1 G2 G3 G4 G5* G6* G7 G8 G9 G10 G11** G12**
Magnus Carlsen 12 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ ½
Levon Aronian 6 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½
*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


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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register